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Snapping Back to the Script Snapback

By Phil Hecken, with Jason Rezvan

You guys will recall that during the month of August I handled the weekday postings, and as I generally do during that month, I try to work with readers who have interesting ideas for topics — usually I’m able to get to every single person (and still be strapped for content), but not so this year, when the NBA decided to slow-bleed their releases during half of the month. As a result, I have a bunch of reader-inspired content still in the hopper, and today we’ll be treated to a neat piece by Jason Rezvan, who first started working with me in July on this. As fate would have it, Jason got married over Labor Day weekend (congrats!) so by the time he’d finished the piece for me my content for August had already been “booked.”

So, sit back and enjoy this look back at an item I’m sure many of once owned (and many probably still do) — the adjustable, or “snapback” cap. Here’s Jason:

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Snapping Back to the Script Snapback
by Jason Rezvan

N.W.A and Clark Griswold.

You’d be hard-pressed to find much overlap between these ‘80s pop cultural icons, but in my mind they will forever be linked by a single distinctive piece of uni lore: The Script Snapback.

And any conversation about this most iconic and enduring piece of headwear must begin with its pioneer, the erstwhile titan of athletic apparel, Sports Specialties.

Founded in Chicago in 1928 by 16-year-old David Warsaw, this small, family-run enterprise broke through in a big way by becoming the first company to sign a licensing contract with a professional sports team.

Unprecedented at the time, Warsaw secured his first license with the Wrigley family during the summer of ‘28 after requesting permission to sell ashtrays shaped like Wrigley Field and emblazoned with the Cubs’ logo in the stadium. Naturally hesitant, the Wrigleys only signed off on the endeavor after Warsaw agreed to pay a royalty on every sale.

From those humble origins sprang one of the world’s leading licensed sports headwear companies: Sports Specialties became the first official NFL licensee in 1963 and was subsequently named the official championship locker room headwear supplier for the Super Bowl, NBA Finals, All-Star Games, and the NCAA Final Four.

After relocating to Irvine, CA, Sports Specialties reached a new apex in 1984 after securing the first “authentic” license agreement in professional sports and creating its NFL Pro Line “Script” hat. These were the models given to team personnel as official game day apparel and quickly became its signature series. (The NFL colloquially referred to them as “coach caps.”)

As you can see in the item description above, these caps were 100% single color wool with a single line scripture and attendant pro league logo on the side.

The mark II series model sported a double line script as seen above – same font, only this time outlined by a second thread – and could be found in a variety of material: cotton twill, leather (featuring an adjustable buckle rather than the standard snapback), corduroy, and wool.

One interesting variation here is “The Pro” Workout Cap. Made from polypropylene material, its heather gray coloring was designed to mimic those of gym clothing.

From a marketing standpoint, not all teams’ logos translated to the script design. The Orlando Magic, New York Giants, and Los Angeles Lakers are examples of teams whose logo suites already included script versions of some kind. Rather than shoehorning a square peg into a round hole, Sports Specialties retained some (like the Magic’s star A) or all (the Giants’ and Lakers’ regular trademarked script) of these elements for their designs.

The popularity of the Script Snapback boomed alongside the rise of the nascent licensed sportswear industry in the mid-‘80s,¬ which, due to more prolific marketing efforts, the rise of superstars like Michael Jordan, and pop cultural ambassadors à la N.W.A and Clark Griswold, had made steady gains in both American and overseas markets. By 1992, Sports Specialties’ annual sales closed in on $70 million.

Nowadays, nostalgia-fueled marketing is driving a resurgence in the style. Mitchell & Ness have been churning out their own scripts for years; New Era, too. The exact scripts of these nouveau models differ slightly from Sports Specialties’ despite the fact that U.S. copyright law does not protect typefaces, but the general template and vibe hew close to the original. One reason contemporary scripts differ from the originals is architectural: modern crown shapes and circular bills have narrowed available headwear real estate.

The secondary market as well is rife with originals and replicas. Listings on eBay abound continuously, and even Etsy retailers have gotten in on the action.

