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The Care and Cleaning of Athletic Uniforms

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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!

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The Ticker
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 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).

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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.

Comments (64)

    Something got mixed up with the Pens (and I guess Expos?) items in the baseball and hockey sections, I think.

    They’re both missing a quote character in the html, so it runs together with the next one in both cases.

    The Black Hawks picture is really good. Irene Castle was ahead of herself, those diagonal stripes on socks briefly caught on about 10 years ago. The white pants is also interesting. The Black Hawks could consider throwing back to that, whenever they next play outdoors.

    The pants weren’t white; they were a tan color.

    And considering the team’s name, that fringe on the gloves might be better described as “American Indian fringe” as opposed to “cowboy fringe.” Mind you, it’s authenticity is probably non-existent and inspired by showbiz…

    Uh huh, you can tell that’s tan vs. white? I realize a lot of pants were tan back in that era, but that looks to match the striping in the Black Hawaks uni – which makes it white.

    It’s clearly a scrimage, with rather unique boards, look at the background, so not sure that uni ever saw the light of day in regular season

    The Cedar Rapids Gazette piece on the Iowa property owners states that the court ruled in FAVOR of the owners.

    FYI, the Iowa judge ruled in favor of building the Kinnick Stadium modeled house, not against.

    For the record, those gold 412 jerseys are from a store that goes by the name 412, whose wares are popular with athletes. To his credit, Marc-Andre Fleury wore a Francisco Cervelli jersey, since they both wear number 29.


    “The principal bugaboos of the cleaner [when cleaning football pants] are heavy perspiration, ground-in soil, yard-line lime, and stains of unknown origin.”

    I want to frame this sentence.

    Re: Safeco Field
    The tweet says naming rights will not be extended beyond the 2018 season. Doesn’t that mean it will be Safeco Field until the 2019 season?

    It looks like they’ve changed the layering of the Rangers’ lettering. Instead of the block shadow layer being a solid piece underneath the inner color layer, it will be cut out on the inside (requiring two pieces for the two Rs and the A) and placed on top of the inner layer.

    Hey, thanks for the ticker part about my EF figure, and thanks to Jim Vilk for the tweet in the first place…. I was pleasantly surprised to see that here today :)

    Congratulations, Gene! Beautiful work. Technical question: Did you use any decals, or are those Colts entirely hand-painted? (Contemplating doing custom EF figures myself, and the last time I did custom figure work, on 6″ McFarlane baseball figs, I printed my own decals for some of the detail work, not trusting my own steadiness of brush.)

    This was all paint…. rules stated only Tudor decals, and I didn’t have any. Otherwise I for sure would have used decals. I was pretty strategic since I had to hand paint. .. went with the Colts because the logo was simple, and the numbers have no outlines, which are terrible to paint.

    Awesome figurine, Gene! Were you required to paint an entire team for the contest?

    I used to customize my EF squads–but never to such incredible detail!–using Testor’s model paint colors and a stickpin guided by a steady hand while not breathing for hours at a stretch (with my face violating the no purple rule).

    For outlined numbers, it would be the outermost color first before working inward and reaching the primary color for completion.

    Weirdest incident involving EF players? Spent two months customizing Packers and Steelers teams for a coworker’s son’s Christmas gift. Their family cat plucked Mean Joe Greene from the field while a play was in progress and ran off with him. His figure was never recovered. But a replacement Joe took over one week later to spite the feline’s rival league.

    No, just one figure…. a stock tudor fab 5 figure. … but I used putty and model fingers, hair, shoulder pads, shoes, and speed flex helmet. I just wanted to see what I could pull off at that size.

    Georgia Tech’s licensing lists: White, Georgia Tech Gold, Buzz Gold and Georgia Tech Navy. Considering Paul Johnson was hired at Tech after his tremendous turnaround of Navy football, Georgia Tech Navy would be a wise choice.

    Changes in Rangers stitching likely have to do with Adidas going with a mesh base instead of twill and applying the white twill via kiss cut. (Similar to what was done with embroidered numbers of their NBA jerseys)

    Previously it looked like they used layered twill.

    The Georgia Tech picture is bugging the hell out of me. Specifically-their Gator and Orange Bowl banners. Why would you use the style 19xx-xx-xx etc then NOT switch to 20xx-xx?

    “Due to seedings and such, Florida wore road uniforms for yesterday’s super-regional, even though the game was played at their ballpark”

    Actually, it doesn’t have anything to do with seedings after the first game in the super regionals. It’s an NCAA rule that the higher-seeded team is the visiting team in Game 2 of the best-of-three super regional. It’s the NCAA’s attempt at “fairness” even though the super regionals (and regionals in the round before supers) are played at school stadiums. Mississippi State wore their home whites at LSU on Sunday night with the Tigers as the visiting team. In the regionals, which team is considered the “home” team for a given game is determined by which team has been the “home” team the least in the regional. Seedings can come into play if both teams have been the “home” team the same amount of times in the regional.

    In a lot of cases, the host team in a regional or super regional will wear a colored top when they’re the “road” team in lieu of wearing the road grays. So the Florida example is not extremely rare. Happens every year.

    Oregon State wore their grey road pinstripes for game 2 in their super against Vandy. Nice look.

    Way to bury the lede on the Macabbi ticker item. From the linked page (edited to get rid of uni “story”):

    “The Club developed, designed and created a unique line of quality sportswear adapted to the needs of the players, fans and Club… The Official 2017/18 Collection is self produced and presents the perfect blend of unique design, advanced technology and uncompromising comfort. Throughout the process the Club was assisted by experts in Israel and abroad in order to give the players and fans a first rate sports experience…Owner Mitch Goldhar stated: ‘The transition to self production gives the Club flexibility and the ability to create unique designs while maintaining the highest level of quality. The players, professional staff and fans were an integral part of this decision making process to achieve the best results.’

