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Some Thoughts About ‘Gear’

Commenter LoseRem recently started a lengthy thread here on the site by saying he was disappointed in New Yorkers because of “the lack of Mets gear” being worn around town during the World Series. Yes, that’s an absurd sentiment (which we’ve already discussed at length, so let’s please not relitigate it today, thanks), but it got me thinking: When did team merch like jerseys, caps, and T-shirts become known as “gear”?

You hear “gear” being used all the time: “Fans are decked out in their Cubs gear” or “Gonna break out my LSU gear for this Saturday’s game” or whatever. I certainly don’t exclude myself from this trope — I’ve definitely used “gear” when referring to team merch.

“Gear” is a very appealing word. It evokes thoughts of buckles buckling, snaps snapping, straps strapping things into place. When you “gear up,” you’re a rough ’n’ ready commando preparing for a battle or some other arduous task, or maybe you’re a skilled professional brandishing the tools of your trade (camera gear, carpenter’s gear, etc.).

But that’s the thing: Team merch isn’t “gear” at all — it’s just clothing. And fans wearing team merch aren’t “gearing up” or going into battle or strapping on a tool belt — they’re just playing dress-up. I understand why it’s seductive to refer to team merch as “gear,” but that’s basically an exercise in fantasyland thinking.

As you can see from the ads that I’ve scattered throughout this entry, “gear” is also a corporate marketer’s dream term. An overpriced polyester shirt doesn’t seem quite so overpriced if it’s “gear,” which is all the more reason to view the term with suspicion.

I first heard “gear” used when referring to team merch in 1999, when the Braves were burying the Mets in the pennant race and Braves third baseman Chipper Jones said New York fans should “get out their Yankees gear” because the Mets’ season was effectively over.

Or at least that’s how I remembered Jones’s quote. But when I looked it up the other day, I found that what he actually said was, “”Mets fans can go home and put on their Yankees stuff” (or, depending on the media outlet, “Now all the Mets fans can go home and put their Yankee stuff on”). So there was no use of “gear” there — I had somehow mentally inserted it at some point over the years, which is an indication of how pervasive the term has become. But! In a 2009 piece about Jones’s farewell season, New York Times writer Jack Curry led with, “Ten years ago, Chipper Jones invited Mets fans to go home and change into their Yankees gear.” So Jones is now retroactively thought to have been talking about gear even though he didn’t actually say “gear.”

(Odd coincidence: What Jones actually said [“stuff”] and what I mistakenly thought he said [“gear”] were the titles of two very similar — and similarly dreadful — magazines that both launched right around the time he gave that quote. Hmmmm.)

Anyway: As you know, I think the world would be much better off if team merch weren’t available for sale and if fans didn’t wear it. I’m fully aware that many (perhaps most) of you disagree with me on that point, but how about this: Let’s at least call these items what they are, which is clothing or apparel or merch. It’s not “gear” — never was, never will be. I hereby propose a moratorium on that term as it relates to team merch and will do my best to observe and enforce that moratorium here at Uni Watch.

I know, I know: Many of you no doubt think this is crazy, or just annoying. But language matters, and the language of the uni-verse should be of interest to all of us — especially when it’s being used to sell us stuff.

•  •  •  •  •

ESPN reminder: In case you missed it yesterday, my annual college basketball season preview is up now on ESPN.

• • • • •

T-Shirt Club launch: The Uni Watch T-Shirt Club’s design for the December — the ugly sweater design — is now available. We’re offering it in three formats: a standard short-sleeve tee (American Apparel or Teespring Premium), a long-sleeve tee, or a sweatshirt. I love how it turned out and can’t thank my Teespring partner, Bryan Molloy, enough for the sensational design (click to enlarge):

The little “flaws” in the knitting, the stirrups and magnifying glasses, the slightly ragged NOB lettering — it’s so awesome! This might be my favorite design of the entire year.

This shirt will be available through next Tuesday, Nov. 17. Again, you can order it here.

My thanks for everyone’s enthusiasm for the T-Shirt Club throughout the year — it’s been a fun project. We’ll likely continue it in 2016, but in a different format. More details soon.

