New Era Cap Company

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Industry Headwear, Apparel, Accessories
Founded 1920 By Ehrhardt Koch (pronounced "Cook")
Headquarters Buffalo, New York U.S.
Key people
Ehrhardt Koch (Founder - 1920 - 1953)
Harold Koch (President/CEO 1953 - 1984)
David Koch (President/CEO 1982 - 2000)
Christopher Koch (President/CEO 2000 - present)
Products Headwear - Baseball Cap - 59FIFTY, Apparel and Accessories
Revenue Unknown
Number of employees
300 (Buffalo, NY) 1,200 (worldwide)

The New Era Cap Company, located in Buffalo, New York, is an American headwear manufacturer. It was founded in 1920 by German immigrant Ehrhardt Koch.[1] New Era is the exclusive manufacturer and marketer of the official on-field cap worn by every Major League Baseball team[2] and their minor league affiliates, as well as select teams in the Korea Baseball Organization,[3] Nippon Professional Baseball, and the Australian Baseball League, and maintains agreements with other licensed entities including the National Hockey League, National Basketball Association, National Rugby League, Big Bash League, Little League Baseball, and over 200 colleges and universities in the United States. New Era became the official on-field cap provider for the National Football League in April 2012.[4] In October 2013, New Era became the National Lacrosse League's official cap supplier.[5] On May 12, 2014, New Era secured the rights to be the exclusive headwear provider for Turkish Airlines Euroleague Basketball.[6]

The Foundation in 1920, Buffalo, NY[edit]

Ehrhardt Koch borrows $5000 from his aunt and starts up his own cap company, e. Koch Cap Co. At the same time, Joe Amerien left the Miller company and was Ehrhardt’s first employee. Production started on the third floor of 1830 Genesee Street, on the corner of Bailey Ave. in Buffalo, N.Y., The company started with 14 employees including Ehrhardt’s sister Rose. Ehrhardt’s son, Harold, and Rose’s son Wally Domas, soon started working there well before graduating from high school. In 1920, the company produced 60,000 caps.

1922: “E. Koch Cap Co.” is officially named “New Era Cap Company.” New Era would produce a full line of men’s casual and uniform caps, but few sporting goods products. New Era’s line in the 1920s included caps like the “newsboy” an eight panel wool cap with a short bill and a loose fitting crown top as well as fedoras.

1932: Baseball enjoying massive popularity. Harold Koch decides that the time is right to get into the sport cap business and convinces Ehrhardt to design New Era’s version of the baseball cap.

1934: New Era’s first Major League Baseball (MLB) caps are produced: the Cleveland Indians Home and Away caps. There was no such thing as exclusive licensing back then, so each year the various companies would compete for each individual team’s business, as well as for minor league, international league, college teams and local league teams – which made up the bulk of the industry back then. New Era’s motto in those days was “Quality First, Quantity Will Follow.”

Early 1940s: New Era provides caps to a long list of local minor league, college and Canadian baseball teams, as well as blank caps that local outfits around the country would sew lettering or patches on as needed. New Era also makes more major and minor league baseball caps now, but the majority of these were “private labels” for Wilson and Spaulding. New Era manufactured the finished, unlabeled caps, and Wilson and Spaulding would add their own labels and sell them directly to the teams.

Mid 1940s: Honus Wagner, then coached for the Pittsburgh Pirates, requested a special custom New Era Pittsburgh cap, as he was having trouble finding a cap that fit his unusually large head. New Era was happy to oblige the legend’s request.

World War II: War rations create a severe shortage of fabric, especially in colors. Cream (uncolored) fabric was bought on the black market and then dyed in the Koch’s home washing machine before assembly into caps. The color varied from batch to batch, but the customers were happy to be getting caps at all.

Late 1940s: New Era debuts its adjustable size cap. Ehrhardt worries that they won’t look as good as the fitted caps, but the sheer volume of orders couldn’t be met any other way, and they sold very well.

1950: New Era is supplying caps to the Brooklyn Dodgers, Cincinnati Reds, Cleveland Indians and Detroit Tigers, as well as to other teams under the “private labeling” with Wilson and Spaulding. New Era was by this time the only independent cap maker supplying MLB teams.

1954: New Era’s fitted pro cap is modernized, redesigned and named the 59FIFTY (AKA the “Brooklyn Style” cap) by Harold Koch, who introduces many design improvements and innovations while head of New Era.

Early 1960s: Harold and David Koch call for the end of New Era’s “private label” business for the McAuliffe, Stall and Dean brands, a challenge that would take most of the 1960s to meet. To win the business of its competitors, incentives were offered including cap cleaning and reconditioning. By 1965, New Era is supplying caps to about 10 of the 20 MLB teams.

1969: New Era supplies special caps for the Apollo 11 moon mission’s Splashdown Recovery effort on the USS Hornet. All future moon shot recoveries were also supplied with these unique handmade caps.

