Sovereign crown for the fresh princes of the streets, and the athletes in cleats, New Era Cap and its 59FIFTY has achieved icon-status in American popular culture over a prosperous century of hyped endorsements and collaborations.
It was 1954 when Harold Koch designed the beloved 59FIFTY, which quickly began appearing on the heads of every MLB (Major League Baseball) team in 1965, and eventually allowed the brand to monopolise in 1993 when New Era became the exclusive supplier for on-field caps for the League. Most notable of all the MLB teams were the New York Yankees, whom firmly established New Era as a premier fitted cap brand thanks to their domination in baseball, winning a slew of championships under their sponsorship deal.
The far-reaching external influence of New Era has been most potent in hip-hop, with the Yankee stadium being only a few blocks away from where the then new music genre was founded: 1520 Sedgwick Avenue, Bronx, New York. Suddenly, it wasn’t just official teams that were representing the brand; unofficial Yankee representatives in the hip-hop scene also contributed heavily to New Era’s ascent into the upper echelons of popular culture by virtue of donning the cap in photoshoots and making witty references to the 59FIFTY in their lyrics.
This well-documented connection between hip-hop and the New Era Yankee cap can be traced in the lexicon of rappers as they projected their own aspirations of success onto the esteemed accolades of the Bronx Bombers. The Yankee cap encased the empire state-of-mind; it was on the dresser of every hustler. Hip-hop’s part in transposing the 59FIFTY onto the skull of the everyman is undisputable; in fact, Jay Z said as much when he made the boastful declaration: “Shit, I made the Yankee hat more famous than a Yankee can”. And he was right; Jay Z practically became an ambassador for New Era and the Yankees when he performed ‘Empire State of Mind’ in the 2009 World Series at the Yankee Stadium.
Fast-forwarding to 2020, where New Era has surpassed 75 million cap sales off the back of its domination on both sports fields (earning exclusive rights for the holy trinity of the NBA, MLB, and NFL in 2016) and sidewalks, the brand will have a lot to live up to in the new century.
In a press release marking New Era’s centennial year, CEO of New Era, Chris Koch, commented the following:
“As the fourth-generation owner, it’s a great honour to celebrate 100 years of New Era and the legacy started by my great grandfather, Ehrhardt Koch. With humble beginnings in Buffalo, NY where we still proudly call home to our global headquarters, the company has evolved from a small headwear company into a premier international lifestyle brand that includes apparel and accessories. We are extremely proud of our heritage and excited about the momentum we have as we embark on our next 100 years.”
Continuing its long-line of iconic collaborations in the past with those like Spike Lee (who created the first scarlet red 59FIFTY that was made specifically as a fashion headpiece), New Era will be commissioning a whole host of collaborations with legendary brands like Casio G-SHOCK, Helmut Lang, and Yohji Yamamoto. A myriad of re-issues will also accompany these new designs, so it will be the kid-in-a-candy-store moment for old heads and young jacks alike this year.
New Era have worked with Isaac Marley Morgan, and Joshua Meeks Rayvon to show off their 100th anniversary merch; see the images below!
Photographer Isaac Morgan
Stylist Sophie Casha
Talent Joshua Meeks Rayvon