Of course, the Raiders’ script hat remains the most desirable of all teams due to its association with N.W.A and the larger world of hip hop. ScriptSnapbacks.com is quite literally an entire site devoted to selling Raiders (and Kings) replicas, and a recent listing of a vintage L.A. Raiders script on eBay sold for a cool $349.99. Perhaps most emblematic of this model’s particularly iconic stature is this Slate piece (complete with a Uni Watch shout-out!) dissecting all the wardrobe mistakes in the N.W.A. biopic Straight Outta Compton, including a dissection of the anachronistic replica font used for the film’s Script Snapback replicas.

Still, what truly sets them apart is the fact that, for the majority of hats in the series, nary an actual team logo can be found.

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Thanks, Jason, for the trip down memory lane! OK readers, what say you? Any adjustable snapback fans out there?

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What They’re Wearing Today…

The following is a list of some (though by no means all, obviously) uniforms, patches or helmets teams have announced for their games today.

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The Ticker
By Anthony Emerson

Baseball News: Cardinals catcher Yadier Molina, a native of Puerto Rico, had “Pray for PR” on his batting helmet Thursday evening, showing solidarity with the island which has been battered by two major hurricanes over the past few weeks (from Joanna Zweip). … Several notes from last evening’s Red Sox/Reds game: First, the Reds had Hispanic Heritage Night and wore their “Los Rojos” jerseys. Second, early in the game NESN color commentator Jonny Gomes, who played for the Reds, said he occasionally changed his uniform three times a game because he sweated so much due to the weather in the Cincinnati area. Finally, Red Sox second baseman Dustin Pedroia wore a batting helmet with a front flap for the first time. He took a foul ball off his face several days ago against the Orioles. … Excellent stirrups from the Trenton (Mo.) Bulldogs softball team (from Seth Herrod). … This is interesting: Pirates infielder Josh Harrison appears to be wearing a forearm band that features an image of himself, his signature and a Bible quote. First I’ve seen of this. Does anyone else in the Majors wear something similar? (from Ben Foster). … A dance team in Missouri City, Texas is using the Royals’ wordmark in their logo. I wonder if they do routines to Lorde songs (from Mike Klug). … Marty Fox noticed that Cubs catcher Willson Contreras was wearing a cap with some sort of memorial ribbon on the right-hand side. Contreras is Venezuelan, and I can kind of make out the colors of the Venezuelan flag. Also note that Rene Rivera was also wearing a cap with a handwritten “Pray for PR” message. … Tequila-sunrise-inspired T-shirts are being sold by the Houston Fund to raise money for victims of Hurricane Harvey (from Lee Wilds). … Players on the Nationals wore a variety of different socks last night (from @JohnEye85). … The Houston Fire Department has T-shirts featuring the Astrodome in the center of their department badge. It should be noted that this is not the official badge of the Houston Fire Department — this is, which also features the Astrodome, though not as a central element (from @igTXSalazar). … The Padres broke out the #PonleAcento t-shirts for Hispanic Heritage Weekend (thanks, Paul). … The Padres Manuel Margot had no logo on his helmet last night (from Jason Ricles).

NFL News: The Eagles will finally wear their green jerseys for the first time this Sunday (from Sam McKinley). … This is also in the NCAAF section: Stu Kushner noticed that the LA Rams Color Rash unis were nearly indistinguishable from the new Michigan alternate unis. … This is also in the NBA section: the Atlanta Hawks post fan art to their Twitter every Friday as part of a promotion called “Fan Art Friday”. This week featured designer Christopher Muñoz and his Hawks/football crossover (thanks, Phil). … Nice bit of logo-awareness from ESPN: they used both the old and new Rams logos in a graphic comparing this season to previous seasons (from David Smolowitz). … The Browns will wear white jerseys, white pants and orange socks on Sunday against the Colts (from Robert Hayes). … The Eagles have repainted their endzones green (from Conor Geisel). … Last evening the Winnipeg Blue Bombers had some serious helmet paint chipping issues (from Steve B.).

