Mario and Cappy – PlayThings
Hat’s Entertainment: Why Cappy is more than just a magical cap.
Bringing you the latest instalment in our Playthings news series, examining the fascinating stories behind the played videogame objects from our Playthings exhibition and beyond.
Super Mario is instantly recognisable by his red overalls and full, brown moustache. Yet, fantastic facial hair aside, perhaps the most explicit expression of the Italian plumber’s identity is his iconic red cap.
This particular version of Mario’s cap is related to Super Mario Odyssey, a Nintendo Switch game released on 27 October 2017, and the first 3D Super Mario game released on Nintendo’s home consoles since 2010’s Super Mario Galaxy 2.
The red hat, made exclusively of felt, depicts the character of Cappy, who was first introduced by Super Mario Odyssey. Unlike Mario’s normal red cap with his initial blazoned on the front, this hat has eyes [not the hills].
Cappy is a magical creature who can take the form of other objects and beings. This simple notion allows Mario to transform into anything from an electrical current to a T-Rex. Super Mario Odyssey positions Mario’s hat as its own character. Yet, Cappy is a reflection of Mario’s legacy. This felt hat, no longer in production, is a potent symbol of an iconic videogame character.
The very existence of this hat is a direct product of the technical and visual limitations of early videogames. Mario was first featured in Donkey Kong, released on arcade machines in 1981. He was given his – now – trademark hat because Shigeru Miyamoto believed that it was easier to animate than a full bed of hair.
This small decision has significant consequences, that all lead to this hat. Across the decades since Mario’s introduction, he has worn a variety of hats with special properties. In 1988’s Super Mario Bros. 3 for the Nintendo Entertainment System, the Raccoon (ahem, Tanuki) Cap allowed Mario to take flight. In 1996/97’s Super Mario 64 the Flight Cap granted a similar ability.
Sartorially speaking, headwear is a (surprisingly) divisive subject. Across the nineteenth and early twentieth century, hats were considered high fashion. A casual stroll through the streets of 1920s Paris, or Sheffield, would show that trilbys, fedoras and flat caps were the prevailing style.
Moving into the 1950s and 1960s, hats fell from grace[‘s head]; they were seen as a frivolous accessory of the modern world that were especially useless when driving around in posh convertible cars.
However, in the diverse world of videogames, I am thrilled to tell you that hats have always been in vogue.
Parappa the Rapper is not seen anywhere without his distinctive orange beanie. How would we know that Professor Layton was indeed a Professor if he didn’t wear a strangely tall top? In 1999’s Crazy Taxi, the driver BD Joe always wore a hat: a red and orange floral bucket hat, which, as we all know, has an extra snug fit perfect for driving manically through a city.
Link’s green cap from The Legend of Zelda series is as synonymous with Link as Mario’s hat is an embodiment of Mario. Similarly to Super Mario Odyssey, The Legend of Zelda: The Minish Cap is a game that is entirely propelled by the unique magical properties of a talking hat.
Mario’s classic (and sartorially functional) red hat perfectly summarises his identity as an Italian plumber. A simple piece of designed headwear used to overcome the primitive technology of the 1980s has, over 35 years, become emblematic of a globally iconic mascot character. Hat in videogames: the craze all started with fashion maestro Mario.
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