As you may recall, last Friday I engaged in a lengthy examination of Hank Aaron’s 1974 footwear. A few hours after I posted that piece, I got the following note from my fellow Brooklynite Jeffrey Fedenko:
Paul: Just to throw a wrench into the Aaron cleat discussion, I’m not sure the cleats Aaron was wearing [when hitting No. 715] were Adidas. Wilson had a three-striped shoe in the early to mid-’70s that was almost identical to what Adidas made. It is in the football catalogs I have at home — I will scan and forward them to you later today.
Faaaaascinating. Later that day, as promised, Jeff delivered the goods: These two pages are from Wilson’s 1974 catalog, and this one is from 1967 — “the earliest example I’ve seen of Wilson using the three stripes,” says Jeff.
First things first: I think Aaron was wearing Adidas, not Wilson. His uniform and spikes from No. 715 are on display at Cooperstown. As you can see, there’s a white panel around the Achilles area — a panel that was not used on Wilson’s triple-striped cleats. So that settles that.
But this raises a larger, more interesting question: What are the implications of Adidas using three stripes as their brand identifier? Or to put it another way, can a common design flourish really function as a logo?
Let’s start with this: Every year during football season, I always get a few queries from readers who say, “You always gripe about logo creep, but how come you never say anything about Adidas designing triple-striped socks for the Patriots’ road uniform in 2000? And shouldn’t they have gotten rid of those socks once Reebok took over the NFL’s uniform contract?”
My response to this is always the same: Sometimes three stripes are just three stripes. Yeah, it’s annoying when they gratuitously slap the stripes on something like an NBA All-Star uni. But three stripes don’t always have to signify branding, even if they’re part of an Adidas-made uniform. That’s especially true for socks — I mean, shit, I’ve been wearing triple-striped tube socks since I was a kid (and I’m not the only one), and I don’t think any of them have ever been made by Adidas. To me, those stripes are just a classic hosiery design flourish, not a proprietary brand signifier.
I’ve even had people try to tell me that there’s something Adidas-related in this triple-striped 49ers sleeve design, which is patently ridiculous because (a) the Niners began wearing that design in 1996, when their uniforms were made by Reebok, and (b) the Niners already had a tradition of triple-striped sleeves that stretched back for generations.
The fact of the matter is that triple-striping has a long history in a wide variety of contexts, from commodore’s jackets to varsity sweaters. And I think that captures both the genius and the limitation of Adidas’s three stripes. On the one hand, it has a classic look and is more of a design element than a logo, so you can put it anywhere and it doesn’t have to feel like you’re engaging in logo creep. On the other hand, it’s such a classic, ubiquitous design feature that it doesn’t feel very brand-y (especially not for those of us who grew up in the era when stripes were just stripes), which may explain why Adidas has sometimes had problems when filing trademark-infringement suits.
All of which brings us back to those triple-striped Wilson shoes. Now, according to Wikipedia (I know, I know, but they cite two published sources), Adidas bought the three-stripe design from a Finnish company called Karhu Sports way back in 1951. But based on those catalog scans that Jeff Fedenko provided, Wilson was making triple-striped cleats from at least 1967 through 1974. So Adidas obviously hadn’t yet “owned” the three-stripe design by that point. I mean, it’s not like Wilson would have wanted to sell a shoe that could be mistaken for a competitor’s product, so the thinking at the time must have been “Stripes = cool” — not “Stripes = Adidas.”
Today, though, we definitely equate the stripes with Adidas, at least on footwear. When did that transition of perception take place? And what do you all think of the stripes as a branding signifier? I think there’s a really interesting discussion to be had here — let’s have it.
Blue Jay Way, continued: Here are some more Blue Jays prototypes, or salesman samples, or something. Clearly not “game-used,” no matter what the auction house says, but interesting nonetheless.
That link came from Blue Jays uni scholar Rudy Visokay, who runs this site. He’s asked if the Uni Watch community can help him with a research question whose answer has so far eluded him. I’ll let him explain: Did the Jays’ 1981 home jerseys have NOBs? “Seems like a
pretty simple issue to suss out,” says Rudy, but I haven’t been able to find photos of the Jays at home that were definitively taken in 1981.”
I pointed him toward this page in Bill Henderson’s guide, which indicates that the Jays added NOBs in 1980 (and still had them in ’81). That led to this response from Rudy:
I know. I suspect bill got the information from me. I know they added names in 1980, so I assumed 1981 wouldn’t be any different.
But Chris Creamer [who lives in Toronto] says they didn’t have NOBs in 1981. When i asked for his evidence, Chris said he used baseball cards (not exactly 100% reliable in terms of knowing exactly when a photo was taken) and game-used jerseys from ’81. I’ve been collecting Jays gamers for a
long time and I’ve never even seen a picture of a home gamer from
1981. Chris didn’t send any visuals.
So either I’m right or Chris is right. The crazy thing is that I don’t think either of us has any actual evidence either way.
I’m fairly certain someone can find a newspaper clipping to settle this one within about 10 minutes, right?
Collector’s Corner, by Brinke Guthrie
Little bit of everything this week– MLB, ABA, NBA, NFL and NHL. Enjoy.
• Reader Stephen Coulter sent along this 1976 World Series umpire pillbox hat.
• Wow, nice early-’70s ABA Dallas Chaparrals warm-up jacket.
