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Updated October 2022
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BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We only make money if you purchase a product through our links, and all opinions about the products are our own. Read more  
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.Read more 
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Buying guide for best baseball caps

The baseball cap is as much a part of American fashion and lore as the game of baseball itself. With a prototype dating back to 1860, just six years after the first baseball teams were organized, the popular soft cap is visible almost everywhere today, popping up in countries far beyond America’s shores.

While it seems like a simple accessory at first glance, there is a lot to the baseball cap. How it’s made, fitted, and decorated can speak volumes about the person wearing it. It’s important to determine the features you want in a baseball cap, and a good buying guide and some recommendations can help you as you shop.

a man studying with a flipped baseball cap
Television helped spur the popularity of baseball caps from athletic gear to casual wear, first among kids in the 1940s and later among teens and adults.

How to buy the best baseball cap

A bit of history

The baseball cap has been part of the game of baseball almost since the beginning. In the mid-1800s, when games like rounders and town ball coalesced into the new game of baseball, players needed a lightweight hat that shielded their eyes from the sun, but wide-brimmed straw hats had some limitations.

In 1854, the Brooklyn Excelsiors wore soft cloth caps with stiff bills developed by Peck & Snyder (a company that’s still around today). The comfortable, tight-fitting cap was perfect for shielding the eyes and never got in the way while fielding the ball. The cap’s popularity among players took off, and by 1870 it was part of the uniform of every organized baseball team.

Symbolism

For generations, the baseball cap has symbolized much more than one sport. It communicates youth, athleticism, and casual flair. It displays one’s loyalty to a team, city, or region. In many countries, it’s a symbol of the United States, perhaps second only to the cowboy hat as an instantly recognizable facet of our nation’s contribution to fashion.

Versatility

This cap’s unique construction makes it strong and light. You can wear it in several configurations for comfort, fashion, or both. You can wear it as intended, with the bill in the front. You can place it at a jaunty angle. You can flip the brim up or turn it around backward, just like your favorite major-league catcher. Don’t let anyone tell you there’s only one way to wear a baseball cap. You do you.

Types

Today, there is a baseball cap for almost every occasion, including weddings! These caps function as everyday wear and fashion statements. They’re part of the uniform of many different occupations, from food service to security, the military to park rangers.

Baseball cap styles go in and out of fashion, and so do the terms used to describe them. Here are a few:

Supreme 5-panel: Not to be confused with the five-panel camp hat, this baseball cap has a streamlined look, five fabric panels in the crown (with the largest in front), and an adjustable closure.

Dad hat: This is a fitted or flex-fit cap with a curved bill, usually unstructured or with minimal structure.

Camp hat: This five-panel hat has a flatter crown and no center button.

Trucker hat: This cap has a high crown and a fabric or foam front panel. The trucker hat’s key features include a mesh back panel and adjustable closure.

Softball hat: Like the trucker hat, this hat has a high crown and adjustable closure. Regulation softball hats use higher-quality materials and include a fabric or mesh back panel.

a woman wearing a black baseball cap
DID YOU KNOW?
The baseball cap was officially adopted by a baseball team in 1854.
STAFF
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Features of baseball caps

Components

Even though they seem like a simple accessory, baseball caps have different styles, structures, and purposes.

Crown: This is the top part of the cap that covers your head. It’s made of two to seven fabric panels that help determine its shape. When choosing a baseball cap, the height and shape of the crown play a big part in how the cap looks and feels on your head.

  • Structured: This cap has stiff fabric, especially on the front panels, to maintain the cap’s shape even after being crumpled.
  • Unstructured: Made with softer fabric, these caps are popular as “vintage” baseball caps.
  • Low profile: The front of this unstructured baseball cap slants at a steep angle, and the sweatband sits a bit higher on the head. This style is popular as a sporting or golfing cap or for everyday wear.
  • Medium or mid-profile: The front panel sits at a less steep angle and the cap fits lower on the head. Professional baseball teams wear these caps.
  • High profile: The front panel is almost vertical, with a high crown. Many have a mesh back panel to keep the head cool while shading the eyes. Trucker hats with logos are the best-known example of this style.

Button: Placed at the top center of the crown, this metal button is covered with a layer of fabric.

Bill/visor: The front of the baseball cap extends out 4 to 6 inches or more to shield the eyes from the sun. Cotton, polyester, or a cotton-poly blend is stretched over a stiff flat or curved form that determines the shape of the bill. Today, high-density polyethylene and resin fiber are used. Older baseball caps used cardboard.

Sweatband: This is incorporated inside the bottom edge of the crown to absorb sweat and reinforce the cap.

Eyelets: These small holes in the crown provide ventilation.

Materials

Baseball caps use a variety of fabrics, the most common being cotton, polyester, and wool.

Soft or brushed cotton caps are comfortable and a great alternative for people with a sensitivity to wool or who don’t like the feel of 100% polyester. However, these caps don’t hold their shape very well. Cotton twill fabric holds its shape well and is colorfast. If you need a comfortable cap that washes easily without losing its brilliant color, choose cotton or cotton twill.

Polyester caps hold their shape well.

Wool baseball caps hold their shape well, but they’re not as colorfast as other fabric types.

