Sunday, October 8, 2017

A Sunday Conversation with Benjamin Christensen

     For most reading, the name Benjamin Christensen is one that will ring bells of familiarity. Ben, or "Shakabrodie" as his thousands of Twitter and Instagram followers might know him, has been a prominent figure in the world of fitted caps for quite some time. Ranging from being a part of the now famous Crew Era 13 collectors group, to being a prominent figure of a certain bay-area cap store, along with managing a rather well known corporate social media account, he's seemingly done it all. Rest assured, he's just getting started.

     I recently had a chance to spit-ball and bounce a few questions off of one of the greats in the fitted community, with hopes of finding out what makes him tick. Needless to say, the results certainly did not disappoint. Enjoy this week's interview with the man of a thousand hats, "Shakabrodie."

TFD: When did you first start collecting fitted caps?

BC: I would say I first really actively started collecting caps in 2009/2010. Prior to then, I just had a few caps from my time working in the San Francisco Giants organization, back in 1999/2000 (with the Bakersfield Blaze). There were a few random ones, back then; an Oakland A's home cap, a 1969-1991 Montreal Expos cap and a 1980's Philadelphia Phillies cap. When I got older and grew my hair out is when I started grabbing at least one of every MLB team and a few Minor League Baseball teams, which then snowballed into the 1000 or so that I have now.

TFD: What attracted you to the culture?

BC: It's not so much the culture that I was attracted to, as the hats themselves. Since I was a kid, I've always treated hats as pieces of wearable art. Some would make the same claim about shoes. The overall construction and the amazing colors and logos are very attractive to the eyes. Also, it's one of the few articles of clothing that actually tells stories; by that, I mean, hats serve as beacons to some about the town/city they live in. Even though we're talking about an accessory/piece of a uniform, hats have transcended fashion and become a part of a person's upbringing or personality; that's what continues to attract me to them.

TFD: When did you start working with Hat Club?

BC: I started working for Hat Club in June of 2014, at their location in Daly City, California at the Serramonte Mall.

TFD: What are your roles with the company?

BC: Along with running the day to day operations at their location in Concord, California, I've been serving as the company's Director of Social Media, since April of 2015. I'm also the unofficial "Hat Lord" of the company.

TFD: How do you feel your experience as a journalism student affects your ability to run Hat Club's  Twitter and Instagram feeds?

BC: My journalism background plays a huge part. While some folks see social media as a void to mutter jokes and spit dribble, it actually serves as a wide-reaching platform to tap into markets and consumers on a scale that wasn't imaginable 15 years ago. By understanding how the masses communicate (tone and thirst for information), I have become pretty savvy on picking up how we, as a society, evolve via communication. It's a mixture of being witty and relevant, while leaving a lasting impression.

TFD: Speaking of the Hat Club Twitter account, the company has recently been dropping some absolute fire, via their feed. Which of the most recent drops is your personal favorite?

BC: Hands down my favorite is the one hat I've been trying to locate for about six years, now; the old school Jacksonville Expos minor league hat. Even though I'm an A's fan, I've always been a huge fan of the Expos organization, especially when it comes to their logo and color schemes. Any time I see something of a historical significance involving the Expos, I have to have it. Even though I work for Hat Club, that doesn't necessarily mean I get first dibs at everything; I still have to fight tooth and nail for these sweet releases, like everyone else.

TFD: What can we expect to see in the near future?

BC: Expect to see a lot of really cool shit, coming from the MLB, MiLB, NFL, NBA very soon. I think we're dropping over 100 new releases, spanning from mid-September through November.

TFD: Is there anything that you, personally, would like to see produced?

BC: Not a lot of people know this, but I've actually designed a few hats in the past. I wouldn't say they're anything too special, just hats that I know would take off. For example, the late 80's Seattle Mariners "S" logo hat, with the mid 90's Seattle Supersonics color way. When it comes to stuff I'd like to own and wear, I always design and pass forward my ideas to our buying team to get their opinion. I know there will be at least three dropping some time over the next month or so that I helped create or bring back to life. It's always a cool feeling knowing that other hat collectors share the same nostalgia for a lot of the hats that I help put out.

TFD: As a fellow wrestling nerd, any potential for a collaboration of the squared-circle variety?

BC: If it wasn't so hard to cut through licensing, I would love to see some kind of a collaboration with the WWE, New Era and Hat Club. I know those things would be cleaned out in a matter of minutes.

TFD: Anyone who follows your twitter has seen the unique labeling system you use on your caps. Can you break this down for the readers?

BC: So, when it comes to my marking system, which I've really slowed down with, I always choose jersey numbers, statistics or major event dates in the history of when each hat was used. I first got the idea from Livan Hernandez during the 1997 National League Championship Series. A lot of Dominican players write on their hats to pay tribute to loved ones or friends who have passed away; I was really inspired by that kind of a simple tribute.

TFD: Do you have any rules in your collection? For example, are there any caps you will not buy, based on the team?

BC: For them most part I don't buy any custom color way hats; however, I've been known to be a habitual line-stepper when I see something that pops. For the most part, as long as it's something that was, is or resembles something that has been worn on field, those are my targets.

TFD: What is your favorite cap in your collection?

BC: It has to be my 2012 Oakland Oaks Turn Back The Clock hat, that I actually got at Hat Club. I can't really explain why. It's just such a clean cap. It was also the cap the A's wore when Josh Reddick hit a walk-off double, against the Seattle Mariners.

TFD: Are there any "Holy Grail" caps that have seemed to evade you that you're still looking for?

BC: I'm always on the hunt for a few caps. The top of the list is made up of a few of the A's hats from their Kansas City days, a 1998 Milwaukee Brewers road hat, New York Mets and St. Louis Cardinals pillbox hats and the 1974 Boston Red Sox alternate hat. Those are all stupidly hard to find.

TFD: As a fellow Team Fitted member, what is your favorite part of the group?
BC: I love seeing a lot of the rare hats that other Team Fitted members have. I also enjoy helping a few of the T.F. members track down some of the "Grails" they have been trying to locate. Over the last few years I think I've helped at least a bakers dozen guys and gals add some gems to their collections.

TFD: What's next for Benjamin Christensen?

BC: Good question. Probably a beer and a nap in the immediate future, but I'd really like to have some more free time to get back into writing. I really want to restart my hat blog that I was active with from 2013 through early 2014. It brought me a lot of joy and I was able to meet and talk to a lot of cool people as a result of it.

     That concludes this week's interview. Big thanks go out to Ben for willing to be a part of this and giving me some really good material to work with. Hopefully, you now know a little more about him and will reach out and say hello. If you want to connect with him on social media, you can find him at the following places:

Twitter: @Shakabrodie
Instagram: @Shakabrodie

also, if you do not do so already, you can find Hat Club, here:

Twitter: @HatClub
Instagram: @HatClub


-Matt Aballi
Twitter: @MattAballi
Instagram: matt_aballi