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When did the ball cap become an accepted uniform item?

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  • When did the ball cap become an accepted uniform item?

    Just a question out of curiosity for the grizzled veterans out there -- who was working when the baseball-style cap became an accepted part of the police uniform? What was the convincing argument that caused your administration to bless the change?

    I thought of this the other night as I began my shift and put on the cap that I pretty much wear all the time (except for formal stuff or in court). I'm thinking it was probably around the 1980s or so that I started seeing cops wearing ball caps on duty instead of the more traditional headwear.

  • #2
    They were already being worn when I got hired in 1991.

    I wish that departments would authorize boonie hats. They're way more practical for what we do.

    My department didn't authorize boonies, but after getting a hell of a sunburn on a protracted gun call, I started keeping one with my active shooter kit, in a color that matched my uniform. Occassionally at a gun call a Sergeant would notice it, but I wasn't wearing it all the time- it only ever came out when I was stuck in the sun for an extended period of time. For a department that was so particular about the Class-A uniform and all of it's accessories, I was thankful that nobody ever gave me a hard time about it.

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    • #3
      Boonie hats look like utter crap.

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      • #4
        Originally posted by CCCSD View Post
        Boonie hats look like utter crap.
        It was for gun calls, not a fashion show...

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        • #5
          Ball caps came about in 1981, when the popular Cop Show Hill Street Blues aired on TV. The show depicted metro cops wearing ball caps and soon, cops around the country wanted to wear them. In many cases, management resisted at first calling the practice unprofessional, but eventually relented when demand from the troops was so great that it became a morale problem. Then there became an issue of standardization as officers were coming up with their own hats, a 10 officer shift might wind up wearing 10 different designs, there was no uniformity and the troops started looking like Coxey's Army. Eventually, departments settled for and mandated that only one design be worn.

          Going too far is half the pleasure of not getting anywhere

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          • GoldBadge
            GoldBadge commented
            Editing a comment
            I read this after I made my post. Hill Street Blues kicked off the baseball cap thing.

        • #6
          Then came the untucked uniform shirt, courtesy of Rescue Me and the FDNY. Then the buttoning of the top button of the shirt with no tie…

          Cops today look like slobs.

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          • BNWS
            BNWS commented
            Editing a comment
            That was after Guiliani made the FDNY actually wear a uniform, before that it was blue jeans an a t shirt.

        • #7
          Well, there you go...

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          • #8
            Originally posted by CCCSD View Post

            Cops today look like slobs.
            Absolutely

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            • #9
              Maybe the agency I retired from was different.

              From the time we were in academy, we had "lint buddies", where we helped each other out by inspecting each other's uniforms before we walked from the locker room into the squad room for roll call, clipping off any stray threads, or one more swipe with the tape roller, straightening CALEA pins, double-checking epaulet buttons, whistle chains, collars, doing spot touch-ups with Sharpies and yellow highlighters, and so on.

              This was important because we had regular uniform inspections during roll call.

              I was an FTO, and I graded my trainee's uniform appearance daily.

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              • #10
                When I see an officer in a ball cap, I think of SWAT or some type of tactical team. .

                I can pretty much accept any hat that an agency approves of, as long as it looks professional and ties in with the uniform and assigned unit. The only headgear that makes me freak is the white bucket hat that G.W. Bailey wears in the TV series Major Crimes. He is in a suit and tie and is wearing a sailor's canvas Dixie cup, pulled down over his ears. YUCK! I'm pleased that no other law enforcement agency followed that lead.

                My agency had routine inspections of all your equipment but if you were walking down the hallway with your gig line off, you were verbally reprimanded and told to get your act together. It has been several years since I retired but still see officers from my city and it appears the same standard applies today.
                Last edited by delzo70; 07-13-2021, 08:56 AM.
                If your biggest work-related fear is getting a paper cut, don't try and tell a cop how to do his job.

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                • #11
                  Not a fan of the wool hats either.

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                  • #12
                    I absolutely hate the 8-point hat. It did nothing to protect my ears and neck from the sun, and on a hot day my plastic-lined one would have sweat rolling down my face within about a minute or so.

                    My co-workers hated them too. We were required to take them with us, but we never wore them...

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                    • #13
                      Never cared to much for wearing any style hat in uniform except when it was raining.

                      ​​​​​​

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                      • #14
                        And then there were jump suits. They came along at about the same time as the baseball hat (again back in the early 80s). My department did not furnish them, had no prohibition against wearing them, but had no standard for what should be worn either. Guys on my shift ran out and started buying them, but all went to different uniform stores who carried different jump suits. When we showed up on a significant call, we had cops in a gazillion different jump suits, all saying POLICE on them and we looked like a third world army. Finally I put a stop to it, told my watch no more jump suits and to put their uniforms back on.
                        Going too far is half the pleasure of not getting anywhere

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                        • #15
                          Cops starting baseball hats about when Hill Street Blues was running.
                          I’ll die with blue in my veins.

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