Monday, November 22, 2010

A Tip of the (Monogrammed) Cap

Vince Lombardi is shown here in Training Camp in the fall of 1962, wearing one of his additions to Green Bay's sartorial history, a green baseball cap with interlocking gold "GB" monogram.

The first coaches' caps were plain and unadorned:

In the first few years, however, Vince tweaked his coaches' gear as often as he tweaked the uniforms, adding a dash of color and style which lasted throughout his tenure with the club and beyond.

In its first incarnation, the monogram was a patch applied to the cap, perhaps even the same plain caps they wore in 1959. The patch can clearly be seen on this photo of assistant coach Phil Bengtson from a 1962 program.

Just as an aside, although he was a fine defensive coach, I don't think Phil Bengtson ever took a decent photo. There's something awkward about him, the soft-focus faraway stare coupled with the angle at which he held his head when posing, that makes every posed picture look artificial.

Before the 1962 season, the patch was replaced by a monogram directly embroidered onto the crown.

This cap would develop a patina of authority. Unlike modern-day sideline caps, it wasn't worn by players. It wasn't sold to fans. It was the exclusive province of the coaches:

There's the patented "Bengtson stare" again, looking for all the world like he was crudely Photoshopped into that group picture.

Lombardi continued to wear the "GB" cap throughout his tenure in Green Bay. Although he favored his fedora on game days, the "GB" cap was a feature in practice and training camp, as seen in this 1966 photo:

By 1968, Lombardi had stepped aside as head coach, and Bengtson took over, faraway gaze and all.

Unlike every Packer coach before him, Bengtson did not begin his tenure by overhauling the uniforms (Lombardi's continuing role as general manager likely had something to do with that). The now-famous look stayed in place, right down to the same baseball caps.

Unfortunately, Bengtson couldn't repeat his mentor's success on the field, and the Packers looked outside the organization for a new head coach. Dan Devine, then coaching the University of Missouri, was hired to bring in a new philosophy. Though he might have been an outsider, he retained the same basic ├Žsthetic when it came to gear.

The Packers' head coach wasn't the only thing changing in the early 1970s. Fedoras and camel hair coats were out, and coaches were increasingly dressed in casual, brightly colored team gear. In a nod to this changing convention, Devine wore his "GB" baseball cap on the sidelines.

When it came time to look for Devine's replacement in 1975, the Packers brought back legendary quarterback and Super Bowl MVP Bart Starr.

As you can see, Coach Starr tended to favor headwear of a somewhat less timeless persuasion.

The cap appears to have lingered for a while, including a guest appearance on the cover of the club's 1976 Media Guide, but I'm not aware of Starr ever wearing one during his tenure.

Whether the choice was Starr's or someone else's, the "GB" cap faded away into the mists of the Packers' glorious history.

Faded away, that is, until somebody figured out that there's money to be made in that history. But that's a story for another time.


The Thrill said...

Still available at the Packer Pro Shop!

Chance Michaels said...

Yes it is, and that will be the subject of Part II!

Anonymous said...

I've been looking to purchase a hat with the GB monogram, but I can only find ones made by Mitchell and Ness that are flat brimmed. It seems that they have stopped making that nicer version by Reebok at the Packers Pro Shop. Do you know where I could find one that isnt flat brimmed? Thanks!