Coca Cola, McDonalds, Mercedes Benz, Michael Jordan, Apple. What do all these names have in common besides being the international category leaders in their own right? The answer is brand identity. A commodity only a few companies have beyond the borders of their home markets. Becoming a household name across the continents is no easy task, especially when the goal is to create an image that resonates with all cultures, nationalities and creeds. McDonalds has the Golden Arches — an instantly recognizable symbol that is a reccuring sight alongside freeways and highways in most developed countries of the world. Hell, even the underdeveloped ones might not have expressways, but they for damn sure got Big Macs. Michael Jordan’s Jumpman, Coca Cola’s font and the Mercedes Benz Star are all flawlessly interpreted and understood without explanation. In the world of sports, there has never been a franchise with equally as much of a single dominant brand as much as the New York Yankees.
But how did the Yankees logo become the most recognizable piece of sports apparel in the world? Regardless of what city you claim as your home, you literally are in driving distance of a store that sells New York Yankees merchandise. Just like McDonalds, hundreds of countries across the globe offer some kind of product bearing a Yankee logo. At the top of the list, the Bronx Bombers’ fitted hat can be found sported by Yankee die-hards and people who have no clue that the famous interlocking NY is associated with anything else other than the City That Never Sleeps, let alone a baseball team. Thus, spotting Yankee head gear in unusual places has become commonplace.
Interestingly enough, the logo wasn’t intially a Yankee trademark and wasn’t inteded to be so until several years after it has been designed. As a matter of fact, the logo predates its sport affiliation to before the pin-striped wearing sluggers even existed; back when Louis Comfort Tiffany, the son of the founder of Tiffany & Co. designed the N over the Y as part of a Medal of Valor for John McDowell, an NYPD officer who was shot in the line of duty in 1877. Even to this day, we see the occasional Yankee hats with PD & FD on either side of the logo in honor of New York’s Police & Fire Departments. It wasn’t until the New York Highlanders, the Yankees predecessors, began sporting the logo in 1909, and by 1922 adopting the current name and insignia as we now know it to be the official design of the New York Yankees cap.
However, all of this history doesn’t explain why the NY on people’s heads brings so much cultural history with it. No slight to Tiffany & Co., even though they’ve carved out a pretty large niche for themselves in the jewelry game, they are in no shape or form the sole contributors to the pop-culture item that is the Yank-fitted. Certainly, wanting to be associated with the winningest team in the history of sports plays a major role and counts as another major influence. For over a century, the Yankees have been raking in World Series Championships and have been signing the best talent in baseball. So if at one point…any point in your baseball fandom, you’ve appreciated a player or a team, you can bet your bottom dollar that they can be linked either directly or indirectly to the Bronx Bombers.
From the days of Frank Sinatra, at the start of modern day pop culture, we’ve been groomed to believe that New York is the greatest city ever…point blank period. Whether it is or isn’t is obviously up for debate, but what remains a statistical fact, is that when tourists come to visit the States, they do so by visiting The City That Never Sleeps before any other metropolitan area. With that international attention comes an east coast
biased dominated press circuit that helps the NY solidify itself as a logo not necessarily linked to the Yankees exclusively, but one that is synonymous with the city and its culture.
Even on the left coast of the country the Yankees insignia gets major play. NY-born and bred actors such as Denzel Washington and
Turtle from Entourage Jerry Ferrara proudly don the Empire State’s heritage piece in homage to their hometown. Once on the big screen and integrated in cultural classic works of film like “Indiana Jones and Temple of Doom” — remember that kid wearing a NY Yankees hat during his high speed car chase? — you get kid movie-goers, now turned adults passing the torch from when the movie first came out in 1984 to their kids by introducing the recent sequels to a whole new range of audience to the NY for a lasting effect. Is this a snowball effect…? Domino effect, there it is! In either case, we now have Hollywood socialites wearing the Yankees brand and subsequently a large following of people who have no connection to America’s favorite pastime exposed to an ever growing name. Thanks, Kim K!
Of course, we love our entertainment and the celebrities that entertain us, but just like Tiffany & Co., they can’t take all of the credit for popularizing the NY. In corporate business, marketing & advertising to be exact, the single most important thing you will want for your company is brand continuity and since the design history of the world’s most recognizable sports logo dates back nearly 150 years, the Yankees have successfully cultivated a logo that has remained unchanged for over 100 years. The significance is that these 100 years of white & navy bring an instant loyalty with them, as the hat and logo, which has been some people’s grandfather’s and great-grandfather’s choice baseball attire is essentialy the exact same as yours. For those of us who reside in other countries, the New York Yankees and their logo has a similar meaning — the symbol of baseball and a staple of American culture.
It was exactly this American culture that was emphasized by Nelson Mandela, manifested through the NY, when the South African president made an appearance 25 years ago at Yankee Stadium as the anti-apartheid revolutionary campaigning to end the racist system in his home country. Of course, the cultural impact of the logo submerged when Mandela proclaimed to be a Yankee whilst wearing his on-field head gear proudly. But the magnitude that the South African people recognize this logo because of this particular event far surpasses the reach of the Yankees as a baseball team.
Fast forward to one Shawn Carter aka Jay-Z. From his cuban link wearing days to his button-up shirt movement and the All-Black-Everything phase, Jigga has had as many fashion styles as he has bars. But through the variety of all his looks, his biggest fashion moniker has been the Yankee fitted. The Jordan of Rap is in a class of his own in more ways than one, as he undoubtedly has associated himself with the Yankees more than any other rapper to date.
To further prove the greatness of the Yankees logo, the pop culture power that it holds and Jay-Z’s affinity for it, here are some of Hova’s most memorable lines dedicated not to the Yankees (God, knows he has plenty of those as well), but to the Yankee fitted hat itself!
1999, Do It Again (Put Ya Hands Up): “Hat cocked/ can’t see his eyes/ who could it be? With that new blue Yankee on, who but me?
2009, Empire State of Mind: “New York, New York / (I made you hot, nxgga) / Catch me at the X with OG at a Yankee game / Shit, I made the Yankee hat more famous than a Yankee can”
2008, Swagger Like Us: “School of hard knocks, I’m a grad/ and that all blue Yankee is my graduation cap“
2008, Put On Remix: “I put on for my city/so when I’m dead and gone/ I got one last wish/put my Yankee hat on.”