Ebbets Field Flannels Throws It Way Back
With 30 years of studying materials and manufacturing techniques, Ebbets Field Flannels co-founder and owner Jerry Cohen has more than a working knowledge about baseball wool from 1900 to 1970. And this isn’t just any sort of wool.
“We have to have it specially made,” he said. “You can’t just call the wool store and buy it.”
Thirty years ago, Ebbets Field Flannels started making historically accurate vintage athletic apparel, primarily baseball related. It wasn’t about simply putting a throwback logo on a contemporary hat or jersey, but actually making the garment or hat in the way it was made in the era.
Cohen grew up in Brooklyn, near where Ebbets Field stood. In 1988, his search for an original wool uniform using baseball flannel from the 1940s led him to a warehouse that contained a bolt of rare fabric. He had a few shirts made for himself and people started taking notice, leading to the creation of Ebbets Field Flannels.
Since then, his reach has only grown, focusing largely on baseball and lost teams or leagues. His precise research and customizing has positioned him as a foremost expert on true old-school authenticity, allowing him to create uniforms for everything from hit movies—“42” to “The Catcher Was a Spy”—or turn back the clock games.
The process starts with research, which can prove tricky without the originals. Sometimes, only a single black-and-white picture can be found.
“When we started, nobody was doing it and the teams we did nobody offered,” he said. “We were the first to tell the story of the Negro Leagues. I’m quite proud of that. We had to make people aware of what the history was behind what we were doing, so about 50 percent of what we were doing was actually educating the public.”
While it simply isn’t feasible to stock every color of every type of wool over 70 years, Ebbets has a mixture. The most popular, though, is what Cohen calls the Mickey Mantle-era flannel from the 1950s and 1960s, a more wearable and lighter wool. It drapes well, remains fairly lightweight and breathable and can handle the gentle cycle on a washing machine. Every garment or hat gets handmade at the Seattle-area headquarters.
“We have our own small facility where we do all the sewn lettering and design,” Cohen said. “We have fabric right in the warehouse. It hasn’t changed in approach, just in scale.”
No matter what, Ebbets always follows the original.
“The devil is in the details, and what sets us apart is our knowledge of those details,” Cohen said.
Over the years, the demographic has ebbed and flowed. The first Ebbets Field Flannels ads placed were in Baseball America in 1989, a kick-start to the mail-order business. And with the rise of the maker culture and a younger generation interested in American-made craftsmanship, Ebbets Field Flannels has started to recently see its demographic skew younger, filling a “demand for something that wasn’t perceived as a mass-produced licensed product.”
Tim Newcomb covers gear and business for Baseball America. Follow him on Twitter at @tdnewcomb.