German immigrant Ehrhardt Koch, 37 and a skilled craftsman saw an opportunity to redesign the process used and the quality of “fashion” headwear. In 1920, his dream came true when he borrowed money from his sister, Rose to start New Era Cap Co. His expertise and open-mindedness led to the company producing 60,000 Gatsby-style caps in the first year.
In 1932, Ehrhardt’s son, Harold, joined him in the business. Harold noticed the demand for the fashion cap fading, while professional baseball was growing in popularity. It was then, New Era took its first calculated business venture by bringing a new item in the marketplace - the baseball cap. The first New Era® professional baseball cap was produced in 1934 for the Cleveland Indians’ uniforms.
World War II was a time of hardship and New Era was no exception. Fabric was scarce, but the Koch’s were resourceful, obtaining surplus, plain fabric by going to the garment district in New York City. In fact, the fabric used to produce the caps during this time was dyed at the family’s home in washing machine to match the colors of local teams.
By 1950, New Era was the only independent cap maker supplying caps to big league baseball teams. Its impressive roster of clients included many of the 16 teams at the time like the Brooklyn Dodgers®, Cincinnati Reds®, Cleveland Indians® and Detroit Tigers®. In 1954, Harold designed New Era’s fitted 59FIFTY style cap, giving it a more contemporary look.
To better accommodate the growing company, Harold, now leading the charge, opened a manufacturing facility in Derby, New York, close to the family’s home. The location would become the exclusive producer of the iconic 59FIFTY® cap. Having proven itself, New Era was invited by MLB to sell directly to every team at its annual Winter Meetings. This was a pivotal step to the brand’s path to exclusivity with the league.
In 1972, Harold’s son, David, was named president - 14 years after he began working for the company. A few years later, Chris Koch, David’s son, continued the tradition and began working in the Derby manufacturing plant for his grandfather and father.
Guided by David Koch’s vision, the 1980s became a decade of consistent growth. The company was producing headwear for college sports, AAA and International Baseball leagues and started selling caps to sports fans.
Being named the exclusive supplier of on-field caps for Major League Baseball in 1993 and experiencing its first brush with custom, fashion headwear in 1996 with Spike Lee, New Era was shaping a future of creativity and collaboration.
The vision that marked New Era’s growth in the 1920s and 1930s proved to be alive and well in the early part of the new millennium. The company’s globalization efforts continued with offices opening up in Europe, Japan and Australia within a two-year period.
• Started to see our position as the number one headwear brand in the world and one that spans the worlds of sport, fashion, music and entertainment.
• In 2001, Chris Koch, who had been the company’s president since 1993, was named CEO
• In 2006 the company moved its corporate offices from Derby back to downtown Buffalo where it all started 86 years earlier.
After decades as the official on-field cap of MLB, New Era set its sights on rounding out its exclusivity with the nation’s largest sports leagues. In 2012, New Era became the official sideline cap of the NFL, and, in 2016, became the official on court cap of the NBA; making New Era the only brand in sports history to have exclusive on-field, sideline and on court headwear rights for all three major U.S. leagues at the same time.