• • • • •

The Ticker
By Paul

Baseball News: Here’s a 1989 shot of the Bush clan wearing MLB merch — that’s George H.W. and George W. in Rangers caps and Jeb in a Cubs jacket. ”¦ A 2016 Mets calendar mistakenly shows Jason — not Jacob — deGrom (from Chris Flinn). ”¦ Speaking of the Mets, good news at Shea, where the insipidly named Pepsi Porch is being de-Pepsi-fied. ”¦ Here’s ace DIYer Wafflebored’s latest retro-styled necktie. ”¦ New uniforms for the Kane County Cougars (from Jim Hanke). ”¦ Can a ribbon have a font? Sort of, if it’s a “Boston Strong” ribbon patterned after the Red Sox font (from Kyle Geralds).

NFL News: Bills coach Rex Ryan, whose son plays for Clemson, wore a Clemson helmet to a press conference yesterday. ”¦ Here’s a head-spinning graphic showing the year-by-year visual progression of every NFL team’s logo (if your vision get blurry, blame Mike). ”¦ The Bengals will wear their orange alts next Monday night (from Jon Schroeder). ”¦ The Jets and Bills will play the first Color Rash game tomorrow night, and here’s a look at the new facemasks that the Jets will be wearing.

College Football News: Here’s one blogger’s top five reasons why Texas should keep its throwbacks (thanks, Phil). ”¦ Here’s the story behind Florida’s white helmets from last weekend (from @DaveDoop).

Hockey News: Helmet poppies for the Canucks. ”¦ New pads for Hurricanes goalie Eddie Lack (from James Gilbert). ”¦ The Kings wore their gold throwbacks last night. Interestingly, they’re also planning to wear them for a road game in Boston on Feb. 9 — the 50th anniversary of the franchise’s founding (from Brian Rowland). ”¦ The Blue Jackets keep coming up with these awesome promotional posters. Boy are they good! You can see more of them here. ”¦ Remembrance Day uniforms for the Kitchener Rangers.

NBA News: Some great old uni photos in this article on Sweetwater Clifton (thanks, Phil). ”¦ The NBA’s Xmas Day ball features a snowflake-ized version of the league logo. ”¦ World Series of Poker player Joe McKeehan wore an Allen Iverson jersey while playing last night (thanks, Mike).

College Hoops News: More ridiculous color names and and “story”-based uniforms, this time from Seton Hall, who should just call their new uniforms “blue” and “grey” and be done with it (from Phil). ”¦ New court design for Jacksonville State (from Jake Scott). ”¦ Here are the N7 designs for Oklahoma State and New Mexico. ”¦ William & Mary has new uniforms and a new court design (from Andrew Ryder). ”¦ Here’s the 2017 Final Four logo.

Soccer News: More national team unveils, this time for Wales, Spain, the Czech Republic, Spain, Northern Ireland, Austria, Switzerland, Russia, and Italy’s keeper. ”¦ Here are all of the confirmed kits so far for Euro2016 (thanks, Phil).

Grab Bag: Lots of cool uniforms on display in this slideshow covering 25 years of the Iowa state volleyball championships (from Jesse Gavin). ”¦ easyJet’s new flight attendant uniforms are covered in LEDs. ”¦ NC State has inked a six-year extension of its apparel deal with Adidas. ”¦ Two MLB-sponsored golfers won their respective tournaments last weekend (from Jake Patterson). ”¦ New lacrosse jerseys for the NLL’s Saskatchewan Rush (from Lloydguy82).

• • • • •

Holiday thoughts: With Veterans Day being observed today in the United States and Remembrance Day in Canada, the UK, and many other countries, Newsday has published a strong piece by an Iraq War veteran who says the “patriotic pageantry” at sporting events has gone too far and lost its meaning. It’s both thoughtful and thought-provoking — highly recommended. (My thanks to reader Brian Wulff for bringing it to my attention.)

My best wishes to all who are observing the holidays, and to all veterans.

• • • • •

Classy gent: Word began circulating yesterday that the great New Orleans R&B pianist, songwriter, and producer Allen Toussaint had died. If you know who he was, then you know what a huge loss this is; if you’ve never heard of him, you almost certainly know his songs, which were covered and made into hits by countless pop stars, including Ernie K-Doh, Lee Dorsey, the Rolling Stones, the Pointer Sisters, Glenn Campbell, Warren Zevon, and many more. He was the kind of artist for whom the term “an American original” was created, and a genius to boot. He’ll be missed.