• Always fun to see one of the magazines from the “Today’s 1971…” MLB series. [I had the Mets version of this when I was seven years old. Not sure what happened to it, alas. -- PL]
• Look at this great old “Beat West Philly” pin from the 1940s!
• You too can be an NFL team owner with this Minnesota Vikings electric football team set from Tudor.
• “You’re in Mets Country” with this 1960s beach blanket. [Man, that is one brutal logo rendition. Love to know more about this item. -- PL]
• Always liked the NHL Colorado Rockies logo, and it looks particularly nice on this jacket.
• And here’s one from Paul’s friend (and City Reliquary founder) Dave Herman: a tremendous chain-stitched Hawaiian bowling shirt.
Seen something on eBay that you think would make good Collector’s Corner fodder? Send your submissions here.
Uni Watch News Ticker: This is great: 100 years of U.S. Presidents throwing out the first pitch, from Taft to Obama. … The Nats wore their red alts on Saturday and Sunday at Shea. Someone on the Chris Creamer board says this is the first time they’ve ever worn red on the road. Is that really true? … A straw hat blew onto the field during Sunday’s Chisox/Rays game, so Omar Vizquel tried it on for size (with thanks to Bob Gassel). … Jeff Barak went to the NCAA Frozen Four hockey championships and took a ton of jersey photos. … Dave Battafarano is the baseball coach for Delcastle High in Delaware. “With more players wearing high-top spikes, the 4″ stirrups were not showing enough sanitary, so I made the switch to a 6″ cut this season,” he says. “Makes a big difference, as you can see in these pics.” … Speaking of high school teams with stirrups, check out Westmoore High from Oklahoma. Too bad about the flat caps, though (with thanks to Arin Mitchell). … Of all the camo designs we’ve seen, this has got to be the worst. That’s North Salem High, from Oregon (blame Blake Theiss). … In a related item, I neglected to mention yesterday that the Padres debuted their new digital camo jerseys on Sunday. … Yesterday I mentioned that A’s pitcher Brian Fuentes had been spotted wearing a gray underbill. I asked A’s equipment manager Steve Vucinich if this was a special request on Fuentes’s part, or if he just grabbed an old cap that had been lying around, or what. Steve’s response: “Old stock. He wears a 7-7/8 — not a lot of requests for that size over the years. But from what I understand, he doesn’t care about the underbill color — he has one of each. Rich Harden prefers the gray underbill.” … Speaking of old stock, Tim McNulty notes that the mock turtleneck undershirt that Jorge Posada wore the other night is nowhere to be found on the team’s web shop (the closest thing is this Nike product) but appears to be identical to the mock collar design that seen in these 1999 photos. Could Posada have been wearing a 12-year-old undershirt? And would the Yanks really have kept something around that long, even while moving to a new stadium? … Chris Ashworth reports that Sergei Bobrovsky has a new mask for the playoffs, with Rocky on one side and Sideshow Bob on the other. … Here are the official specs for the new college football zebra uniforms. As you can see, the black slacks will be worn for all games. Sigh — yet another blow to high-cuffery (with thanks to Ben Matthias). … Still more high school stirrups. That’s Druid Hills High School in Georgia. The guy at right is former MLBer and Druid Hill alum Ron Blomberg (with thanks to Richard Lewis). … Now that’s a hockey jacket. It belonged to Chris Bisbee‘s father when he was an officer of the Omaha Knights Booster Club back in the 1970s. Chris also found this old Knights team portrait. Never seen a team pose like that (looks painful!), but the real story is the sleeve design: triple-stripe! Must’ve been an Adidas uni, eh? … Start ’em young! That’s Jon Smith‘s son pitching for his Pony League team, the Northwest Austin Twins. “This is the third youth team I’ve outfitted with stirrups,” says Jon. “It’s amazing how a sweet set of stirrups really jazzes up an otherwise ho-hum youth baseball uniform. But as you can see by the first baseman in the background, you can’t convince everyone to show their stripes, even when the evidence of stirrup greatness is right there in front of them.” … Joshua Exline reports that West Virginia Power players are still wearing the memorial patch for the 29 coal miners who died in the Upper Big Branch mine. … Here’s some more info on the new Arizona State uniforms, which will be officially unveiled this afternoon. … Some NYC punk band is making rather odd use of the old 1970s Pirates logo (good spot by Bob Brashear). … Good spot by Matthew DeLeon, who notes that Ryan Dempster has been wearing a black belt, instead of the Cubs’ usual blue. … Looks like the Angels’ 50th-anniversary cap patches are just heat-pressed, not sewn (screen shot courtesy of Kyle Mackie). … Here’s a set of predictions on the NHL playoffs based on jersey designs (with thanks to Chris Cocca. … In a related item, I expect we’ll be seeing Rob Ullman‘s annual NHL playoff pin-up illos shortly. Right, Rob? … New football set for Washington State. As you can see in this photo, they’re now up to three helmets, two of which are gray — can’t say I’m a fan of that. Look closely at those photos and you’ll see something else of note: the first jersey-borned appearance of the Pac-12 logo patch. … All oF WSU’s other sports are getting makeovers as well, by the way. … And speaking of the Pac-12 logo, it’s also been showing up on the field at Utah’s spring practices (with thanks to Trent Knaphus). … Phil and I will be taking off on a fun expedition today. I expect you’ll be apprised of the details soon enough.