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In praise of ball caps

April 23, 2024

Amber Day

Imagine if you fell in love with someone first and only later learned that person was rich. This is what it’s like to wear a ball cap now that I’ve lost most of my hair. You see a transactional relationship meant to disguise my diminished hairline. I see the latest chapter in a lifelong affair.

To say I wore ball caps back when I had a full head of hair is like when your grandparents would look across a crowded urban setting and tell you how this all used to be farmland. You can’t really see it, but you just have to trust that it’s true. I wore ball caps in Little League but also in high school classrooms and at bars when I was in college and beyond. In my 20s and 30s, my unique brand of iconoclasm was to wear golf-themed ball caps to hockey rinks and hockey-themed ball caps on the golf course. My favorite, my golden boy, was a “USA Hockey” hat that began a rich royal blue but was swiftly faded to gray by sun and sweat. I recall covering the 2004 Ryder Cup as an adamantly objective journalist, then receiving sneering looks from the European press who thought I was affirming my allegiance. “No, this is a hockey hat,” I tried to explain but realized it was pointless. I chose a different hat for the rest of the week.

All those years, I wore a ball cap not out of necessity but as a form of self-expression. I promise that is true now, although I’d be lying if I didn’t admit its one additional function in recent years. Without it, I get a nasty sunburn on the top of my head.