I saw Toussaint play several times over the years, both in New Orleans and here in New York, most recently two summers ago at Lincoln Center. I never got to meet him or shake his hand or anything like that, but that Lincoln Center show was preceded by a live appearance in a small room where he was interviewed by the singer Nona Hendryx, and I was sitting just a few feet away from him. You could tell he was a class act — smart, dignified, articulate, a pro’s pro. He’d just been awarded the National Medal of Arts at the White House the month before, and it was hard to imagine a more deserving recipient.

Toussaint looked vibrant and healthy during those Lincoln Center appearances two years ago. He was 75 at the time, and I remember thinking, “He’s gonna be one of those guys who keep playing until they’re 90.” Wrong again — dang. R.I.P.

Comments (161)

    Is that “gearing up” or “cosplaying”? lol
    Ah who cares, honestly I hate how everything needs a damn term to it for marketing.

    i think people have started to use the word “gear” because it sounds better to “gear up” more so than “clothing up”, “suit up”, or even “merch up”. the latter would never be adopted by teams/leagues/merchandisers because it sounds to salesy…

    to me it’s just a case of tomato/tomato it what you will it’s a term that’s harmless in the grand scheme of things

    We changed to a new hosting service. The old URL will start forwarding to the new one at some point (something to do with a DNS cache, I think..?), but you should really be using the new one anyway.

    i think people have started to use the word “gear” because it sounds better to “gear up” more so than “clothing up”, “suit up”, or even “merch up”.

    Um, you realize it’s possible to get dressed without invoking an “up”-related term, right?

    As for language being “harmless,” I strongly disagree. Language is important — it can be powerful, coercive, inspiring, and more. That’s why discussions like this one matter.

    i think of gear as an all encompasing term, it applies to clothing, headwear,the trinkets and everything else that is sold on sites like and what not

    Yes, duh — lots of people think of “gear” that way.

    But that doesn’t mean it’s accurate or appropriate. The point of today’s post is to challenge that usage.

    I can’t go into details, but I had a trademark case in which the USPTO cited “gear” meaning “clothing” or “apparel” in general, keeping my client’s trademark unregistered.

    Color Rash is tomorrow, not tonight.

    “Gear” has always struck me as an odd term for team clothes and merchandise.

    that was my fault. it didn’t copy the link i selected and had an old one in my clipboard.

    but the flickr link doesn’t work for me

    I’m still calling it the German Sudetenland. Too soon?

    Anyway, we saw both the Czech Republic and the Northern Ireland kits yesterday in the same space.

    The next Color Rash game is not Jags v. Ravens (they play this Sunday). The Color Rash game on 11/19/15 is Titans @ Jags.

    I can’t remember a time when the word “gear” did not refer to sports apparel, including fan merch. Memory is a hazy thing, of course, but I’m quite confident we referred to the ubiquitous white 1987 World Champions Twins sweatshirts as “gear” in the winter of 87-88. “Did you get any Twins gear for Christmas?” and that sort of thing. And at the time, there only were a few bits of Twins clothing available at retail, so mainly it was a question of whether you had both a Homer Hankie and that white sweatshirt that every Minnesotan owned and wore that winter.

    I’m all for distinguishing between the stuff an athlete wears to play a sport – “gear” is just fine here – and the stuff a fan wears to spectate a sport – “clothes” would be most correct here. But more needs to be done to substantiate the history of the usages before I can accept that referring to fan clothes as “gear” is a novel or recent coinage. This would not at the moment seem to be a case of trying to stop the spread of a new usage; this is a case of trying to reverse a well-established usage. A different, much harder task.

    The essay seemed to me to imply rather strongly that it was a relatively recent coinage, an artifact of this century and recent marketing trends. Anyway, my point is that pushback on this one is likely much harder than if it were a new use of the term. Regardless, I think it’s a valuable intellectual discipline to distinguish between the stuff an athlete wears to play a sport and the stuff spectators wear to watch a sport, even when it may be literally the same article of clothing in each case. So I’m going to try to be conscious of the distinction and not call the stuff fans wear “gear” anymore. Also, I get to call the stuff I pulled out of my closet to play curling “gear” now. Those aren’t snow pants, old wool socks, a hoodie, and insulated work gloves randomly pressed into service to curl on the cheap, that’s my curling gear!

