I have two Boston Red Sox caps.
It’s not that I’m a Red Sox fan or even a Major League Baseball fan – hell, I can’t even remember the last time I watched an entire baseball game, let alone rooted for a particular team. I just really like that old red B on that navy-blue Red Sox cap. It’s simple, unchanging design has always caught my eye, much the way the Old English “D” on the Tigers cap or the diagonal white ‘Sox’ on the black White Sox hat used to. It’s familiar. Timeless.
I bought one of the caps in 2004 in Faneuil Hall Marketplace in Boston – the year the Sox won the Series. I was in Boston working as a web designer for the Cheers restaurants, and on one of my walks between the original Cheers on Beacon Street (the facade you see in the old TV show) and the new Cheers at Faneuil Hall, I stopped to look through the vendor booths in the Marketplace for a few souvenirs to take home with me.
That’s where I found it – in a vendor booth dedicated to all things Red Sox. It was fitted and slightly worn-in in its new condition. I put it on my head, it was a perfect comfortable fit. I couldn’t help but buy it, and it’s been a staple of my working wardrobe ever since.
It’s been all over and out of the country with me – from Denver to Nashua to Ontario and even back to Boston at least once. It’s seen pretty girls in calendar shoots and rough stuff on the bench at hockey games. It’s been pro wakeboarding and scanned by Homeland Security. It’s been on before dawn and partied well into the night.
It’s not really blue anymore. It’s more of a blueish purple – with different gradients of color where I’ve sweated through it and washed it many times. The bill is curved perfect for my face and deeper and darker where it’s been forced to soak up the sweat from my labor. It’s got random loose strings and stretched out seams, and it’s not quite as pretty as it used to be, and that’s why I decided I needed to replace it a month or so ago.
The new cap has the required big red B. Its seams are straight and tight. Its blue is proud and navy, and when I purchased it, I was happy to have a new Red Sox cap and I wore it out of the store.
I wore it here and there. It went on vacation with me. It skipped rocks, and shot The Flood in the swollen river with me, but I realized that it just wasn’t the same. It’s bill was stiff and didn’t curve perfectly to fit my face. The back of the cap stuck up a bit, where the old one had hugged my head. It was too perfect and had no experience or character – no sweat of my labor – no memories of the experiences we’ve had together. And though it was new and perfect, it needed time to be MY Red Sox cap. It needed time and years of experience to be the old cap’s replacement.
The other morning, I made my Starbucks run and forgot my new cap. As I drove down the road, I looked in the rearview mirror and saw my old cap – just waiting there – lonely in the back seat. I reached back, grabbed it, and slipped it snugly on my head. It was still a perfect fit. It still hugged my head, and it’s bill still curved to protect my eyes from the morning sun. And though I had neglected it, it treated me as if I hadn’t left it alone in the back seat of the car as a trade-in for a newer model.
It may not be perfect. It may be a bit discolored and somewhat ragged, but it’s still my favorite, and it’ll probably have to fall apart before I let it go. It’s MY Red Sox cap.