Simon looked down at the pavement and tightened
the brim of his hat. He has quite a few tells; play him in
poker and you won’t regret it, I suspect. “Yeah?”
“Hi, Mr. Freeman.” I tugged at the brim of my hat,
tightening the curve and blocking my eyes, which must
have been pretty red and swollen. He just would have
thought I was high or something.
Steve Brezenoff’s The Absolute Value of –1 has loads of beautiful details. Steve’s eye for the meaning in a gesture or an object is one of the things that drew me to his writing, and I think his handling of the potentially explosive issue of baseball cap brims is a master class in how not to fall into the trap of a superficial interpretation of teen culture. As you see from the excerpts above, Steve’s character Simon wears his Yankees cap with a brim with a pronounced curve. This is viscerally pleasing to me because getting a good curve into a cap brim was a preoccupation of my own ball-cap-centric adolescence. At the left, Steve is modeling what I still consider near-optimal brim curvature. What made me think of Steve’s cap observations was a kid I saw on the bus. HE was wearing a cap with a brim that was absolutely flat. And it was clearly kept flat with all the love with which I kept mine curved. This is probably not shocking. If you’ve been anywhere around teenagers recently, you have noticed that, for a certain look, a completely flat brim is de rigueur.
So, Steve’s book is dated and will mean nothing to teens, the verisimilitude gang howls! Nonsense. I saw a flat cap and thought of my curved caps, and of Simon’s. I didn’t think, wow, that’s completely different and utterly alien. I thought, that looks completely different, but the meaning behind it is remarkably similar. The thing that matters in observing and reflecting any detail of teen culture is not the specifics of a gesture or an object. What matters is acknowledging and portraying that such things have meaning. Teens aren’t stupid. They understand that a signifier changes while the signified remains timeless.