    The essay seemed to me to imply rather strongly that it was a relatively recent coinage, an artifact of this century and recent marketing trends.

    I think it probably IS from this century. It can’t be from much earlier than that, because jerseys weren’t being sold until the 1990s anyway. I’ll leave it to you to decide whether that qualifies as “recent.”

    What’s definitely recent is that I just started thinking about it, and so I shared those thoughts today. That’s all.

    “It can’t be from much earlier than that, because jerseys weren’t being sold until the 1990s anyway.”

    My recollection is similar to Scott’s. I remember people using the term “team gear” colloquially as far back as the late 1980s, which was when I first started dabbling into sports collectibles in my youth. My recollection is that “gear” could mean memorabilia like pennants and key chains as well as apparel.

    And jersey sales date back earlier than the 1990s as well. I specifically remember a couple of local sporting goods stores in my hometown selling replica NFL and college jerseys as far back as at least 1986 and maybe earlier. And check out pages 4 and 5 of this 1987 NFL catalog for listings of “authentic” team jerseys:


    Jerseys weren’t being sold until the 1990s? Not true at all. Plenty available in the 1980s, and much earlier. We (well, my dad) collected numerous NHL/MLB replicas then (which kind of annoyed me even as a youngster as I would have preferred the pro-weights with actual stitched lettering!)

    This kid all the way back in 1946 was mortified to receive a Leafs jersey instead of a Canadiens sweater for Christmas:

    Gear does seem wrong and over the top, but “merch” is the term that really annoys me. The sound of it more the anything but when I think “merchandise” I think stickers, keychains, etc – not something to wear.

    Interesting article on Pepsi not renewing with CitiField, thanks for sharing.
    These giants (Coke & Pepsi) have been battling for years, I do not prefer one over the other however I am able to taste the difference. Why doesn’t Pepsi use Pepsi-Cola on their cans/bottles? They use it at a ballpark in NYC the center of the universe.

    But at some point they decided they didn’t need the “-Cola” part on their name (an attempt to sound modern and fresh?) The ballpark sign is a throwback.

    I’m actually going to miss that sign. I loved it. If we’re going to have in-stadium ads, that was a good one.

    The sign was nice, I agree. But having a corporate-named deck of the stadium was terrible.

    Here’s hoping that deck simply becomes, you know, the right field porch.

    not one to poke fun (as I myself am follicly challenged), but your cropped photo on the ESPN article made me chuckle and thought I’d see if anyone else noticed.

    Just the little picture under the video next to your name. Like I said, not a big deal, just a chuckle.

    I see Paul’s point about the use of the term gear. While I don’t agree with his point there are certainly team merch items that are gear. Key chains, lamps, travel mugs, construction helmets (yes, they are OSHA approved), backpacks, car mats, cigarette lighters, etc. I’m sure there are many more but these we’re the first ones I thought of. I usually agree with Paul on many uni related matters but not here. I’m fine with calling my apparel “gear”. While it isn’t a perfect use of that term, it’s close enough for my taste to use it.

    Couple of thoughts here. The word “gear” is used largely because it’s short, and to the point. Ideal for advertising and use by the public. And to many people, using the word “clothing” doesn’t include hats.

    Also, the interest in team gear is linked with the growing interest in uniforms over the years. Many people who buy merchandise like the design, and when a significant number of fans have something in common, the next step is to talk about it. There’s also a sense of creativity involved, not only from the gear produced, but from the views of others.

    Couple of thoughts here. The word “gear” is used largely because it’s short, and to the point. Ideal for advertising and use by the public. And to many people, using the word “clothing” doesn’t include hats.

    I already acknowledged that the term is seductive and sales-friendly. That doesn’t make it accurate or appropriate. “Merch” is just as snappy, and far more accurate.

    The rest of your comment is about why fans like to buy/wear this stuff, not about language. That’s a different discussion for another day. Let’s please not get into that today — let’s stick to the linguistic question. Thanks.