Fit and Size

Fitted: These caps are most popular with baseball fans who want to wear the same streamlined, well-fitted cap as the MLB pros. Fitted caps can’t be adjusted. Know your hat size to get the right fit.

Adjustable: These caps have a cutout space in the back and an adjustable strap for a customized fit. This is a good choice for anyone with a ponytail because it can be threaded through the cutout.

Flex fit: These caps have an elastic band at the back instead of an adjustable strap.

Collecting and storing baseball caps

Collecting caps is big business for some and a fun hobby for others. Some collectors focus on caps from one major-league team, some collect streetwear brands, some collect caps with favorite logos or characters, and some look for caps worn in specific industries.

The biggest caveat for collectors is to do your research. Just like signed baseballs can be counterfeited, so can baseball caps. You can find lots of information through online collecting communities.

Keep your collectible and other baseball caps in a place where they won’t be crushed or collect dust (which can work into the fabric and be difficult to remove). There are special storage containers and shelving for caps, but you might need to get creative and develop your own storage system.

Care

A baseball cap worn every day can get pretty grungy. Unsightly sweat stains are the biggest issue. But caps, especially the official MLB fitted caps, can easily lose their color and shape if washed incorrectly. Check the care instructions before attempting to wash your cap.

Wash your everyday baseball cap by hand, not in the machine, in cold water with a little liquid detergent. Rinse. Dry the hat on a cap form or stuff it with newspaper or a hand towel so it holds its shape while it dries.

Collectible baseball caps should not be washed unless you’re confident you can do so without damaging them or impacting their value. Consult a collectibles forum or visit a local fabric shop to identify the fabric and get advice on cleaning. A one-of-a-kind collectible might need to be cleaned by a textile conservator.

If the label on the cap or the manufacturer’s instructions say to dry clean only or not wash at all, follow those instructions! Washing this type of cap could ruin the bill or fade the colors.

a man wearing a black shirt and a black baseball cap
DID YOU KNOW?
“Philadelphia style” baseball caps, which have a sturdier brim, debuted in 1908.
STAFF
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How to accessorize a baseball cap

Hat form

This plastic, hat-shaped frame can be used to store, shape, and dry your caps. Some forms can be used to protect the cap as you wash it.

Hat storage

Look for plastic shelving or racks sized specifically to hold baseball caps for long-term storage or display.

Cap brush

Use this ergonomic polyester-bristle brush to gently remove dust and dirt from your baseball cap.

Brim bender

This plastic form is specifically made to reshape the bill of a baseball cap. Insert the bill into the bender and leave it for hours or days to reshape the bill to the angle you want.

Sizing tape

If you love a hat that’s a little too loose, add sizing tape inside the fold of the sweatband to improve the fit.

How much do baseball caps cost?

Inexpensive

Basic cotton or polyester baseball caps with no official logos cost $5 to $11.

Mid-range

You can find many caps and styles, from lower-end sports team caps to camp and fishing caps, for $12 to $27.

Expensive

You can find official team merchandise made of quality materials in the $28 to $46 range.

a woman wearing a red baseball cap
DID YOU KNOW?
The kepi, a military cap with a high crown, flat top, and short bill, was likely developed separately from the baseball cap, although they became popular around the same time. Today, some military fatigue/forage caps blend elements of the two hats.
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Tips

  • Remove dust from your cap. You can use a lint roller, can of compressed air, hair dryer set on cool, or handheld vacuum with a brush or detail attachment to loosen and remove embedded dust particles.
  • Store caps correctly. Place hats in a drawer or on a shelf with the bill facing outward. This lessens the chances of the bill being damaged if something heavy is stuffed into the same space. You can stack one cap on top of another to save space. You can also fold the back of the crown inward toward the front, in the same way that shippers pack caps at the factory. Periodically take your caps out of storage and unfold the crowns. A hat rack or hanging rack can be used for everyday and adjustable hats.
  • Keep collectible caps out of sunlight. As with any fabric, sunlight can fade the dyes.
  • Protect your neck from the sun. A cap brim shades your eyes and face. Be sure to wear sunscreen on your neck.
a boy with a blue baseball cap holding a bagel and his dog
Collectible hats can fetch $25,000 or more, and some worn by baseball legend Babe Ruth have sold for $1 million.

FAQ

Q. What are popular ways to wear a baseball cap?

A. How you wear a baseball cap can say a lot about you, but styles change. What’s popular this summer might be totally out of fashion next year. You can try several ways of wearing the cap. Tilt the brim up to show more of your face and communicate openness and friendliness. Tilt the brim down to shield your eyes and, at the right angle, look more serious. Wearing the cap backward is fun. Turn the brim to the side or at an odd angle to make a fashion statement.

Q. Should you reshape a baseball cap bill?

A. Because the bills on today’s caps are made of polyethylene and other rigid materials (including plastic in cheaper models), reshaping should be done with care or not at all. Cardboard brims, which were more common on hats made before 2000, can be reshaped with mild pressure and a little steam. It might be better to choose a cap with a curved bill instead.

Q. How do I size a baseball cap?

A. Measure the circumference of your head and compare that measurement to the sizing chart of the cap. Choose the baseball cap size that corresponds most closely to that measurement.

 

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