You know the drlll
I want to go slightly off-uni today to talk about a design-related experience I recently had. The story begins about 19 years ago, when I bought the heavy black leather jacket you see above. It was, and still is, damn near perfect. From the moment I got it, I knew it would be the last leather jacket I’d ever need to buy. It’s my go-to winter coat, and I expect that to be the case for the rest of my life. (Oddly enough, I don’t seem to have any good photos of myself wearing it, although there’s this sort of goofy shot of me wearing it while posing next to a Lego version of Kevin Garnett at the NBA offices. Those were in the happy days before the NBA shit-listed me for encouraging people to send anti-uni-advertising emails to Adam Silver. But I digress.)
After seven or eight years, the jacket’s zipper got chewed up in an accident and had to be replaced. It was a pretty heavy-duty zipper, and it had to be sewn through thick layers of leather, so it was an expensive repair, at least by zipper-replacement standards — something like $60, as I recall, and it took more than a week. Afterward, the shop that did the repair made it clear that the job had been a pain in the ass. The unspoken message I got was, “If you need another zipper, go somewhere else.”
The replacement zipper worked fine until last winter, when it started misbehaving. I’d pull up the slider and the teeth would initially mesh together, but then they’d sometimes start coming unmeshed. I’d have to drag the slider back down through the unmeshed teeth, which is difficult and frustrating, and start over. Sometimes the same thing would happen repeatedly. I figured out a few tricks to help avoid this problem, but by the end of last winter it was clear that it was time for a new zipper. Naturally, I didn’t want to deal with that hassle, so I put the jacket in a closet and forgot about it.
Fast forward to a month or so ago, the first really cold day of the year. I pull the jacket out of the closet, put it on, zip it up, and suddenly realize, “Oh, right — that fucking zipper.” Grrrrrr. Okay, no more procrastinating. Time to fix the damn thing. (Well, actually, I procrastinated another 10 days or so because it suddenly got warmer and I was able to put the jacket back in the closet, but I had mentally shifted into “Just fix the damn zipper already” mode by then.)
I didn’t want to take it back to the place that had fixed it last time, so I went to a shoe and leather repair shop. You know the place: totally ramshackle, smells like shoe polish and leather, a battered sewing machine in the corner, piles of shoes and other crap all over the place.
I brought in the jacket and explained the problem. The guy took one look and said, “I don’t think you need a new zipper. Probably just a new slider.”
Then he took a pair of pliers and removed the top stop from the the right side of the zipper. That allowed him to remove the slider, which he then replaced with a new one. Then put the top stop back on.
Sure enough, the zipper was suddenly good as new. Total time invested: 10 minutes. Total cost: $12.
I had no idea that sliders could wear out, or that they could have such an effect on a zipper’s functionality. I figured that if the teeth weren’t meshing, it was because the teeth themselves were worn out.
This experience reinforced something I’ve thought for years, namely that zippers are completely amazing pieces of industrial design. They’re inexpensive, they’re efficient, and they work like magic. Definitely one of the best and most unsung technological developments of the past century. There’s a good book about them, which I have a copy of, although I’ve only read bits and pieces of it — never the whole thing. Maybe it’s time to pull it back off the shelf and remedy that.
Just to bring this back to Uni Watch, there used to be a zipper factory in Queens, called Serval Zippers. Its sign was plainly visible beyond the left field wall at Shea Stadium, so I grew up seeing it when I went to Mets games:
During night games, the sign would illuminate one letter at a time — S-E-R-V-A-L Z-I-P-P-E-R-S. Then it would go blank and start over. It was sort of mesmerizing. Alas, Serval Zippers no longer exists (the building is now a U-Haul outlet), although its name lives on on countless garments.
So, yeah: Zippers. They’re really cool. Thanks for listening.
Protest T-shirt roundup: To my knowledge, there were no new sightings of “I Can’t Breathe” T-shirts in the sports world yesterday. But there were still some developments on that front, as follows:
• Attorney General Eric Holder applauded Derrick Rose of the Bulls for being the first athlete to wear the shirt, and also voiced his support for other players who’ve followed Rose’s lead.