    Use of gear to relate to clothing dates back to the 14th century. Before that it was mainly armor, arms and other military equipment dating back to 1200. So gear has almost always referred to uniforms.

    “Gear” is late 1980s-early 1990s African-American slang for clothing that has now become mainstream slang for sports-logo clothing, presumably through the influence of African-American athletes. This is nothing to be upset about.

    Wu-Tang Clan’s debut album (released Nov. 1993, recorded earlier) contained the line “Champion gear that I rock…”

    A Tribe Called Quest’s “Midnight Marauders” album (also 1993) featured the line “You know I got to look dipped in the fresh gear.”

    Neither usage required a further explanation in ’93 so it was certainly common by then.

    Found at least two more instances of gear=clothes on Kool G Rap’s “Road to the Riches” album from 1989.

    “Fingernails filed, your hair is styled
    And the gear that you wear looks hot and wild”

    As indicated in the above lyrics, Mark’s comment, and my own experiences, the term “gear” was never solely limited to meaning athletic clothing.

    I’m interested in the idea that team clothing shouldn’t be for sale and fans shouldn’t wear it. Is there a previous column or blog post about this?

    This has been my consistent, oft-repeated position pretty much forever. Don’t think I’ve ever put all the thoughts in one place, mainly because the thoughts themselves have been stated so many, many times in various entries. Maybe I’ll gather them in one place soon.

    But let’s please not get into that today. Thanks.

    “whose son plays for Clemson wore” comma after Clemson
    “The Blue Jackets keep coming up with this awesome promotional posters”

    Do the Jackets posters actually appear as posters anywhere, or are they just an online thing?

    RE: link.

    My mom was just purging some closets and she came across two Cubs jackets that were given by the team (as a “thanks for doing business with us” type of thing) to my dad in the late 80s. They haven’t fit him in years so she gave them to me.

    One is exactly like the one Jeb is wearing — same embroidered name (well, it has my dad’s name, not “Vice President George Bush”, on it). The other one is very similar but it’s a half-zip pullover style rather than a button-up.

    Yes, they look just as bad on me as that one does on Jeb.

    By the way, I wear hockey gear all the time — y’know, when I’m playing hockey. I even have a special bag to carry it all in.


    I really don’t need another red shirt but a GREEN ugly sweater would look great in my closet 11 months of the year.

    Just sayin’.

    Gear as a term for team-related clothing seems fine to me. It probably arose out of the idea that to go through the ritual of watching and support and getting into the spirit of a game, fans would but on the garb they felt necessary to put them in that frame of mind. Their gear. Also gear is used as an overarching term for things beyond clothing, such as branded mugs, bowls, noisemakers, etc. Though it could be marketing speak designed to make people think they are not doing their fan duty by not buying and wearing team-related merchandise, and I see your point, I don’t have a big problem with it. I agree that words and their meaning are important.

    Merch doesn’t work well as a term after an item has been sold. It is then no longer merch and is now a hat, shirt, mug, etc.

    “it could be marketing speak designed to make people think they are not doing their fan duty by not buying and wearing team-related merchandise”


    Whoa. What is this “doing their fan duty” shit? Seriously?

    This cuts to the heart of what PL is talking about — that somehow if fans don’t dress themselves in $300 polyester shirts (or other “gear”), they’re somehow not fans (or “good” fans) — not doing their “duty” as it were?

    That’s the most ridiculous thing I’ve ever heard.

    That’s almost as bad as saying “if you don’t wear an American flag lapel pin clearly you don’t love America”.

    Jeebus christ, is everyone this brainwashed?

    Calm. Down.

    I was looking at both sides of the issue. Examining why I thought it might have arisen organically, but also why the cynic in me thinks it was made up my marketing, or possibly appropriated by marketing to guilt people into purchasing things. I realize now my sentence got convoluted at the end. Sorry for any confusion.

    In summation, despite cynicism saying it’s marketing speak to get people to buy things, because it may have a legitimate usage, I have no problem with it.

    OK, two things…three actually.

    One — I wasn’t taking issue with you, per se, about the “doing their fan duty” shit. Was just remarking in general (and assuming you’re not alone in this sentiment).


    despite cynicism saying it’s marketing speak to get people to buy things, because it may have a legitimate usage, I have no problem with it.

    it has NO legitimate usage in that context. By saying you have no problem with it, you’ve already accepted their premise that fans have a “duty” to buy overpriced shit (“gear”) or else they’re bad fans/not supporting their team.

    and three:

    Calm. Down.

