Lobshots: The History of the Padres “Taco Bell” Hat


By: bp



So, just to be clear, Jeff Pearlman of SI writing for Esquire, wearing an ’84 Padres cap is the equivalent to working at a Taco Bell? The hell kinda thing is that to say? BP from Lobshots here, that’s an article from last summer, and I take issue with almost everything Pearlman said. Everything except the part about Tony Gwynn being a legend and the ’84 Padres hat being the best all-time. As fans, we are fully immersed in the era of the throwback. More now than ever, our jerseys, our hats, our everything is throwback. We happen to live in the best city in America, and our two professional sports teams just happen to have the best throwback gear, the Padres’ brown and mustard, and the Bolts’ powder blues. The hats you see above were a rarity at Padres games just a few years ago, and now, they’re everywhere… might as well learn a little bit about ’em.

Funny thing about these hats are the nicknames people have for them. I’ve written about them before over on Lobshots, and it inspired me to ask people I see wearing them around, “Hey, what do you call that hat?” Some respond “taco hat”, some “taco bell hat”, some just “old school hat”, “throwback hat” or something along those lines. When I inquire further about the nature of the “taco” aspect to the hat… I get a very wide range of answers. “I dunno? Same colors as Taco Bell, I guess” or “The yellow part looks like a taco, right? Is that right?” … but very rarely do I get the correct answer to the question. I’ll get to that soon…but first, a history lesson. There have been TONS of version of the so-called taco bell cap, tons.


That’s the first year of the hat, 1972, which was obviously drastically different than the ’84 version, and it was only worn for Sunday home games… much like the camo uniforms the Padres rock today at Sunday home games. Yes, that’s Don Zimmer… and yes, he was old and fat all the way back in ’72… incredible. Then, in 1974, the Padres started sporting these hats as modeled by Pete Rose (still sans orange piping and eyelets, which started in 1980).


If you’re a lobster, you’ve seen Pete Rose wearing this hat before, a mystery which was solved here. So, what’s up with the nickname for the hats? The taco bell hats. Well, the team name is the Padres. For those of you that don’t “habla Español“, that’s Spanish for “fathers”. Fathers manned the Spanish Missions scattered all throughout California, and all those missions had bells… hence the bell shape on the front of the cap. Well, Taco Bell happened to also have a mission bell, and similar colors. A nickname was born.


Still don’t see it? Allow me to demonstrate my bitmap paints skills… ta-da!


I know I bitmapped up a pre-orange hat, but I’m sure the nickname didn’t come along until after the orange was added, as you can see below. The bell shape remains.


Now, sadly, there have been about a billion different version of the hat, some authorized, some not, for on and off the field. The bell shape has changed, the font’s changed, the piping thickness, etc. Bums me out that the new versions you usually find on the shelves today don’t have the bell shape at all, just straight lines… like you see in the Esquire image used at the very top. A ton of the info I used here was obtained from the ballcap blog, which you should check out if you are crazy enough to want an even more in depth look at these hats and their history.

I just love the idea that people are wearing these lids all over town and have no clue that there’s some history behind them… and a hidden gem in that mission bell. I remember the first time I realized the old Brewers hat was not only a glove and ball, but an “m” for Milwaukee, and a “b” for Brewers. That’s deep, man. Hell, it wasn’t until last weekend that I was wearing my old Expos M cap, and that I was told the little red “e” was for Expos and the blue “b” was for baseball… Montreal Expos Baseball. Still don’t know if that’s even true. I’ll bitmap it for you.


See? Hidden gems? That’s fun stuff. Wear your lids with pride, kids… and if you’ve got a Taco Bell Padres cap, drop some knowledge on your friends. And do so knowing that wearing it is not the same as working at a Taco Bell, that’s just an idiotic thing to say.


When he isn’t getting proposed to by Super Models, making cartoon pancakes or sticking his nose where it doesn’t belong to solve one of San Diego’s greatest mysteries,  Brady can be found being awesome at Lobshots. For even more awesome-ness follow him on Twitter & Facebook!

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