Dumbest Fashion Trends:

Long term: Who would have thought that twenty years after I, as a teenager, thought it looked cool to put my baseball cap on backwards (was it a Beastie Boys thing? Who remembers...), that youths, and even some adults (saw a guy in his 30s yesterday), would still be doing it (though there seemed to be a break for a time in the late '80s and mid '90s). Folks, the bill is on the front for reason, to shade your face from the sun. And it's soooo unclassy. Can you imagine Cary Grant wearing a backwards baseball cap? Please ladies, boycott the gents who wear the cap backwards, or at least tell them how silly it looks, and end this travesty for good. Perhaps a simple, "you know, David Bernstein had that look twenty years ago," will do.

Short term: The half cardigan. Why on earth would you wear a sweater that only keeps the upper half of your torso covered? Every time I see this, it looks to me like someone's great aunt died before she could finish the sweater she was knitting for her beloved niece, but the niece wears it anyway as a tribute.

Disclaimer: Snarky comments about how I'm not exactly a fashion god will be deleted!

David Rose (mail):
According to Harold Evans' "They Made America," Wilbur Wright turned his cap around backwards c. 1908 in order to keep it from blowing off due to air turbulence.

No comment is made on the utility of any later such usage.
9.6.2005 9:56pm
Anderson (mail) (www):
Women wear short cardigans to accentuate the bust area, I'd thought. At least it had that effect on me in 10th grade.

The hat thing has got to be psychological at some deep level. Rebelliously sexy indifference to comfort? Making the head better resemble the penis (a la an old Sheryl Crow lyric)? Federal grants are needed to explore this puzzle.
9.6.2005 10:06pm
I suppose catchers are uncool then.
9.6.2005 10:10pm
Even better than people turning their baseball caps backwards are the ones who wear the golf visors backwards.

One could argue that baseball caps, whichever way directed, can still serve a purpose of covering up a bad hair day, but I don't see how the same could be said of visors...
9.6.2005 10:10pm
DavidL (mail) (www):

I believe you mean the bill belongs in the front.

Also, I can't imagine Cary Grant in a baseball cap of any kind. It's hard enough to imagine him in anything but a suit.
9.6.2005 10:10pm
Amber (www):
Because that the only part of you that gets cold if you are wearing a spaghetti strap top? A mini cardigan would cover the exposed back, upper arms, and armpits without adding mass to the waist area, a zone many women want to minimize. I don't even own one of these, but that sounds logical.
9.6.2005 10:10pm
M (mail):
I agree w/ the commentor above: as stupid as a backwards ball cap might be, they are not as dumb looking as the upside down golf visor. I also think the slightly off-kilter ball cap looks even more stupid than backwards.
9.6.2005 10:37pm
nk (mail) (www):
This is not a joke. I am totally serious. This is 2005 and the manner in which you wear your baseball cap means gang affiliation in certain parts of certain towns. I was told, yesterday, by someone in a position to know, that a pocketless, crewneck, white t-shirt means the same thing. Wear your baseball cap totally square-on, brim to the front, unless you are catching at home plate.
9.6.2005 10:37pm
Amber has a point. I notice that you did not seem to object to the fashion of women appearing in public in basically their underwear. If the mini-cardigan helps facilitate this, you guys may want to reconsider your objection...

(Alternative explantion -- bad laundry skills caused dryer to shrink sweater?)

cathy :-)
9.6.2005 10:43pm
Syd Henderson (mail):
The reason professional catchers wear hats backward is because baseball stadiums are generally built with home plate in the west to south quadrant, so the catcher is generally facing north or east. Thus they don't have to worry about having the sun in their eyes, but they do have to worry about sunburnt necks.
9.6.2005 10:44pm
frank cross (mail):
Other than playing baseball, I can think of no fashion justification for wearing a baseball cap, bill worn backwards, frontwards, or sideways.
9.6.2005 10:48pm
Ilya Somin:
For many months, David has pulled off the amazing feat of never (so far as I can remember) writing a Volokh Conspiracy post that I disagreed with. But he lost me with the vicious attack on half-cardigan sweaters:).

