The Isolation Cabin in The Parent Trap’s Camp Walden is the setting for some of the film's most iconic moments. It’s where bonding over a shared love for Oreos and peanut butter took place, where an ear was pierced in a visceral scene that seared itself forever into the memory of every pre-teen girl in America. It’s where Lohan’s Annie James and Hallie Parker (named after writer and director Nancy Meyers’ own daughters) discover that they’re long-lost twins, and where the brash Californian Hallie convinces English Annie to switch places.
It’s also where we see one of the films best fashion moments: a white baseball cap embroidered with the words “Girls Rule,” squished in the middle, Microsoft WordArt style. It’s Hallie’s hat, and it only appears twice, in quick cuts. The first time, Hallie pulls it down over her head in a gesture of grumpy 11-year-old defiance after she and Annie get relegated to the cabin while all of their friends get to run wild. The second time, it’s hanging on a hook above three bottles of Hard Candy nail polish, next to a wall that Hallie is working hard at decorating with postcards, ripped-out magazine ads for Polo Jeans and Skechers, and a photo of Leonardo DiCaprio (who she can’t believe Annie has never heard of).
After rewatching the movie a few months ago during a Meyers movie binge, I zeroed in on the hat. It only appears for a total of about seven seconds, but it felt like noticing a little wink. Not quite an easter egg, but a meticulously placed emblem that stood out in a movie where everything is meticulous. It’s cool and earnest at the same time, and it’s as funny as it is sweet. Pure Meyers. It’s also just a really great hat. Was it supposed to be part of the Camp Walden uniform? Did Hallie bring it with her from Napa in her neon yellow XXL L.L. Bean duffel?
I reached out to Meyers to ask her about the hat, but she doesn’t remember where it came from: “I asked [collaborator and ex-husband] Charles Shyer, and he said he thinks our costume designer [Penny Rose] found it and we thought it was good for Hallie’s character.” Like all of the visual choices Meyers makes in her work, it tells us more about the character than they would ever be able to say about themselves.
“My movies get too much attention for how they look,” Meyers said at a Tribeca Film Festival event last year. “To me, it’s completely about character.” So of course Hallie, the prankster tomboy with side bangs and sparkly turquoise nails, owns a hat that cool. She probably would have picked it up at a souvenir shop on Fisherman’s Wharf with her dad, back when that stretch of San Francisco was actually seedy.
Even though Meyers didn’t remember the origin of the hat itself, she did have a clear idea about the message she was sending with it: “ The Parent Trap is a movie where the girls rule and take control of their destinies,” she added. “I loved that about the [1961 version starring] Hayley Mills when I first saw it when I was eleven, and loved retelling that story when my daughter Hallie was eleven.”
Hallie is the film’s instigator. She’s the destiny-controller, the one who sets the story in motion by beating Annie at a game of poker, daring her to jump into the lake naked, and inciting an escalating prank war that ends with the girls being relegated to the Isolation Cabin.
Hallie is the one who pushes Annie, ever prim in her sleek ponytail and tortoiseshell headband, to let loose in a totally all-American way. She not only comes up with the idea for the swap, she actually makes it possible, by cutting her twin’s hair and piercing her ears. She’s precocious and un-self-conscious, bold and unafraid of going after what wants, as soon as she realizes that she wants it. She’s internalized the mid-90s “Girl Power” messaging and believes in it. Maybe she’s even listened to Bikini Kill (who pioneered a version of the slogan before it got the Spice Girls treatment) a few times while riding around her dad’s vineyards in the back of their Jeep Wrangler with Chessy, the subtle force of a woman (and contemporary gay icon) who runs the house for them.
Not to say that Annie doesn’t embody the same values: She’s the daughter of, as she puts it, a “quite famous” wedding dress designer, a single matriarch who taught her how to be a little woman. She’s sly and cheeky in her own way, absolutely reading Hallie with the tossed-off, oh-so-British insult, “I have class, and you don’t.”. But Meyers and Rose do such a good job at establishing the differences between them, before they knock them all down in the second act, that you would never see Annie rocking a semi-ironic six panel cap. That’s pure Hallie.