How the Dodgers hat became the universal symbol of L.A. love

·5 min read
Trend Analysis: Dodger hat for Issue 06 of the Image magazine.
(Randijah Simmons/For The Times)

If there’s a cheat code for social situations in Los Angeles, it’s the Dodgers hat. In 2021, nothing communicates civic pride quite like it. If I see a Dodgers hat out in the wild, and especially in any city outside of Southern California, I immediately feel a kinship with that person, even if that person doesn’t care about baseball at all. I associate that hat with all the things I love about the city and all the history that goes with it. The Dodgers unite us and are the easiest thing in L.A. to talk about with strangers because, in many ways, they are synonymous with the city itself. Sure, we love our Lakers, but the appeal of the Dodgers transcends sport. The hat is the reason why.

I own somewhere in the vicinity of 20 of them. I have four hats just to commemorate last year’s World Series win. I have dad hats, mesh trucker hats, white hats, a green Aimé Leon Dore hat and a replica hat from the 1959 All-Star Game with a sombrero embroidered on it. The star of the show is the interlocking white “LA” logo. It has barely changed since 1958, and in 63 years has generated a visual identity for the city in a way that previous abbreviations — say, the one made in this paper in 1882 — could not. Like the Yankees hat, the Dodgers hat represents the entire city with a deceptively simple design flourish. An L and an A standing together, neither letter able to exist without the other.

The interlocking L and A is iconic — and a fashion statement. It can be found on everything from stickers on laptops to the October staple, the car flag. It’s beautiful in its simplicity. So simple, in fact, that you can replicate it with the fingers the good Lord gave you. All fashion is about communicating to complete strangers who you are and where you fit in. The Dodgers hat and the LA logo accomplish that better than any piece of clothing you can buy.

Trend Analysis: Dodger hat for Issue 06 of the Image magazine.
(Randijah Simmons/For The Times; Styling by Randijah Simmons and Sarah Watts; Models clockwise from top left: Elijah Simmons, Taylor Cole, Nick Rodriguez, Avery Camille, Aixa Jahara)

It’s hard to even imagine L.A. without the Dodgers logo, but it almost didn’t come to pass. When the O’Malley family decided to move the team from Brooklyn to Los Angeles, the most crucial design element that had to change was the hat logo. In Brooklyn, the Dodgers hat was emblazoned with the letter B in a gothic font. But L.A. demanded something new. (There were no trolleys to “dodge” in L.A. in the ’50s.) Initially, Tim McAuliffe — owner of the athletic equipment company tasked with designing and manufacturing the new Dodgers gear — favored the L and A standing apart on the hat. But the team’s front office preferred the interlocking letters. At the time, the minor league Angels had a similar “LA,” with a slight difference; Instead of the top of the A jutting out ever so slightly, the letter was squared off at its apex.

The iconic status of the Dodgers version of the logo is now undeniable. And though modern-day major league Angels fans can still spend some time mocking the Dodgers for stealing their ancestors’ logo, they’d also have to spend time explaining how a baseball team that plays in Anaheim can use the words “Los Angeles” in its branding. Better to just avoid the topic completely.

The Dodgers logo and hat weren’t necessarily created to unite the city. After all, the O’Malleys wiped out an entire thriving Latino community in Chavez Ravine to build Dodger Stadium, and it took decades of outreach to bring Latino Angelenos into the fold. But somehow, the Dodgers hat has become a symbol of connection and collective purpose. The Dodgers hat crosses cultural and social boundaries. Dodger Stadium might be separated by income levels thanks to the fluctuations in ticket prices from section to section, but we’re all there for the same reason. When we win, wearing it is a badge of honor. When we lose, it’s a way to share a bit of collective pain.

My son was born the night of Game 7 of the 2017 World Series. If you’re reading this and love the Dodgers, you already know where this is going. I wore head-to-toe Dodgers gear in the delivery room: a blue Andre Ethier Players Weekend jersey with his nickname, “Daddy,” on the back and the Dodgers hat I rubbed bullpen dirt into during a particularly intoxicated FanFest two years prior (before they started charging to go on the field). The previous night, we had made the rather bold decision to name our son Scully in the event that we won the championship. It seemed only fitting to commemorate our dual blessing with a spur-of-the-moment decision that we might regret one day.

Of course, by the bottom of the second inning, it didn’t look so good for the whole Scully thing. We were down 5-0, and my son was very much on the way. As the contractions were starting to build up, a nurse kindly requested we turn off the game. “I think that’s for the best,” I muttered. As thrilled as I was to meet my son, I was almost as pleased to have missed the bottom of the ninth.

I kept my jersey and hat for the rest of the night, almost like a death shroud. The nurses and cafeteria workers cheerfully congratulated me on the birth of my child but paused anytime they noticed my Dodgers hat. “Sorry, tough game,” they’d say. “Maybe next year.”

Trend Analysis: Dodger hat for Issue 06 of the Image magazine.
(Randijah Simmons/For The Times)

We’d eventually break through and win the World Series in 2020, during a year when we could barely touch one another. Still, the Dodgers hat could break through the barriers we had to build to reunite as a city. Instead of hugging strangers or shaking hands, I just pointed to that simple logo on my hat. That said it all.

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This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.

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