    I am calm. For now. We can have a rational discussion about this (and apologies if you thought I was expressing a disagreement with you specifically — it was more of a general disbelief that anyone could be duped into believing not buying overpriced merchandise is the equivalent of being a bad fan. I’m sure you’re not the only one).

    Phil, sorry if I read you wrong. All I was trying to say is it’s possible that marketers would use a disgusting concept like it being a fan’s duty to purchase things (but we all know the corporate world is like that and it works in many ways across many markets). I’m not saying I agree that it is a fan’s duty to buy anything (I do not).

    I’m saying it may have a legitimate usage in the context of my original statement – that the ritual of watching or attending games is often accompanied by a fan donning some sort of clothing or using products that show an allegiance to a team (to rib rival fans, to serve as an identifier to talk with other fans, as a part of some superstition, etc.). These products can be seen as the gear used to partake in that ritual… in a similar manner that a mom might use a sign to show support for their child at a sporting, academic, or visual arts event. It is in that context that I accept the term gear as acceptable.

    Perhaps we need to accept the possibility that there could be a difference between “liking” something and “being a fan” of it. Fan is short for “fanatic”, after all. I don’t think it’s terribly unreasonable to expect a “fan” to show some kind of tangible support for the thing they claim to be a fan of. Said thing might not exist without that support. If you go to games and/or buy stuff, then you’re a fan. If you don’t, then you just “like” it. What’s wrong with that?

    I don’t think it’s terribly unreasonable to expect a “fan” to show some kind of tangible support for the thing they claim to be a fan of. Said thing might not exist without that support.

    And yet somehow there were sports fans for decades before the advent of team merch. Go figure.

    You are conflating being a fan with being a consumer, a notion that is both false and toxic. It’s one of the worst things about team merch.

    “Said thing might not exist without that support.”


    So you’re saying that the Raiders (for example) wouldn’t exist without merchandise? How did all these clubs exist before the proliferation of overpriced “gear”?

    The interesting thing about Jeff’s point (which is preposterous) is that it’s similar to the notion that gods and other mythological figures don’t exist unless people continue to believe in them.

    Sports, of course, is full of mythmaking. Interesting connection.

    How did all these clubs exist before the proliferation of overpriced “gear”?

    Ticket sales. Once upon a time, people paying to watch the games in person were actually the biggest source of income for the teams.

    You’ll note that the further back in time you go, the less money that was involved. Professional sports have basically reached a point where they’re too big to fail, but that wasn’t always the case. Look at how many teams folded in the early days of the NFL. A team that didn’t have financial support from people buying tickets simply didn’t survive.

    Your favorite local band isn’t going to make it very far if their biggest “fans” don’t go to shows or buy CDs to support them.

    Your favorite local band isn’t going to make it very far if their biggest “fans” don’t go to shows or buy CDs to support them.

    Actually, nobody buys CDs anymore.

    You are spinning off into a region that isn’t even apples/oranges — it’s more like apples/watermelons. Please stop. Thanks.

    Seriously doubt he was referring to mythological figures.

    Duh. I didn’t say that was his intent; I said there’s an interesting parallel there, intended or not.

    You’ll note that the further back in time you go, the less money that was involved.

    You imply this is a bad thing. This is false.

    Professional sports have basically reached a point where they’re too big to fail

    Again, you’re saying this as though this is a good thing. As if there is some god-given right of the NFL (or any professional sport) to exist, regardless of the consequences. This is also false.

    Your favorite local band isn’t going to make it very far if their biggest “fans” don’t go to shows or buy CDs to support them.

    This is not a valid analogy. There is no “professional band league” propped up and basically given monopoly protections, as is the case with MLB and is basically the case with other professional leagues. Even so, the Raiders aren’t going to fail if fans don’t buy overpriced merch.

    We’re getting off topic, but my point (if not necessarily Paul’s) is that it is CATEGORICALLY wrong and false to state or imply someone is less of a fan of a team if they don’t purchase overpriced merchandise. I consider myself as big a Mets fan as anyone, but because I don’t spend hundreds or thousands of dollars on “gear” I’m somehow less of a fan or not showing support for my team?

