Hey you — with the baseball cap!
That hat says a lot about you. Is the visor curled or flat? Does it sit straight on, backward or is it cocked to the side? Does it bear a classic team logo or something less traditional, maybe a skull with wings?
You can bet they're paying attention at New Era Cap Co., the company that may have made that hat. And with a glance at your lid, they can tell who you are — including what you'll be wearing next.
The designers at New Era keep a hawk eye on the fashion trends from their little corner of New York.
There are 30 designers at New Era Cap Co.'s headquarters who are in constant touch with 15 colleagues in London and five in Irvine, Calif., to come up with new ways to keep the ubiquitous baseball cap fresh and in demand.
Yes, New Era supplies all the official on-field caps for major league baseball. But that's only part of the 35 million caps sold by this family-owned, 88-year-old company last year.
The huge design team launches some 500 new products each year over five fashion seasons: two for spring, two for fall and one for the holidays. That means countless color and pattern combinations, with fabrics including silk, cashmere, chiffon, denim and snakeskin.
By far, the most popular style of cap is the 59Fifty, the fitted on-field cap worn by everyone from big leaguers to Spike Lee.
Last year, 77 percent of New Era caps sold were 59Fiftys — which is a product number that dates to the 1930s.
The 59Fifty, which retails for $32, tends to be easy to spot. A lot of wearers leave the product sticker on the uncurled brim. In more urban, fashion-forward circles, it's just not cool to remove it.
A more traditional guy might go for a stretch fit, peel the stickers off and get right to work curling the visor. (Spritz it with water, put a rubber band on it and stick it in a coffee cup.)
According to Gina Goss, New Era's women's product development manager, your choice in cap is a dead giveaway for the rest of your wardrobe.
"You can tell where they shop, what kind of car they drive, what kind of sneakers they wear," she said.
Try this: If you're wearing the 59Fifty, visor flat but backward, you may be an aspiring or pro skateboarder. Hot pink and glittery? You're probably a Texas girl.
If your cap is made from what looks like a comfy gray T-shirt, you're probably home in the Northeast. Does the pattern play to your Gucci handbag or Pucci scarf? You're probably a New York City or Toronto trendsetter who will be looking for something simpler next season.
Prefer bright colors, maybe floral or Hawaiian-style, or crisp white? You're in Florida. If it's a plaid "trucker" you don, where the back half of the crown is mesh, or a super distressed cap, you're probably in California, maybe just in from surfing.
There's a science to getting that "I've had it for 20 years" look, by the way.
"We bleach them, we have oil rubbed into them," Goss said. Workers in the shops cut the visors with a knife and hold them to a grinder. Some are washed with stones or golf balls to achieve one of six set levels of distress.
As for team logos, the Yankees outsell all others by three to one, but Boston's up-and-coming.
"Yankees is a brand. You can sell a Yankees cap anywhere in the world," Goss said.
The designers not only need to keep up on what's hot and what's not, they have to anticipate it. If bright colors and busy patterns are on the runways in Paris or Milan, watch for the same on the ball caps. If it's clean lines and muted colors, there will be caps to accessorize that style, too.
The designers are online sometimes minutes after a fashion show ends anywhere around the world, taking notes on colors, fabrics and style trends, while groups of specialty designers fan out on trendspotting missions around the world.
Some designers go to baseball and football games to see what people are wearing, while others focus on the "street/urban" look, "action sports" trends seen on skateboarders and snowboarders, and women's and children's fashions. The company recently added a line of old-school gatsbies and fedoras and knit toques.
"People are always amazed. They think it's a baseball cap — you just plop a logo on it," said Goss. "We spend a lot of time doing research, an incredible amount of time."
Caps aren't just for ballplayers anymore
Hey you — with the baseball cap!