The Chronology of New Era Cap Tags: A Guide
The history of the New Era Cap Company has been well documented. New Era has been the dominant cap supplier for Major League Baseball and anything baseball-related for decades but their dominance grew slowly, starting in the 1930s. Eventually they steam-rolled the competition, providing the majority of MLB on-field caps by the 1970s. They have been the exclusive cap supplier for Major League Baseball since the 1994 season.
New Era's MLB on-field cap interior tags evolved very slowly from the 1930s through the mid 80s. Since then they have changed rapidly, usually about every two years. Since 1982 there have been three tags inside of the cap; the MLB license tag (left side), New Era manufacturer tag (middle) and size tag (right).
Let's take a look at the evolution of New Era’s MLB on-field cap tags from as early as possible to the present day. Keep in mind that this guide is not 100% perfect. Game used and team issued caps were all used as references for this guide. Tags can show up years after being phased out, which often leads to confusion about when the cap was made. For example; if a cap with tags from 1999 appears in 2001, it's normal. Evidence has shown that New Era sometimes keeps some stock in storage for a few years at a time, sending it out to teams and retail stores as needed. It also depends on what teams have in stock in the equipment room and how frequently certain sizes are issued to players. This guide will be updated as new research comes in.
This guide does not include caps made for spring training, batting practice, or certain special events that lack standard MLB & New Era on-field cap tags. The guide also only covers made in USA models except where noted due to the fact that the majority of on-field models made for player issue are made in USA.
No Photo Available
According to New Era, the 1934 Cleveland Indians become the first MLB team to wear New Era caps on the field. There are no available photos of the interiors of New Era caps at this time (if you find one, please contact me).
New Era is largely a "private label" manufacturer for other brands. The Chicago Cubs wear New Era caps during the 1942 and 1943 seasons (pictured). The size tag in the photo has deteriorated, but it's likely the same as the one seen in the 1960-1981 pictures below.
Still mostly a private label manufacturer. It is very difficult to find any photos of New Era MLB on-field caps from this decade, but this was likely the main New Era tag used at that time.
1960 - 1981
There are two variants during this time with the New Era tags; one says “100% WOOL FABRIC" and the other says “PERSPIRATION PROOF.” My first thought was that this had to do with a difference in cap materials or a cloth or leather sweatband. However, this is not the case as I have seen both tags on caps made with the same materials. This set of tags is used the longest out of any in New Era's history. Despite being phased out in 1984, this New Era tag continues to show up sporadically through 1987.
1982 – 1984
MLB Licensing becomes a thing and thus New Era adds the “Official Licensee/Major League Baseball” tag to the inside of their caps. Source: Game used 1982 World Series St. Louis Cardinals cap.
The New Era tag gets a slight change, basically adding some extra text. It begins to show up during the 1984 season. 1987 is the last season that leather sweatbands are widely available. Source: Game worn 1984 San Diego Padres cap, 1987 team issued Atlanta Braves and Chicago White Sox caps.
1988 - 1990
New Era and Sports Specialties are granted co-exclusive rights to provide MLB on-field caps. The "Diamond Collection" tag replaces the MLB Licensee tag and the New Era tag is revised showing two logos and less text. The “LOT/PRICE” size tags also begin to disappear, showing up on some caps and not on others. New Era likely introduced the new size tag upon running out of the old one. Other interesting changes happen to the caps; the white "reed" along the sweatband disappears and leather sweatbands largely disappear, although it appears they were still available by special order. New Era still offers leather for MLB umpires to the present day. Top Photo courtesy of Andy Havens
1989 - 1990 (Made by YoungAn)
This style begins to appear in 1989 with a slightly revised New Era tag. Note that the white "reed" along the sweatband returns. This is the final time that New Era's cloth sweatbands have reeds. On these particular caps, the panel tape is tonal. These caps were made with a different construction pattern that features a larger crown and visor due to New Era contracting with YoungAn, a South Korean cap manufacturer that made caps for competitor Sports Specialties. At the time, YoungAn had set up a small operation in the US as MLB required Sports Specialties to make a percentage of their caps domestically. New Era's pre-existing US plant in Derby, NY continued to churn out caps with the traditional construction pattern. Three known size tag variations exist, including one with the "YoungAn" logo behind it.
Source: a game used example can be found HERE.
1991 – 1992
Note that there are two variants; one with a "Diamond Collection" tag sewn on at the top and a shiny New Era tag, and the other with the Diamond Collection tag sewn on at the top and bottom with a paper New Era tag. The New Era tag is again revised. Caps during this time are made with two different construction patterns; the traditional one (top photo) and the large crown and visor version made by YoungAn (bottom photo). MLB "batterman" logos are added to the back of the cap in 1992. Caps manufactured prior to 1992 have an MLB logo patch glued on, caps made in 1992 have the logo directly embroidered on.
