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Anyone can dirty up a uniform. But can you take a dirty uniform and make it clean?
That question is addressed in impressive detail in The Care and Cleaning of Athletic Uniforms, a booklet that was published in several editions in the 1950s by Rawlings. My copy, which I recently scored on eBay, is the third edition and appears to be from either 1956 or ’57.
The booklet is 24 pages and is broken down by sport — how to clean football uniforms, how to clean basketball uniforms, and so on. There are also charts, like this one (click to enlarge):
Most of the advice no longer applies, because contemporary uniforms are made of completely different fabrics, plus laundry equipment and dry cleaning standards have changed. But it’s still an entertaining read, if only because so much of the text is written in that innocent mid-century style that’s hard not to giggle at today. I took the liberty of transcribing some of the highlights:
No amount of designing or craftsmanship in football jerseys can protect them from irresponsible cleaners using speed-up cleaning methods and improper chemicals.
Football jerseys take a terrific lot of punishment when twenty-two husky gridders mix it up in a tough game.
A neutral soap or synthetic detergent is normally used. Water and soap should be mixed to form thick, foamy suds. In addition to cleaning, this cushions the garments and prevents excessive mechanical action and friction, thus preventing excessive fabric damage.
Hand wet cleaning or spot cleaning is not a job that should be put into the hands of a novice. Serious damage can be done to fine nylon, rayon, and durene garments by improper brushing. … The job of spot cleaning should not be a heavy-handed one. No elbow grease should be used and the actual cleaning should be left up to the action of the soap or detergent.
Jerseys are usually pressed or finished on a steam iron of the mushroom type. Steam alone is sufficient to finish and block [the] jerseys and give them that “new” look. … Following pressing, garments are hung up on a rustproof hanger to dry thoroughly.
If your cleaner is the type of person who thinks that your half-and-half game pants with a Two-Way stretch back may be dry-cleaned, get him off your team. Bench him! If you don’t, the drains of his cleaning establishment will be one-way funnels down which will pour the fit and durability of these fine pants.
The principal bugaboos of the cleaner [when cleaning football pants] are heavy perspiration, ground-in soil, yard-line lime, and stains of unknown origin.
Most cleaners shudder when they see a garment made of two or more different fabrics, yet almost every athletic garment is of two or more fabrics, or a fabric and a knit material. Cleaners say that it is near impossible to clean anything containing rubber, yet that’s just what one of them must do if you give him a set of football pants containing a Stretch-Tex knit back, for example. So, you see, the cleaner’s problems are indeed complex when it comes to athletic uniforms.
Repairs to uniforms are usually very difficult to make while on a [road] trip. But regardless of difficulty, they should be made just as quickly as possible, in order to minimize the damage to the uniform. It is especially important that snags and tears in knit uniforms be repaired promptly to avoid further damage. Ingenuity rather than a rule will dictate just how repairs can be made. But they should be made.
Carefully inspect the [baseball] uniform for tears, rips, weak points, tobacco crumbs, and rosin in the pockets which would cause stains.
No matter how carefully fine flannel [baseball] garments are cleaned, some shrinkage is bound to take place occasionally. This can be compensated for rather easily by stretching as illustrated. Prior to cleaning, however, garments should have been measured. Usually these measurements are indicated on the inseam of the pants and shirts in indelible ink. After the cleaning processes are concluded, garments should be remeasured and if any shrinkage has occurred, compensation may be made on the stretcher. Pre-measuring is an important step often neglected.
The cleaner is entirely responsible to the club manager and equipment manager, who are interested primarily in seeing their teams make a colorful appearance when they trot out on the diamond.
Stains likely to be encountered in softball uniforms are soft drinks, blood, milk, perspiration, tobacco, grass, Mercurochrome, and others.
When it comes to cleanliness, the Physical Education students and varsity athletes at Bradley University in Peoria, Illinois, take a backseat to no one; not since August of 1954, anyway. For that’s when Bradley started to “take in laundry.” Well, they’re not really taking it in, for they’ve had it all the time. They’re just not sending it out anymore.
How great is that? Priceless stuff. If you want to see the entire booklet, look here. To see full-size versions, click on a thumbnail and then use the Flickr’s download button (the downward-facing arrow) to “view all sizes.” Enjoy!
By Alex Hider
Baseball News: Safeco Field, home of the Mariners, will have a new name in 2019. Will anyone, like reader Tim Dunn, still be calling it, “The Safe”? … The Red Sox gave away these caps last night for “Jewish Heritage Night” (from Cole P). … Four of the top picks in this year’s MLB Draft got together for a picture on Monday, but only two of them were wearing caps with the New Era logo (from Josh). … Players from the newly recrowned Stanley Cup champion Pittsburgh Penguins showed up at last night’s Pirates game and wore bumblebee throwbacks with No. 412, the area code for Pittsburgh (from @bmitchelf). … Budweiser unveiled a set of cans in Montreal honoring former Expos players (from Moe Khan). … Looks like Indians manager Terry Francona has quite the cap collection in his office (from Robert Hayes). … Actress Elisabeth Moss, star of the Hulu series The Handmaid’s Tale, is a big Cubs fan, so the show’s costume department made her a Cubs-branded bonnet (from James Gilbert). … Eye white alert! That comes from Dyersville (Iowa) High School softball (from Jesse Gavin). … Preble High School in Green Bay wears tequila sunrise jerseys (from David Stephens). … Due to seedings and such, Florida wore road uniforms for yesterday’s super-regional, even though the game was played at their ballpark. … Dodgers OF Yasiel Puig flipped the bird at Cleveland fans after hitting a home run last night. He joins the ranks of other sports figures who’ve given the middle-finger salute, many of which are chronicled here and here.
