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Sometimes the simplest little thing can lead you down a deep, deep rabbit hole. That’s what happened to me a few weeks ago when one of my Twitter followers, @drryanbohannon, let me know that the Carolina Thunderbirds, who play in the Federal Hockey League and are based in Winston-Salem, N.C., were wearing throwbacks that honored an earlier team from their hometown, the Winston-Salem Polar Twins.
That could have been a one-sentence item in the Ticker (“The FHL’s Carolina Thunderbirds wore Winston-Salem Polar Twins throwbacks last night”), but I was intrigued by the throwback design, which appeared to feature a really fun logo. I wanted to know more, so I began poking around — and I found all sorts of interesting stuff.
Let’s begin with the Winston-Salem Polar Twins. According to Wikipedia, they played in the Southern Hockey League from 1973 through 1977. And yes, their logo was a doozy. Check this out:
Oh man, I love that, especially the ice cube lettering. Also: The lettering on the bears’ sweaters appears to have been based on the logos used at the time by Winston cigarettes:
Obviously, that’s problematic from a corporate-encroachment standpoint (to say nothing of a lung cancer standpoint), but Winstons and Salems were actually manufactured in Winston-Salem (and maybe still are..?), so they’re a huge part of the local culture and identity. I took a factory tour there in 1996 — just weeks before most tobacco companies stopped offering public tours, as it turned out — and it was completely fascinating. I bet lots of local businesses there crib the lettering from the cigarette packaging. Perhaps someone who lives there can tell us..?
The cigarette connection also led to some amusing advertising on the back cover of the team’s programs:
Meanwhile, the programs’ front covers featured more of the excellent ice cube lettering:
Look closely at the word “Twins” on the covers. At first I thought that the dot on the “i” had a little smiley face, but then I realized it’s a speeding puck!
As I mentioned earlier, the Polar Twins played in the Southern Hockey League, whose logo lived up to the league’s name by evoking — imperfectly but unmistakably — the Confederate battle flag:
The team that won the league championship in the SHL’s first season, the Roanoke Valley Rebels, went with a more direct approach for its Confederate imagery:
I find that a lot more problematic than the cigarette lettering on the Polar Twins’ logo.
Anyway: That’s a lot of really interesting info, all because some minor league hockey team I’d never heard of decided to wear throwbacks honoring some other minor league hockey team I’d never heard of. Educational!
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The Astros before there were Astros: In the late 1950s, a few players took to the baseball diamond in a different kind of uniform: spacesuits!
Specifically, they were B.F. Goodrich Mark IV spacesuits, and the ballgame was a demonstration to show how flexible they were. Here’s another photo:
As MLB.com writer Jordan Shusterman notes, these would make a great throwback uni for the Astros — or maybe for their grounds crew:
— Dugout Legends (@DugoutLegends) February 4, 2014
(My thanks to Phil for bringing this one to my attention.)
Best supporting jack-tor: Two nights ago I hopped on my bike and headed off to see the movie If Beale Street Could Talk at a local theater. I was wearing the jacket you see above — a vintage Woolrich model that I got at a thrift shop a little over a year ago. Judging by its label, it’s probably from the late 1960s or early ’70s (which is pretty amazing because it’s in incredibly good condition, almost like new).
I arrived at the theater, took off my jacket and put it down on the empty seat next to me, and settled in to watch the movie, which is set in the 1970s. About half an hour into it, there was a scene in which this exact jacket — the same jacket laying on the chair next to me — was visible hanging from a coat rack for maybe 30 seconds. I was tempted to grab my phone and take a photo of the screen, but I resisted the urge.
It was just a random scene, but it turns out that it’s captured in one of the promotional stills that the movie studio’s been distributing. Check this out (click to enlarge):
See the jacket hanging farthest to left in the background? That’s totally my jacket!
This movie, incidentally, features a ton of gorgeous clothing — a real feast for the eyes. My favorite item was this shirt, which had matching trim at the sleeve cuffs and hemline:
More importantly, If Beale Street Could Talk is a powerful, excellent movie. Don’t miss.
(My thanks to Scott Davis for finding the movie still that shows the jacket.)
ITEM! Big membership news: If you keep an eye on the membership card gallery, you may have noticed that we’ve been approaching a milestone, as the number of cards in the gallery hit 1,970, 1,980, 1,990, and so on. We recently hit the 2,000 mark with reader Brad Thompson’s card. By nice coincidence, Brad chose a Seattle SuperSonics motif, so this milestone card was rendered in Uni Watch colors.