    The Club’s Merchandise Manager, Tal Mualem: “Throughout the process of development and production, we emphasized the Club’s heritage, high quality design and uncompromising quality…'”

    One more thing regarding the upcoming Adidas NHL uniforms… I really, sincerely hope that Adidas takes a cue from link and link, and give us back our straight hemlines as God intended.


    “A judge in Iowa has ruled in favor a family”
    – “of” a family

    “If you look closely at the Rangers’ recent jersey tease, it appears the all”
    – “that” all

    I’m from Buffalo and live here too, the USA hockey jerseys that are basically long sleeve bills jerseys are an embarrassment. It’s not like team Canada is going to be wearing Argo jerseys for the outdoor game. I can’t believe they did this. Totally a money grab and in no way represents the sport correctly. Just God awful!

    How is it a “money grab”?

    No matter what the jersey looked like, they’d presumably be selling it. So how is this design any more of a “money grab” than any other design?

    Because non hockey fans in Buffalo will buy it because of the bills football aspect. Id totally rather see team USA in team USA uniforms rather than associate with a franchise that has done nothing but make money off the fans, and have no incentive on winning for their fan base.

    Really? A non-hockey fan is going to pay $140 (for a blank jersey with no number or lettering) or even $225 (for a jersey with a number and a name)?

    To be clear: I think most examples of jersey retailing, including this one, are stupid, and bad for the uni-verse. And if you don’t like this design, that’s fine. But I don’t see how this one is any more of a “cash grab” than most others, and it’s hard to imagine a non-hockey fan spending that much money for it.

    “It’s not like team Canada is going to be wearing Argo jerseys for the outdoor game”

    However, Team Canada not innocent. Remember they did wear green uniforms for some games at the 2010 World Juniors held in Regina and Saskatoon, SK.

    The CBC story attached below states “the jerseys are designed to honour the CFL’s Saskatchewan Roughriders..”


    Facebook is telling me the Rockies are playing the Pirates later today and shows this logo for the Rockies: link.

    I like the Philly Union’s Stars & Stripes jersey. If only someone could go back in time and show it to the USMNT in 1993.

    Sad to see Safeco go. It’s corporate shilling, sure, but I think it’s one of the better sounding corporate stadium names. Also notable that the “Safeco Field” sign in left field is a prominent feature in the park — the name change will affect the stadium aesthetic more than it would in most stadiums.

    Assuming they go with a new naming rights advertiser, here’s rooting for Alaska Airlines Field.

    Re: Univ. of Buffalo Women’s Soccer jerseys: Those varying grey stripes…should this style be called “Shanghai Sunrise” due to China’s horrendous smog issues?

    I question this article about the Dallas Cowboys uniforms. It quotes the equipment manager, who started in 1989. ““Originally, the white at home started with the heat, especially at Texas Stadium.” The Cowboys have been wearing white at home since the 1960s, and what I have heard many times was that Tex Schramm wanted the Dallas fans to see the other visiting teams colors. TV was black & white. Also this article refers to the navy jerseys as road uniforms, but really most of the time they wear the white both at home and on the road, unless the team they play at elects to wear white against the Cowboys.

    Yeah, there’s a lot of bad info in that article (or at least info that doesn’t jibe with anything I’ve ever heard before). The only thing that really matters is that the eq guy said they’ll be wearing blue at home more this season. He’s a legitimate source for that info.

    Really sad to see that. One of my favorite things about my favorite team is that white set. When I picture the Dallas Cowboys in my head that is the only uniform they wear. I hope they stay away from the Navy jersey as much as possible.

    I have many books on the Cowboys history and you are correct with Schramm wanting the fans to see the other teams colors.It also gave them a consistent look. There were seasons they didn’t wear blue at all. But the heat was also a factor. September games at Texas Stadium often hit 120° on the field.

    . . . but the Cowboys wore white at home for (at least most of) their first dozen seasons, before they ever moved to Irving.

    That’s neat about Irene Castle. The Castle’s are an interesting story. When I leave to go back to work in a few minutes, I’ll drive down Vernon Castle Avenue (Named after her first husband)and pass the spot where he crashed his plane during WWI.The British trained pilots here in Texas because of our pleasant weather. There’s a Wikipedia article on them. But all you hear about them around here, not once does anyone mention she had anything to do with the Blackhawks unis.

    I was at the Dave Matthews and Tim Reynolds show last night in Suburban Detroit at the DTE Energy Music Theater. I saw a guy there wearing a I Still Call It Pine Knob t-shirt. Sorry no pic. Thought you guys would appreciate that here

    One thing bothering me about the image on the outside of the Pens arena… The have the cup wins listed in this order: 2017, 1991, 1992, 2009, 2016.

    Okay, I can understand that the latest win needs to be highlighted, but a new order is needed. If you want to go from most recent to oldest, sure, put 2017 at the top, followed by 2016, 2009… Otherwise, start with 1991 and work from there downward.

    2017 is yellow while the other dates are white so it’ll stand out either way.

    “The principal bugaboos of the uni-industrio-commercial complex are heavy advertisation, ground-in makers marks, checkout-line designs, and stains of corporate origin.”

    There, better.

    I saw that Bengals/Browns shirt at the thrift store on Henderson, it said Mike on the back or I would of bought it. I was going to post a picture here but I was without my phone that day. Glad to see someone was thinking the same thing!

Comments are closed.