    This is absolutely ridiculous. Fan “gear” is clothing, pure and simple. Buy it or don’t, but whatever you do, don’t call it what it’s not and don’t ever think that somehow “fans” are required to buy/wear stuff to be considered fans.

    …and Phil, I’m not saying it’s good or bad, I’m saying it’s reality. When players are making as much money as they are, it has to come from someplace.

    When players are making as much money as they are, it has to come from someplace.

    Even if it were this simple (which it’s not), that is simply an explanation. It is not a justification.

    Also, in an informal definition, gear is defined as a specific type of clothing. Did this originate in the sports world? Maybe. But it is a presently accepted synonym for clothing in contexts outside of sports. Gear has often been heavily associated with attire, possibly because the gear of certain roles or professions involved special clothing.

    First off, I did not read every single word even in this thread posted to Jon’s comment, so I apologize if I missed the point I want to make. I also attended Texas A&M – where the original 12th Man story (not just meaning “fans” like in Seattle) is embodied in the support of the team. At any given moment you could be called from the stands INTO THE GAME. Of course, at that point you would “gear up”. But my point is (which has been hinted at throughout the posts but I don’t think clearly stated) that certain schools and teams embrace the “fan” meaning differently. You ARE expected to dress in school colors to support your team – that is your job. Even at UT where a good chunk of the fans are more dressed up with pressed denims, starched button downs, and cowboy hats – you still wear school colors (those button downs are in some shade of burnt orange). Now, that “being your job” meant more when you didn’t have to pay $100 just to get the privilege to see the game. That being said, for those teams with this mindset it has been easier for fans to morph their dressing up in school colors into gearing up to support their team. Like someone else said, language morphs with the changing times. We no longer have play callers with colorful sayings like Kern Tips. They have “signature catch phrases” now. It’s no longer quaint, none of it. It’s marketed, packaged, and quite honestly sterilized.

    (Going for 4 straight comments sent to the moderation queue…)

    I’d like to point out that today is the first time in quite some time that my browser hasn’t frozen/crashed when visiting this site.

    Any recent changes to improve performance?

    So there’s the explanation for both the performance improvement and all 5 (soon to be 6, no doubt) of my comments today going into moderation.

    Ah, then I guess I’m just lucky so far today because my browser crashed/froze repeatedly yesterday and Monday.

    Most, if not all, of my comments yesterday got moderated. Since this is my first post today, I won’t know until I submit if it gets modded too.

    But I haven’t noticed any difference in site performance on my end.

    The only problem I have with the site is that, for whatever reason, it’s a significant drain on computer resources, overloading the memory until Flash crashes.

    “Are you saying there’s something wrong with my gear? Is that what you’re saying to me?”

    “I’m sorry, your gear?”

    Memorable exchange between oversexed Billy Bob Thornton and uptight John Ritter in “Bad Santa.”

    I’m trying to understand Paul’s comment about fans not wearing team merchandise. Is he referring to on field stuff like jerseys or is it all team branded merchandise? If it’s the latter, than how can we wear Uniwatch t-shirts? I think I might have misunderstood his point. (PS- I’m not giving up my uniwatch tee or my Bears hoodie.)

    No one is saying fans shouldn’t buy overpriced merchandise or wear it. Or even reasonably priced used/thrift store stuff. Knock yourself out.

    It’s the attitude that some apparently have that by fans NOT buying and wearing “gear” (i.e. Mets fans apparently NOT supporting the team simply because one observer was in NYC while the Mets made their world series run and he didn’t see denizens covering themselves in “Mets gear,” and then expressing disappointment at this). As if somehow every Mets fan is required to don “gear” or else they’re somehow not supporting the team. This is absurd.

    Likewise, if you want to buy and wear UW club tees, that’s fine and good. The equivalent would be a reader expressing disappointment that everyone who showed up to a UW gathering NOT wearing UW tees, as if that somehow equates to fandom or loyalty. A reader can be as big and loyal a fan of the site without buying any of the merch and to state or imply otherwise is simply false.

