January 18, 2017

A cap is more of a hat than a cape is a hate.

Let's frontpage a debate that broke out in the comments. I had said, in the previous post:
Trump the billionaire has successfully bonded with millions of working-class Americans. He's convincingly worn a trucker hat and spoken like a tough guy. Trump's wealth is built on branding, and he made his grand political success out of branding: He's a man of the people.
jacksonjay said...
The Professor can be so dumb. The headwear is OBVIOUSLY a cap not a hat.
I responded (links added):
The standard term for that item of clothing is "trucker hat." I agree that the term for the baseball item is "baseball cap," but I believe the thing Trump wears is not a baseball cap but a trucker hat.

On the standard distinction between the words "hat" and "cap" in English, I'll start the debate with the statement: Not all hats are caps, but all caps are hats... except perhaps a skullcap.
I found a discussion of the hat/cap distinction at the blog of Mary Robinette Kowal, who, I see, is a Hugo-award winning author and professional puppeteer. Kowal writes:

A friend just said that he needed to buy a hat while he was here. I started to cite John Helmer Haberdashery downtown, which has a wonderful selection of hats.

He then clarified that he was looking for a Ducks baseball cap hat. [Edited to add: He says that he called it a hat. La! See me be snooty and disdainful.]

I think that a baseball cap is not the same thing as a hat. He thinks that they are.

Now arguably, hat might be used as an umbrella term for headcoverings, but it’s like saying, “I want some fiction,” and then clarifying that you really meant you wanted a movie.

So! Internet debate. Are hats and caps the same thing? Discuss.
She's got 41 responses over there including:
Hats are considered and weighty things that say something about who a person thinks they are. Caps are what a person would wear if they simply wish to indicate an allegiance.
I think baseball caps are caps, but also fall under the broad category of hats. This is partly because all through my growing up years we were told not to wear hats in class, and that meant baseball caps. I’ve found it odd, though, when people tell me they like my hat while I am wearing a headband.  Fascinators are not hats, I feel, though the general public would seem to disagree.
A baseball cap is a type of hat — a callow, debased type of hat — but saying “I want to buy a hat” if what you want is a baseball cap is… well, let’s just say it’s poorly chosen. It’s like saying you’d like dinner when what you really want is dessert, or that you have a dog when it’s actually a large rat chihuahua.
I think that hats are a superclass of caps, in much the same way that fiction is a superclass of fiction books. I suspect that if you said “I want some fiction” to a film professional, their first thought would be of a movie which is not a documentary, and “I want a hat” to a baseball fan, their first thought would be of a cap; whereas saying those things to a writer and a pre-Victorian would instead conjure short stories and bicornes. And saying these things to a computer scientist prompts him to use words like “superclass” when describing headgear.
Lots more over there. Maybe it's all been said. Except that it was back in 2010 and nobody was talking about how a man became President by wearing a hat/cap.

Now, put on your hi-heel sneakers and wear your wig-hat on your head


mccullough said...

Always thought a hat had a brim (all the way around) and a cap didn't (baseball caps or seed caps/trucker caps have a bill but not a brim).

Anonymous said...

Not all hats are caps, but all caps are hats...


Ann Althouse said...


I see you've got your brand-new leopard-skin pillbox hat...

mccullough said...

The pillbox, like a kufi, is a cap. No brim, no hat. Same with a beret or hennin.

robother said...

And we haven't even broached vagina [vulva] headgear, or the proper use of the term asshat. Gonna be a long day etymologically speaking.

buwaya said...

You all, eventually, will be wearing red Carlist berets. With yellow tassels.
Wait and see. I may be dead before it happens, but it's inevitable.

mccullough said...

The deerstalker is also a cap (two bills but no brim). So is the hunters cap (bill that may be folded up and ear flaps).

The porkpie, trilby, and fedora are hats. All have brims.

Carter Wood said...

Wikipedia avoids the distinction, at least when defining a fez: "a felt headdress of two types: either in the shape of a truncated cone made of red felt, or a short cylinder made of kilim fabric, both usually with a tassel attached to the top."

Chuck said...

Right. Trump chooses a particular style of baseball hat. "High crown" is what some call it. The opposite of another style of baseball hat, which would be "slouch cap." Or low crown.

Trump deliberately chooses his style of hat, and won't wear any other. PGA Tour players do this as well. They pick a particular style (most of them are custom made by a company called Imperial) and all of their hats are the same style.

It is a subtle thing, but Trump can be very subtle and very particular about style matters. He's been doing this for many years; long before anybody put "Make America Great Again" on a cap. He has had Trump International Golf hats made the same way for him for many, many years.

To see the difference, look at the selfie photo that Alec Baldwin took, of himself in the sarcastic red ballcap that had Russian writing on it. It was the wrong hat. It was a slouch hat, not a high crown hat. A good idea for a joke, but not well executed.