I thought we should do something special to mark this occasion. Longtime readers may recall that when the membership program started way back in 2007, we gave a little faux-foil seal for the “centennial” members (100th, 200th, etc.), like this:
When we hit the 1,000th member, we poked fun at ourselves by creating a gold card with purple trim (I much prefer silver to gold, and you all know how I feel about purple). This was before the advent of Purple Amnesty Day, so the 1,000th card was the first and, for a while, the only purple-inclusive card in existence:
In addition to wanting to do something special for the 2,000th card, I’ve also been thinking that our front-card design is looking a bit long in the tooth. The “Uni Watch” lettering is based on the site’s original logo, which we haven’t used in years, and the watermark is a secondary logo that ended up not being used in any other capacity. I wanted something that felt more up-to-date, so I had some back-and-forths with membership card designer Scott M.X. Turner. Here’s what we came up with (click to enlarge):
As with any design change, I’m sure some people will like it and others won’t, but I’m really happy with it. I love the winged stirrup as a repeating watermark, and the script feels nice and bold.
Brad Thompson’s membership card will be the first one to be rendered in this new design. He’s also getting a commemorative seal:
All subsequent cards will also get the new design (but not the seal, obviously).
One slight asterisk to all of this: Technically speaking, the number of cards in the gallery probably does not match up exactly with the number of members we’ve had. That’s because some members have gotten multiple cards over the years (which means there are fewer members than the number of cards in the gallery), and other members have asked for various reasons that their cards not be included in the gallery (which means there are more members than the number of cards in the gallery). I haven’t kept track of those discrepancies, but I think it’s fair to say that they more or less cancel each other out, and that Brad’s 2,000th-member status, while perhaps imprecise, is nonetheless fully legit.
On a personal note, it’s pretty awesome that the membership program has been going for nearly 12 years now, and that literally thousands of you have enrolled. I love scrolling through the various designs in the card gallery, many of which trigger fond memories of design research, or of getting the details just right. A very satisfying project!
If you’d like to help get us started toward the next thousand, ordering a membership card is a good way to support Uni Watch (which, quite frankly, could use your support these days). And remember, a Uni Watch membership card entitles you to a 15% discount on any of the merchandise in our Teespring shop. (If you’re an existing member and would like to have the discount code, email me.) As always, you can sign up for your own custom-designed card here, you can see all the cards we’ve designed so far here, and you can see how we produce the cards here.
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LAST CALL for the Chicago Fire raffle: In case you missed it on earlier this week, the Chicago Fire are generously offering one of their new jerseys for a Uni Watch raffle. The lucky winner will be able to choose either the primary red design or the secondary white design, both shown above. You’ll also get your choice of size, from S to XXL.
To enter, send an email to the raffle address by 7pm Eastern tonight. One entry per person. I’ll announce the winner tomorrow. Good luck!
’Skins Watch: Two hockey teams — the Winnipeg Jets and Manitoba Moose — will hold promotions that celebrate indigenous culture later this month. Further info on that logo here (from Mike Styczen). … Iron County, Utah, is that latest school district to retire its “Redmen” team name and mascot (from @GRTx3).
Baseball News: A new exhibit at the Museum of the City of New York features lots of previously unseen photos of Jackie Robinson. Additional info here (NYT link). … The Lakewood BlueClaws will have their first-ever Pride Night on June 8, including a giveaway cap with a rainbow-themed logo (from John Cerone). … If you look at this familiar footage of the NFL’s famous Immaculate Reception play and follow it for a few seconds, you’ll see that a coach on the Pittsburgh Steelers sideline was wearing a black Pirates cap and a member of the chain crew was wearing a similar gold cap. Never noticed that before (from Ethan Hopkin). … 3D front logo and West Virginia-themed back logo for Marshall (from @F5_CUSARefs). … The Northwoods League’s St. Cloud Rox are asking fans to vote on the team’s annual Pink in the Park jersey (from Elijah Stenman). … A prospect who’s been working out with former MLBer Jesse Barfield wore stirrups for a training session (from J. Daniel). … Lots of bobblehead and jersey giveaways on tap for the Astros (from Ignacio Salazar). … A skull made of old baseballs and softballs? Sure, why not (from @ohhhsourry). … The Lansing Lugnuts will honor Lansing native Burt Reynolds with Smokey and the Bandit-themed jerseys on July 20 (from Greg Facchini). … While watching some 1999 Cardinals highlights, Elias Coblentz noticed that P Kent Bottenfield was clearly wearing a 1998 road jersey (red beaks, no front number) rather than the proper 1999 model (yellow beaks, front number). The game took place on April 13 of that season. … The Kannapolis Intimidators are asking fans to help choose a new
brand team name (from James Gilbert). … The Hartford Yard Goats will be the Screamin’ Goats for one game this season (from sflunaticfringe). … SunTrust and BB&T have merged and will have a new name, which will presumably have implications for the Braves’ ballpark and Wake Forest’s football stadium. “This is why corporate names on sports stadiums are a bad idea,” says Jake Tilley. “There’s constant confusion and no identity for the fans.” And, I would add, no civic equity for the city. Bad news all around.
