Interview with Jerry Cohen of Ebbets Field Flannels
For the past 25 years, Ebbets Field Flannels has been bringing us high-quality retro sports apparel and simultaneously preserving the legacies and stories of obscure teams and leagues of the past that would have otherwise been forgotten. Their specialty is hand-made reproductions of vintage flannel baseball jerseys, or "shirts" as they were known back in the day. Ebbets Field Flannels also produces a wide variety of reproductions of vintage baseball caps, made with high-quality 100% wool with goat hair buckram, satin taping and undervisors, and on their 8-panel caps; genuine leather sweatbands. You can view what they have to offer offer at Ebbets.com.
Q. For those of us that don't know or don't remember, what were some of the first caps EFF first produced?
A. I think the first two caps we did were from the old Pacific Coast League, the San Francisco Seals and Seattle Rainiers.
Q. What are some of the most popular/highest selling EFF caps of all time?
A. 1955 S. F. Seals, New York Knights, 1940 S.F. Seals. Those never seem to go out of style.
Q. How do you decide which caps to produce each time?
A. It is important to have a good mix of colors (difficult to market new hats if seven out of eight are navy blue, for example). Then I try to have a good mix of regions or themes, say, a couple of Negro leagues, some PCL, some Cuban, etc. We find this usually works better than coming out with hats that are all the same theme.
Q. How much research is involved in making sure the caps are as accurate-looking as possible?
A. The devil is in the details, obviously, so the research is key. To us, a the whole hat has to be historic – not just the emblem – so we try to make sure things like visor style, whether it was a felt or embroidered emblem, etc. are all accurate. Of course, most research is photographic, and black and white at that, so we have to be very careful. It is quite surprising to me when I see competitors’ so-called vintage hats out there that are so fundamentally different from the original hat it is supposed to be emulating, but I guess that’s what makes us different.
Q. After not making caps with leather sweatbands in quite some time, why did you decide to use leather sweatbands on the new 8-panel caps?
A. We wanted to make the 8-panel caps distinct from the 6-panel ones, and we located a leather supplier who made decent leather bands. There is a certain segment of our customer base from way back who remember the leather bands fondly, and this is a way to at least make some of our hats available with leather.
Q. Using green satin under the visor is a great touch. It makes the caps look very classy and helps separate EFF from the competition. Satin "undervisors" weren't found on every cap back in the old days, so why did you decide to go with them for every cap? (Not complaining by any means, just curious)
A. It is precisely because they were not usually done in satin that we adapted it as one of our “trademarks”. The idea came from an original 1950s Seattle Rainiers cap that I had in my possession. It had this beautiful satin undervisor and satin taping between the panels and I thought it was the most gorgeous cap I had ever seen. It gives the Ebbets caps a distinctive flavor.
Q. EFF was once part of a joint venture with Roman Pro and Mitchell & Ness (caps were made with the EFF cap pattern, Roman Pro did the embroidery, and sold under the Mitchell & Ness name). Old-style 7-stitch visors were used. These were easily the best reproductions of old MLB caps ever made. What led to this and when did it come about? Why and when did it end?
A. The short version is this project was initiated by us. We did the research and the development, but because M&N already had an MLB license it was decided to do it as a joint venture with them. One issue is that shortly after launching this collection Roman Pro was sold to idiots who did not believe there was a future in making high-quality vintage baseball caps, so the supply chain was threatened anyway. We tried to bring on another supplier but it was an exercise in futility. Needless to say the new owners of Roman Pro ran it into the ground in short order. This was obviously very disappointing to us, because of all the work we put in. That’s life. It’s amazing how many people recall those hats though.
Q. What does the future of EFF look like?
A. It looks very bright! Being stubborn, making things authentically in the U.S. for all these years means that finally the market has come around to us. We haven’t done anything differently, except perhaps open up the design process a bit so that we can collaborate with other brands on headwear collections. The last two years have been among the most rewarding for us in all the years we have been in business, and we are looking at record growth continuing. EFF is now a worldwide apparel brand.
Q. Why do you think that MLB has not given you permission to make any MLB apparel?
A. As you probably have guessed, after 25 years this we get a little tired of this question. Suffice it to say that it is naïve to believe that licenses go to whomever produces the best quality or most accurate historical reproduction hat. Beyond that you would really need to ask MLB why they won’t give us a vintage hat license. That’s simply not something I spend a lot of my time worrying about anymore.