Sunday, January 30, 2011

Mitchell & Ness Caps: The Best Throwbacks Ever Made?

For a period of at least a few years, the Mitchell & Ness Nostalgia Co. made what appears to have been the most accurate throwback caps ever made. Until a year or so ago, I didn’t even know they existed! Where were they hiding?


Mitchell & Ness had two different cap manufacturers (under private label) before losing their license to make MLB caps in 2003. The first maker was the Roman Pro Cap Company, who made throwback caps on their own for years but fell into financial difficulties after the 1994 strike. I will focus on these versions. The second maker was American Needle. Their versions of Mitchell & Ness caps still exist today as their own “Deep Dish” series.

Although Mitchell & Ness caps were made by Roman, their only similarity to Roman’s own caps was the embroidery (and leather sweatbands for the caps that called for them). Extra steps were made to have the caps look and feel like the real caps made by Tim McAuliffe & KM Pro, the companies that Roman provided the original embroidery designs for.

The detail and craftsmanship is incredible. For caps based on styles made before the 1970s, satin under-visor fabric and taping is used. Most caps made in the mid-1950s and after didn’t have satin under the visor but it’s a nice touch. The manufacturer’s tag is made to look like a KM Pro tag (some versions have the long tag used in jerseys), which is a nice detail. If the original zig-zag backing had been replicated and if the size had been stamped on the sweatband, it would be very hard to tell the difference between a Mitchell & Ness cap and a Tim McAuliffe/KM Pro cap.

With "KM Pro" style tag


Close up of KM Pro style tag


"Jersey" style tag

For the caps based on 70s caps and later, they are designed to look more like New Era caps. Take the early 80s Padres “taco bell” caps for example. The original Roman version was quite different to the New Era version. The New Era version is what the team used on the field. Mitchell & Ness changed Roman’s piping down the side of the bell to zig-zag stitching and the logo was made flatter and the inside color changed to black. Not even New Era themselves have made a reproduction as accurate as this one. Another great cap is the Phillies 1981 St. Patrick’s Day cap. There was no satin used inside the more recent-style caps, which is my only major complaint because satin taping was used all the way until the late 80s.


What led to the end of the relationship Mitchell & Ness and Roman is a mystery. Roman left the professional sports industry altogether and is now a custom embroidery company called “Apparel 2000”. I have asked representatives of both companies about their relationship but they were no help. All I know is it’s a tragedy that we can’t buy caps of this quality and accuracy anymore.

Roman version


American Needle version


Roman version


American Needle version

These Mitchell & Ness caps are quite scarce today. If you are lucky, you can find the occasional one on eBay, but some might hurt your wallet (I saw a 1950s Brooklyn Dodgers cap sell for $100+). However, a large cache of Mitchell & Ness caps have shown up at The Captain's Vintage Clothing, an online store. Be wary that they have both the Roman and American Needle versions of some caps. Also, they have many rare caps in very large sizes, so if you wear size 7 7/8, 8, and LARGER, you’re in luck! Just click below the banner.

The Captain's Vintage - http://store.thecaptainsvintage.com/

If you have any of these caps or know anything about them, feel free to share something in the comments section!

3 comments:

  1. Paul, I concur -- M&N's Roman-made throwbacks are the best ever! I got a drawer full of 'em -- '57 Milwaukee Braves, '48 Boston Braves, '46 Red Sox, '61 Reds, '38 Dodgers, '59 White Sox, '54 Tribe, '46 Cards, '51 Browns, just to name a few. The soft leather sweatbands made them so nice to wear. I visited the M&N main store in Philly about five years ago, and they were selling the last of their Roman-mades -- they had this bin in the storage room and they let me rummage through them. Got a big handful for about $15 a pop. I was in heaven. The guy at M&N said Roman's hat operation went out of business and THAT's why M&N had to go with American Needle going forward. What a heartbreak! If M&N could work with the folks who make Ebbets' caps (the current best throwback caps, albeit all non-MLB), the world would be perfect again!

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  2. Thanks for the lead Paul, I picked up a '59 Sox. I have a '77 Mariners and a '69 Pilots of the M&N Romans already.

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  3. I have a '22 short bill Yankees and a '38 Yankees that was a copy of a Dimagio cap at the hall of fame. It had white stitching & eyelets.I also have a M&N catalog showing these.

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