As for backwards baseball hats, if wearing one doesn't keep you from becoming a prominent blogger, it can't be too harmful.....
9.6.2005 11:28pm
The Plumber (www):
9.6.2005 11:30pm
Reg (mail):
Nobody should wear caps backwards except catchers and cameramen.
9.6.2005 11:42pm
David J Swift (mail) (www):
It's been 20 years? Guess so. Prairie Home Companion broadcast a skit in which Guy Noir told a punk kid that his ball cap is on backwards: Kid: "You mean this is backwards?"

I wear a beret onstage as a costume (rock'n'nostalgia band). Visual gag: "You know how you can tell a French gangsta?" I twist the beret around 180 degrees.
9.6.2005 11:53pm
The utilitarian usage of a backwards baseball cap is quite obvious, though I also no longer rock one (it really is the Beastie Boys' fault, by the way): it serves the non-traditional hat purpose of hiding the fact that the wearer hasn't showered recently, as indicated by messy, greasy hair, while preventing the possibility that the wearer will be unaware of potentially dangerous objects falling from above, a danger directly traceable to the bill.
One may wonder why berets or similar brim-less head apparel aren't used in lieu of a baseball cap. I surmise that the reason is primarily patriotic: the wearers are attempting to indicate their allegiance to America by wearing traditional American headgear, while studiously avoiding headgear associated with other nations (like France). Moreover, baseball caps also allow the wearer to show allegiance to particular groups, whereas I haven't seen a Red Sox beret recently.

God, I really do love to procrastinate.
9.7.2005 12:05am
nk, where do you live? I'm no banger, and I wear plain, white, pocketless, crewneck T-shirts all the damn time!

Sorry to threadjack, but I saw an episode of "Cops" or some such where they explained the new gang dress mode is "everybody wears blue jeans and a black jacket today" then "everybody wears khackis and a green polo tomorrow" (etc.) so that when one offends the eyewitnesses end up describing half the youths in the neighborhood!
9.7.2005 12:05am
Bruce Hayden (mail) (www):
I think the other reason to reverse a baseball type hat is to minimize wind resistance. For example, riding a motorcycle, it would be easy for the wind to catch the bill of a hat. And, thus, you see them reversed a lot there too.

I find that the only time I reverse a baseball hat is skiing, esp. wearing goggles, but also sun glasses. Again, too easy for the wind to whip it off your head if it catches the bill. However, have been wearing a helmet the last 6-8 years, so this has become a non-problem.

As for baseball catchers, I had always assumed that it had something to do with their masks. If a catcher pushes his mask back over his head to see, for example, a pop-up, the mask would push the bill back, pushing the hat back, etc. But then, I have never played catcher, and this exception to the rule is so engrained that I don't think many think about it.
9.7.2005 12:13am
Tom952 (mail):
Originally, it kept your neck from getting sunburned red.
9.7.2005 12:14am
Devin McCullen (mail):
Speaking of women's clothing, one item I don't get are the tops that have a turtleneck but no sleeves. Those just look weird to me.
9.7.2005 12:17am
Laura Blancahrd (mail):
It's difficult to take photographs with most cameras wearing a cap with the bill toward the front. Some of us simply forget to turn the cap around again occasionally. (Some of us, at age 55-plus, are decidedly uninterested in our baseball cap coolness factor, especially since we're female.)
9.7.2005 12:19am
Buck Turgidson (mail):
The only way to be sure that there is no gang affiliation in your outfit is to wear nothing. Perhaps this is the same approach one should take to satisfy Bernstein's fashion sense.
9.7.2005 12:19am
Wacky Hermit (mail) (www):
The short cardigans do accentuate the bustline, but since they are usually worn in a color that contrasts with the shirt and the shirt contrasts with the pants, they break the body up into three regions. That's fine, if you're tall. If you're short, it just makes you look shorter. And the horizontal lines introduced by this style make you look fatter too. So they look best on tall, skinny people with no bust. People like me who are already short, fat, and busty will just have to wait for a more sensible style to come in fashion.
9.7.2005 12:26am
Wacky Hermit (mail) (www):
Oh, and Devin, the sleeveless turtlenecks are great for certain face shapes (which the turtlenecks accentuate) and for their vertical lines (which make a person look taller and skinnier). That's why they are so popular.
9.7.2005 12:30am
countertop (mail):
Re: Baseball caps - I rarely wear one downtown (and never with a suit) and when I do wear one I don't wear it ala Charlie Brown or the Beastie Boys (cocked to the side). However, there are a number of occasions when I do wear it backwards: riding my bike, for instance. Or, while kayaking on the Potomac on a sunny day. I can protect the back of my neck from sun (and keep cool) by wearing it backwards (depending on the relationship of my current position to the sun)
9.7.2005 12:32am
Lorenzo (mail):
The Cary Grant analogy reminded me of my comment to my 13 year old grandson at Johnny Carson's death that he was an American institution. My grandson asked "Who WAS he?" You need a more contemporary example, or at least someone still living. Someone with style, with class. Someone teens respect., or at least know. It can't be Trump - a backwards cap would be an improvement. Arnold?
9.7.2005 12:35am
TigerHawk (www):
It is a mistake to omit the Victoria's Secret "Moon Boots." They can be seen disembodied here, but are modeled on the back of their current "shoes" catalogue (in and of itself a huge waste) by a very fetching brunette in a mini-skirt. They are an obvious fashion atrocity of the first order.
9.7.2005 12:39am
When I see a popped collar on a polo shirt, there is only one thing to say: Dear sir! Put your collar down!

