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Yellow Fever: Cabbie Hats Are Unfare

How I Met Your Mother has really hit its stride, and is even smarter and funnier this season than last year’s strong rookie start. But I have to blow the whistle on an infraction that’s become all too common a cliche on television. Last night’s episode showed Marshall and Barney fighting over a girl’s phone number in a New York City cab. The cabdriver wore, of course, the standard issue tweed hat, a.k.a. the “newsboy cap,” or even the “cabbie hat.”

I’ve been riding New York taxis regularly for about 15 years, and have probably taken over 4,000 cab rides in my life. (I figure the ones where I was seeing double and the ones where I couldn’t see at all even out in the end.) I’ve seen cabbies in baseball caps. I’ve seen cabbies in turbans. I’ve seen a cabdriver in a tweed newsboy cap exactly once in my life—and I’ll bet that’s only because he was new, he’d seen cabbies on television wear the hats, and figured that’s what you’re supposed to wear.

Yet every time a New York City cabdriver is shown on television, he’s got the cabbie hat on. Mother co-creator Carter Bays wrote for Letterman. He lived in New York. He knows better.

But Mother certainly isn’t the only program that’s guilty of fomenting this glaring lack of authenticity. No less a New York icon than Seinfeld had the cabbie hat numerous times over the years. Even a commercial for a local New York news program—what’s more New York than local New York news?—showed a cabbie in a tweed hat chatting amicably with a fare.

I don’t doubt that cabbies wore the hats (and probably called their male passengers “Mac”) a half-century ago. But they don’t anymore. So just stop it, lazy costume directors everywhere. Stop it!

By Michael Malone
"Cabbie" photograph fromPoo-Yan'sFlickr Stream.