Letting it Go

When I was a kid, I wore a lot of sports apparel. A photographic retrospective of the caps and tee shirts, dugout jackets and hoodies I wore from the ages of five to seventeen would probably border on modern art. But things changed for me. There came a point I no longer wanted to give my appearance over to my sports allegiances. There would  still be a few caps and shirts,  and there would still be fandom. But I no longer wanted the teams I cheered for to define my identity, or at least the way people perceived that identity.

There are, however, people who do want that. For a million reasons, there are people who go out there every day dressed as if in surrender to the higher cause of the Boston Red Sox or Oakland Raiders. There are people who dress up in Willie Stargell jerseys because they want express their old-time love of the game and there are people who do it because they think Willie Stargell jerseys look cool. That’s all well and good.

My interest is in the complete surrender — the folks who show up to the game rocking team merchandise down to the official licensed league socks; the folks who wear a jeans, a pinstriped Jeter jersey, and a Yankee cap out on Friday night; the folks who wear the gaudiest, proudest, multi-colored tee shirts of their favorite player. The folks who would wear one of these:

shirt h/t to Robert Baly at Vin Scully is my Homeboy

You are out there. You who would wear this shirt, or a Pujols or a Mauer version outside of the ballpark or the bar.  And I want to know why that’s so (other than its ridiculous, overwhelming brilliance that leaves me undecided as to whether I’m in love or entirely disgusted).I want to know if I’m wrong in saying that surrendering to a shirt like this one — or to other varieties of full team regalia — is giving up a bit of yourself.

And if I’m not wrong,if it really is a form of surrender, then why do you do it? Why does anybody? Is it the basic appeal of being a part of something larger than yourself? Is it regional pride? Cultural identification? Sheer oblivious? Fervent, patriotic, extremely blind team love?

There are socioeconomic factors at play here, obviously. Age, class, and race have something to do with the way people dress and the way people express their fandom. Also worth considering is the fact that international sports fans have different approaches. You don’t see a lot of Italians running around on Saturday evening in Andrea Pirlo jerseys…

(Please discuss, if you’d like…)

4 Responses to “Letting it Go”


  • “To define is to limit” O.W.

    Althought, as you said, the “overwhelming brilliance” of that shirt is so over the top, that it would make the person interesting to me. I picture Oscar Wilde wearing that shirt going for his afternoon delight.

  • not sure if it quite fits with what youre talking about specifically here but this post made me think of Ice Cube’s “Straight Outta LA” documentary for ESPN’s 30 for 30 series. I don’t think cube goes into the depth he could in terms of linking gangsta rap communities and the raiders, a link which is manifested visually in wearing raider’s gear. Perhaps this speaks more to age/class/race/geography aspects of expressing fandom through fashion, but perhaps it also speaks to what others crave in a parallel expression. However, though I think wearing the Yankee hat and jersey out to the bar might fit with that idea (also fitting with the idea of white folks dressing like/emulating black folks/people of color), I pretty sure it doesn’t explain either those t-shirts or wanting to wear an officially licensed pair of socks/bikini/etc. maybe the answer is just: why not?
    also, i have phillie phanatic slippers (which were a gift from my partner because he failed to take me to Jim Thome bobblehead day even though he promised!) largely because they are just so awesomely ridiculous.

  • I can’t help but think these over-the-top gestures of devotion only manage to cheapen the thing they worship.

    Like seeing a family of three walking shoulder-to-shoulder wearing (many-Xtra large) stars & stripes button-up shirt. I don’t recognize it as homage, simply someone’s best guest at what homage looks like.

  • Guillermo: Point Taken.

    Mabel: The Raiders are an interesting case. I think the logo and the franchise’s brand identity have transcended the football team.

    Drew: I hesitate to question bad gestures…I feel like sometimes over the top gestures of devotion are the result of obliviousness rather than insecurity. The Tea Party people in tricorne hats, for instance, might be misguided in their ideas and their fashion sense…but their patriotic zeal is probably earnest.

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