Lauren Graham was wearing a pink half-cardigan over a black dress on tonight's 8pm installment of the "Gilmore Girls," and she looked quite fetching -- as she always does.
9.7.2005 12:53am
Grim (mail) (www):
Re: the half-cardigan -- remember Ivanhoe?

"The Emperor Charlemagne, in whose reign they were first introduced, seems to have been very sensible of the inconveniences arising from the fashion of this garment. 'In Heaven's name,' said he, 'to what purpose serve these abridged cloaks? If we are in bed they are no cover, on horseback they are no protection from the wind and rain, and when seated, they do not guard our legs from the damp or the frost.'"
9.7.2005 1:00am
ChrisO (mail):
Popped collars reduce sunburns on your neck.
9.7.2005 1:39am
Beck (mail) (www):
I have another legit reason to wear a baseball cap: when you're playing poker, it allows you to obscure your eyes by simply tilting your head downwards.

Sunglasses achieve this as well, but the baseball hat draws less unwanted attention to yourself.

Wearing a baseball cap backwards at a poker table makes a dif. statement: namely, that the player is sufficiently good that he doesn't have to hide behind anything to beat you out of your money.
9.7.2005 1:41am
Andrew Schoppe (mail):
You didn't say anything about deleting this kind of comment: "You are exactly NOT a fashion god."

But, for the record, it took a close friend of mine pulling me aside in my junior year of high school (1991) to advise me that "We" were no longer rolling up "Our" pants. So you're in good company is what I'm saying.

However, there is another utilitarian use for the backward baseball cap: while playing paintball, the reversed bill protects your neck while the mask protects your face.
9.7.2005 1:45am
Joshua Wright (mail):
Wearing a baseball cap backwards at a poker table makes a dif. statement: namely, that the player is sufficiently good that he doesn't have to hide behind anything to beat you out of your money.

Of course, the same statement could be made by simply playing poker without the hat, no?
9.7.2005 1:47am
Syd, I assume you were kidding, and you knew it.

Catchers wear their caps backwards because its impossible to put the face mask on over the cap if the bill is facing forward.
9.7.2005 1:47am
Alan K. Henderson (mail) (www):
Gals wear those moon boots on occasions other than walking in rain? Ugh.

