Although it’s not common or a brand to be synonymous with a specific product and style, New Era does it effortlessly. No other brand does it as easily as this American brand when it comes to making caps. New Era is a lifestyle brand with a sports heritage of over 92 years. Over the years, New Era’s history reflected how the brand refined the art of creating the best headwear in the world. New Era is known for creating the official on-field caps for Major League Baseball and National Football League. The brand found a way to claim a sport amongst global leaders in the sports headwear industry.
We should point out that New Era’s baseball roots are not the only element that makes the brand iconic. The brand is also known for its unique collaborations. This article will explore New Era history and the brand’s growth over the years into an iconic brand. We’ll also point out notable collaborations by this brand.
How It All Began
New Era history begins in 1920 in Buffalo, New York, when Ehrhardt Koch founded the brand. It was initially named E.Koch Cap Company. Koch borrowed money from his co-worker at the Miller Brother’s Cap Company and his sister to found the company. He ran the company for many decades before handing it over to his son Harold in 1952. Unfortunately, he died a year after handing over while his son fully controlled the brand.
In the beginning, the brand utilized Koch’s innovative production methods. This led to the creation of Gatsby-style caps. Its early success led to the company’s New Era Cap Company branding. However, it wasn’t until Harold entered the company that the brand’s future changed. He shaped the company by taking note of trends. Harold soon noticed a notable decline in the demand for fashion hats.
New Era History – Creating the First Baseball Cap
The first baseball cap wasn’t till 12 years after the brand started. Harold took note of the popularity of the baseball game and, therefore, decided to pitch his dad in on the pivot. The ballcap’s goal was to keep the sun out of the eyes of catchers and the batter. Beyond the baseball field, it was becoming popular as a fashion accessory, and Koch didn’t want to see it pass the brand by either. A team that was growing even more popular with the rise of baseball was the New York Yankees Babe Ruth. They would be necessary for New Era history for their role in facilitating the growth and popularity of the brand.
The first baseball hat was constructed from six panels stitched together. These Brooklyn-style caps are made with the best materials, including heavy wool and a leather sweatband that would easily soak through the hot summer days. The brand’s first customer for their baseball hat was the Cleveland Indians. Cleveland Indians were one of the first of many major league baseball contracts. So, the brand found it relatively easy to sell the hat to the Cleveland Indians.
It had looked like the Cincinnati Reds logo, but it was designed solely for the Cleveland Indians. Although they started there, they continued to move into the baseball world every year. Throughout the decades of New Era history, the company continued to pick new teams. There were only 16 baseball teams at the time, but once New Era got a team, they never lost it.
Although the teams in Major League Baseball picked the logos they wanted, New Era influenced how the logo would appear in the hat form. Most times, the logo on the jersey and hat were quite different. This is because the brand would make tweaks to the logos to be able to embroider it on the baseball hat effectively. An example is the New York Yankees logo. Although it doesn’t appear balanced or symmetrical on the jersey, the brand tweaked it to make it look cleaner on a hat and easier to embroider on a smaller scale.
New Era History – The Company’s Growth
The business continued to grow steadily through the 30s and the 40s. However, there were only 25 players on a major league roster. Therefore, selling a complete set of hats wasn’t enough to generate ample revenue for the brand. So new Era ensured that every team had home and away caps to solve this problem. Each team also has a small supply of backup hats. Additionally, many frugal teams didn’t want to purchase new hats every season, so New Era also entered the cleaning business.
At the end of every season, the MLB teams would pack up the caps that were torn, beat up, or soiled. Next, they would pack them in a box and send them to the company. The brand would then refurbish the caps for a small price and send them back to them. This way, New Era increased its revenue, but the Major League Baseball team didn’t have to buy a complete set from the brand each year. So this strategy was a win-win for both parties.
The fashion brand also expanded its customer base because it realized that most of its revenue back in the early days of New Era history was going from town to town, selling to little leagues. This was a lot of work for the company even though they had a good sales force. Therefore, the brand started offering its products to the general public. They believed that if Major League players wore the caps, then everybody else would be willing to. This was good foresight as many people purchased the cap once it was made available to the general public.
