As a third-grader during the 1994-95 school year, I received a snapback hat (or, as we used to call it, a “one size-fits-all”). But this wasn’t any snapback. It was the currently uber-popular, electric teal-and-purple Charlotte Hornets snapback, to be precise. It did its job admirably. It both protected my eyes and head from the sun and made me look like a total boss in my Catholic school uniform.
As I was wandering the internet recently, I came upon the hat again – this time on eBay. Let’s just say that the cap I gave away to the St. Vincent de Paul Society is selling for waaaaaaay over retail price. In other words, let’s just say that foresight isn’t my forte.
As a sports fan, I find the hat’s popularity puzzling. The ESPN lover in me notes that the Hornets no longer exist: the franchise moved to New Orleans in 2002 and was replaced by the Charlotte Bobcats. (Actually, I can’t imagine anyone rooting for either team, given their records this year…). On the other hand, the fashionista in me–(what? Jesuits and sports fans can be fashionistas, too!)–is also perplexed by the cap’s popularity. After all, its colors still do not match anything (at least anything owned by someone other than Zach Morris).
Yet the Jesuit in me recognizes why it’s so popular. Retro clothing brings us twenty-somethings back to a graced time, a time when we could sense others caring for us. This hat doesn’t just bring back memories of Muggsy, Zo, and Grandmama, it helps me remember my now deceased grandparents who bought it for me, my friends and teachers at St. Aloysius Academy, and all the great (well…popular) TV shows, music, and movies of the ‘90s.
St. Ignatius reminds us to savor the graces we had in the past as a means of getting through tough times. Twenty- and thirty-somethings face uncertain futures as we seek steady and meaningful employment, relationships that are lifegiving, and a fulfilled life during an often divisive time in political and religious culture. Snapbacks and other retro memorabilia are not escapes from a tough situation. They are, instead, ways we remember how God cared for us before and will continue to grace us in the future.
I’d say they’re even an embrace from the God who heals with the electric teal.