College Football News: Not uni-related, but Chapel Hill Transit added “Beat Duke” to their exterior message board (from James Gilbert). … This is also in the NFL section, but Stu Kushner noticed that the LA Rams Color Rash unis were nearly indistinguishable from the new Michigan alternate unis. … Excellent article on the University of Oregon’s team seamstress here (from Alex Allen). … UCF has unveiled their “Space Game” uni patch, based on NASA mission patches. More info here (from Andy Seeley). … Iowa State University Marching Band sousaphonists appear to be wearing cycling caps (from Steven Sisco). … Here’s a piece on how Kentucky picks its uniform combo each week. … Powdersville High School in South Carolina have new uniforms (from Nick Oakley). … Adidas and the University of Kansas have announced an extension in their long-term partnership (from Caitlin Albaugh).

Hockey News: The logo for the 2018 NHL All-Star Game in St. Petersburg, Florida, was unveiled last evening. Hope the Honda part isn’t on the in-game jersey patches (from Chad Seufert). … UMass has unveiled the unveiling date for their new unis: September 25, on Instagram only (from Thomas Fleischmann). … The Ogden Mustangs, a junior team out of Utah, have released their new uniforms in a Twitter video (from Jon McBride).

NBA News: Cross-linked from the NFL section: the Atlanta Hawks post fan art to their Twitter every Friday as part of a promotion called “Fan Art Friday”. This week featured designer Christopher Muñoz and his Hawks/football crossover. … Conrad Burry was checking out Lids.com and discovered two NBA things I don’t think we’ve seen yet: a Cavs logo featuring the outline of the state of Ohio, and a “Minn” wordmark for the Timberwolves. Great find. … Lots of great pics of the forthcoming line of Converse sneakers inspired by the uniforms of the 30 NBA teams (thanks, Phil). … Color on color alert in the Spanish Liga ACB: that’s Valencia in orange and Unicaja Malaga in green (from @NYCking). … Domenico Delgado noticed that two non-Nike Warriors players, Steph Curry (who is with Under Armour) and Nick Young (who is with Adidas) folded their new Nike socks to conceal the Nike logo during picture day. I don’t know whether this is a comfort thing or an intentional way to limit Nike branding. Interestingly, Klay Thompson, who’s with Puma, didn’t conceal the Nike logo.

College Hoops News: The sports publishing company Lindy’s used an old Cincinnati logo in their annual college basketball preview (from Jonathan Machuga). … George Mason has unveiled their new uniforms in a Twitter video that you should probably watch with the sound off because of loud, obnoxious background music (from Josh Holman and Johnny Coleman).

Soccer News: A leaked track top has revealed that the Italian National Team will have a new crest, probably to be formally released just before the World Cup next year. For comparison, here’s the current crest. Major downgrade in my opinion, those stars look terrible. … Illinois launched their new kits in a Twitter post last night. Note the SNOB (from @DomIllini05 and Rob Hornick, who both sent this in).

Grab Bag: Parents of children at a school in Britain are angry that 87 students were sent home for not meeting the strict uniform standards set by the new headmaster. … Gardner-Webb University women’s volleyball wore neon green warmup shirts, the color of lymphoma awareness, in honor of assistant coach Heather Feldman who was diagnosed with non-Hodgkins lymphoma last year (from Richard Martin).

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46 comments to Snapping Back to the Script Snapback

  • Shane | September 23, 2017 at 7:40 am |

    I wouldn’t call myself a snapback aficionado, but I have a Whalers script cap from M&N that I rock from time to time.

  • Kris | September 23, 2017 at 7:46 am |

    Well, whatever happened to Sports Specialities? Don’t leave us hanging.

  • WFY | September 23, 2017 at 7:49 am |

    Circa late 90s, CATA buses in State College used to say GO STATE, BEAT IOWA and so on during football season. Not having been up to Penn State much in the last 10 years, I am not sure they still do.

    They also said, GO STATE, BEAT CANCER during THON weekend.

