The Spike LEE 1996 Collection

in depth

Right after the weekend of Spike Lee’s 25th Anniversary Block Party for ‘Do The Right Thing’, we had the chance to chat with Spike Lee and New Era’s CEO Chris Koch. 
In anticipation of New Era’s ‘SPIKE LEE 1996 COLLECTION’, we were able to preview and ask more in detail about the event, that changed New Era’s cap culture forever. The collection is launched in Europe today.

Spike, you’ve mentioned that sneaker culture sped up a lot. Now, there’s always new stuff on the market, and people are willing to pay a lot for it.  Why do you think it has evolved that much in the past decades? Would you say you’ve influenced that a little bit?

Spike: I’ve had a little bit of play but I just think it’s evolution - the world doesn’t stand still, fashion doesn’t stand still and people wanna wear new stuff, but at the same time they wanna go back and wear stuff that they saw as a kid - stuff that happened before they were born that they’ve seen on DVD or something. The Internet has made everything wide open. Now, everybody has access to everything … and if you have a credit card you can buy what you see!

Is this what you’re trying to do with this collection? Are you trying to bring back the 90’s trend?

Chris: Well, We launched the 1934 series recently, so it just felt like the right time. Since we’re talking about heritage, we had to commemorate what changed everything for us, and what makes us the company that we are today. In 93, we did our first deal with Major League Baseball, and in 95 we did the whole re-branding of the company, and in 96 Spike called… So yeah… It’s been 20 years now… so it was the right time to do it.  

And was 1996 the beginning of your business relationship? 

Spike: No, I had a store called “Spike’s Joint” where we sold hats that they customized, and every time we made a movie they made hats too. So, yeah… we had a business relationship before 96.

Let’s go back to the red cap. Why red? Is there another reason beside the scarlet jacket?

Spike: That was it.
Chris: I remember Spike calling me after we made the other colors… He said to me: “Thank you, I appreciate, but I only wanted a red one, and I’m not wearing the other ones”

And now… Would you rock a blue or white cap, Spike?

Spike: Well, I’ll tell you this: Yesterday, the United States fought gallantly in the World Cup… So the day before, I went to the New Era store and bought the ‘Fourth of July’ Yankees cap - and I put it on Instagram too - and people said, ‘where can I get that hat?’ .
Chris: Spike inlfuences people. If he puts a cap on, people will want to wear it, and that’s an awesome thing for New Era.

Were either of you aware of what could possibly happen after the event of '96 ?

Spike: I’m not gonna lie, I had no idea. I just wanted a red hat. I didn’t see that one coming.

Did you ever thought that it could possibily turned out differently ? Like… a backlash from New Yorkers ? 

Spike: They won the world series ! Maybe if they had lost, they would’ve blamed it on me... “That hat Spike wore… That’s why they lost!”.  But they won!

Spike, Why New Era?

Spike: Who else? We want the official, we want the authentic. We want the hat that Jeter was wearing. Jeter… Tino.. Martinez.. All the guys.
Chris: Our heritage is all-real. I mean, 94 years of being the real deal. A lot of guys make up heritage. We were on the field before there was even licensing. Before there was any of that stuff. People have been wearing our product since the ‘30s, it’s all authentic and it’s all part of our heritage. So it’s nice when people like Spike recognize that because it’s not something we made up, it’s all there. I mean, go to Cooperstown, go to the Hall of Fame and you can see it all.
Spike: And… we all know that the world is looking at America for culture… Maybe not so much now as it did in the past… but it’s still looking at it. I’ve always known that wherever you are in the world, you want something that’s American… And you can’t get more American than a baseball cap… and when you put the ‘NY’ on it… I mean, people who never even heard of baseball will like it.

Is it odd for you seeing the UK buying stuff from the american culture.. Even if they don’t support the team?

Spike: I mean, where does rock ‘n’ roll come from? It’s nothing new, American culture influences the world. It’s normal for a kid in Brixton to wear a Yankees hat. American culture inspired The Beatles.

Talking about cultural references, are there any plans to do a Malcolm X collaboration?

Spike: Maybe for the 25th anniversary of the film.
Chris: 2017, right?
Spike: Yeah, 2017. Write that down, please!

The group interview was shared with the fine people from Slam X Hype and The Daily Street.
Buy the 1996 collection at select European retailers such as OverkillThe Upper Club, SelfridgesColetteThe Good Will Out, size?Corso ComoCaliroots or at the New Era stores.