Althouse's calling it a trucker hat is something I have done as well, although caution is deserved. Trucker hats are most often made of a cloth front panel, and a plastic mesh crown. Trump's own hats don't have that, and I don't think Donald would like a plastic mesh-crown hat.

Hope this helps.

Ignorance is Bliss said...

Propeller Beanie ⊂ Beanie ⊂ Cap ⊂ Hat

Chuck said...

Oh, by the way; I think that the reason that Trump never ever wears a slouch cap is because it crushes his hair. The high crown caps don't do that nearly as much.

Anonymous said...

So glad to see that the pressing issues of the day are being blogged and discussed so earnestly!

mccullough said...

Baseball and trucker caps (feed caps/sees caps) have six triangular gores that meet at the apex, topped with a button and have a bill. For a trucker cap, the front fires are foam and the back fires are mesh and it's an adjustable with the strap in the back.

mccullough said...

Should be gores not fires

Dust Bunny Queen said...

Trucker Hat must be a regional thing. Maybe midwest and southern?

I have never heard anyone refer to a baseball style hat as a Trucker Hat. Neither has my husband who actually, on occasion wears one. Many many people wear such hats in our area. They are called ball caps or just plain old "hat" yes, but not trucker hat.

Chuck is correct in pointing out the difference in the "trucker hat" as defined in the wiki as compared to a ball cap such as the one that Trump is wearing. The mesh seems to be integral to the definition.

mccullough said...

A crusher or bucket is a hat. Even though they are floppy, they have a brim.

buwaya said...

The pressing issues of the day are best, or at least properly, in an intellectal sense, discussed with spreadsheets and flip charts. Since this did not work for Ross Perot this sort of thing is not less substantial than the usual political discussion.

tcrosse said...

What Althouse calls a trucker hat is known in the less fashionable parts of Minnesota as a Feed Cap or a Gimme Cap. These were given away by feed and seed companies to carry their advertizing.

Ron Winkleheimer said...

I always assumed that caps were a subset of hats, but some dictionaries define a hat as a head covering with a brim and shaped crown. However, bing also presents a definition of a cap as a hat with a visor instead of a brim. And I thought Quantum Mechanics was complicated.

In any event, here is a link to a company that will sell you Trucker's Hats at wholesale.


rehajm said...

Yep. Trucker Hats have mesh.

That's some bad hat, Harry...

Chuck said...

Pictures are worth a thousand words.

Trump, in his (all-cloth) high crown hat:

And how you can get the real thing:

A true trucker hat, with the mesh panels:

A fake-Trump hat, demonstrating the wrong shape for a Donald Trump hat:

An older pre-campaign picture of Trump, in his golf course regalia (same shape hat):

William said...

Chuck shows an alarming interest in Trump's headwear. Is this some new kind of sexual fetish?

Milwaukie guy said...

Gimme caps, yay. My favorites are from Crows Hybrids that my Uncle Bob worked for. Stihl hats are cool, too.

buwaya said...

On trivial matters -


EXCLUSIVE: Lady Gaga Asked Not to Talk About Politics, Donald Trump During Super Bowl Halftime Show, Source Says

Trivial, or not?
Fear of public opinion I think. NFL is not insulated from their public by political subsidies, like the MSM news organizations.

Chuck said...

Because I am a golfer, William, I have been a lot more aware of Trump in some of his more apparently-serious endeavors, than "Apprentice" tv, and his birther ravings for the Tea Party set.

There are a small number of things, in which Donald Trump has been a semi-serious figure. Golf-wise. He was aiming for some serious golf tournament-hosting gigs. USGA events. And, he was a vaguely serious player himself. Although as I understand it, most of the members at Winged Foot (the first and perhaps only serious non-Trump club in which he's been a member) didn't wish to play with him. Alice Cooper, a confessed golf addict and someone (like Trump) who regards golf as something that saved his soul (or even his life) while dealing with depression, was asked who was the worst cheater in all of celebrity golf. Cooper's answer: "Let me just put it this way; I have played with Donald Trump."

madAsHell said...

broached vagina

We are going to lick that problem later!!

Hagar said...

There is an old joke about a journalist interviewing a cowboy about his mode of dress and they go through about how the wide brim on his hat shades his face and the high crown is for holding water for his horse, etc. and finally the journalist asks, "But what is with the sneakers" How come you are not wering riding boots?"
And the cowboy says, "Well, hell, I don't want to look like no truck driver!"

Paddy O said...

This is the sort of debate that is common in Biblical studies circles, where people wrestle with the nuance of a particular word and how it differs. There's different words for Love, so the author must have had each nuance in mind!

