Saturday, December 24, 2011

Did ANNCO make New Era's caps in 1988?

Back in the old days, New Era made caps for Wilson Sporting Goods under private labeling. After New Era nearly wiped them out as a major competitor, Wilson switched over to having ANNCO (American Needle and Novelty Company, now American Needle) make their caps. In the past ANNCO made the cheap felt souvenir caps that were sold at stadiums. By the time Wilson changed to ANNCO, Wilson was only supplying caps to the Phillies. Around this time, ANNCO made pro model caps under their own label for the Mets. However, the Mets expert I spoke with doesn't believe they were used on the field.

The early caps made by ANNCO for Wilson used cloth sweatbands similar to KM Pro's cloth sweatbands. New Era's Wilson caps also featured the same sweatbands, as the sweatbands and embroidery were originally added by a 3rd party.

Early 80s Phillies Wilson cap (made by ANNCO)

Later on, the sweatbands became one-sided like New Era's.
Mid 80s Phillies Wilson cap (made by ANNCO)

The Mets caps were made with a different type of buckram and didn't resemble a basket weave like the Phillies caps. Also notice the raised embroidery on the Mets logo that resembles a modern New Era. (photos courtesy of Steven August)

From the introduction of the 5950 cap in the 1950s until 1987, New Era's caps were manufactured the exact same way with their own machinery with the exception of a few minor changes here and there. In 1988, New Era and their main competitor Sports Specialties launched the "Diamond Collection". Other on-field apparel makers also carried the label. That year, the 5950 underwent a major redesign. The structure and profile all changed. Inside the cap, satin taping and leather sweatbands were phased out (leather would be available for umpire caps for another 20 years). I personally own one New Era cap from 1988, but it's structure is nearly 100% identical to ANNCO caps.

California Angels New Era cap showing the old-style construction used until 1987

1988 California Angels New Era cap

Notice how similar the inside of the cap looks when compared to the Wilson and ANNCO caps above.

In 1989, New Era went back to their old machinery. The only major change was the sweatband, which lost the liner around the edge. Satin taping returned, along with the "Lot/Price" size tag.

In 1990, New Era's cap design changed again, but that's another story that will continue in my next post.

So do you think that ANNCO made New Era's caps under private label in 1988 or are there just a few similarities? There are a few differences though, such as the button size and the way the visors are stitched. But also, why would New Era go back to their original machinery in 1989? Teething problems with the new machinery? I've also noticed that many of New Era's Cooperstown Collection caps have the exact same logo embroidery designs as ANNCO's original Cooperstown caps. Express your opinion in the comments section!

Happy Holidays everyone!

Friday, December 9, 2011

(Mis?)Adventures In DIY Cap Repair

A couple of weeks ago, I received what should have been the crown jewel of my collection: A genuine 1969 Seattle Pilots cap made by New Era. While the crown of the cap was in perfect condition, there were some problems. All of them had to do with the visor.

Like many caps its age, it suffers from what has become the bane of my existence: a cracked visor board. Actually, it wasn't cracked. It had completely crumbled. Most of the visor board pieces came in an envelope. The seam that kept the visor fabric together had ripped open, and the pieces came out. The other problem was the embroidered wheat stalks on the visor. The thread literally disintegrated. Some of it was already gone by the time it arrived, and the rest rubbed off when I touched it.

I knew that with a little work, I could get the cap into somewhat presentable condition. Luckily, New Era's Pilots caps did not have seams across the visor. There is only a seam between the blue top and green underside. I sacrificed a visor from an old worn-out cap, slid it inside, and glued it back together with fabric glue. It's not perfect, and there are a few patches of dried glue where I missed my mark, but it looks OK. I emailed every embroiderer in town to see if they could re-do the wheat stalk embroidery, but unfortunately no one can do it because the embroidery had been done prior to the assembly of the cap. I figured the next best thing was to find patches on eBay. There were no wheat stalks that were close the original design, so I bought military and airline-style "scrambled egg" wheat stalk patches that were the closest to looking like the original. I then glued them to the visor.

While it isn't perfectly aligned (the visor and crown weren't perfectly aligned to begin with), I placed them exactly on the outlines of where the original embroidery was. It's not the real deal anymore, but I am satisfied with what I was able to do.

If anyone has an intact New Era Seattle Pilots cap, I'm still looking to buy one. In the meantime, I've got a KM Pro version on it's way to me as I write this.

Coming soon: My adventures with the New Era "Re-Cap" kit.