Two days ago I had a few things to say — most of them negative — about the new Arizona State uniforms, which were produced by Nike. This produced a bit of a shitstorm in the comments section, including the usual complaints that I always come down hard on Nike but give Adidas and Reebok “a free pass.”
This is, of course, nonsense. As longtime readers know, I can be plenty hard on Adidas and Reebok (and Under Armour, too) when they push the stupid, and I have no problem praising Nike when they come up with something good. But whatever — some folks out there prefer to cling to certain narratives. So if you think I give certain companies “a free pass” (whatever that means), so be it.
But here’s something interesting: I have never — not one single time — heard anyone accusing me of giving Majestic a free pass.
Now why is that?
The main reason, I submit, is that Majestic generally doesn’t need a free pass. They don’t come up with ridiculous uniform designs, they don’t plaster their logo all over everything that moves, they don’t promote their own brand in a way that eclipses the brands of the teams they outfit, they don’t pander to 19-year-olds in a way that embarrasses all of us. In short, they don’t engage in much corporate douchebaggery.
And why is that?
Simple: Majestic is not a lifestyle company. They don’t make sneakers, they don’t make track suits, they don’t have giant flagship retail stores, they don’t engage in flashy ad campaigns, they don’t sign athletes to expensive endorsement deals. They do sell plenty of jerseys at retail, of course, but they’re in the uniform business, not the lifestyle business. Those other companies — Nike, Reebok, Adidas, Under Armour — are in the lifestyle business. They just happen to use uniforms as a vehicle for their lifestyle brands.
There’s no question that Majestic has less name recognition, less star power, than those other companies. And yet the Majestic folks have done just fine for themselves, enjoying the exclusive uni-outfitting contract for our national pastime for seven years now (and sharing the contract with Russell Athletic for many years prior to that).
Now, whenever we get into one of these branding arguments, people tell me things like, “Of course Nike has to promote their brand — they’re in business to make a profit, after all” and “Look, marketing is marketing, get used to it” and “Duh, this is what corporations do — they market their brands.”
Yeah, okay. Except Majestic — which, last I checked, was a company in business to make a profit — doesn’t engage in any of that douchebaggery, and yet they’ve managed to be immensely successful, locking down the exclusive MLB uni license. All of which shows that you don’t have to pander with all sorts of stunts and shenanigans to be successful in the uniform biz. You just have to be a good uniform company.
This is also why the older sporting goods brands — Rawlings, Wilson, Spalding — never developed their own traditions of douchebaggery. They couldn’t have engaged lifestyle marketing even if they’d wanted to, because in those days sporting goods were just, y’know, sporting goods. The fact that Majestic has managed to avoid the lifestyle trap in our current era is much more noteworthy.
I don’t mean to imply that Majestic is perfect. They’ve streamlined certain aspects of MLB uniforms in ways I’m not particularly fond of, they make way too many jersey typos, and I hate their Cool Base fabric, which has spread like a virus throughout the game. But for all their faults, they’ve decided to remain a uniform company, not a lifestyle company (I’ve been told that this is a big part of why MLB prefers to work with them). And that’s why they’ll likely never need “a free pass.”
Back in the early and mid-’90s, I read (and occasionally wrote for) a journal out of Chicago called The Baffler. It eventually became a bit of a thumb-suck, but for a while there they were producing some absolutely spectacular writing. One piece I particularly liked ended with the following:
There are now two worlds, that of those who live life and that of those who purchase lifestyle. … To those artists we despise, we will not say, “Your painting is bad; your music is boring; your writing is trite.” We will say instead, “Your lifestyle sucks.”
I think I’ll start saying that about those other companies. Meanwhile, let’s hope none of those companies ever get their hands on the MLB uniform license.
Get bows for next to diddly: Bow ties are just for nerds, right? Well, maybe — or maybe not. Either way, as you may have noticed at the top of the right sidebar, our friends at Dealometry (the same folks who brought us those discounted Chucks last month) are now offering a deal on bow ties. And hey, if you don’t want one for yourself, Father’s Day is just around the corner, right?
Even if you have no interest in bow ties, I encourage you to sign up for Dealometry mailing list, so you’ll be notified of further guy-oriented deals.
ESPN reminder: In case you missed it yesterday afternoon, my latest ESPN column is about all the uni typos and related problems emanating from Washington, DC. But reader Frank Mercogliano points out a Nats goof that I neglected to include: They gave Miss Iowa an upside-down zero.
