Avalanche of Dad Hats – Is it Just Me?

22 hats hanging in a dad's closet
Props to my lovely wife for her efforts to rein in my hat collection. All the goodly organization is due to her. The awful need to organize is entirely my fault.

Dadtritus Alert: Two Dozen Ballcaps

Cue the Jeff Foxworthy voice:

If you’ve got more than zero ballcaps imprinted with the name of a resort or vacation destination, and you consider these nice enough to go out to a restaurant in… yoooooouuuuu might be suffering from dadtritus.

If you’ve got your ballcaps separated into sweat-stained-lawnmowing caps and the others that don’t noticeably smell from four feet away… yoooooouuuuuu might be suffering from dadtritus.

OK. So it’s not quite the Blue Collar Comedy Tour. But it can’t be just me.

If you’ve got nearly two dozen ballcaps, accumulated in fewer than 10 years, mostly hanging neatly from magically-procured (thanks to an organization-minded wife) hooks and bungees in your closet instead of scattered around the house and garage… yooooouuuuu might just be a dad, period.

nice Hats hanging neatly
The hats that aren’t stiff and clouded with sweat stains (ick!) get top billing in the closet, and, when I’m on my game, are sometimes organized by affiliation (Ohio sports, for example) or color.

Staying ahead of the hat influx

It wasn’t always this way. In fact, I count two distinct hat-acquiring periods in my life.

The first, which began with a 1989 middle school trip to Pittsburgh, saw me come back with a black Pirates cap. I dutifully hung it on the right post at the end of my bed. And, like all teenage caps left to their own devices in dark, shadowy places (my bedroom at the time was in a corner of the basement), it multiplied.

Caps acquired as nods to Georgetown (in the heady 1980s), Miami (Fla.), Ohio State, Disney World and Carnegie Mellon soon followed. I also developed an affinity for Tarheel blue University of North Carolina caps, which I began wearing backwards and almost always when running. The photographic record bears this up.

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Aside from the backwards UNC ballcaps, nearly all of my high school bedpost collection had disappeared in college and in the transition to independent life afterward. During much of college, this may have been because of my period of (pause in reverence) bandana-wear. No worries: no permanent harm ensued. Though this was, luckily, short-lived.

Wearing bandanas while whitewater rafting

I had ditched hats for everything but running wear until after becoming a dad, when they started, once again, to proliferate, however practically.

Ballcaps: The Return

Living in Chicago, early on, I picked up caps at White Sox and Cubs games, respectively, as a means of blending into my new environs. Never mind that the most I ever got into the Northside vs. Southside debate was harassing a copy editor at the paper about his Cubs-fandom after the team was outed for scalping its own tickets. (Why root for a team that cheats its own fans, J.J.? How can you?)

My bro gifted me an Arena League 2 cap for the San Diego Sharks franchise — along with some super-size football socks — and I thought that was pretty cool. So I wore it until the strap wore out.

On another occasion, I’d decided to participate in the St. Baldrick’s charity and shave my noggin, so I figured a suitable cover to save the world from my bald dome was in order. I picked up an old-style White Sox cap and Ohio State Buckeyes “O” hat to do the trick. I’ve still got them.

And things sort of accelerated from there. At last count, I had around 22 caps that were readily accessible on the back of the door to our closet. Which my wife has basically given over to me, albeit with her own organizing hooks and bungees. There may be hats hiding elsewhere, but this is where the dadtritus stands today.

Untainted Headgear (Suitable for Everday Wear)

Hats that aren't sweaty
Caps I could wear to a pub or for drinks in the summer, mainly due to their not being grimed with sweat.

These are the caps that I could wear, say, to a brewpub or at some casual summer get-together. Probably, mostly, because they haven’t been subjected to a hot afternoon at a ballgame or while mowing the lawn. They’re invariably tan or gray and, lately, stamped with resort names or vacation destinations. Frighteningly, they seem to go well with being 40. As does the official Boy Scout green hat, which, fortunately, I only break out in settings where I’m actually hanging with the Scout troop. (For now, at least.)

Sports Paraphernalia Not in Mowing Rotation

sports team caps
Representing my Ohio fandom and some local faves in Sioux Falls. They haven’t yet succumbed to the mowing pile.

At least the resort wear hasn’t overtaken my solid bloc of still-clean sports team hats. Some of these have gotten heavier wear, usually on gamedays, often in the Fall or winter, but they haven’t yet been relegated to the heap of sweat-grimed running or mowing hats. They represent my Ohio sports loves — Buckeyes, Browns, Indians — and a couple local teams like the Sioux Falls Canaries minor league baseball franchise and a vintage-looking wool ballcap from Augustana University (AC for its former college moniker).

Mass of Mowing Ballcaps

Ballcaps suitable for mowing the lawn
Caps that have succumbed to years of sun and sweat are still in good company, with the likes of a modern Augustana College cap blending with Cleveland and Cavaliers and Ohio State and Carnegie Mellon wear.

Caps that once started out in the nice-enough-to-wear daily ranks are now hanging a notch below, usually first picks for doing yard work or generally working up a stink. Like fine patina on old metals, the Augustana and Ohio State caps have spent enough time in the sun that they’re developing clouds of deeper shades than their original solid navy blue and scarlet red. My favorite blue Indians cap has developed enough funk that it may get a replacement one of these days. Also in these ranks are the Cavaliers (drum corps) caps I acquired and wore throughout a long summer tour circa 2008, and what I consider, proudly, the most boring college cap ever, honoring my alma mater, Carnegie Mellon, which has taken on the task of seeing how many words it can fit on the face of a cap and pretty much nailed it. Though its now pretty pink with wear.

Caps Whose Quirks Keep Them Hanging

Quirky Caps that Don't Get Worn
This final category encompasses gift caps, occasion caps, visors and vintage caps meant for a time too distant to be very wearable.

Finally, there are caps that just never get worn. But that, for sentimental reasons, still take up closet space. There’s the white cap proclaiming a family get-together in 2011 at Disney World for Christmas. A bicycle-themed cap that still bears the outline of its price tag in the dust that settled on it as it avoided settling on my head. A visor given away at a Turkey Trot race that has branded itself unwearable simply by its misfortune of having been made as a visor. And, finally, a pretty cool Ebbets Field Flannels rendition of oldtime Buckeyes Coach Woody Hayes’ choice of sideline headwear (made for Homage, another favorite brand), but that, alas, really only works on people with square heads or football coaches from the 1960s.

So, there you have it. The caps that take up headspace in this dad’s life, popping out throughout our house like tribbles in the holds of the USS Enterprise. Held in check for now by their practicality (in some cases), or achieving inertia by their very mass. There may be more, I am sure, in my near future. But for now, having undertaken this task of cataloging them, I think I’ll go unadorned for awhile, see how I like it. There’s comfort in knowing plenty of options are ready, when I need them. And plenty more I could gladly open closet space by shedding… the better to replace them with the next hat on deck.

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