The company’s wool flannel sports apparel is made the classic way.
Wouldn’t you think a company named Ebbets Field Flannels would be located in New York? Perhaps in Brooklyn, where the Dodgers played Major League Baseball at historic Ebbets Field?
Well, Ebbets Field Flannels is actually based in Seattle. Let us explain.
The Brooklyn Dodgers moved to California for the 1958 season, and native New Yorker Jerry Cohen never had a chance to see a game with his father at Ebbets Field — he was born the year after the Dodgers moved to Los Angeles.
“I am originally from Brooklyn, and my dad was the Brooklyn Dodger fan in the family,” Cohen said. “I was born the year they were no more for the first time, in 1958, so that has a lot to do with why I named my company Ebbets Field.”
Like the Dodgers, Cohen eventually moved West — to Seattle. Cohen became a struggling rock musician after he realized there was not a demand for a weak-hitting, right-handed first baseman.
While bouncing around in search of musical gigs, he regained his love of baseball. But it was more for the uniforms than the game itself.
“I got fixated on the idea of wearing one of the old wool flannel baseball jerseys,” Cohen said. “I didn’t like the double-knit pullovers they were wearing at the time, so that is what set me on my initial quest to start the company.”
Sports apparel manufacturing began to change in the early 1970s. By 1972, there were no longer any teams wearing the classic, wool flannel uniforms. Coming from a family of longtime New York garment manufacturers, Cohen just could not accept the new fabric of America’s pastime.
So, in 1987 at the age of 29, Cohen started Ebbets Field Flannels, scouring every source he could in search of any remaining old-time wool flannel to manufacture baseball jerseys.
Thirty-two years later, he’s still at it.
Ebbets Field Flannels now employs 20 jersey aficionados at its small manufacturing plant in Seattle, but also has a network of domestic contractors that help produce other products such as a leather-sleeve football jacket, many of them licensed by National Football League teams. Ebbets Field Flannels also has licensing deals with several major colleges and makes throwback jerseys.
But the company does not sell jerseys of today’s MLB teams because Cohen does not have a licensing deal with Major League Baseball. It does sell rare uniform replicas from the Negro League teams, Cuban teams, the Pacific Coast League (which was huge in the first half of the 20th century because there were no MLB teams located in the western United States) and Japanese teams. Cohen also recently launched a line of college wool sweaters.
A baseball jersey costs about $200, while the NFL jackets are hand-made, one-at-a-time with the best materials and can cost as much as $600.
“It is hard doing things domestically because we are slowly losing our skilled labor,” Cohen said. “But everything on our field team – except for T-shirts – is Made in the U.S.A. Jackets, jerseys, knitwear. We have our own knitting machines right here.”
With more than three decades of studying fabric and manufacturing techniques under his belt, Cohen is arguably the pre-eminent authority on wool sports flannel jerseys. After Cohen exhausted his search for the authentic, original wool flannel fabric, he began producing exact jersey replicas using any wool he could find that was similar to the uniforms of yesterday.
“We have the material made,” Cohen said. “Unfortunately, in the U.S.A. there is no more woolen industry that you can speak of, so that has changed like so many other things since we started. But our fabric is totally authentic because we are matching the original fabric.
“That’s what makes us different from our competitors is we really go to great pains to match the fabric. Our competitors just put a logo on a thing and sell it. We actually match the fabric, the construction and the manufacturing techniques.
“My goal is that we have to constantly find things from history that we can replicate and find a market for it, so it’s just not a matter of finding an old uniform picture. Will it sell? What’s the story behind it? Who played on that team? What’s the logo? The history is kind of what we do.”
When Cohen was a child in Brooklyn, he would rush to the local party store and purchase the new set of baseball cards for each season. Most kids would collect or trade the cards, but Cohen was looking at the uniforms to see if there were changes from year to year, especially the colors.
When baseball was initially broadcast on television, the images were all in black and white. It took Cohen a lifetime of research to get the proper colors and minor design changes to make sure the uniform looked authentic. He is still searching old black and white photos today to produce rare, authentic jerseys.
Ebbets Field Flannels is not about selling volume, it is all about quality — and that has meant the company has had some once-in-a-lifetime opportunities.
For example, Ebbets Field Flannels recreated the uniforms featured in “42,” the 2013 film that told the story of Jackie Robinson. On closing day at the old Yankee Stadium, Ebbets provided the authentic, throwback uniforms worn by Yogi Berra and Whitey Ford.
“Our brand is like a cult,” Cohen said. “So, someone sees one of our jerseys or hats and come up and say that’s an Ebbets Field hat and we love that company.
“There may be someone that sells 900 million Yankees hats, but they are all the same. They are similar, and that’s great, I’m not putting it down, but we try to offer something that is a little bit unique and try to be a little more aware of the history, and that’s the kind of person we attract.”
That goal is reflected in one of the mottos echoed at Ebbets Field Flannels headquarters, a quote from legendary Satchel Paige: “You win a few, you lose a few. Some get rained out. But you got to dress for all of them.”
Editor's Note: Blogs like this one are intended to highlight companies that support American jobs and that make great products in the United States. We rely on companies we feature to provide accurate information regarding their domestic operations and their products. Each company is individually responsible for labeling and advertising their products according to applicable standards, such as the Federal Trade Commission's "Made in USA" standard or California's "Made in USA" labeling law. We do not review individual products for compliance or claim that company products comply with specific labeling or advertising standards. Our focus is on supporting companies that create American jobs.