Uni Watch News Ticker: Move over, Oscar Gamble, and make room for Coco Crisp! Those photos are from last night. I had no idea the Crisper was cultivating such a head of hair. Impressive! (Big thanks to Mike Rowinski.) … Remember the controversy a few months ago about Erin Andrews and her Reebok endorsement deal? She’ll have to give up that deal after the one-year term runs its course, due to ESPN’s new endorsement guidelines. These guidelines also mean that I can’t ink a Reebok endorsement deal, which of course comes as a huge blow. … Speaking of endorsement deals, this is pretty funny. … Yesterday I asked how you slide on these fake-dirt turf infields. Here’s how. Yeesh (big thanks to Andy McNeel). … New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo is urging members of his administration to wear a lapel pin that he designed. … Jason Martynowski reports that Shin-Soo Choo’s helmet decal was off-center on Wednesday. … Here’s another case of the Lakers apparently wearing inconsistent warm-up tops (as spotted by Jim Walaitis). … Check out these overall with the best clothing tag ever (awesome find, Kirsten). … Was Greg Gross wearing earplugs in this shot? “He is wearing a home uniform and the Philly fans are ruthless, so it is plausible,” says Andy Chalifour. … Kevin Garnett has a new shoe for the playoffs (with thanks to Kenny Loo). … “Is this the next evolutionary step in helmet carts?” asks Kerry Petit. … Lots of throwbacks and other specialty designs on tap this season for the Syracuse Chiefs (with thanks to Franklin Freytag). … Small item on this page indicates that the Sharks “have announced they’re wearing their black jerseys throughout the 2011 playoff run” (as reported by Paul Hirsch). … Speaking of the NHL playoffs, Greg Broyles walking past the Peninsula Hotel in Chicago and noticed that their Chinese dog statues were decked out in Blackhawks jerseys. … Rockies pitcher Franklin Morales was covering first base yesterday when Willie Harris stepped on his foot, at which point Morales’s shoe came off. Morales turned his ankle on the play and had to leave the game. Also, Harris was mistakenly called safe, even though he never stepped on the base — only on Morales’s foot (screen shot by Matt Harris). … Word on the street is that the NHL’s worst third jersey is history (with thanks to Mike Rich). … Someone at Royal Palm Beach High in Florida apparently thought cursive NOBs were a good idea, but that someone was sadly mistaken (big thanks to Matt Porter). … Jersey typo at Michigan football’s spring practice, as Thomas Gordon’s NOB was misspelled (with thanks to Stephen D. Dafoe). … The Mets wore blue caps and sleeves for both ends of yesterday’s doubleheader — and, therefore, for every single game of a week-long homestand. This is apparently the team’s first black-free homestand since the late 1990s. … Still more DC follies, courtesy of Joe Hilseberg: “I called the Orioles ticket office last week and was on hold for about 20 mins. During that time there was a steady stream of MASN commercials for O’s and Nats broadcasts. The Nats commercial had audio about a hit or great play being made by Nyjer Morgan — who is now with the Brewers. I just laughed every time.” Of course, a team that keeps a customer on hold for 20 minutes isn’t exactly covered in glory either. … Rays skipper Joe Maddon is going MBNOB — that’s military base name on back. The merits of the specific gesture notwithstanding, this is a terrible precedent — uniformed personnel, whether managers or players, shouldn’t get to change their NOBs to promote pet causes or make personal statements. At the end of the day, this is no different than He Hate Me, and I’m surprised and disappointed that MLB is allowing it. … Great job by Samuel Lam, who took a Hideki Matsui Yankees bobblehead and repainted it with an A’s uniform. … Fascinating soccer note from Harvey Lee, who writes: “I was watching the end of the Colorado/Salt Lake MLS game last night when the referee awarded a free kick to Real Salt Lake. He backed up the Rapids wall 10 yards and proceeded, in Batman-like fashion, to pull out an aerosol spray from his utility belt, which he used to draw a line so the wall could not encroach on the ball. I Googled this tonight and this is the best thing I could find. It vanishes after 30 seconds!” … Here’s the Royals’ official script. Note how the R and o sort of tuck into each other. Now compare that to Jeremy Jeffress’s jersey from Wednesday. As you can see, way too much space after the R. It’s even more glaring when you compare him to his teammates (excellent spot by Andrew Sova). … Happy Jackie Robinson Day to one and all. Now batting (and pitching, and fielding, and on deck), No. 42! At the very least, it should result in some very entertaining Wayne Hagin moments.