I hate baseball caps. They're uncomfortable, no matter which way the bill is facing. Had to wear one when I was a pizza deliverer. Ugh.
9.7.2005 1:52am
Scott Free (mail):
As I recall, the backwards baseball cap started after the TV show SWAT back in the late 70s. The cool sniper guy always turned his hat around so he could use his scope, and everyone in high school wanted to be him.
9.7.2005 1:57am
phillymikec73e (mail) (www):
I agree that you need to turn around the cap when using a camera. Also microscopes, as I found out in college.
9.7.2005 2:13am
Dillon K. (mail):
As dumb as the wearing-it-backwards trend might look, that trend is a rational response by certain young males to a demand by some young females for young such attributes in the "dating market" (I'm not sure if it is thought to be cute for itself or rather a signal of the "sort" of young man in general). I suggest that, and believe that Mr. Bernstein's comments support that, unless we rid the world of the teen idols such as Fred Durst or the Beastie Boys who stimulate this demand, there will be few young (the only ones that matter to these young men) females willing to boycott and supply shall therefore remain the same. This is consistent with the above comments on Bust-Emphasizing Cardigans.

In view of Mr. Bernstein's criterion, what is the Dumbest Trend Ever, then? Without a doubt jean shorts. First, there is little demand in the dating market for men with jean shorts since it is neither "cute" and is roundly understood to signal the living-in-mom's-furnished-basement type. And second, I'm convinced that, and a single episode of "COPS" should convince anyone that, wearing them should be probable cause for possession of crystal meth or soliciting a prostitute. And the third and most important reason: can you imagine Carey Grant in jean shorts? No way! Not even if he was pitching!
9.7.2005 2:25am
Syd (mail):
Redman: one of the side effects for catchers is indeed keeping their necks from being sunburnt. Otherwise they could have come up with a bill-less cap in the 1870s when baseball equipment was flexible.

Doesn't the home plate umpire also wear a backwards cap?
9.7.2005 2:35am
Robin Roberts (mail) (www):
All praise for forward-facing ball caps with the name of a commercial truck manufacturer embrodered thereupon and a flannel shirt! hooray!
9.7.2005 2:46am
Syd (mail):
I was looking through the major league ballparks, and at least two--The Great American Ballpark in Cincinnati and the Ballpark at Arlington (Texas Rangers) have their plates in the northwest. Baseball doesn't want homeplate on the north, northeast or east sides because having a 100 mph fastball coming out of the sun to a batter is not a good idea. (Having a pitcher throw into the sun doesn't seem all that hot an idea either, but at least they're on a pitcher's mound. Which raises two questions:

(1) Where do they put home plate in Australia?
(2) Does it matter which way you wear a cap in a domed stadium (or a night game)?
9.7.2005 3:07am
dave (mail) (www):

Catchers haven't worn backwards caps for a long time. They wear helmets without bills. And I have two words for you Beastie Boys whippersnappers...

Oscar Madison.
9.7.2005 3:19am
In the UK, wearing a baseball cap full stop is an indication of a certain level of age and stupidity

1. We don't play baseball, it's called Rounders (try Wikipedia)

2. The sun never shines so why wear a hat.

3. If you do wear a baseball cap you lose all ability to drive a car in a sensible manner.
9.7.2005 6:13am
In the UK, wearing a baseball cap full stop is an indication of a certain level of age and stupidity

1. We don't play baseball, it's called Rounders (try Wikipedia)

2. The sun never shines so why wear a hat.

3. If you do wear a baseball cap you lose all ability to drive a car in a sensible manner.
9.7.2005 6:14am
In the UK, wearing a baseball cap, regardless of its orientaion, is an indication of a certain level of age and stupidity.

1. We don't play baseball, it's called Rounders (try Wikipedia)

2. The sun never shines so why wear a hat.

3. If you do wear a baseball cap you lose all ability to drive a car in a sensible manner.
9.7.2005 6:16am
Bernie Manning (mail):
The most plausible explanation I ever heard for the backward baseball cap (so plausible that it's almost certainly true) is: it started in prison where inmates in adjoining cells talk to one another and use mirrors to see one another while they're talking. In order for this to work they have to get as close to the cell bars as possible, therefore the cap is turned around so the bill won't get in the way.

I thought this was common currency (and I'm old) so it seems to me you lose points for not knowing this.
9.7.2005 7:02am
urland (mail):
The hat askew look does have a few quality exemplars.

