Back in April I ran an interview with reader Karen Hibbitt. At one point she asked me, “What’s the etiquette for [fans] wearing jerseys?” and then offered her own thoughts on the subject before I could respond.
As someone immediately pointed out in the comments that day, I never did address the issue myself. True enough. I was happy to let Karen answer her own question, because I don’t have strong feelings on the matter. Fact is, I don’t much care what fans wear, what fans buy, or any of that, mainly because I’m not a jersey collector myself.
This came up again a few weeks ago, when Brinke Guthrie — a longtime reader whose name is probably familiar to many of you from his frequent Ticker contributions — sent me an e-mail asking, “Which would you get: no number on back or choose a number (can’t say I have a favorite player)? Which is cooler to wear?” He seemed mildly stunned when I told him I had no opinion on the matter because I don’t own any current or contemporary jerseys.
And why is that, anyway? People always expect me to have a huge jersey collection, which I agree seems like a reasonable supposition (especially since I collect lots of other things — always have). These interactions with Karen and Brinke got me thinking about this, so I started asking myself why I write about uniforms but have never gotten into collecting them. Here are the answers I found:
• I’m not a big fella — 5’8″, 150 lbs. — and I like my clothing to be fairly close-fitting. In numbered sizes, I wear a 38; for unnumbered, a small or a medium. Most of today’s authentic and replica jerseys are waaaaaay too big for me.
• Even if I could get custom-fitted jerseys, all of today’s jerseys are polyester, and I hate synthetic fabrics. (I’ve often joked that
if I ever became a pro ballplayer when I become a pro ballplayer, I’ll have to fake a skin allergy to polyester and insist on a flannel uniform.)
• When I was growing up, the licensed apparel market didn’t exist yet — people couldn’t buy jerseys even if they wanted to. So I never got in the habit.
• Aside from socks, underwear, footwear, and the occasional T-shirt, almost all my clothing is vintage. While I’ll occasionally spend more than $100 on something, that’s pretty rare — most of my shirts, sweaters, jeans, jackets, etc. cost me somewhere in the $15-$75 range. So the idea of spending $230, $245, or more on a shirt just doesn’t compute for me. I realize a jersey is much more than just “a shirt” for many people, and I’ve certainly spent much more than $250 on things that other people would consider frivolous, so I’m not passing judgment on anyone else’s expenditures. I’m just saying merchandised jerseys don’t push my buttons in that particular way.
• One reason I like vintage clothing is that it has a sense of history. I am, at heart, a storyteller, and each used garment is a story. Who wore this before? Where was it first purchased? How did it end up here? How does it reflect the style of its era? So the handful of jerseys I do own are mostly old flannel models from decades past. They appeal to me on a vintage-clothing level as well as a uniform level (plus they’re made of natural fibers, they’re small enough to fit me, etc.). I have about half a dozen of these — all from high school teams, factory teams, and so on — and they’re much more exciting to me than a current Mets jersey could ever be. Frankly, I’ve never much understood the appeal of collecting things that are new (except maybe baseball cards when I was a kid); I’ve always preferred collecting things that are old. That’s why throwback jerseys, like the ones made by Mitchell & Ness or Ebbets Field Flannels, don’t appeal to me either (plus there’s still the sizing problem, the price problem, etc.). I’d even take my vintage obscurities over, say, a game-used Ed Kranepool jersey from 1969, because I already know where that’s been — there’s no mystery about it, no untold story.
• I don’t like what merchandising has done to uniforms. Jersey sales have become the revenue tail that wags the on-field dog, and I prefer not to participate in that system, which I think has been very bad for uni design.
And so on. When I came up with the concept for Uni Watch, it never even occurred to me that people would be interested in what fans wear — the idea, for me, had always been to
examine obsess over what the players wear. And that’s still the idea, at least from my perspective. Of course, there are other folks who feel differently, and that’s fine.
Anyway, while I don’t much care about fans wearing jerseys, I know many of you do. So today I’m gonna step back and let you discuss that topic in the comments — knock yourselves out.
Uni Watch News Ticker: Ben Curtis wore Giants gear at the Barclays the other day (thanks, Vince). … The Canadiens have unveiled their 100th-anniversary logo. … Division I-AA Delaware has new uniforms. … Jim Tressel’s sweater vest is being merchandised in some interesting ways. … If you go to this page, you’ll find an interview with Nats prexy Stan Kasten. Search on the word “uniform” to get his take on upcoming “tweaks” to the team’s uniform set (with thanks to Mark Wolven). … According to this small item, there’s a “great debate” about the color of Arizona State’s road pants (with thanks to Alex Benezra). … More ASU news from Alex: There’s a 50th-anniversary logo for Sun Devil Stadium and for ASU itself (it was a teacher’s college prior to 1958), but it will not be worn on the team’s jerseys. … Oglethorpe University, a D-3 school in Atlanta, recently posted a bunch of archival photos, and there are some real doozies in there. See, for example, this, or this, or this (logo and uni number combined!). You can search by sport within the archives here and here (big thanks to Oglethorpe alum Austin Gillis). … Got a note yesterday from John Hartman, with the subject line “A father’s dream crushed.” It read as follows: “It’s always been my dream to see my twin sons play football — until I saw the uniforms they have to wear (thankfully, their coach told them they could switch the purple socks for black). Sorry for the Nike socks, but their mom bought them, not me! Also notice the Rawlings logo creep on the upper front of the jersey. Sheesh.” Note that the Hartman twins have first initials on their NOBs. … I’m not gonna bid on these, but I hope one of you will. … Interesting piece here on Mets outfielder Nick Evans’s sunglasses. Interestingly, it says minor leaguers in the Mets system aren’t allowed to wear Oakleys, although it doesn’t explain why. … The Blue Jackets will be wearing a memorial patch in honor of team founder John H. McConnell this season. Details here (with thanks to Matt Lesser). … Jason Kidd is leaving Nike (with thanks to Chris Littmann). … Alex Shuman was recently in Europe, where he saw this 1966 sculpture at the Museum of Modern Art in Vienna. In a more disturbing discovery, he also visited the Dachau concentration camp and photographed this chart of the patches that “undesirables” were required to wear. … The Pedro porthole was back in effect last night, plus it apparently spread to Aaron Heilman. … Latest MLBer to be wearing those incredibly annoying Phiten socks: Nick Swisher (as pointed out by Steve Johnston). … Yesterday I passed along some rumors regarding possible uni changes next year for the Texas Rangers. Now another source — one who’s passed along solid Rangers-related info in the past — has confirmed those rumors. “I’m not privy to final designs but I do know a red alternate jersey is in the works,” he says. “We’re going to scrap both sleeveless jerseys, and a new cap is in the works — most likely going back to a red T (the design remains the same) with a red bill. Apparently [marketing VP] Dale Petroskey is one of the main men working on this, especially re-branding the jerseys as ‘Texas’ rather than ‘Rangers.’ The team is trying to go back to more red, as many fans want, but they’re not going back completely to red because it would be too similar to the Angels.” … The mighty Fleer Sticker Project site has just posted an entry devoted to the 1985 Fleer Baseball Sticker set, which is unique because, as editor JC Helf explains, “it was the only time Fleer included stickers of each team’s jersey.” Full details here. … Reprinted from last night’s comments: The CFL is having a retro week promotion.