Thursday, September 22, 2011

Differences Between USA-made and Chinese-made New Era Caps

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, from 2010 to 2012 the patriotic "stars & stripes" caps were exclusively Chinese-made. After receiving complaints, patriotic caps were made in the USA again starting in 2013. The spring training/batting practice/occasional regular game "Diamond Era" caps are also being made in China, with exception of the patriotic DE caps.

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 in 2011 by Rashun Dixon, brother of Anthony Dixon of the San Francisco 49ers. Dixon gave it to a boy that I mentor and take with me to games.

USA-made cap.


Chinese-made cap.

The first thing I noticed is the difference in 100% polyester fabric. USA caps have more of a wool feel. Chinese caps feel more like felt or even almost like velvet, as opposed to USA fabric which has more of a traditional wool texture. Chinese caps also tend 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, almost hard plastic-like. 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 "size strip" that keeps the sweatband and crown connected is different. USA-made caps have had this type of strip 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.




Other differences are that the sweatbands are sewn together behind the center New Era tag, whereas the Chinese cap sweatbands are attached off-center behind the size tag. The Chinese visors have a strong rubber smell when new and are also much more stiff and tend to crease in places when you attempt to curve it. Some Chinese caps even have visors that are smaller than normal. A typical New Era visor is 7 3/4 inches in width, while some Chinese caps have a 7 1/4 inch visor.

While on the subject of Chinese caps, I have spoken with the people responsible for ordering Minor League caps about the differences between Chinese and USA made caps. They have to me that New Era offers incentives to order Chinese-made caps, such as higher quantities for lower prices. However, I've noticed that Minor League teams often get a mix of USA and Chinese stock throughout the season depending on how many caps they order and how soon they need them.

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.

28 comments:

  1. My biggest problem is the size inconsistencies. Off field customs and/or fashion 5950s are worse, making online ordering a gamble. Great blog by the way, long time follower. Let's Go Mets! (in 2012).

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    Replies
    1. No. Your biggest problem is not insisting they all be MADE IN AMERICA.

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  2. I agree with Mugalunch. The sizing of the Chinese caps is frequently waaaay off, and given the prices makes online ordering too much of a gamble.

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  3. New Era has never been consistent with sizing. I'll go through a row of caps to find one that fits good. There's no way I would buy their hats online. I just picked up a SF Giants 5950 at AT&T Park that was labeled "women's fitted". It's a low crown fitted. The others were like an Elmer Fudd to me. I think New Era should charge less for these Chinese made caps. We know they make them there to save $$. So why not lower the price. $35 is too high! Great blog! Keep em coming.

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  4. It's definitely important to be conscious of how and where the goods we consume are made. I feel a warm sense of satisfaction in knowing that the cap I am wearing was made with the highest form of craftsmanship and what deeply concerns me is that workers are not always treated justly in China and other underdeveloped countries, although there is no fool-proof guarantee that American factories will always promote the fairest working conditions. Still though, there is this strong sense of tradition for ballcaps made in the USA. So, if the caps were made identically in both places then I suppose there would only be the nationalistic argument but clearly the caps made in China are of a lower quality. That alone tells me that New Era should consider moving their cap-making operations back stateside; or they could follow Apple's lead with a disclaimer: "Designed in New York. Made in China"

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  5. I've been collecting New Era fitted caps since 2008. My biggest issue is the size discrepancies. I normally wear a 7 5/8. However, sometimes I can fit a 7 1/2 or 7 3/4. Sometimes I’ll have to try on 10+ caps all in the same size and maybe I’ll find one that fits. I stopped ordering caps online. Sometimes I ordered 3 of the same cap/size and they would each fit differently. I definitely prefer the caps made in the USA. The look and feel of the caps made in the USA are much higher in quality. I like new era fitted caps a lot but it's a pain to shop for one.

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  6. This comment has been removed by the author.

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  7. I'm a native of the Buffalo, NY area currently working in southeastern China. I stumbled upon some New Era 59Fifty LA and NY Yankee hats in a small shopping center last night in the tiny city of Jinhua. I ended up picking up a cap just because I needed a new one. (Well, OK, not really, but you know how it goes.) Price paid? 15 RMB, which by today's exchange rate converts to $2.40. Ouch!!

    Cool blog, BTW. This entry answered all of my questions regarding the differences between a Yankee hat purchased Stateside and one over here.

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  8. Great discussion piece. If the hat is made in china the customers cost should reflect it. 35 bucks is outrageous for a hat, especially one made in china for pennies on the dollar. We should not be paying the same price for Chinese made goods as we are for american made. I am ok with paying the current price for new era hats made in America, but as for the others, the price should be lowered. More customer appreciation......less greed!.

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  9. I have two Yankee caps that have had the main NY logo turn pink after a little bit of rain. Ive been going back and forth with new era thru email and I'm trying to get my money back. :/

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  10. We should not pay the same price for Chinese made ​​goods, as we are made for americans. I'm with the payment the current price of new era hats made ​​in America ok, but will be reduced as in the other, the price

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  11. New Era just laid off 1/4 of their Derby, NY plant. I'm thinking more caps to be made in China. :(

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  12. does anyone know where 80s/90s era new era caps were made?

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    Replies
    1. USA, although some caps including NFL were made in Korea.