NFL News: Newly crowned NFL MVP Patrick Mahomes has a new personal logo. … Cross-listed from the baseball section: If you look at this familiar footage of the Immaculate Reception and follow it for a few seconds, you’ll see that a coach on the Steelers sideline was wearing a black Pittsburgh Pirates cap and a member of the chain crew was wearing a similar gold cap. Never noticed that before (from Ethan Hopkin). … Diego Yanez-Laguna DIY’d himself a Rams Super Bowl T-shirt. … Check out the huge lapel pin once worn by Falcons then-owner Rankin Smith. That’s the team’s 20th-anniversary logo on the bottom of the pin (good find by Charles Noerenberg). … Eight NFL coaches have been hired since the regular season ended, and most of them wore team-colored neckties for their introductory pressers (from Brian Spiess).
College Football News: Cross-listed from the baseball section: SunTrust and BB&T have merged and will have a new name, which will presumably have implications for the Atlanta Braves’ ballpark and Wake Forest’s football stadium. “This is why corporate names on sports stadiums are a bad idea,” says Jake Tilley. “There’s constant confusion and no identity for the fans.” And, I would add, no civic equity for the city. Bad news all around.
Hockey News: Oilers fans continue to be so frustrated with the team’s performance that they’re throwing their jerseys onto the ice. … The Connecticut College hockey team wore green jerseys for Green Dot Week, which raises awareness of sexual assault. … The Ontario Reign will wear L.A. Kings throwbacks tomorrow (from Jakob Fox). … Here’s an interview with the guy who was the box cover artist for the old Blades of Steel video game (from Jason Hillyer).
NBA News: Former Hawks great Dominique Wilkins has partnered with an Atlanta brewery to create a new IPA with a uni-themed label design. … Here are the uniforms for the NBA Celebrity All-Star Game. … Autism-awareness uniforms this Saturday for the D League’s Maine Red Claws. … The studio show First Things First showed newly acquired 76ers F Tobias Harris Photoshopped into a Sixers uni with an Adidas jersey and Nike shorts, plus the jersey had a retired number (from Zach Schlesinger and Pablo Jawnscobar). … In reality, Harris will wear No. 33, and his newly acquired teammates Boban Marjanović, Mike Scott, and Malachi Richardson will wear No. 51, No. 1, and No. 22, respectively. … Meanwhile, G/F Reggie Bullock will wear No. 35 for the Lakers, and new Clippers Wilson Chandler, Mike Muscala, and Landry Shamet will wear No. 22, No. 41, and No. 20, respectively. … The Trail Blazers will be using this 50th-anniversary logo next season. Honestly, the pinwheel has never struck me as being numeral-like. If anything, it looks more like a 6 than a 0. … The “2” on the back of Bucks G Sterling Brown’s jersey was upside-down last night.
College Hoops News: Throwbacks on tap for Arkansas (from Christopher Jones). … Wake Forest had pink socks last night (from James Gilbert). … Missouri will retire Derrick Chievous’s No. 3. “But that number is currently being worn by Ronnie Suggs,” notes Kyle Chisholm. “Seems pretty unusual to retire a number when a another player is already wearing it.”
Soccer News: New Chinese New Year kits for Paris Saint-Germain. … The LA Galaxy are putting five stars above their jersey crest this year, as opposed to just one. Also their second kit will launch on Feb. 17 (from Chris Cruz). … MLS teams will no longer wear or sell long-sleeved jerseys (from @jason3thousand).
Grab Bag: Journalists in Raipur, India, are wearing helmets as a form of protest against Bharatiya Janata Party officials who were recently arrested for assaulting a journalist. … A ton of old Nebraska high school sports photos — mostly basketball and football, but other stuff as well — can be found on this Twitter account (from TJ Harris). … New black and red helmets for Maryland lacrosse. … The D.C. expansion team for Major League Rugby, the U.S./Canada rugby union competition, will be called Old Glory DC. “They’re supposed to start play in 2020,” says our own Jamie Rathjen. … Here’s a rugby union match that takes superhero advertising to a new level. “According to this article, these ‘unis’ will be used in most all games between two RSA clubs in the upcoming Super Rugby season,” says Evan Stewart. “Pretty awful, really.” Indeed. … The great 99% Invisible podcast has a new episode about color, which includes some uniform-related content (from Andrew Cosentino). … New car livery for the Haas F1 team (from Jack Wade).