Way back in June I got a note from a reader named Shane Davis. He works for Speedline Athletic Wear, which provides uniforms for lots of high school sports. Unfortunately, a combination of factors led me to back-burner his communiqué for way too long, but now I’d like to share what he wrote to me:
The NFHS (National Federation of State High School Associations) is an organization that publishes the game rules and uniform rules for high school athletics. Last October they published their rule changes for high school soccer. Starting fall 2013, they are requiring home teams to wear a solid one-color white jersey. If they are any inserts or piping, those need to be white as well.
Initially I thought that this might have something to do with referees’ sight lines and calling fouls. But if that were the case, it would stand to reason that the away team would have to wear a solid dark color — and it turns out that no such rule is being implemented.
Looking from another angle, small to mid-market U.S. uniform manufacturers, like my company Speedline, do not acquire or manufacture any uniforms overseas. It is in the best interest of the larger branded manufacturers to crank out five or six styles (solid white) in huge-volume lots. These large-volume lots would undoubtedly be produced overseas. Then they can ship from inventory. Now here is the rub: High-volume manufacturing drives the per-piece price of the solid white home jerseys so low that the large companies can almost give them away. And if a high school team is already using one outfitter for their home jerseys, they’ll most likely buy that manufacturer for their away jerseys.
In other words, Shane is suggesting that this rule change is designed to make it easy for the big companies to use solid white jerseys as a low-cost loss leader, and then they’ll make their profit on the colored road jersey.
He goes on:
The overseas stock houses produce a given style in only a handful of combinations (red/white, blue/white, black/gold). One of the main reasons high schools and universities have chosen our product is that they can order any color combination they want (no matter how absurd — blue-green-gold). When an organization like the NFHS makes a simple rule change forcing the selection of a mass-manufactured inventory style, they have left U.S. manufacturers out in the cold.
Translation: By giving big companies an avenue to produce solid white jerseys for free, the new regulation undercuts the one competitive advantage that smaller operators had (i.e., the ability to offer unusual color combinations), because schools will likely go for the cheap white jersey and then stick with the same big outfitter for their road jersey.
I asked Shane what the NFHS’s stated rationale was for the rule change. His response:
They said it’s “to better differentiate [the home team from] the visiting team, which is required to wear jerseys and socks that are dark.” They had a press release stating the rule change was happening, but it was a very “This is how it is, because I say so” statement. The rule used to specify “White or Light Colored Jerseys” — we had the option to have decorative side panels or contrasting inserts/piping. But not anymore.
I think it comes down to it being a lot easier for the large manufacturers to run 300,000-piece lots of one color then it is for them to devote 13.25% manufacturing to white/red, 6.75% manufacturing to white/navy, and so on.
I’ll be frank here: I don’t care a whole lot about high school soccer. But I care plenty about rules that are rigged to help corporations and squeeze out the little guy. Is that really what the NFHS is doing here? Even if it’s true, they’d never admit it. It’s certainly interesting food for thought, and a good illustration of how something as simple as a uniform regulation can affect jobs here in America.
I was on the radio yesterday, discussing Permanent Record. You can listen to the segment here.
Uni Watch News Ticker: Some web site that sells super-cheap (read: counterfeit) jerseys is touting this as the Flyers’ Winter Classic design. Remember, just because it’s counterfeit doesn’t mean it isn’t accurate. Also doesn’t mean it is accurate. Discuss (from Joseph S. Young). … Jets QB Mark Sanchez, who suffered a broken nose last Sunday, will wear a visor for the next few weeks. … The Devils have confirmed that their 30th-anniversary logo will only be used for ads, promotions, etc., not as a jersey patch. … Oh baby, check out this completely amazing early -1940s duckpin bowling photo. That’s one of many amazing archival images — some sports-related, some not — that Jason Bernard found here. … New stadium-anniversary logo for the Orioles. “The black portion in the middle is a replica of the large signs on the warehouse,” says Brian Bittner. … The Patriots will wear throwbacks on Oct. 9 against the Jets (from Brett Paci). … For once it was okay to ask, “What’s with the green dot?” Iowa added the little green markers last Saturday, and also wore green wristbands, as a shout-out to former player Brett Greenwood, who’s in the hospital (good one from Alex Miklo). … Here’s the latest article about high-tech “wired” sports shirts (from Tom Mulgrew). … Small item on this page notes that Pablo Sandoval bunted left-handed because he couldn’t find his right-handed batting helmet (big thanks to Jamie Costello). … Here’s the logo for the “I’m Calling It Giants Stadium” Super Bowl host committee. … My Page 2 colleague Kurt Snibbe came up with a medieval concept for the early-season success of the Bills and Lions. … Eagle-eyed Andy McKechnie spotted the Flyers doing a photo shoot that involved a home jersey and a road helmet, and David Ryan noticed the same thing in another shot. Just a mix-up, or a hint of things to come? … Kyle Ostendorf wonders why a Cardinals fan would be wearing Broncos eye black. … Nike’s latest “gift” to the world: Day-Glo lacrosse heads (from Jeff Brunelle). … New hockey jerseys for Nebraska-Omaha. “The white ones are about as boring as a hockey sweater can get,” says Patrick Zach. … Sponsorship adjustment for Barca (thanks, Brinke). … Good spot by Tony Burke, who noticed SportsCenter using the old and new versions of the NFC logo at the same time. … College football note from Brady Graham, who writes: “Scott Bostwick was named the next head football coach of Northwest Missouri State but died suddenly before being able to coach his first game. Bostwick, who was known for wearing a red cap on the sidelines during his time as defensive coordinator, apparently had been pushing for a black alternate jersey for some time, so the Bearcats wore black jerseys, red wrist and ankle tape, and red helmet decals in his memory last Saturday.”