Sports Specialties: Vintage Hats and Snapbacks
If you’re ever thrifting for vintage sports snapbacks, it doesn’t get any more exciting than finding a unique Sports Specialties hat.
Just like any vintage clothing piece, there’s a history behind each brand, and Sports Specialties has a long history of dominance.
Beginnings of Sports Specialties: Pro-Sports Licensing
Sports Specialties was the first to obtain a pro-sports team licensing agreement, starting with the Chicago Cubs.
The company started by creating novelty items, such as bobbleheads, which are still prevalent today. It wasn’t until the 1960s the company became a licensee of the NFL with hats. Shortly after, Sports Specialties became the official locker room headwear of the NBA Finals, The Super Bowl, NCAA Final Four, and All-Star games.
The Pro-Line: Scripted Snapback
In 1984, Sports Specialties created the NFL “Pro-Line,” bolting the brand into stardom. “The Pro” hat made its debut for several sports leagues on-field, such as the MLB, NHL, NFL, NBA, and international sporting events. It was also known as the “coach cap” or “game-day” hat, as they were used for press conferences and on the sidelines.
There are two versions of the Pro-Line: single script and double script.
The single script was a single-color hat, 100% wool, and with one scripture on the cap. The double script was two-toned, wool and cotton twill, with the second line of the scripture having an outline that resembled the brim. The double script also went under a different name, the “Mark II.”
The Pro-Line was known for its clean appearance, only having the text on the front and pro-league logo on the side.
This sleek style ventured out into pop culture, with hip hop quickly adopting the snapbacks. One example that comes to mind, in particular, is the rap group N.W.A. and how they popularized the infamous “Raiders” snapback.
Like most dominant brands in fashion, Sports Specialties soon fell when competitors such as New Era fought for market share and won. Nike later bought the company in 1992, but New Era dominated the snapback market and Sports Specialties began fading away.
The Aftermath of Sports Specialties: Vintage Snapbacks
After its demise in the early 90s, Sports Specialties was still a licensee of the Colorado Rockies and Florida Marlins. However, that did not last long, as New Era swooped in and became the standard for caps around the league.
The material of Sports Specialties hats also changed, going from 100% wool to a combination of wool, acrylic, and polyester.