In 1920, Ehrhardt Koch founded his own hat company, E. Koch Cap Co. His company started with 14 employees and was located on the third floor of 1830 Geneese Street on the corner of Bailey in Buffalo, New York. In 1922, the company name was changed to New Era Cap Company. In 1932, the company designed its first version of a baseball cap. In 1934 the company started producing its first professional baseball team's caps: The Cleveland Indians home and road caps. This was in the years before exclusive licensing, so New Era was competing with other cap-producing companies at the time. Their main competitors were Wilson, Spalding, Rawlings, and a number of other companies. New Era also manufactured caps for some of those companies under private labeling.
When Did MLB Start Wearing Fitted Hats?
When did fitted hats come out? By the 1940s, New Era was producing caps for many professional baseball teams. In the late 40s New Era unveiled their adjustable cap. However the company still mainly manufactured fitted hats. In 1954 the fitted hat was redesigned and named the 59Fifty, a.k.a. the 'Brooklyn Style' cap. Cloth sweatbands were also introduced at this time (leather sweatbands would be slowly phased out until the end of the 1980s). By the year 1965, New Era was supplying caps for ten Major League Baseball teams. In 1969, New Era supplied the crew of Apollo 11 Splashdown Recovery Operation with unique custom hats. New Era did the same for all later recovery missions. New Era had grown more by 1974, and now supplied 20 out of 24 Major League teams with caps. By the early 1980s, New Era not only supplied caps for 23 Major League Baseball teams, but for college sports, local, AAA and International baseball, tennis, golf, and custom orders.
But in 1986 a huge step was taken. New Era (along with competitor Sports Specialties, Inc.) was granted co-exclusive licensing and unveiled the "Diamond Collection", which they supplied to MLB teams and were sold to the general public. Wearing "What the Pros Wear" became a major trend. New Era was granted exclusive licensing for MLB caps after the 1993 season, beating out their main (and final) competitor, Sports Specialties. Now all of baseball was supplied with New Era caps for their games. In 2006, New Era, having outgrown their facility in Derby, moved to a new larger headquarters in Buffalo.