An enlightening conversation with a stranger

padres brown retro hatI’m exceedingly cautious with all my hat and jersey purchases. I’ll think for a month or more about a new hat or jersey before making the commitment to add it to my collection. There’s a lot to think about–price, whether I should buy it online or try it out first, how it might match with my existing wardrobe…these things are important to any fashion conscious sports fan.

After months of careful internal debate, last week I finally settled on a 1969-70 brown hat and headed to a sports apparel store. The Padres store charges prices in the mid $40s for throwback hats, so I’d suggest looking elsewhere.

Once inside the store I located my hat of choice, but only a single row of them. The owner noticed the look of confusion on my face about only finding size 7 hats in my preferred style. “We only have size 7 and 7 1/8,” he told me. “Those hats don’t sell well.”

Well that’s a problem. First about my well researched hat, but second that our beloved brown Padres gear might not be as popular among the general hat buying populace.

I pushed for more. “Does the brown not sell?”

“Sells great!” he replied, pointing to the many other racks of retro hats. He directed me to a long line of hats that used the modern, typographically pleasing SD logo on a brown hat with yellow lettering. “100% more,” when asked how the retros sell compared to the current blues. “If I could stock this entire wall full of retro gear [pointing to the blue hats] I would.”

“Hell yeah!” I thought. The conversation changed tune as the owner continued.

“MLB doesn’t like retro.”

Which makes sense, thinking back to an interesting tidbit I learned from a Padres employee. Major League Baseball has tight control over the clubs’ jerseys, often designing them in their New York office and simply giving teams a choice among a few jersey options. MLB even squelched the idea of the Padres keeping their current colors but using the 1984 logotype, similar to the Tucson Padres jerseys.

The Astros and Blue Jays gorgeous new looks are both retro inspired, so I’m sure there’s more to this story.

He was sure to emphasize it was both the retro looks, the blue/orange as well as brown, that sell so well. He pointed to the 84 Padres hat next to the 98 hat. “These are our top sellers. The championship years.”

It’s easy to get caught up in my own understanding of how the world works. I was surprised to learn that the blue and orange look is just as popular in that store as the brown, though after the team’s successful runs in 96 and 98 perhaps I shouldn’t be so shocked.

What’s important is to continue double-checking on my own preconceived notions. If I’m not constantly questioning what I think is true, I’ll end up wrong about a lot.

The owner pointed to one of the brown hats with the modern SD logo. “We have that one in your size. Want to try it on?”

The shopper in me returned as I recognized the salesman’s trick of encouraging buyers to hold the item for sale in their hand. You get used to owning it, and become more likely to buy it than hand it back.

“No thanks.” I have a month or two left to think.


Mel enjoys burritos, wearing basketball shorts, and watching spring training baseballs bounce around the roof covering of the Peoria Sports Complex. You can follow him on Twitter. These outros are getting weirder and weirder.

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