Hat trick
By Dan Shanoff
Page 2 columnist

Legendary college football coach Paul "Bear" Bryant is known for winning national championships. He is also known for the grueling preseason paces he put his first Texas A&M team through, which inspired the story of "The Junction Boys" (Saturday 9 p.m. EST, ESPN).

But Page 2 was as inspired by The Bear's defining fashion statement -- his houndstooth hat -- as we were by those defining coaching accomplishments. We've put together a batch of the most memorable headwear in recent sports vintage. Check out the contenders below, then vote on whether Bryant can capture the most impressive title of all: Most Distinguished Sports Headwear of Recent Spots Vintage.

Bear Bryant -- The Houndstooth
Critique: Any hat that can inspire the kind of devotion we saw in Brooke's uncle's "Alabama Room" on "The Bachelor" is OK by us. The houndstooth hat said, "I'm gonna run you into the ground," but also said, "Aren't I the dapper fellow?" In sum: As recognizable a fashion look as possessed by any other figure in sports history.

Tom Landry -- The Fedora
Critique: Just a notch under the Bear (but still heads above his NFL coaching counterparts) is Landry's famous fedora. Humorless, yet stylish, the perfectly worn chapeau belied hair-raising offensive schemes and hair-mussing defenses that were almost as much of a signature of his leadership of the Cowboys dynasty as his hat was.

Steve Spurrier -- The Visor
Critique: What do you do when you have a head so large that no cap could contain it? Put on an open-topped visor, like Steve Superior. The Ol' Ballcoach likes to pitch his visor around almost as much as he liked to pitch the football, but in the process became the poster guy for the visor fashion craze that swept across the country from 1999 to 2002. Kids these days try to wear theirs facing backward, but the alternative "beach volleyball" look (worn forward, brim flapped upward) never caught on.

Vince Lombardi -- The Black Fuzzy
Critique: Winning isn't everything -- a nice looking hat helps, too. And Lombardi's austere black fuzzy number reflected his no-nonsense approach to coaching, plus served as solid defense against the cold of Green Bay. Compare his look to the contemporary Green Bay fan, complete with "Cheese Head" gear. Fun ... or just funny looking? The rest of the country has an opinion.

Bobby Bowden -- The "Indiana Jones"
Critique: Spurrier probably got a good chuckle from his arch-rival Bobby Bowden's ill-advised attempts at hat fashion: an "Indiana Jones"-style wide-brimmed fedora, worn while he paced the sidelines at Florida State football games over the last several seasons. When we last checked, though, he had abandoned the look in favor of a traditional FSU baseball cap. Was it the humiliating losses or the humiliating hat?

Greg Norman -- The Straw Number
Critique: Back B.T. (that's "Before Tiger"), Greg Norman was the gold standard for merchandising and marketing golf apparel -- the most notable being his trademark straw hat, complete with shark logo. Things were looking good, until "straw hat" became synonymous with "Sunday choking," and amateur players starting looking elsewhere for inspiration.

Tiger Woods -- The Frontward Baseball Hat
Critique: Whether you are a competitive golfer or just a sorry duffer, anyone can say, "I am Tiger Woods," by adopting his classic look: baseball cap pulled low over his eyes, with hands cupped at the sides of the brim while sizing up a putt. You can even snarl at your friends for taking pictures of your backswing!

Ken Griffey Jr. -- The Backward Baseball Hat
Critique: At what point did Buck Showalter lose the support of mainstream fans? Underachieving with the Yankees? Underachieving with the Diamondbacks? We'll say his mistake was far more with hats than bats: At the 1993 All-Star Game, Buck criticized Junior for having no respect for the sport, because he wore his hat backward. One player's boyish enthusiasm became uniform to a generation of frat guys.

Kobe Bryant -- The Bucket Hat
Critique: It's not just a game-day giveaway anymore. The bucket hat became a symbol of confident postgame leisure when Bryant topped his retro jersey and sunglasses playoff press-conference ensemble with a variety of floppy, 360-degree bucket hats. We knew Bill Murray was ahead of his time in "Caddyshack."

Bum Phillips -- The Cowboy Hat, I
Critique: Nothing reflected the Texas excess of the 1970s and '80s like the Houston Oilers. And for the coach of players like the larger-than-life Earl Campbell, only an authentic Texas cowboy hat would suffice -- all the better to get wide-brimmed coverage of a man with a Lone Star-sized ego.

Jackie Autry -- The Cowboy Hat, II
Critique: The most memorable moment of the World Series? A Bonds blast? Dugout babysitting? Try Jackie Autry breaking out Gene's one-of-a-kind signature white cowboy hat and letting the players put it on to show their respect for the team legend.

Jim Brown -- The Kufti
Critique: As much a trademark of one of his punishing runs as a player or his performance in "The Dirty Dozen," Brown's skullcap (usually worn at a jaunty angle) shouts, "I am an individual!" However, we suggest that you only try that look if you possess an attitude as badass as Mr. Brown.

Ray Lewis (and others) -- The 'Do-Rag
Critique: How can a football player, burdened by helmets, add a little something extra to make a headwear fashion statement? Turns out 'do-rags do the trick. What, are you gonna argue with Ray Lewis? The look on me, on the other hand ...

Ubiquity -- The Headband
Critique: Back in the day, headbands were reserved only for the coolest athletes. Think Slick Watts in Seattle. Remember the "Rozelle" episode with Jim McMahon in Chicago. In the past two hoops seasons, however, headbands have gone from funky accessory to "everyone's wearing them." Turn the logo to the side or wear it askew, the result is the same: When everyone's doing it, it's just not cool anymore.

Dan Shanoff is a columnist for Page 2 and personally prefers the "foam 'n mesh" throwbacks that are so popular with the kids these days.



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