Somtimes it would be better to not wear a hat at all.

And the brimless catcher's helmet went out pretty much in the 70s. Today you'll see catchers with backwards hats, backwards helmets , forward helmets, or even hockey style helmets.
9.7.2005 7:11am
Chaim Katz:
Bernstein, you ignorant slut!

[Sorry, I just needed to say that.]

If you think wearing a baseball cap backwards is an annoying fashion trend, well, then I suggest you come down to Charlottesville to learn the real deal. Here undergraduates participate in fashion abominations that ought to earn them the wrath of God.

Yesterday, some dude walked into my Con Law class wearing one polo shirt on top of another one--with both collars popped. He also had both shirts half-tucked into his I-don't-want-to-know-how-expensive jeans. I nearly fainted.

Seriously, the most annoying (short-term?) fashion trend is the popped collar on the polo shirt.

As for hats, I confess I don't see too much wrong with wearing caps backwards. You say it looks unclassy, I think a fitted cap worn backwards says, "I'm ready for business" a la rolled-up shirtsleeves.

The most annoying trend ever for baseball caps is wearing them sideways or askew. It's supposed to look jaunty or rakish or something. ALl I know is it makes me queasy.
9.7.2005 7:57am
John B Chilton (mail) (www):
Any reason for this omission?:

"Please gents, boycott the ladies who wear half cardigans, or at least tell them how silly it looks, and end this travesty for good."
9.7.2005 8:05am
Bob Young (mail):
OK, it's dumb. But when I get a stretch of flat water with the walleye boat and decide to let 'er rip it's not so dumb. One hand on the wheel, one hand on the throttle and the hat better stay put. Once past 40 mph, grabbing for it isn't an option.

Just sayin' there might be a practical reason at times.
9.7.2005 9:31am
Christian (mail):
I've always thought the backwards hat suggested a reluctance to be a mature, responsible adult male, i.e., to persist in remaining a self-indulgent boy instead of becoming a man.
9.7.2005 9:46am
jallgor (mail):
As a former catcher I can tell you that we wear our hats backwards so that we can put the catcher's mask over it. Especialy during practice when you may not want need to wear a helmet the whole time. Nothing to do with the sun.

David, I'll give two reasons I sometimes turn my hat backwards. 1. driving in a convertible I sometimes worry the wind will catch the brim, 2. hot day and the cloth part of the front of the hat starts getting itchy and sweaty on the brow, turn it around and the plastic clasp part is dry and comfortable (at least for a little while).
9.7.2005 9:55am
GM Roper (mail) (www):
About ten years ago, having long been fed up with the backwards cap schtick I walked into the first day of an Introduction To Psychology Class I was teaching at the local Community College. One of the students sitting near the aisle I walked up had his on backwards and I said, "Wow,that is really cool, where did you get the Yankee's cap with the bill sewn on backwards?" The young man looked at me and promptly turned it right. Stayed right the rest of the sememster too. I guess it was too much to think his mom taught him to take off his cap inside.
9.7.2005 9:55am
Ciarand Denlane (mail) (www):
"Lauren Graham was wearing a pink half-cardigan over a black dress on tonight's 8pm installment of the "Gilmore Girls," and she looked quite fetching -- as she always does"

Since her character is soon (it appears) about to claim the title she once described as "Mrs. Backwards Baseball cap," maybe David is onto something in spotting some correlation between these alleged fashion disasters.
9.7.2005 10:00am
triticale (mail) (www):
The problem with golf visors isn't that they are worn backwards, but that they are worn backwards and upside-down so it looks like a spoiler on the decklid of a '70s muscle car.
9.7.2005 10:53am
Signa (mail):
Was at a labor day party this weekend. Bunch of young attorneys, two with rear facing ball caps. Some young lady said it took 50 points off of their IQ.

Pretty much sums it up.
9.7.2005 11:00am
Houston Lawyer:
Sure backwards baseball caps are annoying, but compared to pants that are so big they hang half-way down your ass and still need a free hand to hold them up, they are innocuous. This fashion statement is so bad that my six-year-old asks why they do it.

