On Friday, I linked to the vintage jersey tag shown at right. That prompted the following recollections from Rochester sporting goods magnate Terry Proctor:
Back in the day, local dealers would often have their own garment labels made up. They would then send these to the various manufacturers for installation in the garments. Some companies, like Powers Mfg. Co., Russell Southern (Athletic), and Southland Athletic, would only include the dealer’s label in the finished product if requested. Others, like MacGregor, Spanjian (DeLong), SandKnit, Rawlings, and General Athletic, would sew in the dealer’s label but also make sure that their own label appeared in the garment as well.
SandKnit probably had the fanciest embroidered labels of all. A typical SandKnit label for our shop would read, “Custom-Crafted by Medalist SandKnit for Ruby’s Sporting Goods, Rochester, NY.” For the NBA or NFL teams that SandKnit outfitted, they would say something like, “Custom-Crafted by Medalist SandKnit for the Boston Celtics of the National Basketball Association” (or whatever the appropriate team was).
At Ruby’s, we purchased our silk labels with swiss-embroidered lettering from a company named Buffalo Woven Label Works (located in New York City, not Buffalo). They were white with red lettering. Looked really classy on the garment. We’d get the labels on 144-piece rolls and then ship them to our various manufacturers. The practice had started to fade by the early 1980s. At the end, we were using small embossed plastic labels on our garments — a big downgrade from the glory days.
Tags and labels are an area I’ve rarely explored here, mainly because I’ve largely viewed tagging as the province of game-used jersey collectors who study tags to assess authenticity (a world that doesn’t particularly interest me). Bill Henderson’s essential jersey guide, for example, includes loads of info on tagging.
Those tags are all nice enough, but I prefer the more creative ones like the one pictured at the top of the page. As that example shows, and Terry’s note reinforces, jersey tags can also be nifty little works of art, full of fun typography and logos (additional examples here, here, here, here, here, here, here, and here). They also serve as historical records — sometimes the only records — of now-defunct sporting goods outlets that have been displaced by malls and big-box chains like the Sports Authority (additional examples although this one is still with us).
The sport with the best shirt tags, though, is one I almost never write about, even though I’m active participant: bowling. Vintage bowling shirts tend to have beautiful little labels that are particularly impressive when you consider how small they are. (Those last two links, incidentally, were scanned from this book, which I heartily recommend.)
Getting back to Terry’s note for a sec, I was intrigued to read that his shop got its labels on 144-piece rolls. One of my more cherished collectibles is an old box of clothing name tags, which came in 144-label lots (for a nifty price, too). It’s not uni-related, but it’s an interesting little tagging kit. This particular box was for people named Frances — you could go with the full name or just the first initial (Caitlin’s paw added for scale). The tags were meant to be glued on, not sewn — hence the glue’s “No-So” name (here’s the back of the tube). Nice, right? Right.
One final note from Terry: He’s wondering if anyone has any garments with his old Ruby’s Sporting Goods labels. Anybody..?
This ’n’ That: A bunch of membership kits went out in yesterday’s mail (including Jonathan Conti‘s Boston College card, shown at right). Sorry about the delay that some of you have had to endure — the membership production team has had some extraordinary circumstances to deal with over the past few weeks.
Meanwhile: Next Thursday, July 10th, is the date of the Don Larsen perfect game screening at BB King’s. If there’s sufficient interest among NYC readers, we can convene a gathering that evening (at 8:30ish, say) at Jimmy’s Corner on West 44th. If this appeals, send me a note.
And I’m going to be doing another reading at KGB. The date is July 22nd, the theme is “Design and Sports,” and my topic will be the cultural history of the baseball cap. Other readers will include Pentagram’s Michael Beirut (talking about how stadium design relies too much on nostalgia, although I hope I can convince him to talk a bit about some of the branding work he’s done for the N.Y. Jets), Metropolis editor Jennifer Kabat (who’ll be assessing Nike’s new uniforms for the Chinese Olympic team), and design critic Phil Patton (looking at the odd connections between celebrity athletic footwear and car design). Festivities will commence at 7pm, and it’s free.
Uni Watch News Ticker: Blue Jays wore the “Welcome Back
Kotter Veterans” caps last night, presumably in honor of Canada Day. … Major find in yesterday’s comments: We all know that many National League teams wore pillbox-style caps in 1976, but I didn’t recall that the umpires wore them too. … The Royals recently gave away an Alex Gordon bobblehead. Naturally, it shows him wearing his current uni number, which is 4. But the box has photos showing him wearing No. 7, which is what he wore last year (with thanks to Jim Michaels). … Someone who didn’t give his/her name reports that Troy Glaus was wearing a regular infielder’s glove while playing first base during last week’s Cards/Tigers series. I haven’t been able to find a decent view of this. Anyone know more about this..? … More on the Evansville capes, courtesy of alum Ryan Priest: “From what I understand, the team wore boxing robes, not capes. Coach Arad McCutchan believed that robes were more beneficial on the bench because by the time it took a substitute to get his warm-up pants off and checked into the game, he may have already missed a play. So, the robe was easier to remove.” He’s provided text documentation here, here, and here, and he’s working on getting some us some photos. … Pedro Porthole sighting from last night: Robinson Tejada (good spot by Brian Hansen). … Shorpy scores again — and in color! Biggest flag-to-sleeve ratio ever? (With thanks to Mark Kluczynski.) … This is a pretty cool representation of past winners of the UEFA European Champioship soccer tournament,” writes a reader who prefers to remain anonymous. “The winning players are depicted as painted portraits. Each year’s is done in a different style with a different theme (such as 1960, when the Russians are depicted as astronauts and 2004 when the Greeks are depicted the sculptures in progress). You can get a glimpse at what some of the uniforms looked like and how they changed over the years (see the Germans from 1972 to 1980 to 1996). There’s also this other history site, which shows the logo for the tournament, which stayed pretty much the same style from 1960 through 1996 (save for ’80) when the striping above the text changed depending on the host country. Neat little tidbits.” … Nice little cycling observation by Mike Williams, who writes: “I was able to attend the Tour of Pennsylvania’s final two stages in Pittsburgh last Saturday and Sunday, and the design of the tour’s award jerseys struck my fancy. What I thought was a standard watermark/polka dot motif turned out upon further inspection to be a sort of checkerboard made up of keystones — a nice touch.” … Latest victim of the Cubs’ helmet appliqué and its tendency to fall off: Eric Patterson, last night. … Great photo here of a Sioux baseball team, circa 1910 (with thanks to Tom Flynn). … See that little black speck next to the Man U logo on the shorts? Brandon Tarpey says it’s a trademark symbol, plus he says there’s another one next to the logo on the jersey.