Hats come in all shapes and sizes, but in the streetwear world, caps reign supreme. Ever since the late ‘80s, when brands like Polo Ralph Lauren, Tommy Hilfiger and FILA caught on with young hip-hop artists, caps have been an inherent part of streetwear’s fabric. With the revival of ‘90s sportswear trends in recent seasons, the popularity of the cap has only grown exponentially, worn by rappers and fashion bloggers alike. But even though caps share the common characteristics such as a cotton crown crafted from panels, a structured bill and a closure at the back, all caps are not made equal. In its lifespan, the humble cap has spawned various different silhouettes such as the five-panel, the trucker, the snapback and the dad cap, just to name a few. We round up the most popular styles and explore their place in streetwear today.
The Dad Hat
2015 may have been the year of the dad bod, but 2016 is the year of the dad hat. They may not have the coolest name in the world, but dad hats have been seen on stylish heads all over America, from Kylie Jenner to ultimate cool dad Obama. The silhouette – featuring an unstructured six-panel crown, curved brim and adjustable strap at the back – was first popularized by America’s favorite pastime of baseball, specifically by pitcher Rick Honeycutt who was rarely pictured without a dad hat perched atop his head. While its origins may be on the baseball field, the dad hat has become a hit among streetwear enthusiasts everywhere, favored for its relaxed, easy-to-pair style.
Defined by its structured crown, flat brim and adjustable snap closure, the snapback started out as official baseball headgear in the 1950s, but was co-opted by rap and R&B movements in urban USA. Particularly popular in the bicoastal metropolises of New York and Los Angeles, the snapback has been repped by popular artists such as N.W.A. and Mobb Deep, embroidered with the names of their home turf, from Compton to Queens. The hat briefly fell out of fashion in the noughties with the rise of the fitted cap, but took off yet again in the last decade thanks to hip-hop. In 2011, Chris Brown and Tyga brought the style back en vogue with their viral music video “Snapback Back,” where they resurfaced old snapbacks for the occasion. Since then, the snapback has resurfaced on the heads of hip-hop artists from Jay-Z to Kanye.
Also known as camp caps and volley hats, five-panels have been a defining feature of streetwear ensembles for the last several years. Even though their origins are disputed – some speculate that the five-panel emerged from the cycling caps worn by couriers – their ascent in the streetwear mainstream can be credited to Supreme, whose branded five-panels have been a consistent sell-out since their inception. Nowadays, five-panels are produced by brands all along the fashion spectrum, from minimalist Scandinavian label Norse Projects to skateboarding magazine Thrasher. With its fitted silhouette and heavy branding on the crown, the five-panel is a hat that will both flatter yourself and flaunt your brand affiliations.