As for any clothes indicating gang affiliation, I rest assured that I will not be mistaken for a gang member in my seersucker suit.
9.7.2005 11:17am
dc (mail):
I would like to add my two male fashion pet peeves to the stew: jeans worn so low that boxers are showing and shorts that extend below the knee. The first looks terrible and ruins the effect of a man in jeans for the ladies. If you are not currently starring in a rap video, buy a belt or jeans that fit right. As for the second, men who wear them are not fooling anyone. Guys, you are wearing the male version of capris -- properly known as manpris.
9.7.2005 11:19am
I have trouble taking seriously anyone who wears a baseball cap backwards without good reason. I've asked the following question to more than one person: "When I was growing up, the only people who wore caps backwards were welders (so they can put their mask on) and retards. Do you know how to weld?" This was usually met with uncomprehending stares.
9.7.2005 12:33pm
Carol Anne:
I have trouble taking seriously this entire thread!
9.7.2005 12:42pm
Thankfully James Blake dispatched Raphael Nadal, so as to end the scourge of capri pants on American soil.

Ciarand -- good catch! In same said episode, Luke appeared in a tie and sans headwear.
9.7.2005 1:27pm
Edward Lee (www):
I'm pretty sure the home plate umpire wears his cap with the bill facing forward. Somehow the face mask fits over it.
9.7.2005 4:25pm
Richard Cook (mail):
Another authorized backward hat wearer is a sniper.
9.7.2005 4:40pm
Paul McKaskle (mail):
I'm surprised on a blog hosted by a bunch of law professors that there has been no comment on the number of male students who wear baseball caps in law school classes (whether put on forward or backward). In my school the University went to considerable expense to put a roof over the classrooms, but a surprising number of students apparently haven't noticed. Is there a rational reason for wearing baseball caps in classrooms, or is it simply a fashion statement of some obscure nature?
9.7.2005 8:52pm
Bruce Lagasse (mail):
A home plate umpire doesn't wear a regular cap (with a full brim) but something that looks more like a skull-cap with a very short brim. At least, that was the practice back when I used to play; of course, that was back when players still used to wear bloused pants with high-cut stirrups and hose. And BTW, that is one of my own leading bete' noirs (sp?) - professional baseball players who have let their pants bunch up around their shoe tops, in one of the slobbiest-looking fashion atrocities of recent decades (with a few exceptions - Greg Maddux, perhaps a few others).
9.7.2005 9:12pm
Laika's Last Woof (mail):
Everyone knows it was submarine captains who made the wearing of backward-facing caps popular.

They need to turn their captain-hats backwards so they can look through the periscope.
9.7.2005 9:13pm
stealthlawprof (mail) (www):
Regardless how the backwards hat trend started, will someone please end it? I recently sat in a restaurant while a young man (presumably a college student) and his date entered. She was quite dressed up for the occasion -- dress, heels, etc. His attire? Basketball shorts, t-shirt, and the ubiquitous backwards hat. I believe the apt quote for this is "casting pearls before swine."
9.8.2005 12:53am
Perseus (mail):
Amen, Paul McKaskle! Back when I was in public primary school, I distinctly remember teachers telling the students to take off their caps as they entered the school. Now, as a professor of pol. sci., I'm tempted to do the same thing, but, lacking tenure, I refrain from doing so lest my student evaluations suffer.
9.8.2005 3:46am
Michael Anderson (mail):
I often tell my students "one backwards ball cap makes a fashion statement, a hundred make a uniform. And, no, I would not like fries with that."
9.8.2005 10:18am
permagrin (mail):
I think it's safe to say that all comments and worries about fashion are completely superficial. Floods, disease, death, but we are worried about what a person wears as clothing and how they wear it. I'll will now go back to playing with my kids while wearing my hat backwards because I like it that way (and yes, even a backwards hat wearing man can find a good paying job), will someday be dead, and won't give 2 craps what folks thought about it when I'm on my deathbed.
9.8.2005 11:43am