I do not remember the first time I saw a human with a hat in reverse. I do not even remember the first time I wore a hat upside down. They must surely have been adrenaline experiences that have marked me underground and that I have now removed. Try to think about it now: the visor turned to cover the neck instead of the forehead and the adjustable tongue over the eyes and eyebrows. Is not it absurd? It seems to me that my brain is overturned. This must have been thought at the age of 6.
Between 1991 and 1995, when I was in elementary school, it was said: “I put my hat on Jovanotti”. In Italy it was the then just twenty-year-old rapper who cleared out the bizarre style to the general public, perceived as a habit of a little crazy kids. On the cover of his first album Jovanotti for President, in 1988, there is Lorenzo Cherubini who jumps with striped underwear, a leather jacket, a t-shirt with the words “Get Off My Dick”, a silly face and a hat in a new position. But this is not “The Italian history of the hat put backwards”, so we will have to broaden the horizons of our exploration and go back in time, until you find who first had this intuition.
We are naturally talking about hats where you can see a visor, made to stay in front, and a round part, made to stay behind. We do not talk about hats in the broad sense, otherwise we should go further back in time and redefine the concept of “hat”, “before” and “behind”, until we surrender to the fact that the first hat ever created by Homo Sapiens can to have been immediately overturned for any unattractive reason.
So in the 80s the “revolution” of the baseball cap had already been made. From who? The hip hop culture is a strong suspect but in reality the trend was more widespread. The resounding success of Magnum, P.I., in 1980, explodes everywhere the fashion of the baseball cap as a garment to wear in any context. At that point, turning it does not take anything. We also get one like Axl Rose.
But this curious habit did not start in that decade. In 1968 he released the film The Strange Couple with Jack Lemmon and Walter Matthau. The latter interprets a shabby bachelor who goes around the house with a shirt out of his pants and a blue cap held upside down. The detail transmits to the character an unregulated and uncaring air that acts as a counterpart to the impeccable and maniacal partner. Is it possible that Neil Simon’s comedy is the first “famous” hat case to the contrary? The denial arrives on time from an unexpected guest: J. D. Salinger.
“… I put on the cap I had bought in New York in the morning. It was a red cap for hunters, of those with a very long visor (…). It only cost me a dollar. And I wore it with the visor on the back of my neck, that’s how I wore it – peasant to death, who denies it, but I liked it that way. I was fine, with the cap like that. “Young Holden leaves in 1951 and bears witness to the fact that wearing the hat turned was an unpleasant and excessive habit and therefore potentially attractive. Years later Stephen King, in his essay Danse Macabre, tells that in the 50’s monster movie there was always a strange kid wearing a hat upside down to let you know how strange it was.
So putting the visor on the neck was not a trivial matter and probably any parent or professor would have prevented it. In the Tropic of Cancer, published for the first time in Paris in 1934, Henry Miller describes one of the many failed and wandering artists he meets as one wearing “his hat on assways”. Basically a fool. But let’s go even further back because the zero point of our investigation is now close.
In the golden age of silent cinema, where every object says something, there are two famous caps backwards. In 1928 Buster Keaton used it in The Cameraman – perhaps because the operators banged the visor on the lens and used to turn it around – and Jackie Coogan, Chaplin’s The Monello child, made it an iconic accessory, introducing another theme archetypal in our research: the boys with the hat backwards are 100% of the thugs (see also the cult series Funny rascals of 1922).
None of these characters, however, has introduced hat fashion backwards in human history. The first to do so were obviously baseball players. In 1860 the Brooklyn Excelsiors amateur team presented the new uniform with a hat that was never seen before: it had a protruding wedge to cover the eyes from the sun and was smooth at the front with a button at the top.
To see it today seems added with Photoshop so much it is the same as the modern one. Shortly thereafter, however, it was realized that the catcher mask clashed with the visor and in some moments of the game the players wanted to be able to see the ball splashing in the sky without impediment. Then someone came up with a brilliant idea …