In this issue of 20 Questions, Cap Collectors speaks to Lief Johnson, also known as Permabox, a cap collector from New York.
- Please introduce yourself – who are you, where are you from and give us some details about yourself. Leif Johnson – Lower East Side, New York, USA. I’m @Permabox on Instagram and Twitter.
- How long have you considered yourself a cap collector? I have been actively collecting for the last two and a half years or so. A year before that is when I started buying hats. I think when you start buying hats that you have no intention of wearing – some not even your size – you are a collector.
- When did you first get first start collecting caps? Did you set out from the start to be a cap collector or did you just pick up a cap and become hooked from thereon? When I started I was entirely oblivious to the subculture of collectors. I saw the old 80’s Milwaukee Brewers Cooperstown 59FIFTY where the logo looks like a glove and tracked it down on the internet. I still think that is the greatest MLB logo of all time. From there I went off the deep end.
- Do you remember what your first ever cap was? I grew up in Brooklyn and had a Brooklyn Dodgers cap as a teenager. I was also living in Washington, DC when the deal went down to get the Nationals. I got the old 60s Senators cap immediately!
- Do you always buy one particular brand of cap or do you vary your collection? The vast majority are New Era caps. The fit and form of the 59FIFTY is really the gold standard. I have 20 or 30 from other makers. Mitchell and Ness, Stahl and Dean, Supreme, etc.
- How many caps have you currently got in your collection? I don’t think I have topped 500 but I am close. I’ve had to box up a lot of them so counting is a pain.
- Do you have a target that you want to hit or even a target that you plan to stop at? No. I just keep getting ones that I find unique.
- Do you have one cap that you favour to the rest? The top 3 I wear all the time are the Brewers ‘Glove’, my custom Knicks giraffe print and an old red ‘Giant’ stencil 59FIFTY by Obey.
- Do you have any rare or limited edition caps? Yes, I’ve been blessed with several. The rarest are probably the personalized Jeter box set, the alternate Legion of Doom cap, the Dionic Designs caps, Yofi Olive Branch and the custom I designed. I have been able to find a bunch of New Era collaborations (Mishka, The Hundreds, Supreme, 10 Deep, Upper Playground etc.) on eBay as well.
- When buying caps, do you always go for a particular team or sport, or do you just buy any that you think look good? Definitely all about the design for me. I would never wear a Bulls or Red Sox cap but other than that I wear anything. At this point I probably have all the sports ones I am going to get. It’s more about art now. I am really looking for something that elevates the 59FIFTY to an art object. I know that is a high bar.
- Fitted, snapback or strapback? Sadly the glory days of fitted caps are behind us. Most clothing brands don’t even make fitteds anymore. Obviously I prefer the fitted feel but I have no problem with snaps or straps. I recently even got a few buckets from Diamond Supply and Mishka.
- Do you wear all of your caps or do you have some that you haven’t yet got around to wearing (or don’t plan to wear)? I have some that are unworn by choice. I also don’t tend not to wear the superhero ones. Sometimes an amazing cap design just doesn’t look good on your head. Some of the Star Wars ones, for example, are more of a costume than a cap. (That being said I am wearing a Sesame Street print bucket right now, lol.)
- What’s the cheapest price you’ve ever paid for a cap? Free! I’ve found some amazing caps for under $10 on eBay as well. I am much more proud of the bargains I’ve found than the expensive ones I’ve gotten.
- And what is the most you’ve ever spent on one? I don’t think I’ve ever spent $100. I have come close on a few but never topped that. Eventually I will pay over $100 for something from Bape or some rare cap that I really, really must have, but not yet. I would definitely pay that much for my grails if I ever found one.
- Having a large number of caps means you need somewhere to store them – how do you store your caps? I have 5 Billy bookcases from Ikea. I added extensions to the top to get them up to 9 feet high and bought a bunch of additional shelves. That is a total of 65 shelves. Sadly you can only have 3 or 4 facing forward with that configuration so I now have them facing sideways in groups of 8+. If I ever get a place big enough to have a private office or ‘man cave’ I will expand.
- Do you have any particular methods or techniques for cap care? Yes, I have them all bagged in U-Line bags. I also use a hat brush I got from Hat Club. I also only wear beaters in the rain.
- What’s your go-to place to buy caps and why? We are really very spoiled here in NYC. We have a New Era Flagship as well as a Lids and Hat Club. We also have a dozen or so mom and pop places. On top of that every clothing brand that makes caps has a store in NYC. I never pass by the Flagship without taking a quick look. If you are ever coming to NYC, hit me up; I created a Google Map.
- Do you have any interesting or funny stories you can tell us from your time as a cap collector? The big one is obviously the trip to Buffalo in 2013 to tour New Era HQ and factory and designing a custom. I would say that once a month someone comes up to me on the street to ask where I got the hat I’m wearing as well – Usually someone between 15 and 25 years younger than me. That is always fun.
- What do your family/friends/significant other think of your collection of hats? My girlfriend is fine with it. Very supportive and never bothered by the time and money wasted on hats. She doesn’t even mind me wearing a hat virtually everywhere we go. It doesn’t hurt that we are in lower Manhattan where even the nicest places allow you to dress very casually. Most of my friends make fun of me as the ‘crazy hat guy.’ I feel I have to accept a bit of ribbing. My mother is absolutely appalled by me wearing a hat in doors no matter where I am. So much for Christmas and Thanksgiving hats.
- Do you have any new purchases lined up or anything you’re particularly looking forward to? Nothing in particular but I love that there are always new caps coming out and old caps surfacing on eBay!
A huge thankyou to Leif for talking to us about his collection of caps – be sure to follow him on Instagram to see his collection: @Permabox.
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