• Georgetown basketball coach John Thompson III talked about his team’s recent wearing of the shirts.
• After the entire Hornets roster wore the T-shirts on Saturday, guard Gerald Henderson discussed the team’s intended messaging.
• A Connecticut high school’s basketball team plans to wear “I Can’t Breathe” tees during pregame warm-ups for at least the first few games of its season.
• The Washington Post reported that some of the NBA shirts were produced by a company that has long been cited for unfair labor practices, and that the activist who helped organize the production of those shirts now regrets it.
Meanwhile, Browns wide receiver Andrew Hawkins spoke yesterday about the “Justice for Tamir Rice and John Crawford” T-shirt that he wore prior to Sunday’s Browns/Bengals game. Hawkins began crying while telling reporters that he wore the shirt because he fears for his two-year-old son’s safety. The Cleveland police union has demanded that he apologize.
Decoding the swooshspeak: In yesterday’s Ticker I mentioned that Oakland had worn black-on-black uniforms and said, “Naturally, the one contrasting element was the Jumpman logo because, as you know, it’s all about Nike. Douchebags.”
That prompted a lengthy but fascinating note from Ben Hayden, as follows:
I work as an equipment manager for Michigan State football and Olympic sports, and I just wanted to add reference to the comments made about Oakland’s basketball uniforms. Oakland is not a Nike Elite program, nor a Jordan program (such as UNC or Georgetown basketball). Although Oakland is indeed affiliated with Nike, they do not have the design options such as a program like Georgetown (or even us at Michigan State, for that matter). A Nike Elite program, for one, will meet with Nike years prior to changing its uniform designs, except in the case of the “Disrupter” line, which is incorrectly referred to as “HyperElite” or “ProCombat” uniforms (in terms of basketball ONLY). The Disrupter line is determined the year prior to release. For example, the bronze uniforms our basketball team wore last season (2013-14) were designed in the early stages of the 2012-13 basketball season. A program such as Oakland does not have the option to do this, and if you look closely at the uniforms, you can tell the twill lettering/numbering was an after-the-fact option chosen by Oakland after choosing the uniform template Nike offered through the Jordan Team line.
Indeed, the uniforms come from and are designed by Nike, but the uniform design offered to Oakland could be chosen by any Nike school and designed to fit a team’s color scheme with any lettering/numbering/coloring decided after choosing the template. This is not the case for certain Nike schools, such as Georgetown (a Jordan-Nike program), whose current uniform design is not offered to anyone except the Hoyas. This is a very common practice for large Nike programs (Florida, Syracuse, Illinois, even smaller basketball programs such as USC).
In all, the white Jordan logo appearing on Oakland’s uniforms would be white across the board no matter who chose that jersey template, even if the twill color option was yellow, gold, white, blue, pink, tie-dye, rainbow or camouflage. Oakland does not have the option of choosing the color of its Swoosh/Jumpan design, and same thing would hold true for any Adidas or Under Armour program as well. It is not a branding decision so much as it is a convenience for Nike/Jordan to mass-produce uniforms after they’ve been given a standard template (and teams can choose to add specific designs after the fact). Check out NikeTeam.com and design some uniforms ”” you’ll see what I’m talking about.
I get Ben’s point about the Jumpman logo and genuinely appreciate his expertise regarding all the other stuff. But seriously: “Elite,” “HyperElite,” “Disrupter,” wheee! Look, up in the sky, it’s DisrupterMan! Ben’s an equipment manager, so it’s his job to deal with this nonsense, but anyone else who can keep a straight face in the presence of this newspeak is way ahead of me. And by any nomenclature, Nike’s whole caste system for its client schools, where some programs are in First Class and others are clearly in steerage, is bullshit. My initial assessment still stands: Douchebags.
Membership has its privileges: A few weeks ago I mentioned that I might be writing an article on the subject of membership cards cultural totems and objects of design. That article (which includes some references to the Uni Watch membership program) has now been published on the design website re:form. Enjoy.