  • Eddie | September 23, 2017 at 7:49 am |

    I’d be interested to know who came up with the term snapback, probably new era or m&s, I myself don’t care for it, its just an adjustable hat (Plus I like the velcro strap more than the cheap plastic strap, which is what snapback usually refers to)

    With that said I still wear my midnight green eagles one I got like 10 years ago that reebok sold. (not a snapback as its a velcro strap on back)

    https://i.imgur.com/51Ej9bH.jpg

  • Devin Clancy | September 23, 2017 at 8:30 am |

    When did people start calling them snapbacks? I never heard them called anything except adjustable hats until last year but now everyone is acting like snapback is the name for them.

    • Brent | September 23, 2017 at 12:37 pm |

      Exactly! It’s an adjustable cap. It’s always been that. These young people think they can come in a rename everything. They already took our pound sign away. I’m still calling them adjustable caps.

      • Jon Rose | September 23, 2017 at 4:05 pm |

        I don’t mind the term “snapback”. It specifies a cap with the plastic strip with holes and pegs, where “adjustable” can also include Velcro and a strap with a buckle. More clarity is always good in my book.

  • Fred K | September 23, 2017 at 8:51 am |

    Great SnapBack article! I have a small truckload of snaps at the house and although I don’t wear them that often, I can’t get rid of them. my favorite is a John Elway starter snap that just says ELWAY on the front haha. One uni-related item from the article that stood out to me was the guy rockin a “POOH” tee shirt. I was weary of typing Minnesota Timberwolves Pooh in my search bar but when I did, found out the shirt is for Pooh Richardson who, as it seams, was the 1st draft pick in franchise history! Now I don’t have to learn anything new today. Finally, I’d feel remiss not to mention 2 bar fronted SnapBacks. The one that always comes to my mind is the South Carolina hat that says COCKS between the bars. Too legit.

  • DJ | September 23, 2017 at 8:54 am |

    : The logo for the 2018 NHL All-Star Game in St. Petersburg, Florida,

    Amalie Arena, where the games will be played, is in Tampa, not St. Petersburg.

    • Special K | September 23, 2017 at 10:27 am |

      It’s interesting that there are two versions of the logo shown in that article. The lead photo shows a Honda tag sticking awkwardly down from the bottom of the logo, but the photos later in the article show a flag with the logo without the Honda tag.

      • Patrick | September 23, 2017 at 1:48 pm |

        The NHL doesn’t allow sponser branding on actual game worn items, so I wouldn’t think the Honda version will make an appearance in the games themselves.

        Also, the above comment is correct. The All Star festivities and games will be held in Tampa. The Lightning haven’t played in St. Petersburg since the 90’s.

  • mild bill | September 23, 2017 at 9:18 am |

    Congratulations to that British headmaster for enforcing standards. The way people dress really does impact behavior.

  • DenverGregg | September 23, 2017 at 10:08 am |

    Josh Harrison’s armband doesn’t have an acutal quote, just a citation. It would be really hard to fit the text “Be sober and watch: because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, goeth about seeking whom he may devour.” on the wristband in a legible typeface (or whatever other translation he might prefer).

  • Winter | September 23, 2017 at 10:08 am |

    Looking at all those announcements, I’ve come to a realization as to why I’ve found myself watching Penn State every week. I have no tie to the school or the state, and abhor the events tied to Sandusky, but I keep watching PSU, and I finally figured out it’s because I find their consistency (and yes, plainness) comforting. I like the fact they’re the same very week. I like that it seems more about function and less about flair. More about tradition and less about novelty.

    And hey, you kids, get outta my yard.

  • Joel Manuel | September 23, 2017 at 10:12 am |

    I got 3 vintage ones in the late 80s/early 90s, and still have them: NO Saints (worn the most-from south La), Detroit Lions (beautiful blue), and Barcelona Dragons (red w/green script).

  • Special K | September 23, 2017 at 10:16 am |

    Saying that the Eagles are “finally” wearing their green jerseys for the first time this season seems a bit melodramatic when it’s only the third game of the season. They were on the road for the first two games.

    • Tom | September 23, 2017 at 3:10 pm |

      I hardly ever comment but came down here to say the same thing, though I didn’t have the word “melodramatic” in mind. But, Phil may be thinking back to the year when Nike couldn’t get the green correct on the Eagles jerseys and they didn’t wear green until mid-season or so.

