The Odd Case of Trucker Hats: Can A Fashion Item Be The Reflection Of A Dwindling US Legacy?

January 11, 2022
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There is one thing that everyone is on the same page regarding trucker hats, they were the fashion sensation in the late 90s and early to mid-2000s. They come from humble beginnings, as one can trace their existence all the way back to their rural and blue-collar roots. They then became one of the symbols of US-inspired dominant culture prevalent during the post-Cold War era euphoric period. This time was dominated by globalization, and trucker hats with simple patterns or quotes spread like a wildfire, from street to red carpets.

Source: Today

Trucker hats, or caps, are still widely used nowadays, but with a noteworthy difference: it doesn’t quite hold the US-dominant cultural significance anymore. One can actively notice way fewer people on streets with trucker hats, and among those who actually use them, the purpose is more functional than cultural, as people chose this accessory for practical reasons, rather than a style choice. But, what triggered this change of heart?

The 1990s-2000s: The Decade of Transformation

Source: Levi Strauss

The world witnessed a life-changing political climate after the 90s when the Cold War finished. Nearly half-century of multidimensional rivalry between the USA and the Soviet Union ends with the dissolution of the Soviet Union and metaphorical ‘win’ of the US lifestyle, with blue jeans, truckers hats and McDonald’s. Thus, US global hegemony has been de facto accepted for almost a decade. The world started to see US-style as something to desire and celebrities to look up to and perceive trends as global fashion showstoppers.

Trucker hats got their fair share of worldwide attention, and they skyrocketed into mainstream fashion. We started associating trucker hats with US celebrity culture and lifestyle, as they were accessorized with mesh caps from their street fashion choices to their red carpet looks. There were many notorious cap choices, and when this trend faded, many were sure it would never come back.

Fashion or Functionality?

Source: Marie Claire

People weren’t entirely wrong when they said trucker hats won’t be coming back because modern adaptations of netback caps are still used in our days, but the symbolic meaning behind it is far gone. The trucker hats are primarily used for two reasons nowadays: because of their functionality or as a revival of the Y2K trend.

The functionality is the main selling point today for many practical reasons. Trucker hats provide adequate protection against sunlight, and they do a pretty good job guaranteeing anonymity. So, it’s understandable that people would use them in everyday life if they feel the need to do so.

Gen-Z brought Y2K fashion back, and also attempts to bring back trucker hat enthusiasm. Even though this trend is inherently nostalgic for the 2000s world, there is a crucial difference. Mainly inspired by the digitalization effect, Y2K fashion already represents a shift in fashion’s point of balance from away from the west. So, trucker hats lost the fundamental Americanized significance through history. Could this be a sign of a change in the power balance in the world?

Fall from Grace: Why Trucker Hats Lost Their Core Value?

Source: Fashionista

The jubilant roaring 2000s felt short with the 2007-2008 global crisis. The US-centered global financial crisis made people face one harsh reality: there wasn’t any omnipotent leader who could protect them from economic harm. This revelation was proof that American hegemony wasn’t as effective as it was a decade ago.

People realized this fact, and it gave rise to a changing spree. With the new age help of the globalization process, global trends have been diversified and taken inspiration from different parts of the world. While the global fashion industry began the process to become de-Americanized and grow multipolar. This trend washed away the ‘Americanized’ essence from the garments and accessories, including the trucker hat. Once symbolizing mainstream US cultural dominance, the universalization of trucker hats now signifies the US’s loss of cultural monopoly.

The fashion world is vibrant now; it consists of multiple voices and varied perspectives that create a harmonious global aesthetic. Indian streetwear is redefining the norms, while Copenhagen takes the necessary steps to be a sustainable fashion centre. These days, we talk about numerous fashion centres in various parts of the world, instead of one big culture that touches every aspect of life.

Fashion and politics look like they are from two different worlds, but they have more common qualities than they may initially seem. While fashion can reflect the moods or political climate, it complements political attitudes. Political leaders always send messages through their dress codes, from head to toe. Apart from individual choice, specific fashion trends can give important hints to interpret political realities.

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