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Celebrating 70 Years of the 59FIFTY

June 11, 2024

It all started in 1920 with the creation of New Era Cap Co., a family-owned business that hand-crafted headwear right here in Buffalo, New York. Led by Ehrhardt Koch, New Era began producing thousands of caps each year.

In the 1930s, Erhardt’s son, Harold joined the family business. Noticing the change in style and the increase of popularity in baseball, the two began creating the original baseball caps. By 1950, New Era was the only independent cap maker working for the big leagues.

Just a few years later, in 1954, New Era Cap’s 59FIFTY was born.

The vision behind the 59FIFTY was a more contemporary style that included a 22-step production process that strengthened the visor stitching and created a stiffer crown, allowing for a more defined and visible logo on each cap. When looking at the 59FIFTY, you can identify the four hallmarks:

  • A structed front panel for stability and shape
  • A full crown that provides a broad profile
  • A curvable visor
  • A closed-back cap, available in true sizing

As time went on, the 59FIFTY started to be seen everywhere. They were selling to Major League Baseball teams across the country, college sports programs, and directly to fans. After proving themselves in the big leagues, New Era eventually became the exclusive supplier of on-field caps for the MLB, with all players wearing none other than the 59FIFTY for each of their games.

Up until this point, New Era was only producing 59FIFTY caps for players and fans in the traditional team colors. But in 1996, Spike Lee changed everything. The filmmaker wanted a red Yankees cap to wear to the World Series, but that cap didn’t exist—yet. Lee decided to call New Era Cap personally for his request and after getting approval from the Yankees and the MLB, New Era was able to produce the first cap outside of team colors.

This one moment created a cultural shift that no one saw coming.

Soon, the demand was high for alternate colors of caps—fans wanted to represent their favorite teams while matching their outfits and personal style. That one red cap was the catalyst for change within New Era, allowing creativity to flow and starting a new wave of design options.

Since 1996, the 59FIFTY has become the canvas for collaborations—from the modern brands Fear of God and Supreme to the luxury fashion houses of Gucci and Helmut Lang. Fitted caps have become part of everyday life, spanning from sports to lifestyle and everything in-between.

The 59FIFTY as we know now is many things. It’s the official on-field cap for Major League Baseball, as well as the official cap of the NFL, NBA, and WNBA. It’s the style worn by athletes around the globe during some of their best moments, but it’s also a cultural icon worn on red carpets, fashion runways, and some of the biggest music stages in the world.

It’s not just the professional athletes and celebrities who are the champions of these caps. Across the globe, people collect some of the most exclusive designs from New Era, following the company and their partnerships while patiently waiting for the next drop. Some of these collectors have over 15,000 caps, ranging from some of the earliest and classic designs, to some of the most eccentric and colorful combinations—sharing their journey on social media and growing the “cap culture” following.

Over the last 70 years, New Era Cap has become a household name, and not just in its hometown of Buffalo. This year, we’re celebrating the last seven decades; and as the company reaches this milestone, we’re honored to work with them.

New Era has created a cultural phenomenon that has impacted the entire globe, and only proven that they have no plans of slowing down any time soon—and as we look into the future of the 59FIFTY, we’re excited to see what they come up with next.

Want to learn more about The Martin Group’s work with New Era Cap? Click here.

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