By Brinke Guthrie
Okay, so this isn’t exactly your typical 1970s Big Red Machine eBay item, but still. Here we have what looks to be a red or corduroy suit worn by Pete Rose himself, tailored by a fellow named Pepe Ramundo. Costs a lot, but hey, you also get a “Pete Rose” tie!
Alright, here are some items that are more in the standard Uni Watch wheelhouse:
• Folks, two gems right here. We’ve featured these 1970s NFL goalpost helmet kits several times before, but I don’t think I’ve ever seen a set where they never even applied the helmet decals! Two different sets to choose from, here and here. Hurry — these listings end tonight.
• Back in the day, bet you could pick up a Mickey Mantle ashtray at his Holiday Inn in Joplin, Missouri, for next to nothing. A bit pricier now!
• How about this DIY Packers sweater?
• If you live in New England, this sticker will leave little doubt where your sports allegiance lies.
• If you’ve never seen or played this 1970s NFL Strategy game, I’d highly recommend it.
• Check it out! A game-worn Chicago White Sox leisure suit jersey top, and with a doozy of an NOB!
• Here’s a rather T-shirt sponsored by GTE, Offiical Telecommunications Consultant to the NFL.
• Nice-looking 1970s California Angels varsity-style jacket.
• Here’s a Packers jersey by Sand-Knit with the rarely seen logo-inclusive sleeve striping.
• NFL helmet plaques usually have a neutral or gray background. But this 1970s LA Rams plaque has some in-your-face yellow, eh?
Uni Watch News Ticker
By Garrett McGrath
Baseball News: Happy Holidays from the Mets, courtesy of this vintage Christmas card with Mr. Met dressed as Santa (from Bruce Menard). … New Chicago Cub Jon Lester chose former teammate’s Big Papi’s No. 34. … The folks at Hardball Talk think it’s time for the Padres to bring back the brown (thanks, Brinke). … this jersey was listed on MLB shop as “SF Giants 2015 Alt. jersey” but was changed to “Fashion” after SportsLogos.net honcho Chris Creamer contacted team for comment (thanks, Phil).
NFL News: The Seattle Seahawks 12th man jersey was retired 30 years ago yesterday (from Kyle Hanks). … Former Bears DT Steve McMichael’s McNOB = a base-aligned “c” and a raised “c” at different points in his career (from Cork Gaines).
College Football News: Asked and answered: Yesterday reader Joanna Zwiep wanted to know which school this helmet was from. As many readers helpfully explained, it’s from the University of Saint Francis in Indiana, an NAIA
Hockey News: “No pic, but there is a note in this article about Jesse Winchester of the Avalanche experimenting with glasses on the ice,” says Ryan Dowgin. “He has missed the entire year with concussion symptoms. He is okay at the team’s practice facility with a white background, but has issues in full arenas where the background is multicolored. Can’t recall many hockey players wearing glasses, aside from the Hanson brothers.” [Paul here. Glasses on the ice have been rare but not unheard of. Examples include Al Arbour, Hal Laycoe, Charles Shannon, and Clint Albright.]
Soccer News: Here is a leaked picture of Mexico’s Copa America black home kit (thanks, Phil). … Norway has a new federation crest. … The rest from Yusuke Toyoda: 2015 Asia Cup kicks off in January, and defending champions Japan will wear jerseys with gold numbers and winner’s patches. … South Africa unveils new unis from Nike. … Cardiff City supporters are threatening not to renew their season tickets if the team does not return to its traditional blue shirts.
Grab Bag: The Canadian Olympic Committee has indicated in court documents obtained by TSN that it is pursuing its watershed lawsuit against clothing maker The North Face (from Dr. Peter Baltutis). … Reader David Firestone ranked all 55 NASCAR Sprint Cup teams ranked from first to last on how their paint schemes appearance. … Congresswoman Loretta Sanchez’s holiday card is uni-related (from Andrew Hoenig).
Happy Hanukkah to all who are celebrating tonight. And here’s something to look forward to: Tomorrow we’ll have the annual year-end reader-appreciation raffle. Good stuff this year!