Hats You Can’t Wear Sideways or Backwards

For a number of years I’ve watched people wearing ball caps turned backward and sideways, nobody raising an eyebrow.  I’m not sure why they do it because the purpose of the visor on a ball cap is to protect the nose from Old Sol’s battering.  But I gradually began to wonder if people just didn’t know which piece of a hat is the front, which is the side, and which is the back.

Eventually I decided to perform an experiment.  I carefully selected a hat for my next trip to town, determined to wear it backward all day, seemingly oblivious to that.  I wanted particularly to corner-of-my-eye observe the reactions of people wearing their ball caps backward and sideways.

My findings weren’t ambiguous.  From my first stops of the day I saw that people of every age and gender did double-takes, then attempted to surreptitiously call the attention of someone else to the fact I was wearing my hat backward.  If they had no companion they’d nudge a stranger to share it.  Not once did anyone sidle up to me and whisper, “You’ve got your hat on backward,” as they’d have done if my fly was unzipped.

If I’m wearing a hat when I eat in town I usually take it off a moment while I briefly acknowledge gratitude.  On this occasion the hat was on backward when I entered and took my seat, ordered my food and waited to be served.  The café was well populated and though I pretended to be reading I observed the hat was a subject of notice and concealed, smiling discussion at almost every table.

When the food arrived, after the waitress left, I removed the hat and bowed my head a moment, then replaced it, facing forward.  But, pretending to notice I’d put it on forward, I took it off, looked at it, then turned it backward again on my head, and began eating while still occupied with my book, watching the other patrons.

This brought giggles and laughter, even among those wearing ball caps turned backward and sideways.

My conclusion from this study is that people don’t know what is the front and what is the back of a ball cap, but they do know the front from the back of western-style headgear.  I believe the findings are important enough to justify more in-depth study by PHD candidates in anthropology, sociology and fashion.

This is Jack Swilling, founder of Phoenix, Arizona, who died in prison awaiting trial for homicide.  He was posthumously acquitted.  However, Swilling’s hat is the issue here.  There’s a bullet hole in it, and it’s been ripped almost in half and sewn back together.  Swilling’s hat could be worn backward, forward or sideways and nobody at all would allow himself to notice.

Here are some other examples of non-ball caps that might be worn backward without concern:

Manny Gammage of Texas Hatters made this hat for me in 1971, or 1972.  The style was dubbed The High-Roller.

Here it is today with the original Mystic Weave band Manny put on it when he made it.  I’ll leave it to your judgement and the judgement of the PHD candidates whether it ‘works’ backward.

Other possible backward hats:

This pic was taken around 1976 worn conventionally.

Here’s the same hat today, backward.  Your call.

Straw John B. Stetson backward.

Felt John B. Stetson backward.  These last two and the next one are hats I inherited from dead men sent me through thrift stores and flea markets and arranged by the Coincidence Coordinators.

This one is Guatamala palm leaf bought for a dollar in a thrift store.  Maybe the best straw hat ever made.

Backward’s not much different.

This is a Tilley, the best canvas hat made anywhere.  It can be worn backward or forward without fear.

This is a Tilley knockoff.  Can’t be worn backward or forward with pride.

Gale gave me this dead man hat he picked up somewhere.  Here it’s worn backward.  You can just never tell.

Old Jules

Carl Sandburg, Hats:

HATS, where do you belong?
what is under you?

On the rim of a skyscraper’s forehead
I looked down and saw: hats: fifty thousand hats:
Swarming with a noise of bees and sheep, cattle and waterfalls,
Stopping with a silence of sea grass, a silence of prairie corn.
Hats: tell me your high hopes.

Carl Sandburg, Hats are Sky Pieces:

Proudly the fedoras march on the heads of the some-
what careless men.
Proudly the slouches march on the heads of the still
more careless men.
Proudly the panamas perch on the noggins of dapper
debonair men.
Comically somber the derbies gloom on the earnest solemn noodles.
And the sombrero, most proud, most careless, most dapper and debonair of all, somberly the sombrero marches on the heads of important men who know
what they want.
Hats are sky-pieces; hats have a destiny; wish your hat
slowly; your hat is you.

Joe Cocker–You Can Leave Your Hat On


Lyle Lovett– Don’t Touch my Hat

27 responses to “Hats You Can’t Wear Sideways or Backwards

  1. A hat lover like many bald men, I only recently began wearing baseball-type caps when hiking instead of the pocketable “bucket”-type I had worn before. I found the main advantage is while hiking in rain: it keeps the water off your face. I really find backwards caps about as sensible as pants hanging down one’s posterior. They simply serve no function whatsoever. Worse, they make the wearer look like a complete imbecile.