I suspect it's a lot like snow. People around a lot of snow have different words for different kinds of snow.

Those rarely around snow call snow snow. And snow is snow. But there's also distinctions within snow. Both are right, they're only wrong when they try to enforce their verbal rules on others.

A hat is an item of clothing that goes on your head. In the 40s, there was a distinct difference from a fedora and a baseball cap. Still is for some folks, but most people wouldn't distinguish using the term.

Just as most folks call dinner the evening meal, even though for some that's supper.

Amy said...

I work in the promotional products industry and sell all types of apparel and headwear. Generally speaking, I would say that a 'cap' is a subcategory under the broader category of hats, and headwear (which includes things like visors) is an even more general category.

However, among my colleagues, anyone splitting hairs over the cap/hat thing would be considered extremely annoying.

chuck said...

Let me point out that hats are more than a mere fashion statement, they serve to keep sun and rain out of the eyes and off of the head, while in winter they keep the ears warm. As to cap/hat, it is a hat on odd numbered days and a cap otherwise.

traditionalguy said...

Outdoor wear is designed for work outdoors. Holding in heat in winter like a hoodie is great, or it can only be a visor to shield low sun light that golfers use in the summer.

We red neck golfers need a brim in the rear too. But since branded Hats are free, they will do.

Dust Bunny Queen said...

We red neck golfers need a brim in the rear too.

Exactly. This is the type of hat that is most popular in our area. Not just for golf but when working outside because it has a brim, will shade the neck, can be soaked in water and acts like a portable air conditioner for the head.

Australian Soaker Hat. Other styles in the summer are straw Cowboy style hats. Winter. A knitted stocking cap.

Never heard anyone use the term Trucker Hat.

urbane legend said...

What? No one has yet said, " He's all cap and no cattle, " especially some Texas democrat about Donald Trump?

Owen said...

tcrosse: "What Althouse calls a trucker hat is known in the less fashionable parts of Minnesota as a Feed Cap or a Gimme Cap. These were given away by feed and seed companies to carry their advertizing."


Agree, "hat" subsumes "cap" but that doesn't mean you can just say "hat" every time. But here I think his headgear is more "hat" than "cap."

My wonderment with Trump's MAGA hat is, how does he avoid serious "hat hair" with a big tuft sticking out the gap in the back?

Chuck said...

I cannot believe that someone has never heard the term, "trucker hat." There is a Wikipedia page for "Trucker hat." An urban dictionary page for "trucker hat." Walmart.com has pages devoted to "trucker hats." Google-shop for "trucker hat," and you see offerings from retailers as diverse as Patagonia, Target and LLBean. And, of course, the New York Times has written up the rise and fall of trucker-hat fashion:

Not to be outdone, GQ did the same:

Dust Bunny Queen said...

I cannot believe that someone has never heard the term, "trucker hat."

Believe it :-) My husband who is a native Oregonian and who has worked in the "trades" all of his life in Ore and Calif, has also not heard the term. Perhaps it is a more regional term. I have never Googled or shopped for a baseball cap or trucker hat in my life. Nor have I ever looked at Walmart's web pages. Why would I? If I do see the hats at LL Bean or whatever, I have just glossed over since I'm not interested in ever wearing one and my husband doesn't wear one either, unless he is forced into it by the John Deere dealer.

My brother in law is a long line trucker....he wears a cowboy hat.

Earnest Prole said...

Is cheesecake a cake or a pie?

chickelit said...

If I recall correctly, the Althousphere got their first glimpse of Meade wearing a red truckers hat.

Bad Lieutenant said...

William said...
Chuck shows an alarming interest in Trump's headwear. Is this some new kind of sexual fetish?

1/18/17, 11:29 AM

Never mind that Will, Chuck is discussing Trump without trying to verbally rape him in the ear. Has Dr. Strangechuck stopped worrying and learned to Love the Don?

DCP said...

It is neither a baseball cap or a trucker's hat.

It is, in fact, a seed corn hat.


LYNNDH said...

I wear a great many types of head coverings. In winter I generally wear hats while wearing long pants. In summer I wear CAPs while wearing my shorts. I'm a 70 yr old white guy, so what do I know.
By the way in the Marines they are called a Cover.

dpn1031 said...

To me, a hat is a generic term for most kinds of headwear and a cap is a particular type of hat. I refer to most types of caps with a bill as baseball caps no matter the logo or people who wear them. I wear a cap when dressing casually when I am outside.

This post made me think of when I was a child (1950's) that almost all of the women at church wore hate.

Rusty said...

I, for one, Althouse, am grateful that you wasted your time on this molar-grindingly-tedious minutia.
You saved me the trouble of researching another nobody-gives-a-crap subject.
Keep up the good work!

dpn1031 said...

Wore hats. I hope they were working in their hate in church.