      • Phil Hecken | September 23, 2017 at 4:17 pm |

        Anthony prepared the ticker today, but I understand why this might not be such a big deal. But the team did tweet the combo and I think someone may have pointed out it was the first time they were breaking out the green tops this year. They have also worn white at home, so it may be a bigger deal than some teams.

  • Special K | September 23, 2017 at 10:18 am |

    Sadly, the mishmash of sock styles for the Nationals is all too common in MLB these days…

  • Frat Dad Jerseys | September 23, 2017 at 10:30 am |

    Just an editing note, Klay Thompson is with Anta shoes, not Puma.

  • Attila Szendrodi | September 23, 2017 at 10:46 am |

    Snapbacks seem so elementary to me. Like the cheap hats they give you in Little League. Only fitteds for me, thanks. But even then I have to be particular since New Era changed their cut years ago. I end up wearing Top Of The World or Zephyr. And yes, I am aware of ’47 hats but they look too worn for me. Like, if a hat looks like a ’47 it’s usually time for a new hat.

    • Jon Rose | September 23, 2017 at 11:26 am |

      Right on. I had snapbacks as a kid but as an adult I’ve only bought fitteds. The lone exception is US Navy “ship caps”, of which I’m an aficionado and to my knowledge aren’t made in fitted styles.

    • Ryan M | September 23, 2017 at 9:12 pm |

      This.
      To me, snapbacks make sense for kids since your head is growing but you don’t want to have to buy a new hat every year or two (unless the plastic breaks, which I recall happening to me once or twice).

      Fitted caps all the way for me now… I’ve had the same Cards ’47 Brand (well, Twins Enterprises) Franchise caps for 15-ish years now. True, they are worn, but to me that’s a sign that you’re not a bandwagon-hopper.

      Other ballcap design features that aren’t my cup o’ tea: the woven cord where the brim meets the skull and leather or fabric strapbacks w/ buckles.

      Side note… evidently ’47 Brand changed its name to plain old ’47 two years ago.

  • Tommythecpa | September 23, 2017 at 10:54 am |

    The company was purchased by MacGregor, then a hedge fund, and finally by Nike in the late 90’s. They made good fitted capa and were used on field by several MLB teams until 1994 when New Era got the sole MLB license.

    • Jon Rose | September 23, 2017 at 11:32 am |

      I still have a few Sports Specialties fitteds in my collection from back in the day. It was with a heavy heart that I ditched my Yankees one the last time I moved. It had become repulsively stinky and dirty after years of hard wear. It was the first fitted cap I’d ever bought.

  • mh2 | September 23, 2017 at 11:08 am |

    Those armbands were pretty common in the 90s. Most notably with Barry Bonds. In fact I thought that was a picture of him during his Pittsburg days when I pulled it up:

    http://www.whatproswear.com/mimsbandz-the-portrait-wristbands-worn-by-90s-legends-bonds-strawberry-ozzie-griffey-are-back/

  • Jim Vilk | September 23, 2017 at 11:25 am |

    I Still Call Them Adjustable Caps.

    And I still wear them. Almost exclusively. I don’t even have a true fitted cap, just a couple of flex-fits.

    Now it’s not as much of an issue, but when I had more hair I could loosen or tighten my caps depending on how long/short my hair was.

    Sold a lot of those script caps in my vendor days. I even have a photo (somewhere around here) of one of our stands with all the different team selections.

  • RobYaz | September 23, 2017 at 11:55 am |

    Yup, I’ve got that Raiders cap in a box full of hats in my closest. Probably haven’t worn in in 25 years. Had no idea I was sitting on 350 bucks.

  • DW | September 23, 2017 at 12:26 pm |

    Chapel Hill Transit posts UNC-themed sports messages on their buses on a regular basis.

  • Brinke | September 23, 2017 at 12:27 pm |

    FWIW Klay Thompson is with Chinese brand Anta, not Puma, who doesn’t make BB shoes.

  • Ty | September 23, 2017 at 12:48 pm |

    I have a couple of snap backs with Chicago Bears script. The main body of the hat is white and has been autographed by several players, so I don’t wear them. One signature is Jim Harbaugh, the rest are just guys from the team, no big names but I still keep them just cause it’s fun.

