It would have been really creepy of me if I took a photograph of the chap sitting over three seats from me, on the morning train to the city, but there's something that was really really giving me the irrits. This man in a suit and tie was wearing a New York Yankees baseball cap.
I have several problems with this on a number of levels, but the absolute number one stand out reason is that given that he was wearing a suit and tie, he could have worn a trilby or flat cap instead.
Once upon a time in the land that they called the past, caps were baggy affairs which were made either in panels or rings and generally topped off with piping between the panels. The traditional cricket cap, as exemplified by Albion, was awarded to cricket players, football players and baseball players, alike. In fact, the term winning a cap, or to become a called player, implies that one has been awarded the highest honour possible by being called up to the national side. No doubt, the original sporting caps were of the sort awarded to boys in the great public schools and of the sort which would show up on the battlefields which the great powers frequently sent the disposable classes to fight on.
A baggy green cap is possibly the highest possible honour that can be awarded to a civilian in Australia, a baggy blue cap is an honour which an Englishman aspires to own, and a cap with a thistle, a flax plant or a harp, is a symbol of defiance to the English. The practice spread across Europe and South America with the arrival of international football and it still stands as a thing today.
In America though, for reasons of internal nationalism and isolationism, they chose to play sports which the rest of the world didn't. Baseball, basketball, and American Football, have their own traditions which don't map onto anything else in the world. Baseball though, has roughly the same problem as cricket does, when you have players standing out in the field for a long time. The baseball cap, with its larger brim and space at the front where you can put the team's logo, is a perfectly functional piece of kit for a very distinct purpose. I have no problem with that. I also have no problem with the rampant commercialism of the product either. In fact, curiously, the one place that you are unlikely to see advertising is on the jerseys of baseball, basketball, and American Football teams. That's all fine.
My objection is one of style and the rather jarring juxtaposition of a baseball cap and formal clothing.
A guy wearing a baseball style cap as a labourer, is sensible. Out there in the elements, they who actually do real back breaking work for a living, have exactly the same problem as a baseball player standing in the outfield. A truck driver in a trucker's hat, is arguably one of the most endearing and enduring symbols of a nation on the move and doing work. Two thumbs up.
A man in a suit, who sits in an office all day long, or worse, an executive or someone in management who doesn't really do any of the actual business of the company, looks really really daft in a baseball cap. The CEO of a major corporation in a baseball cap looks disgenuous and fake. The President Of The United States, no matter how often he tries to look like one of the people with a MAGA hat, looks like a manager who has wandered into the staff Christmas Party and wants praise from his employees, when what they really want is a chance to shoot the breeze and complain about management.
This whole thing about not wearing a baseball cap with a suit and tie, doesn't apply to other pieces of clothing. If you wear a pair of 14 hole Doc Martens Boots, nobody even knows. If you wear a pair of Chuck Taylor All Stars, people will think that you are secretly the Tenth Doctor. If you wear an Adidas jacket, or a denim jacket, or a knitted pullover, people will just think that you are cold. These things are functional.
Mixing things up isn't a problem. If you are a kid in a school where uniform is compulsory, then wearing a baseball cap is your only outlet for individualisation. That kind of doesn't apply in this case because this gentleman was obviously rich enough that he could have easily bought a whole range of suits, ties and other hats. This just looked foolish and denied an awareness of a sense of place.
That sense of place was brought home for me recently when I saw the film Lincoln recently. Sure, we might think that Abraham Lincoln looks kind of dated and very much of the time in a stovepipe hat but he was the President Of The United States; he looked as appropriately trimmed as Isambard Kingdom Brunel or Benjamin Disraeli would have. Chairman Mao looks absolutely perfect in that weird hat that he had to accompany the Zhongshan suit if you care to ignore the terrible implications that accompany it, and John F Kennedy in a bowler hat looked like he knew where his place was upon the world's stage.
There is a dude in a high-vis polar fleece who is sitting a little bit further down the train and he has a bucket hat on. I expect that he is probably either a plumber, chippy or sparky; whatever the case, he falls into that same category as a labourer or truck driver. This chap in the suit and tie isn't fooling anyone with his New York Yankees hat. It looks clean and crisp and as though not even a sprinkle of mist has ever fallen upon it.
Being in Sydney at 7:39am, it is 1:39pm in New York City and the chances of him going somewhere to watch a baseball game on television is nil. I can't even imagine the reason why he'd want to wear a baseball cap on the train. If there was a World Series or something and the Yankees had won the pennant, then I will readily rescind this whole thing but if he's just wearing a baseball cap with a suit and tie, I'm prepared to go out on a limb as a Non Commissioned Officer of the Fashion Police and say that he looks madder than Mad Jack McMad, the winner of last year's Mister Mad Man competition.
A stovepipe hat though... If he had had one of those, he would have been crowned King Of Town there and then.