Good morning! Hope you had a good weekend, as I did (more on that in a minute).
Now then: Tomorrow night is the MLB All-Star Game. As you probably know by now, the jerseys for the game will be rendered in a new tailoring template, which all teams will start using next season. The headline on MLB’s press release for the new template, as well as the text of the release itself, referred to the template as a “chassis.” And they weren’t the only ones using that term: CBS Sports, The Seattle Times, SportsLogos.net — chassis, chassis, chassis.
This nomenclature is neither new nor limited to MLB. The first use of it that I recall came in 2017, when the NBA switched from Adidas to Nike. At the time, the league said it would be “using a version of the Nike Aeroswift basketball chassis.” That same year, I had drinks with an Adidas designer, who explained to me that the NHL wouldn’t have any alternate jerseys in the 2017-18 season “because we’re still busy getting all the home and road jerseys to fit onto our chassis.” In the years since then, I feel like this term has gained more and more currency throughout the uni-verse — “chassis” creep, if you will. Retailers even use it to describe licensed jerseys.
Let’s be clear: A chassis is a supporting frame, usually of a wheeled conveyance. Sports jerseys do not have frames (or wheels). They do not have a chassis.
But it’s easy enough to see why the leagues and uniform manufacturers like the word chassis. It makes it sound like the jersey is an engineered piece of industrial technology that’s manufactured on an assembly line by guys wearing leather gloves and welding masks to protect them from all the flying sparks, rather than a few pieces of cloth fastened together with thread on a sewing machine by underpaid women in an Asian sweatshop. Iron Man’s armored costume — that has a chassis, and that is precisely the type of superhero connection that the leagues and manufacturers want us to think of when they talk about their products. Or to put it another way, it’s easier to call your template the Elite Vapor Avenging Untouchable F.U.S.I.O.N. Electro-Premier Transformatron Mach III if you’re also claiming that it has a “chassis.” It’s all so transparently pathetic.
Allow me to anticipate a few possible responses to this essay:
“Chassis” seems appropriate, or at least not so inappropriate, because Nike and the other uni makers do high-tech stuff like making body scans of athletes and using the latest modern fabrics.
Guess what: Normal apparel makers use body scans and modern fabrics too! But they don’t throw around words like chassis because they’re not trying to sell a sci-fi fantasy to a bunch of man-cave bros. (To be sure, regular apparel makers are very much in the business of selling other types of insipid fantasies, but that’s not Uni Watch’s concern.)
Duh — it’s called marketing.
I know. But why does marketing so often have to insult our intelligence or treat us like 14-year-olds? It’s degrading and embarrassing for everyone.
This seems like an awfully big fuss over one word.
Fair enough. But sometimes a single word can feel like a symptom of a bigger problem, or an encapsulation of a bigger trend. That’s how “chassis” feels to me — it feels like a lot of the uni-verse’s problems rolled into one tidy unit.
Dude, you’re not wrong, but come on — just let it go!
I’ve been trying to do more of that lately. And for the most part I’ve been succeeding — you have no idea how many things I have let go! But something about “chassis” just reached a critical mass in my brain until I couldn’t ignore it anymore.
I should say here that “chassis” is a perfectly fine word, and I have nothing against it on its own. In fact, its singular and plural versions are spelled the same (one chassis, two or more chassis) but pronounced differently (“cha-see” vs. “cha-seez”), which is a pretty neat trick! But it has no place in the uni-verse and deserves to be called out as the bullshit that it is.