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Masisi's fitted cap: A crown worn before coronation

The fitted cap/baseball cap/ flat cap or kepese ya makhete as some would often call it, is what has come to be branded as the new President's signature headwear and might as well make him a pop culture figure, writes MOMPATI TLHANKANE.

When Botswana’s then Vice President, Mokgweetsi Masisi rocked the 2015 BDP congress with a fitted cap embellished with trinkets, some immediately went down memory lane to the time American rapper, Plies encrusted a diamond medallion on his fitted cap.

Although not as luxurious as Plies’s piece, Masisi eventually won the chairpersonship at the congress and his gaudy yet glossy headgear was never to be forgotten. It was indeed the first time to see a high profile politician wear a fitted cap that confidently went well, especially with a suit. He proved at the time that life is a little simpler when you don’t have to think about what some people would say.

By introducing a flat cap he found a commanding combo with a tailored suit, white shirt and a tie. 

Masisi’s trademark flat cap was the crown that was worn before coronation.

Masisi may not be some crown prince, nor heir-apparent to the throne as Botswana is not an imperial monarchy, the timing of his glorious cap now sounds more poetic than ever.

From the late Nelson Mandela’s batik silk Madiba shirt to Fidel Castro’s green military cap, every President’s trademark attire speaks volumes about his personality. 

The beginning of Masisi’s love for the flap cap maybe hard to trace, but the rise of the fitted cap in Botswana can be traced to the same time the hip-hop culture rose from these shores.

 Back in the 1980’s when the bucket hat/sporty, or sdori in the street vernacular, was popularised by American rapper LL Cool J and later in the 1990s by kwaito legends such as Trompies and Alaska, it was the rich cool kids who walked around with their heads held high as they garbed the fitted caps.

The fitted cap could only be admired on television as American rappers like Jay Z popularised it even more with the fitted Yankees cap with the NY logo. Rappers like Fat Joe hyped it even more with the New Era 59FIFTY caps in hip-hop videos.

Locally, the cap was not just unpopular, but it was expensive, and hopeful hip-hop culturists would flatten the brims of their normal caps just to make it look like a real fitted cap. There was a difference, but to them it was so meaningful and somewhat fulfilling. Owning a fitted flat cap was somewhat a big deal, and while

one could get a normal cap at a lower price, you would have to add a zero on the figure to get the cheapest fitted cap. 

Then the Chinese came to the rescue with their fong-kong fitted caps and the culture upgraded as most people began to afford proper fitted caps.

Worn sometimes with headbands and bandanas, the atmosphere changed for local struggling rappers who could not get the chance to shoot their music videos at Urban Soul, previously Mafia Soul. It was rare to see the fitted cap wearers having the brim the facing front. It looked cooler facing either backwards or on the sides.

Mind you, the fitted cap is that cap which always has that hologram-like sticker on the brim and most owners never dare to remove it even after several washes.

Originally, the fitted cap is one of the variations of the baseball caps that are made from many types of material designed for different purposes. New Era Cap Company designed its first version of a baseball cap in 1932 and started producing its first professional baseball team’s caps in 1934. By the 1940s, New Era was producing caps for many pro baseball teams. In 1954 the fitted hat was redesigned and named the 59Fifty also known as the Brooklyn Style cap.

New Era had grown more by 1974, and now supplied 20 out of 24 Major League teams with caps. By the early 1980s, New Era not only supplied caps for 23 Major League Baseball teams, but for college sports, local, AAA and International baseball, tennis, golf, and custom orders.

Wearing the hat outside the field wasn’t socially acceptable until the late 1970s.

Today it is not just Ma-cat (Cats) or Ma-hipi (Hippies) with their usual caps tipped sideways, but just about everyone wears the baseball cap for almost every occasion.

They are now a part of the modern culture as they become more stylish and variable.  The different fashion gives people a chance to communicate their personal style.

Besides being a component of the baseball and later hip-hop culture, the most powerful and decisive head in the republic of Botswana now wears the fitted cap. Whether he walks across with the flat cap and a suit, he will show you a thing or two of what you need to know about his typical style.




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