Influence of World War II on New Era History
World War II led to production issues for the company. However, their clients included the Cincinnati Reds, Brooklyn Dodgers, and Detroit Tigers. When Harold took over, he redesigned the pro baseball cap and renamed it the 59Fifty. Although the baseball cap was once loosely fit, it became stiffer to make the loo more obvious. The best part was that replicas of what the pros wore were available for the general public to buy.
In the 60s, the MBL invited New Era to sell directly to trams at the annual Winter meeting. This move opened up exclusivity within the sport. This trend continued even when Harold’s son took over and when he passed down the business to his son as well. The family continually passed down the knowledge for four generations and oversaw exclusive deals with the MLB. New Era also expanded into American Football with the Buffalo Bills. They also had the NBA, NFL, Cricket, and many more deals.
Collaborations Throughout New Era History
Over the decades, New Era has collaborated with some of the top names in the fashion industry. These collaborations also contributed to the company’s growth and opened the brand to new markets.
New Era x Supreme
Supreme is amongst the most famous streetwear labels, and their collaboration with this Yankee fit resulted in immense success. Over the years, there have been several Supreme and New Era collaborations that it would be difficult to go through them all. However, both brands have created box-logo caps, skittles branded beanies, and many more. The collaborations also introduced New Era to the streetwear fashion industry.
Tyler, The Creator Collaboration
Part of the merchandise created for his Camp Flog Gnaw Festival was a cap fedora created by New Era. Tyler, the Creator, brought New Era out of its comfort zone by creating this custom fedora in 2019. The brown felt ranger fedora stole the show when they released a collection that included truckers and various bucket hats. In addition, the collection features Tyler’s signature bold colors.
We can’t ignore the collaboration with Japanese artist Takashi Murakami as we take a walk through New Era history. This was one of the best collaborations by the brand because their designs went well with Murakami’s vibrant, signature style of art. Additionally, it was an immense success on various baseball caps and garments. The artist’s sunflower motif and cartoon-ish figures added a much-needed splash of colorful pop-art to each piece created by New Era.
Fear of God x New Era
Another collaboration that has been a long time coming is the collaboration between Fear of God and the New Era. The duo has created bold and bright collections in addition to paired down and classic. The Fear of God designer Jerry Lorenzo first worked with New Era in 2017. Since then, both brands have continued to create new versions of their iconic styles.
Their recent collaboration between the New Era and Fear of God remains the most extensive. This collaboration drew inspiration from MLB history. Specifically, it paid homage to the Negro League during its 100th anniversary. Therefore, the Negro League Museum receives some of the proceeds from the sales.
Beams x New Era
Another collaboration that stands out in New Era history is the Beams x New Era collaboration. This collaboration has happened a few times, and the collection is always impressive. However, the most notable collaborations between the two brands are those with the Yankees iconography. Whether creating a stripped-back five-panel or creating what became known as the Crazy Yankees Hat, Beams and New Era have created some notable hats.
The Crazy Yankee Hats was the more striking of the collaborations because it combined different colored panels in addition to the 3D Yankee motif that successfully wrapped around the hat. However, both collaborations brought new popularity to New Era’s most famous designs.
Slam Jam x New Era
This collaboration was an ode to uniforms and is still one of the best collaborations by the brand. Slam Jam brought darkness to the New Era 9Twenty Cap. The retailer’s upside-down ‘A’ log was on the front of the hat. In addition, you can see Slam Jam’s motto ‘A freely constituted cultural eco-system framed by the (UN)formal membership and (UN)corporate Uniforms’ at the side of the hat. This was quite different from New Jam’s typical style.
There we have it; we’ve explored New Era history and how the brand successfully grew and carved a name out for itself with its baseball hats and other products. The entrance of Harold into the industry was quite a game-changer for the brand. The many collaborations by New Era were also instrumental in propelling the brand to fame.