Pretty small turnout for last Saturday’s Uni Watch party (that’s what happens when you schedule something for what turns out to be a gorgeous October afternoon). But if we were short on quantity, we were long on quality. Here’s a rundown of the attendees:
• It was so great to see Scott M.X. Turner back in Brooklyn, even if only temporarily. That logo on his jacket is for his band, RebelMart. He had the jacket custom-made for himself (that’s the kind of thing you can do when you work for Ebbets Field Flannels), with spectacular results — look at the texture on that chain-stitching!
• I really, really enjoyed meeting Walter Helfer, who told me he’s been a Uni Watch reader for about seven years but had never sent an e-mail, posted a comment, or attended an event until this party. It was certainly worth the wait for me, because he brought a ton of great stuff for show-and-tell. That Padres cap he was wearing was purchased way back in 1978 — check out the old New Era logo! And speaking of caps, Walter also brought a bunch of USFL caps (interesting to see that the team names were sewn onto little vertical nameplates). Plus he has a button-maker and showed off a nice selection of his homemade designs (note the Yanks and Habs buttons next to each other — genius). He even had a great T-shirt under his Canucks jersey. I have a feeling we’re going to be hearing a lot more from Walter in the near future.
• Back in the spring, I mentioned that an old NHL scrapbook was being auctioned on eBay. Jake Doyle won that auction (you can take a guided tour of the scrapbook here), and he came all the way from Boston for Saturday’s party. A really great guy who I throughly enjoyed meeting. Although he didn’t wear a jersey, he had a great tattoo of the 1889 bare-knuckle championship bout between John Sullivan and Jake Kilrain (“They didn’t actually have mustaches for that fight, but I took a bit of ahhhtistic license there,” Jake explained to me). Jake brought a few friends with him, one of whom had an even better tattoo.
• Here we have Pete(r) Bonavita and Ella Moran. Ella explained to me that she was wearing that Coney Island shirt because she has a thing for octopi. This led to a lengthy discussion about what a uniform for a team called the Octopi might look like (I suggested that the team’s dark alternate jersey color could be called “ink”). As for Pete’s Belfast Giants sweater, it’s from a UK hockey league. I especially liked the spokescharacter’s knobby elbows. The little tuft of elbow skin on his left arm looks a little like the little tied-off nub at the end of a natural-casing wiener.
• This is Morgan Doninger. He told me he got a Neil Broten jersey because he always said he’d buy a jersey for whoever scored the Devils’ first Cup-winning goal.
• Many Jets fans I know hate the team’s Titans throwbacks, but not Jay Braiman. His sartorial style raises the question of whether it’s ever acceptable to wear a jersey tucked in. They’re designed to be tucked, of course — that’s how the players wear them. But fans almost never do. Discuss.
• No jersey for Marc Rivlin. His arm was in a sling because he’d recently had labrum surgery, just like the pros. Here’s hoping you get your fastball back soon, Marc.
Cool people with cool stuff: The City Reliquary’s Collectors’ Night, which took place on Monday evening, was a big success. That’s my friend Liz Clayton holding the Ohio State flag, which she used to help showcase her collection of Ohio Turnpike memorabilia (additional crummy photos here and here, but none of those images even hint at how great her collection is).
Other collections on display included stringed instruments (as you can see at right, the girl who collected them also had assorted instruments depicted on her dress); books with one-word titles; ashtrays; giant pencils (unfortunately I didn’t include anything for scale, but believe me when I say those pencils were huge); lobster-themed stuff (the collector gal wore lobster-trimmed shorts and served lobster-shaped cookies [I know, eww, but they tasted fine]); volvelles (those are Kirsten’s, natch); neckties (that’s less than half of what the guy had on display); shopping bags (ditto); assorted metal thingies; mousetraps; postcards of European hotels; dipsticks; and dust from art museums (my favorite conceptual collection of the night).
As for me, I played show-and-tell with my small collection of 1950s tap knobs (yes, that’s a piece of a bowling lane that they’re perched on), a framed assortment of clothing tags (as you may recall, I wrote about these a few months back), and, of course, my collection of recipe booklets with the word “Meat” in the title, all of which garnered nice feedback. My thanks to all who turned out.
Can we postpone the lockout to 2012?: As you’ve probably heard by now, Nike will take over the NFL’s uni contract after the end of next season. For those who’d like to beat the rush and start slitting your wrists now, this story has an ominous quote from a Swooshkateer exec: “We plan on changing the NFL jersey dramatically just like we’ve done with the college programs, using new thinking and the greatest technology available.” It’s unclear whether those changes will involve fabrication/tailoring or graphics — I’m guessing some of both.
But that doesn’t necessarily have to be a bad thing. I certainly won’t be shedding any tears for Reebok, which has overseen a fairly wretched period in NFL uni design. I don’t know how much input they had into the current designs being worn by the Cardinals, Vikings, Jaguars, or Falcons, but I doubt they were just passive bystanders in the design process. Think of it this way: How many NFL teams have improved their look on Reebok’s watch? (And here’s a sobering thought: The Bengals have actually gotten worse.)
