Yes, beanies are on the prowl


Baltimore has become the beanie capital of the Western world, which would be bad enough if the fad were restricted to just kids. Kids'll wear anything. Kids even dress up as Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.

But here, adults wear beanies. Men in their 20s. Young men who -- or so you would think -- are out on the prowl, trying to impress young women.

So, let me try to picture this.

A guy gets up in the morning.

He showers and shaves and slaps on the cologne.

He slips into his designer sweat suit and slides on his designer athletic shoes.

He pops a breath mint into his mouth.

And then . . . and then . . . to top it all off . . . the final touch . . . the coup de grace . . . he claps a beanie onto his head.

A beanie: a rainbow-colored, visored cap with a little plastic propeller on top. Usually, the propeller is held in place by a little animal -- often a dinosaur.

So, there he is, beanie firmly in place. Propeller twirling slowly. He looks into his mirror. He winks. He smirks. He blows himself a kiss and murmurs, "You handsome dog you!"

And then, with a gladsome cry of, "Look out ladies, here I come!" he steps out into the bright outdoors for all the world to see and admire.

Do you think I exaggerate?

Uh, uh.

Baltimore's streets swarm with young men strolling jauntily along, propellers whirling in the noon-time breeze. I haven't had the heart to check out the nightclubs.

Word is, the city's beanie craze was launched by a rap musician named Kwame in his hit video, "Oneofdabigboz".

In it, and I'm relying on memory here, Kwame pranced about in a variety of weird get-ups, including polka-dotted shirts and a propeller-topped beanie, boasting that he was the trend-setter of all trend-setters, that whatever he wore and whatever he did, his loyal fans would follow suit. (Rappers, as you know, traditionally have very high opinions of themselves.)

People throughout the country watched the "Oneofdabigboz" video and chuckled. Apparently, it was only in Baltimore that legions of young men rushed out to find beanies.

An obliging California entrepreneur named Stacy Samuels was more than happy to meet the demand (at $10 to $14 a cap). Baltimore, he said recently, has streaked by Disney World in its passion for beanies.

"We figure it [Baltimore] must be the happiest city in the world -- everybody walking around happy, smiling, friendly," said Samuels, who is probably beside himself with glee at the sudden popularity of his merchandise.

Now, according to USA Today, the craze has begun to spread. They are hot in Oakland. They are catching on in Boston. Again, teen-agers and young adults have adopted the headgear.

But, try as I might, I just can't imagine these guys getting any dates.

You tell me, ladies.

In this, the beanie capital of the Western world, does it work? Do beanies impress you?

Let's say you're waiting at a bus stop. It's been a hard day, etc., etc. And a guy walks up. He's got the designer clothes and the designer smell and when you look down, you see he's wearing designer shoes.

So far, so good.

Then you look up. On his head you see a beanie. Rainbow colored. Dinosaur. Propeller.

Does your heart swoon? Do you think, "Now here's a man with some depth to him".

Maybe you're at a dance club. Booming bass. Flashing lights.

And out of the chaos, the smoke and the noise, a figure appears. He's suave. He's cool. His shirt is open to the navel so that you can see his manly chest. The colors of his beanie flash in the strobes.

"Hey baby," he says, "come fly with me," and he sets the propeller on his head whirling with a flick of his finger.

Do you think, "Wow! This guy is really clever!"

Now, I must confess that a lot of my contemporaries are stunned by this sudden passion for beanies among Baltimore's young men. They simply can't imagine an adult strolling about in public with a propeller on his head.

But my contemporaries belong to that creaking, moribund generation known as the Thirty-something crowd. In one short decade, they've forgotten everything they knew about being young.

But I am proud to say that I have forgotten nothing.

And so I say to you, young men of Baltimore, if beanies impress the young women of the city, then more power to you.

All is fair, the poet said, in love.

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