It’s WBC time again! Boy those four years flew by didn’t they? With another year of moderately successful international baseball kicking off today, let’s take a look at the hats these players will be sporting while they give 70-80% effort representing their (or their grandparents’) home country.
“When the moon hits your ‘I’ like a big pizza pie, that’s a bore-ayy…”
And the “I”s don’t have it. Jesus Italy. If you want to argue that this skinny, weak-looking uppercase I is actually a Roman numeral 1, you’d be putting more thought and effort into this than whoever actually designed it. There are a hundred even SEMI-interesting ways they could have gone here. Roman columns, Moussolini-esque brutalism, I mean come on it’s not like Italians don’t know a thing or two about awesome typography.
Overall score: I out of X DiMaggio brothers
“I’m Havana hard time seeing anything but red.”
Cuba certainly knows it’s way around both baseball and iconic hats, so it’s anyone’s guess as to why they’re wearing your dad’s 1983 beer league softball snapback on the world stage. Why bother with a design that speaks to Cuba’s rich and compelling heritage? After all, nothing captures the vitality and culture of this tropical baseball juggernaut better than Times New Roman.*
Overall score: 1 out of 10 El Duque leg kicks
*Yes I know this isn’t actually Times New Roman but it’s close enough for the joke.
“My hips don’t lie, this hat is terrible.”
Quick, think of something that reminds you of Colombia and sports! Are you picturing Carlos Valderrama? Me too. Like both his jersey and atomic mane, I’m sure the color of whatever else you’d come up with is golden yellow. Colombia’s color is YELLOW dammit. Every other motherfucker is red and blue: The United States, France, Puerto Rico, Cuba, The Dominican Republic, Czechoslovakia, Paraguay, fucking North Korea. ENOUGH. Colombia you were in the unique position to leverage your most prominent flag color to separate you from this mediocre pack and you blew it! (Also those stupid spurs make your “C” look like an “E”.)
Overall score: 1 out of 10 elaborate Orlando Cabrera handshakes
“Taiwan-der if the person who designed this still has a job.”
Now would be a good time to tell you I’m not an expert in ethno-typography. I’m a designer and baseball fan who is using this occasion to talk shit and drop a very limited amount of design knowledge that is anywhere from 50% to 65% accurate. That being said, if someone with an extensive background in Min-to-English letterforms wants to school me on how that “T” is NOT a complete disaster, I’m all for it.
Overall score: 2 out of 10 Chien-Ming Wang DL stints
“Domo Ari-hat-o.” >_<
In a lot of ways this is the most disappointing execution in the whole bunch. Not only because Samurai Japan has a WBC win under their belt and they play a furious brand of baseball that scares the shit out of me, but because with their multi-layered written language and history of beautiful hand drawn letterforms, Japan’s should be the most badass hat by a gaijen mile. Granted, this hat is the afterthought to a pretty cool uniform set that totally gives me a Sadaharu Oh vibe, I can’t help but be bummed out by the relatively character-less uppercase J (and again with the spurs!?) Black and gold is sweet though, even though it’s a little overdone.
Overall score: 4 out of 10 Hall of Fame votes for Ichiro
“Hats off to (Bryce) Harper.”
How appropriate that the old US of A is forgettably in the middle of the pack when it comes to hat designs. Just like their WBC finishes! All of our American ingenuity and manufacturing superiority has been tapped to provide enough spikes! red outlines! and pointy stuff! to make the team logo look like an action card from the Batman TV series. American sports have a deep, dark history with overly stroked sports team logos, so I can’t say I’m surprised here. At least Ralph Lauren stayed the hell away this time.
Overall score: 4 out of 10 All-Stars not playing for Team USA
“(Slightly better than) America’s hat.”
Just like in real life, Canada’s approach is very similar to ours here in the lower 48, just less offensive. Appropriately red and maple leaf-y, this design suffers from the same glut of outline strokes and pointy parts. But points for creativity in having the “C” be an—albeit physically impossible—baseball flight path.
Overall score: 5 out of 10 empty Molson bottles in Matt Stairs’ locker
“PRettay… PRettayyy…PRettaay good.”
We’re finally at the point in these rankings where we don’t need to use words like “national embarrassment” or “Joe Torre with tits” to describe the artistry on display. Puerto Rico leads the pack into the “respectable” camp of WBC hat designs, anchored by a solid “PR” lockup. The sort-of ligature has enough visual quirks and is oversized on the crown just enough to be bold but not wonky. I wish there was better interplay between the two letterforms—so they didn’t just overlap awkwardly—but in the scheme of things it’s a solid cap.
Overall score: 6 out of 10 Beltran & Delgado tourism commercials
“V for Vizquel-detta.”
