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Like almost every product, baseball caps also have those brands that seem to stand above the rest. The top brands, arguably, are New Era and the ‘47 brand. Fans loyal to each will defend the uniqueness and superiority of their brand quite strongly. These brands offer different features attractive to different kinds of fans.
What exactly are the differences between 47 and New Era hats? New Era does have the long-term exclusive right to provide the MLB with the teams’ official uniform caps ~ a significant difference. Otherwise, New Era offers structured, more traditionally styled hats; while ‘47 offers rather unstructured, casual-looking hats.
When you strip it all down, if you want to look like the guys playing ball on television or in the stadiums, those are stylings of what officially is called New Era Cap Company. If you want a more relaxed look, with a lower profile on top, those are the ‘47s.
Let’s examine what distinguishes these hats, and try to determine what precisely sets them apart.
47 Brand Hats
The brand now simply called ‘47 began, of course, in 1947. Twin brothers Henry and Arthur D’Angelo immigrated with their family to America from Italy. They discovered they could make money selling sports memorabilia in the sports-crazy streets of Boston.
Over 70 years later, the foundations they started with still remain for the business.
The brand became more popular after the turn of the century, in the 2000s as their specific vintage style, which look already worn, captured the attention of fans and grew in popularity. The casualness and ease of every-day wear appealed to millennials in droves.
Hats by the ‘47 brand created many loyal fans and are a direct competitor to the long-established New Era. The company offers many of the same headwear styles, but subtle differences are there if you know what you’re looking at.
Why Fans of New Era Say Their Brand is Best
- 47 Brand Hats Unique Features
- Fit looser
- Better fit for bigger heads
- Fit well over more hair
- Casual appearance
- Looks worn from the start, naturally distressed (e.g. “vintage”)
- Shorter bill
- Unstructured upper
New Era Caps
New Era is now a century old, and the company has become known for being the officially licensed hat-maker for professional Major League Baseball players. New Era’s 59Fifty hat became known the world over, and the brand made fitted a household word.
The company started the path toward becoming the exclusive provider of hats to the MLB back in the 1960s, having already been in business for 40 years.
Many years later, in 1996, Spike Lee convinced New Era to make a single red New York Yankees hat ~ and that move alone brought fashion into the sports fandom world. The momentum was so significant, it forced New Era to alter their contract with the MLB to make various hats with team logos on them, not just in the official team colors.
New Era brought logo hats to the forefront when people began asking if they could get their favorite team’s hats. They kept the domination up, eventually being the only company to have on the court, on-field, and sideline cap rights simultaneously in the 2010s.
Why do fans of New Era think their brand is the best?
- New Era Brand Hats Unique Features
- Fit to size is more true
- Structured hat
- Choice of low or high profile with 59Fifty models
- Can get fitted, snap-back, stretch/adjustable hats
- Flat or curved bill options
- More of a traditional look
- Licensed material to MLB, NFL, and NBA, among others
- Often innovators in hat style, seeing trends and starting them early
New Era and ‘47 Hats: Histories
Now that we know the differences between these major hat manufacturers, let’s dig into the history of both companies, and perhaps get an inkling into why each focuses on the style they do.
With over a century’s worth of experience in delivering quality head coverings, New Era rightfully has solidified its position in the industry. It helps the brand a lot that it supplies caps to all the MLB teams.
The company began in 1920 as the E. Koch Cap Company, organized by founder Ehrhardt Koch with money borrowed from his sister. The company initially created and contributed about 60,000 caps to the burgeoning market.
Not long after, the company was renamed New Era Cap Company, a nod to what some felt was a new era, the Roaring ‘20s.
The company did not take long to build quite the reputation, finally capturing the attention of major league baseball, then the premier sport in America, inking a deal in 1934 to deliver caps to the Cleveland Indians.
That design proved hugely popular, and it was refined further in 1954, into what is called Brooklyn style. The MLB liked it, and by 1965, all 20 of the league’s clubs purchased New Era caps for their players.
Still, the company had to negotiate deals individually with MLB clubs for many years. That ended in 1993, when Major League Baseball inked a deal to give authority to New Era Cap Company to produce hats for all the teams.
The company now earns over a billion dollars annually in revenues, and is based in Buffalo, New York6.
In 1947, of course, this longlasting hat company was started by twin brothers, Arthur and Henry D’Angelo, calling it Twin Enterprise. It all began with manufacturing and sales of pennants, and a variety of sporting goods, from their Boston home base.
The business did well, growing from a sidewalk booth into a full-fledged retail store. The twin brothers never looked back.
To start the process of expanding globally, the company focused on sports caps. It was a long time before the neat brand name surfaced, as that name change did not occur until 2010.
Today, the company is affiliated with Major League Baseball to sell hats with league and team logos (though not to provide official hats for players, as well as with various other sports leagues and teams.
How influential is ‘47 today? The company, still headquartered in Boston by the way, holds licenses to make headwear, apparel, and accessories for MLB, the National Basketball Association (NBA), National Hockey League (NHL), National Football League (NFL), Minor League Baseball (MiLB), Major League Lacrosse, the National Rugby League, and over 900 American colleges.
In recent years ‘47 became a licensed, official on-field partner for 4 teams in the influential Cape Cod Baseball League. In particular, 2015 was a banner year, when ’47 grew its portfolio with partnership deals with both the United States Soccer Foundation and Major League Soccer (MLS), as well as a deal for the rights to make caps for MLB on-field postseason celebrations (which it held until 2019.
The company officially dropped the second part of its old name, “‘47 Brand,” in 2015.
Picking Your Brand of Baseball Hat
Considering all this, you then have to decide what you’re looking for in a brand. Honestly, both companies have proven that they have what it takes to adapt and change with the times enough to stay in business.
Some buyers need to know that a brand they are throwing their loyalty behind will be around for a while, and these two companies have established this. That’s a big starting point.
Both hat brands have made it this far because they are made of quality materials, and are well-crafted in every aspect, every step of the way.
The quality between the two is comparable. The 47 brand will likely stand up to washing better as it is a non-structured design ~ meaning the hat can naturally mold or change as it ages ~ so you will want to look at their designs if that is important to you.
New Era is the officially licensed producer to the pros. Often, 47 brand caps might look just off when it comes to color, like the blues or greens may be lighter.
To be clear, 47 does have the right to use the logos. They do not tend to have hats that will perfectly match your favorite players on the field, as they don’t have the same access as New Era.
If matching exactly is incredibly essential to you, New Era is your brand. The 59Fifty is the hat worn on the fields in the stadiums, and players have a choice as to choose low-or-high-profile versions. No matter which crown height you choose, you are getting a structured hat that runs truer to fit than other hats.
Hats by the 47 brand are designed to be more casual and comfortable. There is no break-in period as they come pre-distressed and worn. They are a looser-fitting hat, but they should not stretch even with their unstructured fit.
It comes down to style. For a more traditional, crisper look, go with New Era. For that more fashion-forward, vintage, perfectly worn look, 47 is your brand.
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