New Era’s Short-Lived ‘Local Market’ MLB Caps Were a Total Disaster
On Tuesday, New Era released a series of MLB caps decorated with patches depicting landmarks, food items, area codes and other local oddities specific to each team. It went ... poorly. So poorly, in fact, that New Era pulled the plug on the entire line by Wednesday.
What happened? What could possibly have gone so wrong that MLB's official cap supplier discontinued 30 new hat designs a mere 24 hours after launch?
Let's start at the beginning of this (very short) story.
Appropriately dubbed the "Local Market" series, the hats were conceived as an homage to the region-specific quirks of each MLB city and fanbase. The New York Yankees version, for example, features the Statue of Liberty and five area codes for New York City.
Here are a few examples:
New Era has released new "Local Market" hats for each MLB team.
They are, indeed, hats. pic.twitter.com/YyWLdIHrfe
— The Athletic (@TheAthletic) May 25, 2021
OK, a little busy, right? The patch placement seems sort of haphazard, and there's a lot going on. Still, we see what New Era was going for. Local pride is a powerful thing, and we've seen it put to good use for effective branded merchandise time and time again. So far, so good, right?
But shortly after the hats launched, fans began picking up on some, uh, issues. For instance:
While most of the hats featured multiple area codes, the Pittsburgh Pirates hat had no area code at all:
There is a lot going on with some of these local market hats but I think my favorite detail is the range in area code representation—7 different ones for the Twins, 8 for the Cubs, 9 for the Braves, and *zero* for the Pirates??? pic.twitter.com/G0kKXp5TE3
— Emma Baccellieri (@emmabaccellieri) May 25, 2021
The Tampa Bay Rays hat listed the area code for Tampa city, but not the area code for St. Petersburg, where the Rays' ballpark is actually located:
Oh boy. The Rays new "local market" hat from New Era has the Tampa area code of 813 on it.
— Tim Wronka (@TimWronka) May 25, 2021
The Kansas City Royals hat featured four area codes, none of which was the area code for Kansas City. More egregiously, none were actually from Missouri—where Kansas City is located—but from Kansas, an entirely different state.
— For The Win (@ForTheWin) May 26, 2021
On this went for the entirety of Tuesday, with fans noticing more errors and curious additions as they examined each hat in detail. These ranged from nonsensical food choices (all five California team hats featured a hard-shell taco) to seemingly random objects (the Atlanta Braves hat had a UFO).
The story soon got the attention of major media outlets, amplifying it further. ESPN, NBC Sports and others picked it up. The Washington Post covered it while questioning multiple aspects of the Washington Nationals hat:
For instance, why does the Nationals’ hat feature a 1776 patch—the same patch featured on the front of the Phillies’ “Local Market” cap, mind you—when Washington, D.C., wasn’t founded for another 14 years?
Why put 1901 inside the outline of D.C. when the franchise founded that year—the original Washington Senators—plays today as the Minnesota Twins?
Most importantly, why is there a hot dog on the back of the cap, and if it’s supposed to be a half-smoke, what monster decided adding relish was a good idea? Also, give me a cherry blossom, the Capitol dome, the D.C. flag or “Taxation Without Representation" instead of that generic bald eagle.
This escalated to the point where even MLB teams themselves were roasting the hats. The aforementioned Royals, for example, did so in an update to their Twitter bio:
New bio, who dis? pic.twitter.com/60jhNHRDnZ
— Kansas City Royals (@Royals) May 25, 2021
By late Tuesday, the whole thing had devolved into memes, with fans posting photoshopped hats highlighting the absurdity of it all. At that point, New Era admitted defeat, pulling the hats from its website.
The entire saga is, frankly, unprecedented.
If there's one thing we know by now, it's that the internet complains about everything. Any time a brand gets a new logo or a sports team unveils new uniforms or whatever else, we can count on a handful of haters (loudly) voicing their displeasure in tweets or comments.
But rarely, if ever, do we see ridicule so intense and unified, escalating to the point where the brand in question shuts the whole thing down. That indicates that, in this case, New Era really did mess up.
We could assemble an entire post listing apparel decoration lessons to learn from this. But you can probably put two and two together just by reading the tweets and looking at the hats. That's how obvious the design missteps were here.
Instead, we'll just leave you with our favorite tweet from the whole thing. If you know, you know:
— Luke 茂雄 (@LukeShigeo) May 25, 2021