One discussion that keeps coming up between baseball cap enthusiasts is the difference between New Era's USA-made and Chinese-made caps. The 2011 season saw all minor league teams wearing on-field caps made in China, and even some major league caps are being made in China, mostly special events caps. Ironically, the patriotic "stars & stripes" caps seem to be exclusively Chinese-made.
The differences between USA-made and Chinese-made caps are many. I have been told that New Era has received many complaints about Chinese-made caps regarding quality. I will go over the most noticeable differences and compare photos of USA-made and Chinese-made caps.
My example will be the Stockton Ports (Level-A California League Oakland A's affiliate) home cap from the 2011 season. The USA-made cap is my personal cap that I wear, the Chinese-made cap was game used this season by Rashun Dixon, brother of Anthony Dixon of the 49ers. Rashun gave it to a boy that I mentor and take with me to games, and he let me borrow it for the pictures.
The first thing I noticed is the difference in fabric. USA caps have more of a wool feel. Chinese caps feel more like felt or even almost like velvet. Chinese caps also seem to have a larger fit than USA caps. When it comes to the visual differences, the first difference is the size of the crown. The larger crown of the Chinese cap has received many complaints, with some describing them looking like Elmer Fudd's hat.
USA-made on left, Chinese-made cap on right.
The next difference is the stitching. Look at the stitching on the visors. USA-made caps have larger holes between the stitches, Chinese caps (usually) have barely noticeable holes. Chinese-made caps also have thicker stitching on the eyelets.
USA-made cap stitching
Chinese-made cap stitching
Next we have the inside. Although there doesn't look like anything is different, the buckram behind the front panels is much stiffer on Chinese-made caps. The taping is flatter and not as rippled as USA-made caps, and the silver bottom of the button is flat on Chinese-made caps rather than curved.
Inside of the USA-made cap
Inside of the Chinese-made cap
Behind the sweatband, the white "fuse" that keeps the sweatband and crown connected is different. USA-made caps have had this type of fuse since 2007 with the introduction of 100% polyerster on-field caps. Chinese-made caps have the crosshatch-patterned fuse seen on USA-made caps in 2006 and before.
How do you feel about Chinese-made on-field caps versus USA-made on-field caps? Can you tell a difference? Is there anything you notice that I didn't mention? Does it matter? I'd love to hear your feedback.