  • Dan J | September 23, 2017 at 1:21 pm |

    Back in the day I bought snapbacks because it was my only option except for fitted MLB on-field caps. My first fitted hat was a Mets Sports Specialties hat. I bought a few snapbacks but it really took off when Sports Specialties started making script hats in fitted sizes. Those were the best hats!

  • Justin | September 23, 2017 at 2:09 pm |

    Just turned on the Arkansas game at the start of the second half. Not sure I would’ve noticed they’re wearing Cowboys tribute uniforms if I didn’t know it beforehand. Really wish they’d gone with the white at home look.

    • edith | September 23, 2017 at 3:26 pm |

      even after reading all the hubbub about the hogs “tribute to jerry” uniforms i feel like i am looking at the Arkansas Buckeyes.

      • Justin | September 23, 2017 at 5:27 pm |

        If you’re gonna pay homage to another team’s uniforms, why would you do it by wearing the one uni they go out of their way to never wear?

  • Sara Schieve | September 23, 2017 at 5:28 pm |

    I used to own a Bears cap as shown at the top of the post. Sold off all my NFL merch years ago (reason whys to long to explain plus complete different soap box). As far as snapbacks/one size… I hate them. Had plenty as a kid until an uncle caught me wearing a cheapo LA Dodgers cap. Long story short, came home from school and had a couch full of merch including the new SOX black hat that nobody had yet. became a fitted hat fan that day. New Era….lost cause. Used to be a great company.

  • Sara Schieve | September 23, 2017 at 5:41 pm |

    NHL all star game logo sucks. Was better when they incorporated local team logos and or colors. It looks like Panther colors.

    • Brandon | September 25, 2017 at 4:24 am |

      If they had toned down the sunset on the Gulf it would actually fit in close to the Lightning’s first Alternate they came out with in the 96 or 97. I swear I have to be one of few to actually like that one. Could be late teen memories betraying me but it’s still a favorite of mine.

  • Justin | September 23, 2017 at 6:07 pm |

    Why are the Reds wearing their St. Patrick’s Day uniforms today?

  • Dumb Guy at home | September 23, 2017 at 6:31 pm |

    Nice tribute to “Uncle Ron” from JMU football. He was there when football started–back when it was Madison College.

    http://www.jmu.edu/centennialcelebration/first_football.shtml

    http://thumbs4.ebaystatic.com/d/l225/m/m7fLPrg_z1TTenytp-TJneg.jpg

  • Ferdinand Cesarano | September 23, 2017 at 6:46 pm |

    I have always thought that a hat that does not feature the team’s logo is cheesy. I really don’t understand why anyone would want such a thing. (The exception being the L.A. Raiders cap, because that design has meaning in hip-hop culture.)

  • Ian | September 24, 2017 at 12:56 am |

    Tl;dr

    What about the courderoy hats with the string on the bill?

  • Dan Merker | September 25, 2017 at 1:25 pm |

    I loved this write-up about the script snapbacks. I loved these when I was a kid and got as many as I could — I loved that they were uniform across sports and definitely my favorite non-baseball hats. There were so few options back then!

    I too noticed the resurrection of them being sold again. I still have several originals from the late-80’s & early-90’s which I rock on rare occasion. Unfortunately, several of the plastic snaps have fallen off the straps.

    – SJ Sharks
    – Pittsburgh Penguins
    – NJ Devils (green (!!) with red script)
    – Golden State Warriors
    – Philadelphia Eagles (BFBS with green script/bill)

  • SD Hat Guy | September 25, 2017 at 8:00 pm |

    I believe the band Josh Harrison is wearing is a Mimz Band. The gentleman who owns the company is a bit of a rebel in the MLB merch space in that he obtains the permission of the player to recreate their image but not MLB. This has caused a kerfuffle with MLB.

    https://www.usatoday.com/story/sports/mlb/columnist/bob-nightengale/2017/08/23/mlb-players-weekend-union-wristbands-james-mims/590875001/