    Today, trying to take a photo in a stiff seaside breeze, I found myself for the first time turning it backwards so the wind wouldn’t grab it by the brim and steal it. This worked, but I quickly reverted to sensible once I resumed walking.

    I love the hat you had made. I’d like to get that done one day.

    • Thanks Goat. I like a baseball type hat sometimes. But mine has a visor sticks out a lot further than most and a bonnet on back somewhat likke the French Foreign legion used to wear in the old Beau Geste times. I wear it a lot. Gracias, Jules

  2. well this has been a delightful post to read, I know my son (now 28) wore his hat every which way but the right way and I always made snide remarks to try and get him to wear his hat correctly (he never did) it is a peer deal, they find a song they like then find that the artist/ singer wears their hat sideways and it is all over from there. They mimic what others do and this fad has sprout nearly as bad as those who wear their pants down below the butt crack, showing off their underwear. have a great day,Jules.


  3. How you kept a straight face while doing your experiment I’ll never know, but kudos on a very funny post.

    As for ballcaps, the only people above the age of 12 who should be wearing them backwards are baseball catchers.

    • Hi kevin. Thanks for stopping in. I’ll confess to having sometimes suppressed things during the operation, but alone in the car heading back I laughed a lot reliving it. Gracias, Jules

  4. Critical study material here. I reckon it takes a heap of insecurity to reorganize yourself to ape someone you don’t even know. The difference between a man of character and a fool is mostly in who’s asking.

    • Hi Ed. We’ve all got a lot of fool in us I reckons. I don’t suppose I have gotten around to concluding men of character don’t. I thought about the rest of your comment after I read it, but before replying. I think the answer is probably, fairly insecure. Gracias, Jules

  5. From now on when I observe someone being “a bit off” I will instead wonder if they are actually quite brilliant as well as outrageously funny and I am the one who is “a bit off”. Thanks for the laughs this morning. 🙂

  6. Maybe I am just plain crazy but when I see someone with a baseball cap on the wrong way round I secretly wonder if it’s actually their head which is on back to front.

  7. Haha great experiment! Hats off to you dear sir!

  8. I enjoy hats but not many folks around my area wear them. Just the baseball caps.

    The deal with the backwards caps is this:

    It’s from early LGBT culture. Gay guys being pitchers or catchers. If you catch my drift. Backwards means the wearer (ahem) receives. The sideways thing is a gang sign from ghetto culture.

    In hetero culture, the backwards cap wearing is a sign that he’s out of touch. The fad went out of style long ago. 🙂

    BTW…nice blog.

  9. Some thing you might want to take a gander at (which brings up a whole other passel wondering, why not take a goose, probably cause the gander isn’t producing eggs, so they get eaten first, would be my guess) would be those self same baseball hats. How many of them still have the stickers on them, the price tags, etc. Now why would they be leaving them there you might ask oneself?
    Is it because they want you to know how much they spent on it?
    Or is it to show they stole it and the tags were not removed at the register?
    Or are they just too stupid to remove them?
    Or are they just leaving them on as a Tribute to Minnie Pearl, whom most of them are to wet behind the ears to have seen or know of?
    Watch their faces scrunch up when you inform them that a little old white lady is the source of their cultural statement, that she was the originator of the dangling price tag on her hats!
    Now ask your self why they leave the stickers on their sunglasses? Is a status symbol really worth the risk to life and limb that not being able to see?
    Ever ask a member of Law Enforcement what they like about todays styles?
    Learn more about it at my site!


  10. LOL, awesome post. Wish I could have seen their faces. It does look strange somehow backwards. If someone did it in New York it might become the next big trend.

  11. Pingback: 1 BEST 1

  12. Reblogged this on So Far From Heaven and commented:

    As accurate today as it was when I posted it the first time. Jack

  13. As accurate, and I daresay, just as entertaining. Got a chuckle picturing your experiment. Thanks for the laugh. Great hats, too.

  14. Hats are such fun and everyone seems to look your way when you have one on. Most of mine I don’t think anyone would know if it was frontwards or backwards!

  15. You always make me laugh!!!!! I love hats, especially on you but eventually I started looking at those green eyes and decided they were purtier!!!!!

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