Flashback to the Snapback

Shoe Laundry
April 1, 2021
4 minutes

Sneaker culture is about more than just sneakers. It encompasses an entire style and swagger, unique to each sneakerhead and the brands they love. For decades, hats have been a huge part of that sneaker culture equation. 

From snapbacks to fitteds, most sneaker collectors also have a flat-brimmed hat collection on deck. (Full disclosure: when we crafted the Shoe Laundry cleaning kit, we made it multi-purpose to keep our hats looking as fresh as our AJ1s.)

In this flashback, we’re breaking down the history of the snapback - from MLB to N.W.A. 

A brief history of the snapback 

The very first snapbacks were worn by the Brooklyn Excelsiors baseball team in 1958. 

Brooklyn Excelsiors Baseball Team

The design was simple, with a short, flat brim. Not exactly the best for keeping sun out of their eyes, but damn they looked cool. And, of course, the adjustable strap in the back meant each player could fit the hat to his exact head shape. 

After that, the snapback started gaining a little traction. New Era had already established itself as the leading brand in baseball caps and snapbacks were the next step in their lineage. They debuted their own designs of the silhouette for teams like the Cleveland Indians. 

The demand died down in the 70s but picked back up in 1989, when MJ made his iconic shot against the Cavaliers and became an overnight legend. In his post-game interview, he wore his Gatorade snapback. The hat re-entered the mainstream (and pretty much never left). 

Michael Jordan 1989
Michael Jordan. Image Via ABC7

When Fresh Prince of Bel Air hit screens in 1990, Will Smith made the snapback a bonafide 90s must-have. 

"Fresh Prince". Will Smith

And it was soon adopted by the pillars of 90s pop culture, including hip-hop groups, like N.W.A and Mobb Deep, and the biggest rappers in the game, from Tupac to Dr. Dre. 

N.W.A. Image via Rolling Stone

The snapback stayed top-of-mind all through the 90s. When the new millennium hit, the trend took a short break while fitteds took over. That is until 2011, when Tyga and Chris Brown released their track “Snapbacks Back”. 

Chris Brown and Tyga

They weren’t wrong. Snapbacks roared back into the pinnacle of culture and hat lovers everywhere started to expand their collections. Once again, music giants like Jay-Z and Kanye West championed the snapback and the zeitgeist followed suit. 

Just like the evolution of sneakers, snapbacks have always been tied to sports and hip-hop. It’s no wonder that the two typically go hand-in-hand. And if you’re a sneakerhead in 2021, chances are you’ve probably got at least one snapback in your closet. 

Amir Alam, Founder of Shoe Laundry

Our founder, Amir, in one of his favourite snapbacks. 

How to clean your snapback hats (without ruining them)

Need to freshen up your snapbacks? Our all-natural sneaker cleaning kit can do the trick. Here’s how: 

Oh, and score FREE SHIPPING when you buy a cleaning kit anytime between now and April 30th.

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