I wouldn’t be surprised if I were alone in my praise for this logo in all its undulating, vaguely vaginal, ketchup-and-mustard colored glory, but for some reason the way it all ties together to represent the boys from Caracas really works for me. The curves in the lower right of the oversized, sort-of-script, sort-of-futuristic “V”seem fucked up at first glance, but the proportions hold together and the whole thing has an appeal that’s not to be underestimated. Kinda like the team itself.
Overall score: 6 out of 10 Pablo Sandoval belt loops
“It’s an At-Bat Mitzvah!”
Scanning the Team Israel roster, I was surprised to learn that only one man on the roster hails from an Israeli league: Schlomo Lipetz of the Israel Association of Baseball. And you know what? I bet he’s the toughest motherfucker on that entire squad. The design of this cap certainly benefits from the source material, as the Israeli flag is one of the world’s most badass. Some of the visual weight is softened by breaking the star into six separate strokes, but that’s undoubtedly a conscious decision working in tandem with the Torah caligraphy of the “I”. You could probably have made the whole icon a little bigger and worked on the color contrast of the white and gray, but don’t listen to me, I haven’t an opinion.
Overall score: 7 out of 10 Ike Davis demotions to AAA
“I Dominican’t wait to get one of these.”
Now we’re into the legitimately kickass hats. This is a solid, if unspectacular solution, but it does exactly what it should. A simple, strong interlocking “R” and “D” lockup that’s reminiscent of a lot of MLB caps. Plus, Fernando Rodney wears the absolute SHIT out of this thing, so that helps.
Overall score: 8 out of 10 Fernando Rodney’s lucky plantains
“Amster-dayum, those are some fat slab serifs.”
Fuck me that is one THICK logo. I’m a sucker for a slab serif but this shit is borderline architectural. Like the solid Dominican execution we just saw, here we have yet another tried and true design approach, only kicked up a notch with the high contrast of the black-as-hell black and practically neon orange. Oh, and the aforementioned milkshake-thick letterforms. Did I mention I love those chunky motherfuckers? Slight point deduction for not chopping off the right side of the “N”s lower serif to avoid that weird negative space outline though.
Overall score: 8.5 out of 10 Sidney Ponson DUI’s
“This hat is a priceless relic from the Bling Dynasty.”
Much like China itself, this hat strikes fear into the hearts of its opponents. Thankfully, the team is terrible so this is pretty much the top of the hill for them in the 2017 WBC. But it’s a pretty badass hill. Look at that red and gold! Check out that elegant-ass, old-world “C”. I almost want to say the best part is the subtle dark-red outline that makes that logo just blaze off the hat like some Lo Pan shit. Whoever designed this has been brushing up on their Sun Tzu: “The supreme art of war is to subdue the enemy without fighting.”
Overall score: 9 out of 10 smog delays
“That’s not a hat… THIS is a hat!”
Of all the ranked hats, I’m surprised I like this one as much as I do. It doesn’t have any of the menace of China, or the classic appeal of the DR, but it’s a decent enough idea, executed extremely cleanly. The idea isn’t so much the starstreak creating the crossbar of the “A”, (which is fine)—but incorporating the constellation from the flag in a way that works as well as it does really captures the spirit of what a WBC cap should be. It says Australia in a tasteful way without cliché, while the clean lines remind me of the (underrated) Marlins logo.
Overall score: 9 out of 10 Grant Balfour neck veins
“I Shin-Soo Choose you!”
Now let me start off by saying I’m not 100% sure that this hat is the official on-field cap of the 2017 Korean WBC team. In my research I’ve seen this one more often, but I’m highlighting this outline-less version as #2 overall. (The outline is superfluous and would knock this design down into the U.S./Canada range otherwise.) Otherwise, this hat—more than any of the others—captures what I talked about in the intro: that these nations have unique visual history and heritage that should be celebrated on this stage. The hand drawn calligraphy quality of the “K” stands out in contrast to every other “sports” typography you’ve ever seen, to the point where it seems striking and out of place. But the form itself is tight and legible while sacrificing none of the energy and beauty of the style it represents. The color palette is a no-brainer and the little flag on the side is the perfect hit of red to balance the whole thing out perfectly. THIS is like what Samurai Japan should be.
Overall score: 9.5 out of 10 Dae Sung Koo warmup jackets
“Yucatan’t touch this.”
Well if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. Any analysis of graphic design in Olympics history is going to spend plenty of time tugging off the MEXICO 68 design suite, and for good goddamn reason. Shit just kicks ass, and only a fool would pass on an opportunity to sip from that sweet, sweet cultural design legacy. Clearly the people behind Team Mexico’s WBC hat have their heads on straight, and they just rode that vibe like a Baja breeze. The iconic rounded “M” with inline stroke is supported by a solid color choice including a darkened green and a brightened red (vs the colors in the little Mexican flag), and no fuss anywhere else. The clear #1 in my mind, if only by association. But really, who wouldn’t want to wear this bad boy?
Overall score: 10 out of 10 Fernandomaniacs
Enjoy the games everyone!
None of the photos and/or linked content is mine except the header.