It’s also worth remembering that Nike had an NFL contract as recently as a decade ago (although it was only for selected teams, not the entire league) and most of their teams looked just fine. For those teams, Nike was just a vendor supplying a product according to long-established specs. Yes, Nike also ruined the Broncos, but that’s only because the Broncos allowed it. NFL teams aren’t like college programs that will take their marching orders from Nike just to impress recruits. They’re mega-corporations that, for the most part, look at the long haul, the big picture, not short-term trends or flavors of the month. Case in point: Not a single NFL team revised its home or road uniforms this season.
Still, some teams are more willing to tinker than others, and Nike will no doubt encourage them to do so. But the NFL’s longstanding rules regarding alternate uniforms (only one alt or throwback design per season, only two alt-clad games per season, only one new alt design every five years, etc.) are, well, not very Nike-friendly. Is the NFL planning to revise those rules when the Nike contract kicks in? I’ve made some inquiries on that but haven’t gotten a response yet. Frankly, I’ll be surprised if I get one.
Do I trust Nike? Not even a little bit. But the responsibility for safeguarding a team’s aesthetic dignity ultimately lies with the team itself. Think of Nike as a virus looking for weak organisms to infect and inhabit. Strong teams will resist the virus; weak ones will succomb. Too bad there’s no vaccine.
(Special thanks to Phil for the swooshified NFL logo.)
Uni Watch News Ticker: More throwbacks in the AHL, this time being worn by the Lake Erie Monsters and the Syracuse Crunch. The Monsters were dressed as the Cleveland Barons — the original minor league franchise, not the NHL version (with thanks to Patrick Mackin. … Looks like the Blackshear (Georgia) Tigers were taking their cues from Marquette back in the late 1970s (with thanks to Joshua Robertson). … Tons of great old neon signs in this slideshow. I’m particularly fond of slide Nos. 1 and 19 (big thanks to Andy Moeschberger). … Someone on eBay is selling a ton of old MLB media guides. Some of the cover designs are priceless (big thanks to Jim Wilk). … Michael Rich notes that the Giants and Braves both used a different uni combo for each game of their playoff series. Game by game, beginning with the Braves: road grays, navy alts, red alts, home whites. Giants: home whites, orange alts, road grays with two-tone cap, road grays with primary cap. … A Day Too Late Dept.: The Rays are now selling BRaysers. … At state fairs in the Midwest, they have cows sculpted out of butter. But at the Texas State Fairs, the butter sculptures depict football players (with thanks to Sean Patton). … More on the Gap’s abortive new logo here (with thanks to Tom Mulgrew). … “When I visited my mom in Iowa last month, she gave me a set of 30 postcards featuring the 1979 Minnesota Twins she’d found at a thrift store in Cedar Rapids,” writes R. Scott Rogers. “Some interesting photos, and quite a relic of the era.” … Adidas is having trouble supplying two Raptors with sneakers (thanks, Brinke). … If you wear a size Medium, you could do a lot worse than to get yourself one of these T-shirts. I just got one, and it’s a really nice product — good fabric, heavy-duty stitching, and the price is right. … Whoa, look at the socks that were worn back in the day by USFL zerbras (great find by Chris Markham). … What have we here? That’s Elmer Lach of the 1947-48 Canadiens with the faceguard that the NHL wouldn’t allow him to wear (with thanks to Casey B). … Check out the padding on the fingers of Carlos Pena’s batting gloves. Is that a new thing or had I just never noticed it before? … Nick Hanson notes that Brian Wilson has his uni number written on the side of his cleats. … Here’s another view of Mr. Pink Sox. … We’ve talked about putting stripes on football undershirts. What about putting them on exposed shoulder pads? Those images are from a video game called Backbreaker. “All the players wear this really weird uniform set that looks like some sort of stiff, armor-like jersey worn over shoulder pads, are exposed and have stripes on them,” explains Jimmy Neilly. Sounds ridiculous — until you see something like this. … The Toledo Walleye have a unique red line design. Here’s a closer look. Further details in Teebz‘s blog. … Latest school to succumb to BFBS: Memphis. … Jonathan Cain notes that the lettering on the Bulls’ chest insignia appears to have been tweaked. It’s not as vertically extended as it used to be. This is one of many issues I’ll be asking about when I make my annual preseason visit to the NBA offices next week.
Ready for my close-up: I’ll be spending part of today in Manhattan. First stop: a visit to the dentist. Then, assuming my mouth isn’t shot full of novocaine, I’ll be sitting down for an interview with the folks from NFL Films, who are shooting a segment about the disturbing trend of exposed torso flesh (man, is the uniform beat glamourous or what?). Play nice while I’m out, yes? Yes.