Stelios bans baseball caps to stop 'loutishness'

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Baseball caps have been confined to the same socially unacceptable quarter as hooded tops by a chain of internet cafés, which is traying to ensure they will not be worn on their premises.

The accessory - as beloved of celebrities when dressing down as teenagers when acting up - gets in the way of addressing "deviant" or antisocial behaviour in easyInternetCafés, the company, owned by Stelios Haji-Ioannou, has declared.

Anyone carrying out anti-social behaviour in the unstaffed cafés while wearing a peaked cap cannot be effectively captured on CCTV cameras, the director of communications for Easy Group, James Rothnie, said yesterday. "The policy is designed to combat any anti-social behaviour in the cafés, whether that is loutishness, theft or any other form of activity that will impinge on the experience of all of our customers," he said.

Since being introduced in the firm's stores in Glasgow and Edinburgh, the level of antisocial behaviour occurring inside has fallen significantly, Mr Rothnie said. He added that consideration would be given to introducing the ban in any one of its 41 stores, should the need arise.

The argument that banning the caps, worn by celebrities from Britney Spears to the Beckhams, would alienate those with no intention of causing harm, was dismissed by the firm. "This is not going to offend anyone wearing a cap," Mr Rothnie said.

The move may be seen by civil liberty campaigners as a further step towards demonising children and young people. But Mr Rothnie said: "I don't think this is demonising the young - it is good sense, especially if it means a young man is protected from assault."

Easy Group follows many shops and shopping centres which have banned hooded tops since Bluewater shopping centre in Kent brought in a ban in May. Bluewater says the policy, which includes a ban on anything that can obscure a wearer's identity, has reduced anti-social behaviour, citing a 23 per cent rise in shoppers in the month following the ban. A spokeswoman for the centre said the policy had only led to a "minimal" number of people being asked to leave the premises.

Tony Blair has given Bluewater's ban his backing. Imperial College London has also introduced a ban on headgear, and a group of shops in Paisley, Scotland, including WH Smith, began a "hats off, hoods down" campaign last week, with the backing of local police.

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