Closets overflowing with Hermès, Chanel, and Louis Vuitton will always signal a high fashion pedigree—but lately, there’s one piece that’s become even more of a cult status symbol, with an endearing subversive twist: the baseball cap.
The accessory certainly isn’t new, but its presence has expanded in the fashion world, and to boot, more and more caps have gained a captivating aura of cool that’s hard to miss. Celebrities ranging from Emily Ratajkowski to Jennifer Lopez have been diving deep into the look. This isn’t just about your typical New York Yankees cap, nor is it the decidedly over-designed luxury versions of designer baseball caps. This particular look centers around merch-y caps from your favorite bookstores, clubs, restaurants, and even events; the kind of caps that you can often only buy in person. Think: Amber Waves Farm, E11EVEN, Sunset Tower, and Sky Ting Yoga.
“We see pictures of people in the E11EVEN hat everywhere from the Eiffel Tower to the Egyptian pyramids,” says Dennis DeGori, owner of the Miami-based 24/7 nightclub E11EVEN, which has become well-known for its signature hats emblazoned with logos. The brand launched its merch in 2015, and according to DeGori, it sells at least $1,000,000 in hats per year, including an exclusive one-of-a-kind 11-karat diamond hat for $50,000. “The hats represent people who know the E11EVEN experience because they have been, as well as those who have not been but want to be part of the experience vicariously through wearing the hat,” adds DeGori. “People who enjoy life and live it to the fullest. It’s both a mindset and a proud feeling.”
It’s not a coincidence that people are gravitating towards baseball caps as identifiers of social standing. Fashion loves merch momentum, and as the community continues to comm-ify and meme-ify the everyday (think: Adidas’ many, many high-fashion collaborations, Balenciaga’s Crocs, or Vetements’ iconic DHL shirts from 2016), there’s value in having a recognizable logo or symbol that sparks community, but simultaneously hints at exclusivity, and, in many ways, irony. “Historically, baseball hats were collectibles—a symbol that you had enough free time and money to attend a game,” says the fashion stylist Shea Daspin, who herself is very keen on the idea of pairing status caps with ultra-glam sequins, or oversized menswear, or both for contrast. “Like all sports, the sense of camaraderie that surrounds matching hats is unparalleled. Wherever your hat is from, whether a bookstore, restaurant, independent film center, or a designer’s emerging brand, the hats also signify support.”
One other reason we’re seeing fashion’s new status symbol everywhere? Merch exploded in popularity that much more when businesses like restaurants and cafés launched hats and other collectible items as a way to recoup cash lost by the pandemic. People want what they can’t have, and many of these hats are limited-edition or can only be purchased IRL.
Likewise, as a direct result, fashion brands have also tapped into directional merch baseball caps. Take, for instance, Batsheva, which launched limited-edition baseball caps at her fashion shows, which have taken place at iconic restaurants around New York City, such as Serendipity 3. For her spring 2023 show, which took place in September 2022 at Ben’s Delicatessen, she collaborated with the restaurant to release a logo cap. “I wanted to create a small, portable item that would hint at the theme of my runway show, but be wearable and useful in people’s lives,” says designer Batsheva Hay.” The word ‘delicatessen’ is so New York, and so evocative of cinema and a time period. It was a nod to my runway show at Ben’s Deli. I love wearing baseball caps with dresses or anything at all, so I wanted to personalize one.”
Immediately after the show, editors were quick to top their outfits off with the hat. Considering the presentation was so early in the morning—and so deep in the heart of the garment district—it felt like the perfect kind of disguise to add on, especially as the unsuspectingly ostentatious crowd emerged among tourists and everyday commuters. Turns out, that was exactly the point: “The baseball cap is one of those amazing New York City signifiers, from Larry David to Rihanna, trying to avoid the paps,” adds Hay. “I love how it feels protective and private and just, ‘leave me alone.’ They have a neutral quality where you can throw them on top of any look, which makes them feel very collectible. I also like how they can be commemorative, whether for someone’s Bar Mitzvah, bachelorette party, or 50th reunion. I didn’t make any merch for my wedding, but I will always merch up my fashion shows.” Spotting someone else in the streets in the same logo merch cap you’re wearing? “It brings an immediate sense of camaraderie and belonging that I think we have been craving for a long time,” adds Daspin.
Back to that bit of irony, many of the merch baseball caps are just that. Take, for instance, the Filson caps created in collaboration with Ray’s Bar on the Lower East Side. With its camo print and glaring orange font, it’s exactly the type of thing hardcore fashion and Y2K culture is mimicking right now (see: Praying’s ultra popular camo caps beloved by celebs for proof). But because it’s not a traditional designer fashion item, it feels more special, quirky, and oddly exclusive. “They represent usefulness and utility,” says Alex Carleton, chief creative officer of Filson, when asked about the elite reputation of the Filson x Ray’s hats. Who knew social status and solidarity could be wrapped up into one of the world’s most casual accessories that says so much, with so little effort?
Kristen Bateman is a contributing editor at Harper’s Bazaar. Her first fashion article was published in Vogue Italia during her junior year of high school. Since then, she has interned and contributed to WWD, Glamour, Lucky, i-D, Marie Claire and more. She created and writes the #ChicEats column and covers fashion and culture for Bazaar. When not writing, she follows the latest runway collections, dyes her hair to match her mood, and practices her Italian in hopes of scoring 90% off Prada at the Tuscan outlets. She loves vintage shopping, dessert and cats.