Wednesday, September 21, 2016

An Open Letter to New Era

Dear New Era Cap Company,

I first fell in love with New Era on-field baseball caps in 1995. I was nine years-old and had recently learned how to play baseball. My parents were not into sports to say the least, so my younger brother and I learned about sports from the kids down the street and to us, baseball was our favorite. I can't remember exactly where, and what adult in my life purchased it for me, but I remember picking out my first authentic "Diamond Collection" on-field cap. It was a Chicago Cubs "Road" cap, the one with the red visor. Size 6 7/8. I remember being absolutely thrilled that I now owned one of the exact same caps that MLB stars wore on the field of play. I wore it for years until I could no longer squeeze it onto my head.

Over the course of the rest of my childhood and into my twenties I continued to collect New Era on-field caps. New caps, vintage caps, actual game used players' caps and everything in between. Now, at thirty years of age, I have amassed a collection of roughly five-hundred New Era on-field caps ranging from the 1950s to the present.

My warm feelings for New Era reached a peak in 2010, when New Era kindly fixed some vintage caps for me. I was told it wasn't a big deal and they were happy to help. Suddenly, a New Era exec that I had befriended called me. In a condescending tone, he told me that they can't repair caps anymore and they were apparently upset that I blogged about it (I was NOT the first one). When people that read my blog and contacted New Era to ask about repairs, they were told not to listen to "some guy from California that blogged about it." That same exec then followed up with a personal letter to me, repeating what he said in our phone conversation. I had his personal direct phone number and I tried to talk to him about it and to apologize if I did something that got him in trouble. He never answered my calls again. Although my feelings were hurt, I continued to support New Era and their product.

By this time it was  2011, and New Era began to make some changes that bothered me. Being a long-time fan of minor league baseball, I purchased a cap at a minor league game and noticed the texture of the polyester fabric was odd, and that the cap was rigid and did not fit like normal. It even smelled different. Every cap in the team store was just like it. I didn't think much of it until a short time later. I decided to flip back the tags that are attached to the sweatbands. It said "Made in China". I was shocked that New Era was now making on-field caps in China, when "Made In USA" had been one of New Era's favorite things to advertise. I learned that New Era had shuttered two of their three USA manufacturing plants. I was disappointed, but I later came to learn that there were ways to get minor league caps USA made through certain sources. I continued to support New Era and their product.

Over the next couple of years, I noticed that Chinese-made MLB on-field caps in retail stores alongside USA made ones, with both being sold as the exact same product and at the exact same price. This was especially prominent during the 2014 World Series. As long as USA made caps were available, I continued to support New Era and their product.

Last year, I noticed that Vietnamese, Bangladeshi, and Chinese-made MLB on-field caps in retail stores alongside USA made ones, with all being sold as the exact same product and at the exact same price. As long as USA made caps were available, I continued to support New Era and their product.

This year, USA made caps began to say they were made "with imported materials" on the label. As long as they were USA made, I continued to support New Era and their product.

Now, New Era has decided to include their "flag" logo on the side of MLB on-field caps, starting with the 2016 postseason. This has now broken down the wall between MLB on-field caps, custom "hip hop/rap" caps, college caps, and minor league caps. They are now all on the same level. To me, MLB on-field caps are no longer on a higher pedestal. There are also reports of New Era deleting comments and banning anyone that has made negative comments about the flag logo on MLB on-field caps on social media. I will NOT continue to support New Era and their product. I'm done. This is the straw that broke the camels' back.

The other big factor for me is the "imported materials". I have long been a strong supporter of USA manufacturing. You see, companies prefer to have fabric made overseas not just because it's cheaper, but because regulations are looser. In many countries, companies are allowed to get away with workers being exposed to toxic dyes, not to mention polyester is a petroleum product so I'm sure many workers are exposed to oil and other pollutants while making the fabric. Polluted water used to make various fabrics is then dumped into water systems that pollute the environment. Call me a hippie, but this is not something that I personally can't support. You need to consider the human toll it takes to make the cap you are buying. The only positive is that an American worker stitched it together,

New Era, a family run business, has now officially chosen profit over people. They used to be different. They were personable, and they cared deeply for their loyal customers. Not anymore. After more than twenty years of being a loyal customer, I will not longer be buying any new New Era products,

Sincerely,
Paul Carr