Having headed up the headwear game for over a century, New Era is dropping a new heritage-inspired collection alongside its Always on Side campaign, featuring retro-baseball inspired caps and apparel which bring the brand’s iconic NE logo to the forefront. But where did the brand first start out, and how did it get here? We sat down with Brand Director, Laurence Joslin to talk about the brand’s roots, inspiration, and aspirations, as well as New Era’s new collection.
With a trajectory from baseball to high fashion, there’s no doubt that New Era has a long history. Today, we know New Era for its iconography; easily identified by the NE logo emblazoned across their headwear, their caps seem to crop up in every area of society. In sports, music, and fashion, featured on the heads of our favourite rappers, prolific athletes, and everyone in between. With over 500 licences in its portfolio, it’s undeniable that New Era’s influence is huge, which makes it hard to imagine the brand starting out over a-hundred-years ago with nothing but the branding to its name.
New Era was founded back in 1920, just over a century ago, by Ehrhardt Koch who borrowed $2000 to kickstart the company – so a pretty humble all-American beginning. Based in Buffalo, New York, New Era first earned its reputation on the baseball pitch, quickly working its way up to producing caps for half the major league baseball teams by 1965. Creating recognisable and unique styles for each team in their personal colourways and iconography is how New Era established its versatility as a brand, and it wasn’t long before they started to market their headwear off the pitch.
The brand first released its now iconic 59FIFTY design, aka the “Brooklyn Style” cap in 1954 and it quickly rose to notoriety. Laurence Joslin described how, decades on from the cap’s conception, Spike Lee resurrected the design: “he started all this in 1996 when he asked for a custom red 59FIFTY cap to match his varsity jacket at the 1996 World Series.” When we asked Joslin who he’d most want to see wearing a New Era cap in 2023, Spike was his answer, and considering we already know he’s a fan of the brand, it’s possible.
Since 1934, when the brand provided its first bout of caps to the Cleveland Indians, New Era has become licensed to design caps for all thirty major league baseball teams, literally hitting the competition out of the park. But New Era didn’t stop at baseball; instead, the brand started looking for other sports to conquer. In the last few decades alone they’ve; signed a deal with Manchester United; designed styles for teams within Formula 1 such as Oracle Red Bull Racing and McLaren; and become the first headwear brand with exclusive rights across MLB, the NFL, and the NBA all at the same time. And they’re not done yet.
Staying relevant throughout an entire century, even amidst the constant changes in popular trends and styles, is not an easy game, but it’s one New Era’s apparently successfully mastered. Laurence Joslin notes that one of the most important aspects of New Era staying competitive in the headwear industry has been the “global expansion of the brand, for sure, with major growth in our licences, apparel and accessories… I’d say we’ve moved from being a pure sports brand to now being a truly authentic American sportswear company.”
On top of New Era’s growing focus on the global market, they’ve also managed to stay relevant through continuously appealing to the next generation. Joslin describes how the brand achieves this, attributing it to “[remaining] true to sports and [keeping] our roots deep in culture through music and entertainment collaborations”, and there’s no doubt that it’s the collabs with brands and artists which have helped elevate the brand.
Breaking out of the sportswear game and into fashion took the support of some major artists, including Rihanna, Jay Z, and Chance the Rapper to name a few, but thanks to celebrity backing New Era’s managed to become a heavy-hitter in the street-style scene. Laurence Joslin describes how it’s a strong awareness of music and entertainment culture that keeps New Era relevant in the fashion scope. “The team here are all connected to this culture in some way, drawing insights each day, so we remain authentic – that’s so important. It’s easy to spot brands that are not authentic.”
Despite over a-hundred-years of heading not only baseball where they started, but basketball, football, cricket, fashion, and more, New Era’s not even tired yet. Their latest collection, which celebrates the brand’s trajectory, harks back to the brand’s classic and most iconic styles whilst elevating them for the modern day. Including an array of relaxed cotton 9TWENTY caps and bucket hats in warm camel and proud navy hues, each hat features multiple team sport embroidered badges, and of course, the NE logo stamped front and centre.
Bringing New Era’s iconic retro italic logo to the forefront of the cap wasn’t a small decision; in fact, it’s not something that’s often been done before. Joslin said of the design-choice that “the front of the cap is the real estate that we are always careful with; our flag logo is always on the side. But the team created the iconic NE design as a playful feature, that just worked on the cap – and brings the brand front and centre.”
As well as being one of New Era’s first drops to place the NE logo at the forefront of its designs, the collection is also its biggest instalment yet of own-brand headwear and apparel. Whilst New Era might have started out in headwear, the brand’s apparel collections have expanded immensely in the last few years. Laurence Joslin explained that designing garments isn’t overly different to caps: “When we create headwear and apparel, we always look to ensure they hook together as a collection, with the same design language. Clearly, there is more space to express the design on apparel, but still intuitively, in headwear, it’s often more subtle.”
The apparel collection features retro sports silhouettes, including varsity jackets straight off the pitch, iconic pinstripe tees, and graphic t-shirts with vintage patches. As Joslin mentioned, the continuity between the caps and clothing is seamless, each pulling the same retro-baseball inspired influences; the only difference being the apparel selection’s available in a few more colourways, including casual earth-tones, burnt orange, black and yellow.
Despite the retro-baseball inspiration of the drop, Laurence Joslin explains that the collection wasn’t influenced by one specific team (New Era could never choose). Instead, they pulled on the typography and design language of baseball kits as a whole, referencing the wider aesthetic associated with the sport. To be fair, as the brand behind the headwear for every team in the baseball league, New Era’s never been good at picking favourites.
From 1920 to 2023, New Era has refused to let up in dominating the headwear game, and now it’s all come to a head in their latest drop. Combining influences from some of the first collections over a century ago with the expertise they’ve developed over all that time has culminated in a collection rife with history, culture, and style. Laurence Joslin summed up the new collection pretty well himself, describing it in three simple words: “Fitted. Relevant. Exclusive”.
Explore New Era’s All on Side campaign, as well as the new drop, at www.neweracap.eu.
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