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New Era’s Ben Ewy Talks 59th Anniversary Of 59FIFTY Fitted

By Jay Casteel   /   Published 10/31/13

New Era 59FIFTY 59th Anniversary Collection

New Era celebrates the 59th anniversary, this year, of its iconic 59FIFTY (fitted) cap. Since its debut in 1954, the company has become synonymous with Major League Baseball, as the official on-field cap. In the years following, it become a staple in pop culture, and would branch out into other arenas including the NFL (as the official on-field cap provider), as well as the fashion world via countless collections in an array of scenes.

To honor the milestone, they've rolled out a special collection paying tribute with very limited black and gold edition caps, inspired by the iconic visor sticker that graces all New Era pieces. We sat down with New Era Creative Director, Ben Ewy, to discuss this collection, their storied history with the 59FIFTY silhouette and it's mark on history, as well as special collaborations, and its future.

With the 59th anniversary of the 59FIFTY silhouette (fitted), and the brand being synonymous with MLB (and now the NFL), what does that mean for New Era? To be so engrained into the sports world?

Our relationship with MLB is such a big part of our brand history. Producing baseball caps is how we got our start. The pop culture relevance came later. We love our relationship with the leagues. It authenticates who we are as a brand and we bring them the best headwear in the world. It is a great partnership.

The 59FIFTY has also become an item of collectors over the years, garnering a fan base of diehards much like sneaker collectors. Is that something New Era expected? And, how do you cater to a collector with the creation of new caps, versus the everyday consumer?

I think every company hopes to connect with consumers who form a passionate bond with your product. Were we surprised that we gained diehard fans? Not really, but we are humbled and inspired by the passion people show for our caps. New Era has one of the widest consumer bases of any company -- we cater to fans, fashionistas, athletes, and observers. We always consider our consumer when we make our product. We definitely make some simpler caps for the everyday consumer, but we try to make caps that are at a more elevated, exclusive tastemaker level to keep the collectors craving our latest designs.

In celebration of the milestone, New Era has unveiled a commemorative collection in a black and gold colorway. Can you talk about the story behind the design? And, how the detailing coincides or relates to the anniversary?

We were inspired by the colors of our iconic visor sticker: black and gold. We wanted to make some really special products to celebrate our iconic cap, so we created a specific 59th Anniversary side patch, and used some premium materials, like cashmere and a fabric that we found in Paris that is woven with 22ct. gold. The caps made with real gold aren't for sale however. Those are gifted to long time friends of the brand that have supported us for many years including athletes, artists, musicians etc. The 59FIFTY is our marquee product -- it's only fitting we celebrate it with special product.

With the rise of the snapback, and other silhouettes in the market, what does that mean for the 59FIFTY and its future?

We see ourselves as a fashion lifestyle company, not just a fitted cap company. We have a wide variety of silhouettes and stand for premium quality and craftsmanship for whatever we make, be it a 59FIFTY, a 9FIFTY (snapback), knits or some of our great new apparel pieces. The 59FIFTY is a classic and certainly not going away any time soon. At this point, it's such a piece of fashion cultural and an American icon, it will never go out of style.

In recent years, New Era has collaborated, more often, for specialty releases -- including collections for Andy Warhol, Pharrell, and Jeremy Scott. Being you're normally known for your sports caps, how important is it to branch out with capsule releases like this?

Collaborations are very important for us as a brand. We have a great history in contributing to, and sometimes helping define, street culture. Collaborations keep us in the forefront of the street and fashion consumer's mind. We try to work with people who are already fans of the brand, like Jeremy Scott, so it feels like a natural fit. We learn a lot from our collaborations by working with some of the greatest talent in the industry. It also helps us extend our brand to new audience we might not otherwise touch.

Earlier this year, New Era introduced its new "Diamond Era 59FIFTY," which re-invented the silhouette with a focus on performance. Shoe companies have been focusing on performance in their product over the last several years. So, how does emphasis on the performance component translate into a cap?

The response to our Diamond Era product has been phenomenal. The athletes have definitely noticed the performance aspect, and we're also hearing from people who perform in non-traditional venues, such as DJs, that they appreciate the performance aspect as well. Our plan was to launch with on-field product with the MLB, then start to get into fashion interpretations of our product which are going to be hitting the market soon. Keep an eye out!

Where do you see the 59FIFTY going, moving into the future?

I see it continuing to be the gold standard in fitted headwear. We will continue to push performance on our product making sure it meets the demands of the world's greatest athletes. We'll also continue to push our fashion aspect, making sure it meets the demands of fashion influencers around the globe.