1974: 20 of the 24 MLB teams sign with New Era at this point, and business continues to grow every year in all sports from a local to national level.

1976: David’s son, Chris Koch, starts working at New Era while he still in high school. By 1979,Chris is working at the Swan Street, Buffalo, N.Y. plant during the day and attending college courses at night.

1979: New Era tried a direct marketing tactic. The company runs an ad in “The Sporting News” offering pro fitted baseball caps to anyone who sent in a check or money order for $12.99. The response is overwhelming and help shape the future of the “fan driven” pro licensing business that hit the big time in the 1980s.

Early 1980s: The 80s are a decade of consistent steady growth for the company, with David Koch leading the way. By this point, New Era is selling product to college sports, local, AAA and international baseball, tennis, golf, custom special orders, the military and 23 of the 26 MLB teams.

Mid 1980s: The multi- head Barudan automated sewing machines revolutionize manufacturing for New Era, allowing a major increase in the rate of producing embroidered caps.

1986: In conjunction with MLB, New Era unveils its Diamond Collection pro 59FIFTY cap – the same 59FIFTY as before, but now sanctioned as an official on-field product.

Late 1980s: Wearing ‘The Cap The Pros Wear” is now a major driver of New Era’s consumer/fan business.

1993: New Era is granted the first exclusive license with MLB to produce the on-field baseball caps for all teams. It had been 59 years since Harold Koch had secured the Cleveland Indians as their first one-year account in 1934, and what had been earned team- by- team since then was now official across the league.

1993: Chris Koch becomes President of New Era and David Koch becomes CEO. New Era opens a Distribution Center in Hamburg, N.Y. to handle increasing capacity needs.

1996: Filmmaker Spike Lee personally requests a red New York Yankees cap from New Era, starting both a fashion trend as well as a long relationship with New Era. The ability to make caps in colors outside major leagues’ style guides opened the door for the biggest era in New Era history and the entry into the lifestyle and fashion category. Embraced by the entertainment world because of its authenticity and ability to customize headwear, New Era would embark on a journey of collaboration that would begin to be seen on screen, on stage and in videos of many tastemakers, artists, musicians and celebrities around the globe. Lee directed the company’s first national TV ads in 1997 and continues to direct ads for New Era.

1997: New Era unveils its first new logo in a generation, the “Flag”, which will appear on all New Era headwear from then on, and become a fashion statement in its own right.

2001: Chris Koch is named CEO and begins an era focused on global expansion and building the New Era brand name across sport and lifestyle segments.

2003: New Era’s globalization, having started in 1998 in Canada, expands rapidly, with offices opening in Europe, Japan and Australia all within a two-year period.

2005: New Era unveils its new “blue box” or “lock-up” logo, which incorporates the “flag” logo, and its new slogan, the “Originators Of The True Fitted.”

2006: New Era severely outgrows its Derby facility as its headquarters. After a nationwide search, the company chooses the local former Federal Reserve Bank building in downtown Buffalo for its new world headquarters. The company returns to downtown Buffalo where it had been 86 years earlier.

2007: The 59FIFTY cap under goes the largest re-design to date. Making the decision to add true performance to the on-field cap, the innovation team works with suppliers and engineers to develop a cap the keeps the wearer cooler, dryer and eliminates staining. The company then underwent a massive “market clean- up” of all older product to allow for a clean and fresh launch globally. This trend of innovation and improvement would continue on through the rest of the decade with the interaction of the Diamond Era cap in 2013. This purpose- build cap was developed with the player in mind. Offering new technologies and materials into the players everyday work out regiment.

2010s: While New Era had long been associated with the sport of baseball, the company focuses on delving into football and other sports leagues. In 2012, it acquires full exclusive sideline rights for the National Football League (NFL). Moving down the field even further, New Era signs an additional deal in 2015 with Manchester United, landing on soccer fields across the pond.

New Era will celebrate its 100th anniversary in 2020.

Labor history[edit]

New Era has had two labor situations in its 88-year history[clarification needed]. One in 2001 with the Communications Workers of America, and another in 2007/8 with the International Brotherhood of Teamsters.

Cap recalls[edit]

In the summer of 2007, New Era voluntarily pulled three styles of New York Yankees hats from shelves across the country because the designs on the caps were seen to be gang-related. There were three caps that stood out; two with a bandanna like pattern around the top and one with a gold crown. Brian Martinez, an NYPD detective involved with Peace on the Street said "Bandannas represent gang flags," "New Era is making it really convenient for gang members, because now your flag is part of your hat." The patterns on the hats were similar to the flags of the Crips, the Bloods and the Latin Kings. Much of the New York public protested about the caps and in response to these allegations, a New Era spokesperson stated that the company does not market to gangs and when notified by activist groups and public officials, the company took immediate action.[7]

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