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Snapback Hats Explained

By Taylor James


Updated on

Baseball caps have been a feature of sports players since the mid-1800s. The Brooklyn Excelsiors baseball team was the first to wear them.

Before snapbacks, the hats were typically made from wool, with a leather bill. These hats were not adjustable, so if you couldn’t find one to fit, you just had to make do.

The trend caught on, and soon baseball teams across the US were all wearing this round-brimmed cap.

By the 1930s New Era was born; this was the beginning of the snapback cap we see today.

New Era Snapback 9FIFTY on Amazon.

New Era Paved the Way

New Era hit the headlines in the 1950s for their new and unique designs, most notably the 1954 59FIFTY Cap, which paved the way for the hat style to reach new markets.

The 9FIFTY is the New Era’s snapback cap.

This hat style was made by stitching together six panels to make the crown and finished with a flat brim. It wasn’t adjustable, but it started a range of stylish and exciting caps for the headwear industry.

As the hat became more popular, New Era was given exclusive rights to be the sole company to provide sports headwear to the Major League Baseball, Basketball, and Hockey teams. Something they still hold today, no other fashion company has had the grip on one market as New Era have had with their baseball caps.

By the late 1970s, it became an everyday accessory after New Era was featured in a popular sports magazine.

The Adjustable Snap Back Is Born

In the 1990s, popular styles like the New Era 59Fifty were reinvented, adding two small pieces of plastic at the back of the cap.

This enabled the wearer to adjust the hat comfortably and ‘snap’ the two pieces together to fit. Other key features of the ‘snapback’ style cap are a wide, flat brim and round crown.

You will typically find that a snapback’s front panels are more structured to ensure that the hat still sits prominently even after you have adjusted the fit.

Finally, unlike the 1800s wool and leather cap, newer snapback caps are made from more comfortable materials such as cotton.

The Snapback Becomes Famous

Hip Hop music became a new influence for baseball caps. They were no longer worn just by sports players but are now associated with the Hip Hop scene.

The snapback was made more popular after music artists such as Tupac and Ice Cube wore the style In music videos, and of course, it was a staple fashion accessory worn by Will Smith in Fresh Prince of Bel Air.

This catapulted the snapback cap into the global spotlight and was the first time these hats were bought and worn solely for fashion and not a sport.

In general, baseball hats are a cool and comfortable option. There are endless styles out there on the market, and whether you opt for the fitted or adjustable snapback, they are classic fashion pieces that will be worn for many more years.

About Taylor James

As Philip Treacy once said, “How a hat makes you feel is what a hat is all about.” And on that note, I hope you enjoy your hats and find the site useful. Learn more about Hat Realm's Editorial Process.