We got a chance to catch up with John Beare, major hat enthusiast, collector and HAT CLUB supporter who currently has over 500 hats in his impressive collection.
Where are you from?
I am from the High Desert in Southern California. I’ve lived there most of my life.
What is your occupation?
I am a retail manager.
Where did your love of hats come from and what do hats mean to you?
My father wore hats all the time. As a result of that, I went through several phases growing up where I would wear hats just like him. In the early 80’s, around age 11, I went through a period where I wanted to collect all of the MLB teams in an adjustable/mesh style hat. The grocery store where we shopped had an impulse rack with them and my dad would buy me one a week. I think I ended up with about 5 or 6 of them before I gave it up. I suppose if I had to find a line between love and obsession, I’d say the love of hats came from my dad, but the obsession I developed is all mine.
Do you remember the first hat you ever owned? If so, please describe it?
On my 18th birthday my dad took me to a California Angels game and told me I could get anything I wanted at the souvenir stand. I got an official team jersey (no name, but an awesome 1989 All-Star Game patch on the sleeve) and my very first New Era fitted cap, which was the official Angels game cap. The cap is too small for me now, but I still have it. Very sentimental.
When did you first start collecting hats and how many hats do you currently have in your collection?
This is a difficult question to answer with any precision because my collecting went through phases. In the early 90’s I had a handful of fitteds which I wore sporadically. California Angels, Colorado Rockies (whom I had adopted as my favorite team as an expansion team) and a Florida Marlins cap just because it was new. I started watching hockey and the Ottawa Senators were the team I chose to root for and I became obsessed with finding hats of theirs, which were difficult to find in Southern California. I had some really interesting designs by all sorts of different companies, but never could find a New Era fitted Senators cap. I also started following Minor League Baseball, and I had some of the local teams as well. So by 1995 I had a modest collection of about 20 hats.
In 1996 I somehow came across my first StarStruck catalog, which was huge because it had listings and photos of all sports, including minor league baseball and even some independent league caps. I ordered three caps, including a St. Paul Saints cap, which is when I first started looking more at logos and designs instead of only teams I had some loyalty towards.
But it was in the early 2000s when the collecting really took off. Through various websites, auction sites, and attending a lot of minor league baseball games, that is when the collecting became a full-on obsession. I have not looked back. I don’t have an exact number, but all told I place my current collection at well north of 500 caps.
Do the hats you buy for your collection usually have to fit a certain criteria? If so what is the criteria?
Minor League baseball caps make up the largest percentage of my collection. In my opinion that is where the most design creativity comes from. Fortunately, I started collecting those at a time where they were easy to get, and a lot of those older pieces are now considered vintage and are difficult to find. HatClub has released some really nice vintage MiLB caps over the last year and I hope that trend continues. I also have an affinity for vintage NHL caps. I’ve always tended to be attracted toward caps with a simpler design. To me, nothing beats letters for a logo. Always very classy. Of course, that’s not absolute. You don’t get to 500+ caps by being too picky. Haha
Which hat your favorite and why?
I’ve been asked that question so many times over the years and I have never been able to narrow it down to a single favorite cap. There are just so many that I love. Even if I was challenged to select 10 essentials, I don’t think I could narrow that down. So many of them have their own little stories behind when and how and why I got them.