Uni Watch is a media project that deconstructs the finer points of sports uniforms in obsessive and excruciating detail. It has nothing to do with fashion — it’s about documenting and maintaining the visual history of sports design, and about minutiae fetishism as its own reward. If that concept doesn’t make sense to you, no problem — Uni Watch definitely isn’t for everyone, and there have always been people who Don’t Get It™. But for those who understand the pleasures of detail obsession, programmatic classification systems, information overload, and sports history, you’ve come to the right place.
Uni Watch debuted in May of 1999, as a column in the sports pages of The Village Voice (they already had a column devoted to hockey fights, so adding a uniform column wasn’t much of a stretch). It was a very small column in those days, and it was designed primarily for print, not for the web, so there weren’t any photo links. When the Voice sports section was eliminated in 2003, the column briefly moved to Slate.com (that material is here). Then, in the summer of 2004, the column moved to ESPN.com, where it continues to run today (that material is here). This blog, designed to supplement the column, launched on May 17th, 2006.
People often ask me, “How’d you get the idea to write about uniforms?” The short answer is that I already had a lot of experience writing about the small details of brand design, package design, industrial design, and so on. I’d always been a big sports fan, so applying that detail-driven sensibility to uniforms seemed like a natural next step. Plus my girlfriend got tired of me pointing at the TV and saying, “Look, look at his socks!” (or whatever) every time we watched a ballgame. “Y’know, Paul,” she said, “maybe you need an outlet for this.”
Lots of people have been enormously helpful in facilitating (or, if you prefer, indulging) that outlet. The ones listed here deserve special mention:
• The idea for this blog came from Uni Watch reader John Ekdahl, who first approached me in early 2006. As I explained to him at the time, I don’t know anything about setting up a web site. Fortunately, he does (in fact, he’s got his own web development company), so he ended up designing, configuring, and administering the site. XXXXXXL-sized thanks go to him for making this happen, and for his continued webmastering skills.
• The Uni Watch logo was designed by the fabulous Scott M.X. Turner, a man whose knowledge of uniform-related arcana dwarfs my own. He’s also one of the nicest people on the planet.
• Lots of people over the years have inquired about being the Uni Watch intern, and my stock answer was always, “Nah, not interested.” But in the fall of 2006 I got a really smart, well-written entreaty from a guy in Cleveland named Vince Grzegorek, and I decided to give him a shot. He quickly became so indispensable that I couldn’t believe I’d ever lived without him. After he moved on, longtime reader Bryan Redemske took over as my right-hand man, followed by Phil Hecken, and they’ve proven to be similarly invaluable.
• A lot of the credit for Uni Watch’s growth over the years goes to all the great editors I’ve been lucky enough to work with, starting with Miles Seligman, former sports editor of The Village Voice, who liked the idea of a uniform column from the moment I first proposed it to him. He’ll always be Uni Watch’s editor emeritus. Ward Harkavy at the Voice, Bryan Curtis at Slate.com, and Michael Knisley, David Schoenfield, Kieran Darcy, Michael Philbrick, Thomas Neumann, and Kevin Jackson at ESPN have all been super, too.
• Not everyone in the sports world takes you seriously when you call with a question about uniforms. But several people have been extremely helpful with my various research requests over the years, including Tom Shieber and Bill Francis at the Baseball Hall of Fame, Jason Aikens at the Pro Football Hall of Fame, Christopher Arena and Matt Bourne at the NBA, Curtis Worrell at Helmet Hut, Donovan Moore at the Society for Sports Uniform Research, Chris Willis at Athletic Decals Inc., and uniform designer Todd Radom. I’ve also been fortunate enough to have moles who’ve fed me inside information regarding the teams and leagues they work for. I can’t name them here, but they know who they are. My thanks to all.
• By far the biggest share of credit goes to Uni Watch’s amazing readers, who serve as my eyes and ears out there. They contribute ideas and photos, respond to my calls for additional information, correct my mistakes, and teach me things on a near-daily basis. Seriously, people, a writer couldn’t possibly ask for a better readership. Here’s to you.
— Paul Lukas