By James Lilliefors
Clerisy Press, 2009
The book’s introduction, a lovely little memoir, actually had me
laughing out loud. In the first chapter, Mr. Liiliefors transitions from
memoirist to baseball historian without missing a beat. The writing is
snappy as the author glides from social history, to the history of
various businesses associated with the ball cap, to ball cap yarns and
myths, to interviews (with people and things, both real and imagined),
to multiple-choice tests, etc.
Lilliefors’ explanation of the advent of the "Cap Revolution" as a
confluence of separate cultural currents reminded me of Neil Steinberg’s
debunking of the myth that JFK killed the hat business when he became
Hatless JACK: The President, the Fedora, and the History of an American Style].
Steinberg, like Lilliefors, describes a series of simultaneous
occurring events in American history that led to hatlessness and places
Kennedy’s aversion to headwear as only one episode in this context.
These hat history tipping points – the 1980s for the ball cap
- are fascinating (at least to me). As I was "in the game" for the Cap
Revolution, reading this book was a bit like reading my own history. And
of course I enjoy that [reviewer disclosure: I actually show up in
"Freedom Of Choice", page 93].
Mr. Lilliefors approach is not as scholarly as, say, Fred Miller Robinson’s
THE MAN IN THE BOWLER HAT: His History and Iconography.
But, it is more substantial than many of the simple, purely anecdotal
books on hats, like Texas Bix Bender’s small book on the cowboy hat,
HATS and the Cowboys Who Wear Them.
Ball Cap Nation at
times takes itself rather seriously, explaining a real historical
phenomenon with important implications, but then will quickly reel
itself in and get back to pure fun and hokum. Lilliefors has a quirky
sense of humor and it "pops up" – "out of left field" – throughout the
book. Sometimes this nuttiness makes its way to an entire section, like
the story of "The Cap Whisperer" or BCN’s "exclusive" interview with the
New York Yankees cap.
Without a doubt, this is the most complete book to date on the iconic Ball Cap. On that basis alone, it becomes an instant classic book on the subject of hats. For readers of
Ball Cap Nation, cranking the brim and donning a simple ball cap will forever be more complex. . . and more fun.