1992 (Made by YoungAn)
This variant shows up during the 1992 season, featuring a new, larger size tag that is heat-pressed onto the sweatband as opposed to being sewn on. As far as I can tell this only applies to caps made by contractor YoungAn. Source: 1992 Boston Red Sox game used cap, 1992 California Angels cap (MLB logo embroidered on, Angels cap logo changed the following season).
1993 - 1994 (made by YoungAn)
In the final two years that New Era contracts with YoungAn to make some of their caps, the tags undergo an upgrade. They are now embroidered instead of printed. The New Era tag in the top photo (which appears to have been exclusive to YoungAn-made caps) is short-lived and dropped in favor of the 2nd photo's design, which now features an official logo for the "5950" cap model. New Era becomes the exclusive supplier of MLB on-field caps after the 1993 season concludes.
1993 – 1996
As for the caps made in Derby, NY with the traditional construction pattern, they have the same tags as the ones made by YoungAn but with the designs and text slightly smaller. The size tag is is also sewn on at the top instead of being heat-pressed on. New Era ends contracting with YoungAn and opens two additional plants in Alabama in 1995 that use the same construction pattern as the Derby, NY plant. There are variations of the size tag that additionally say "dry clean only" at the bottom. 1993 appears to be the last season that we ever see leather sweatbands in caps for player use, which may have only been made for the Houston Astros.
1996 – 1997
The infamous “flag” logo makes its debut. The main tag again undergoes a major overhaul as well as the size tag, which is now bigger than the main tag and features text about being the only cap worn on the field by MLB players.
1998 – 2000
The New Era tag and size tag remain largely unchanged, but the "Diamond Collection" tag changes to “Authentic Diamond Collection.” New Era slogans begin to appear on the seam tape. At first they appear on the taping between the front panels, then on all of the taping. The size tags change from red and black to teal and maroon at some point in 1998 (1998 World Series caps have teal and maroon text).
2000 – 2001
All tags again undergo a major overhaul and start showing up during the 2000 season. The word “Diamond” is removed altogether from the “Authentic Diamond Collection” tag and thus becomes the “Authentic Collection.” Source: 2000 World Series New York Yankees cap.
2002 - 2005
The tags undergo a slight revision, mostly being the "Made In USA" text which is moved to the back of the New Era tag. Source: 2002 World Series caps.
The New Era “Blue Box” tags make their debut during the 2005 season, further simplifying the tag designs. 2006 is the last season that standard MLB on-field caps are made with 100% wool. Source: White Sox 2005 World Series cap.
100% Polyester on-field caps make their debut during the 2006 postseason, as World Series footage from that year shows players wearing a mix of gray and black undersided caps. Now that the sweatband is black, the tags are changed accordingly to match. There are four variants, and unfortunately it's nearly impossible to tell which tags are used each year. The tag with "Performance Headwear" under the blue and white New Era logo appears to be the most common variant. Sources: 2006 World Series caps and footage, 2008 Philadelphia Phillies game used cap, 2008 Phillies World Series game used cap.
2009 – 2011
After using four styles of tags over the course of two years, the tags finally get back to one standard design. The "Authentic Collection" tag gets upgraded with a new design and some color. The New Era tag gets the "Cool Base" logo added below the New Era logo. At some point during this period the country of origin & materials label changes from the back of the size tag to the back of the New Era tag. New Era closes their two Alabama plants in 2010 and foreign-made on-field caps begin to show up in retail and occasionally issued to MLB teams. The Yankees 2009 World Series caps become the first on-field caps where the majority were made in China.
2012 - 2016
The "Cool Base" logo is eliminated from the middle tag and replaced with the "Fly Your Own Flag" slogan. The size tag changes as well, with the removal of the "box" and the size of the numbers are greatly increased. Source: 2012 team issued caps, 2016 San Francisco Giants game used cap, 2016 San Diego Padres team issued caps.
2016 - 2019
During the 2016 season, the "Fly Your Own Flag" slogan disappears from the New Era tag and the country of origin & materials text on the back of the tag changes from bold to a smaller, normal font noting that USA-made caps are made with imported materials. The New Era "flag" logo makes its full-time debut on the side of the cap during the 2016 postseason. Source: 2016 Chicago Cubs World Series cap. This tag disappears in mid-2018, but reappears in mid-2019 on caps made at New Era's new assembly plant in Hialeah, FL on caps made for the 2019 season. Some made in Hialeah lack the "OFFICIAL ON-FIELD CAP" text on the Authentic Collection tag in 2019. Source: Arizona Diamondbacks team issued cap, all game used/team issued "Player's Weekend" caps.
2018 - Present
In 2018, caps begin to show up with a very long country of origin/materials label on the back of the New Era tag. Source: 2018 Postseason Oakland A's cap, 2019 game used Seattle Mariners "Pilots" TBTC" cap. The Derby, NY plant closes in June of 2019 and caps "assembled" in Hialeah, FL initially use the previous New Era tag, but by the 2020 season the Hialeah plant has begun using the tag pictured above with the long country of origin & materials label. Source: San Diego Padres & Chicago Cubs team issued 2020 season caps.