Remember when it was cool to bend the bills of baseball caps into almost a cylinder?
Baseball caps were one of the ways I showed society that I was cool. When I was a little kid, the really cool way to wear a baseball cap was by pivoting the cap around the head 180 degrees. Around the time I started high school, though, more and more baseball caps were being worn straight on the forehead but with the sides of the bills curved down so as to make a small arch above the wearer’s face.
It is hard to describe what this extreme bill bend was like. People used to curve the bill so much that it almost looked like they were wearing rolled up newspapers on their foreheads. When a group of these extreme bill benders got together in a circle, they looked from afar like a gaggle of tall geese in denim.
I’m not sure how or why this trend developed. Perhaps the idea was to hide the wearer’s face. For some people this was good policy.
I received a baseball cap as a gift for my fifteenth birthday and immediately started bending it into the proper shape. I did this in class when I was supposed to be learning about chlorophyll or something. A classmate in the next row over, whose baseball cap bill formed almost a perfect circle if you at it straight on, told me that I was approaching the bend all wrong. “What you have to do,” he said, “is wet the bill, and put a few big rubber bands around it, and put in the freezer for a few days.”
Knowing that unsolicited advice from a random high schooler could never lead me astray, I thanked him and implemented the technique as soon as I got home. I sprinkled water on the bill, and sculpted it into that curved shape, and wrapped a few thick rubber bands around it, and put it in the freezer between some hamburgers and a Cool Whip container filled with sauce. Then I went into the living room to watch Saved By the Bell.
Later that evening my mother was preparing dinner. “Mark,” she called, “can you come in here please?” I went into the kitchen and she was holding my hat with the rubber bands still on it. “Would you mind telling me what this was doing in the freezer?”
I told her why. The die was cast.
“I do not want to find hats in my freezer ever again,” she said. I wanted to ask her how she expected me to achieve the proper bend in my bill without using proper freezer technique. I wanted to tell her that if I was to be a leader among my peers, everyone was going to have to make a sacrifice. But I held my tongue, and accepted my cold, wet, less-than-ideally-bended hat, and somehow survived my high school years.
I do not see many bended bills today, at least not the way they used to bend them. Baseball caps are still very popular, and a variety of styles have emerged to supplant the extreme bend of my high school days, and I suppose a variety of kitchen appliances are being used to achieve those styles. I don’t try to keep up. Although I still have a baseball cap, it does not get much use, as people generally do not hire lawyers who go around in baseball caps.
But once in a while, when I’m at home, and feeling nostalgic…
“Mark,” my wife calls from the kitchen, “can you come in here please?”