NFL News: According to this Fox Sports interview with Cowboys equipment director Mike McCord, the Cowboys could begin wearing navy at home more often (from Phil). … Browns rookie Jabrill Peppers has already changed his number from No. 27 to No. 22 (from Robert Hayes). … The Cincinnati Browns? Well, those Ohio teams are tough to keep track of (from Will). … For the most part, Tom Brady has worn the same uniform since he entered the league in 2000. However, Kenny Saidah found this shot of Brady early in his career wearing the Pats’ late ’90s era-pants during what appears to be practice or training camp. … Take a look at these gorgeous old programs for the BC Lions of the CFL (from Steve May). … Congrats to longtime Uni Watch contributor Gene Sanny, who won first place in an electric football player-painting contest.
College Football News: A Georgia Tech recruit posted a photo of himself wearing a navy jersey on Twitter. Could the Yellow Jackets be breaking out a new alternate this season? (From Britton Thomas). … Maryland football has a new 125th-anniversary logo (from Matt Shevin). … Wilson created a football for the 100th anniversary of Wisconsin’s Camp Randall Stadium. Not sure if it will be used on the field or not. … A judge in Iowa has ruled in favor of a family that wants to build a house modeled after the University of Iowa’s Kinnick Stadium. Here’s what the house will look like (from Kary Klismet). … Kansas Wesleyan University of the NAIA has a ton of helmets from which to choose (from Blake Cripps).
Hockey News: ICYMI from the baseball section: Penguins players showed up at last night’s Pittsburgh Pirates game wearing late-’70s throwbacks with No. 412, the area code for Pittsburgh (from @bmitchelf). … If you look closely at the Rangers’ recent jersey tease, it appears that all of the stitching on the jersey lettering is white. In the past, the red layer got red stitching (from Joe Garace). … USA Hockey will unveil the sweaters they’ll wear for an upcoming outdoor game against Canada today (from Teebz). … Tucked away in this feature about former Blackhawks owner Federic McLaughlin is this line about his wife, movie star Irene Castle: “In the 1930s, she revamped the Black Hawks’ uniforms, adding geometric designs to pants and socks and cowboy fringes to gloves.” Luckily, the story includes a photo of said cowboy fringes (from Ted Arnold). … Ohio University hockey will wear a 60th-anniversary patch next season (from Trevor Wilson Patton). … The Penguins are trumpeting their Stanley Cup victory on their arena exterior.
NBA News: Steph Curry was on-brand on Monday night, wearing Under Armour ski goggles during the locker room celebration (from Eric Armstrong). … Someone created a Change.org petition in an effort to prevent the Spurs from using their new secondary logo. … As they’ve been doing for a few seasons, WWE is sending the Warriors a championship belt (from Josh Claywell). … Here’s former Hawks player Tom McMillen sporting a very rare McNOB format: small “c,” raised, with an underbar (from Johnny Garfield).
College Hoops News: Whoever produced this graphic about high school prospect Naz Reid used outdated logos for Kentucky, UCLA, and Seton Hall (from Josh Hinton). … New floor for Carleton University in Ottawa, Canada (from Moe Khan). … Converse and Jordan are releasing a special shoe pack to commemorate Michael Jordan’s years at North Carolina (from James Gilbert).
Soccer News: Philadelphia Union will wear stars and stripes during warmups on June 24 for “America Night” (from Adam Zwick). … Celtic FC will wear special kits to commemorate the 50th anniversary of their European Cup win next season (from Rhys McManus). … New kits for Maccabi Tel Aviv of the Israeli Premier League (from Scott Gross). … University of Buffalo women’s soccer will have new kits next season … New kits for Watford, including their new sleeve ad (from Spencer Hollis and Davis Hodge).
Grab Bag: While it used to be that most colleges had an athletic logo and an academic logo, that’s quickly changing (from Ryan Hamilton). … Check out this map of the major roads of the Roman Empire reimagined as subway lines (from James Gilbert).
What Paul did last night: I’m old enough to have straddled two eras of graphic design production: the digital/desktop era, which we’re in now, and the analog era, which was still in full swing when I worked on my high school and college newspapers, when I produced my first zine, and when I began working as a book editor. So I worked a lot with phototype, rubylith, line tape, non-repro blue pens, stat cameras, waxers, halftone screens, mechanicals, FPO images, pica rulers, and lots of other things that probably sound like gibberish to anyone under 40 (or anyone who’s never worked in print production, I suppose).
I’m glad to be working in the digital era now (creating Uni Watch membership cards would have been prohibitively painstaking in the pre-digital era, for example), but I’m also really happy that I learned all of those hands-on techniques. Those techniques are celebrated in a new documentary called Graphic Means, which traces the history of graphic arts production from the Gutenberg Bible to the present day, with an emphasis on that pre-digital era. Here’s the trailer:
There was a private screening of the film last night at the School of Visual Arts, and I managed to pull some strings and get myself a ticket. It’s soooo good! Unfortunately, it looks like most of the upcoming screenings are in Australia, but I’m sure it’ll make some festival appearances in the States at some point. Definitely worth seeing for anyone who has an interest in graphic design and/or print production. You can sign up for the film’s newsletter to keep up-to-date on future screenings.