“New Era is all about self-expression,” Ben Ewy, the creative director of New Era explained to me. If you want proof, head to 82 Mercer Street, where New Era is hosting New Era Introducing, showcasing the work of dozens of artists who used New Era’s 59Fifty cap as a canvass. When I arrived at 8:45 Friday night, the spacious venue was comfortably packed with a cool crowd checking out the craziest caps I have ever seen. There was a lively beat from the DJ, and people were wandering around the galley, helping themselves to tasty hors d’oeuvres and the open bar (watch out for the New York Mule, a dangerous cocktail that involves vodka, ginger beer and magic, as far as I could tell).
This is the second annual New Era Introducing contest. The artist of the winning cap is awarded $10,000. Marconi Calindas took the honors this year for his cap “A Little Too Late.” An identified LGBT artist from San Francisco, Calindas was inspired by the recent tragedy of Eric James Borges when he came up with the idea for the cap. Don’t let the bright colors fool you – the hat tells a tragic narrative of a victim of bullying driven to suicide. He will be using the prize money to publish a book on the same theme.
I got a chance to speak with Evan Jones, CMO of New Era about New Era Introducing. He loved the and wide range of ideas that had come in, and was obviously enjoying the great vibe at the event. Sporting a plain white New Era cap, he told me, “When you go out, the last thing you put on is your cap. That’s what New Era is all about – finding a way to express yourself, and that’s what these artists have done.”
It’s doubtful that any of these hats will ever get make it onto anyone’s head. I asked around a bunch, and while there were some obvious favorites, there were few people who would think of wearing the pieces of art. I asked fellow hat-appreciator Reggie (sporting an all-black New Era Yankees cap) if he would ever wear one, and he just said, “Nah, man, these hats aren’t for wearing. I’d keep them in my collection.”