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  13. Anyone with an iota of patriotism should never buy or wear a New Era cap made in China!

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  14. Great Writing!! Nice collection of images and information.

    Thanks for sharing..

    Hats and Visors in Florida

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  15. Great Writing!! Nice collection of images and information.

    Thanks for sharing..

    Hats and Visors in Florida

    ReplyDelete
  16. Wow ! Here is amazing collection of hats. Thanks.

    hat china

    baseball hat china

    ReplyDelete
  17. I personally dislike Chinese made hats. I've been collecting mostly Major League On-field hats for a while now and have been through the mistake of purchasing a couple of Chinese made caps. It seems like the overall quality of the Chinese made caps is way below standards as the logo detailing looks like crap, the hat feels like cardboard, and the fit is always too big or too small making it extremely uncomfortable. I even thought for a second that Chinese made caps were knockoffs until reading this article... American made caps basically have all the looks and feels of an authentic baseball hat. I hope that New Era considers good quality before cheap consumerism so we get more American made caps.

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  18. Chinese made anything bothers me. I am a very strong supporter of our American workers and manufacturing and do as much as I can to promote USA made goods. The presence of Chinese made items on an MLB diamond or anything bearing the an MLB logo and any franchise is an abomination. MLB, MLB team owners, the MLB Players Association, the 16 individual Minor League Baseball league's' leadership, team 244 team's ownership groups in the MiLB, World Umpires Association (current bargaining unit of the MLB umpires), Association of Minor League Umpires, OPEIU (parent organization of the AMLU, the AFL-CIO and it's affiliated unions, and the millions of fans across the nation need to stand up for the American worker and hold New Era accountable for the slip-shod product they release to the public. I drive by the New Era production facility located in Angola, NY (Buffalo, NY area) and the New Era Flagship Store and World Headquarters all of the time. The production facility looks abandoned on most days and on the days it does not the lot is never even approaching capacity. This is the very last New Era manufacturing facility on U.S. soil. I have watched closely as the New Era ownership has ruthlessly attacked the workers who so skillfully assemble the obviously superior product above and extracted concessions that in the grand scheme of things amount to very little for the company, but have a very adverse effect on the workers and their families. Despite gouging American workers the price of their products continues to rise to ludicrous levels. I can have a baseball cap custom made in the USA of the same quality and craftsmanship at a mere fraction of the price demanded by New Era. It is their exclusive deal with MLB and other pro leagues as well as colleges that put them in the position to do so. Interestingly you do not see Majestic, who provides uniform items to the MLB, having the ominous double standard that New Era employs. It is time to hold their proverbial feet to the fire and demand greater accountability, quality and concern for the consumer and American worker.

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  19. Very informative "unknown". I personally prefer Usa made. Went to giants game today (mets won). Bought my son an "on field" hat. Saw made in china after purchase. I wont buy another.

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  20. Very impressing article, actually I worte an post before regarding baseball cap culture between China and USA, China began to wear baseball cap in 1990s from firt students who studied from US. See below homepage "China cap history" Pls correct me if there is anything worng, hope I can learn more from your blog as a cap lover.^^
    China baseball cap,China customized cap,China caps, China trucker caps.china baseball cap manufacturer.wholesale cap China, wholesale baseball cap China China cap factory , cap China, caps China,

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  21. Actually I checked it out your article again and I wanna say, no every Chinese cap factory made poor quality caps. We made high class quality baseball caps for NY original ordes before, which means even you buy a brandnew "NY" baseball cap from US shop, that's made from us purhaps.^^ see below see differences
    http://www.caps-china.net/baseball-cap-manufacturer.html

    Many branded clients we made before , see http://www.caps-china.net/wholesale-cap.html

    But, I agreed with your idea that gerenral speaking, US made is better than Made in China, but not every Chinese factory, it depends really.

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  22. Can you still buy a new era cap that's made in the USA?

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  23. I only buy Made in USA caps. You are not a real Baseball fan if you buy junk china caps. Go Cardinals! Ken Rice.

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  24. Just checking in to report that the straight-up American-made ones are getting harder and harder to come by. I was at Wrigley this past weekend, and I checked a bunch of the new on-field authentics with the New Era logo (i.e. the ones that are new for this year) in the team store. Every single one I checked was "Made in the USA with imported materials." I finally found a completely U.S.-made one at one of the other shops near the field, but I had to dig for it (it had fallen behind a shelf), and it was literally the only one I found. Everything else was either U.S. with imported materials or made in China. The one I bought doesn't have the New Era logo, so it's at least a year old, maybe more.

    And before anyone says "well, that's the Cubs for you," I really think pretty much everyone is doing this now. I have a Cardinals hat that I bought at the stadium (and this was a year or two ago, before I even knew this was a "thing"), and it's made in China. It's not like the teams make the hats themselves, and the contract is through MLB, so they probably don't have that much input/control. Someone above said they can choose to pay a bit more and buy Shipments that contain American-made ones (if that's even still an option), but it would probably be hard for any team to insist on U.S. made ones exclusively.

    You can get a bad one or a good one from either source, but in my experience (I travel a little bit for work and I like to go to team stores, so I've tried on A LOT of these), the U.S. ones really do tend to fit a bit better and feel more comfortable. And the Chinese ones somehow just don't smell right when they get sweaty (the fabric develops a pronounced sort-of chemically smell).

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