That's Some Bad Hat, Harry

Everything Wrong with New Era's Astros 'Local Market' Hat

The sports apparel brand swung for the fences with pseudo-hometown nostalgia ... and struck out big.

By Craig Hlavaty May 26, 2021

I’m the kind of grown-ass man that has Houston Astros hats for every occasion. Weddings, funerals, pizza runs, gym time, even ones I only wear at certain times of the year. Plus, being prematurely bald makes hats a helpful, vain crutch.

Point is, I have a lot of Astros hats. So, it caught my attention yesterday when clothing company New Era, which makes beautiful hats otherwise, released special “Local Market” hats for every MLB team.

Each one has a little Friday’s-style local flair on it: area codes, local touchstones, food, that sort of thing. Atlanta has a peach. Cleveland has a pierogi. Milwaukee lucked out with a wheel of cheese and a frosty mug of beer. Houston has a NASA Space Shuttle, which is nice, and a World Series 2017 patch. Also included is a list of our local area codes, the Texas state flag in all its simple splendor, a T-bone steak, and a cowboy hat. A hat on a hat, that’s some #Hatception.

There were some … obvious flaws, though. Fans were left confused by the designs, seemingly put together with clip art, and some cities had huge population-rich area codes omitted altogether. As you’d expect, the response to the collection was swift and snarky across social media—so fast that New Era pulled it from its official merchandise site by the end of the day. Yikes.

As for the Houston hat…

First, the area codes. 713, naturally. 281, absolutely. 346, huh? 832, why?

Who is out there “repping” 346? Who won’t date anyone with a 832 prefix? I’ve written before about how traditional area codes were a thing of the past, thanks to cellphone ubiquity, where numbers are given out randomly by service carriers. 713 does, though, have a native zip to it, I will concede, and both 713 and 281 sound great name-checked in rap songs.

Moving on, cowboy hats are more of a RodeoHouston cosplay thing now or are reserved for tourists looking to fit into a stereotype we left behind in the '80s. It does help that it’s a wonky, cartoony cowboy cover, one more befitting a local sheriff or a high school mascot than what any true-blue cowpoke would don.

Back to the juicy, raw T-bone steak. I'm not complaining about beef love, in fact, I am getting the meat sweats just thinking about a sizzling steak coming from a dive bar grill. They could have drawn a side of brisket for the Houston hat, but brisket doesn't exactly look like a side of brisket when drawn. It looks like something more vulgar; maybe the end result of a BBQ crawl. You need a photo to convey the protein godliness.

Isn't even using steak as shorthand for Houston a little lazy? Sure, we have epic steakhouses here, but we don’t stake our reputations on steak, so to speak. Why not use a delicious, sweaty trompo skewer? A turkey leg from the rodeo?

I think New Era missed out on an opportunity to include a taco truck on the hat. It shows appreciation for small, family-run businesses toiling away in parking lots across the city. How about a space shuttle/taco truck mashup!? New Era, email me for my Venmo information. Thank you!

But if I designed the hat, it would have a faded, expired paper license plate on the side, construction cones, and six barbacoa tacos wrapped in leaky foil, so don’t listen to my style advice. Throw a domesticated tiger on there for extra scene cred.

It’s probably best to stick with local makers like Running Game, 8th Wonder, and Houstorian, for true, localized merch. They, at least, understand area culture, or can I adequately express a collective sentiment.

But thank you, New Era hats, for your short-lived, yet eventful time in the social media spotlight. In the age of  political division, we were able to take time to clown around on baseball hats together, reaching across party lines to collectively say "WTF, bruh?"

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