    It is the sentiment shared by some readers (apparently) who’ve been brainwashed into thinking that a team (or city’s) fans aren’t *true* fans (or not *supporting* the team) if they don’t strut around in “team gear” that is the issue.

    No one is saying fans shouldn’t buy overpriced merchandise or wear it.

    For the record: Yes I am.

    But again, that’s another argument for another day. Today we’re talking about nomenclature.

    Poor analogy. Team merch mimics what the athletes wear. Team merch also AFFECTS what the athletes wear, because teams start changing their uni designs in order to increase sales.

    If you wear a Uni Watch T-shirt, you’re not dressing up as a website. Nor are you affecting how this website looks.

    I appreciate the explanations. We are in agreement that fans should not have to wear team merchandise in order to be “true” fans (whatever that might be, also a discussion for another day).

    “Clothing” became “gear” at about the same time that “living room” or “kitchen” or “bathroom” became “space”. And “price” became “price point”. Sheesh.

    The late, great George Carlin (paraphrasing):

    “Toilet paper became bathroom tissue…sneakers became athletic footwear…false teeth became dental appliances…the dump became the landfill…used cars became certified pre-owned…car crashes became motor vehicle accidents…motels became motor lodges…and constipation became occasional irregularity.”

    Back in the 1980s, the commandant of the Minnesota State Highway Patrol was a friend of my dad’s. The colonel was adamant that journalists like my dad should not use the word “accident” to describe a car crash, since it implied an editorial judgement that the crash was not any person’s fault. According to the colonel, he had only ever once seen a car wreck that was not the predicable result of at least one driver’s behavior, and that one exception involved lightning and a tree. From an editorial standpoint, he’s right: “Accident” implies that the event could not have been avoided by different human behavior, which is nearly always false. Also, “crash” is shorter, both to write and to speak, so it should be preferred on that ground alone.

    When I had my first auto collision, at about 19 years old, I was distraught; blamed myself, and felt terrible for what I thought I had done to the other driver, his companion and his car. (They weren’t injured, but the car was damaged and an accident is a hassle no matter what.) The police officer tried to comfort me by assuring me that it was OK, that I hadn’t meant to hurt them, saying, “That’s why they call them accidents.” I appreciated that.

    Perhaps when Authentic team jerseys became available to the public, the public started morphing the line between merchandise and uniform parts. Next, since they were wearing an actual team uniform part (or later a replica), they assumed a connection to ALL other authentic team uniform parts–and implements (implements=gear). Lastly all lines were erased/smudged so some people think anything with a logo is gear.

    Maybe the term crossed the Atlantic as soccer grew more popular here? I think it’s standard for clothes/uniform in the UK – e.g., the Jam’s “Town Called Malice,” where it’s a big decision “to either cut down on beer or the kids’ new gear.”


    This whole conversation takes me back to when I played Rugby from age 15 to 35 (when the earth was still cooling) competitively, most of my early years learning the sport was under the tutelage of a great coach named Don Ladesich of the Cypress Rugby Football Club.

    “Uncle Don” made it a point to tell us young ruggers, (usually as we ran wind sprints to drive his point home”) these phrases…

    “Rugby players wear a KIT, Gear is an engine part.”

    “A KIT is what you wear in a match, Gear is to spill beer on.”

    Never thought that the subject of GEAR would ever come up in conversation ever again. Thanks to PL for rekindling an old memory based on a single word.

    in my opinion, gear is anything needed to do something else. If I am going diving, I need diving gear. If I am in the kitchen, I have gear there. I suppose there is “gear” needed to watch your favorite team, but it is certainly not 100% necessary. I can watch the Eagles in any shirt I own. Would your “lucky shirt” be considered gear since some people tend to be “unable to watch” without their lucky shirt?

    Has there ever been another/previous logo for UW?

    If not, i’m sure someone here would LOVE to mock/imagine one up.

    That piece on patriotic pageantry at sporting events was well thought out and written. The writer has some good points. I notice however that you chose to only note that piece when mentioning Veterans Day, and unless I missed it, you didn’t write Happy Veterans Day anywhere in your November 11 blog entry. I know some of your published views on “over” patriotism / fake patriotism and I can absolutely appreciate aspects of your standpoint. It can be abused and overdone and it can cheapen the actual sacrifices made by many. I just want to point out the fact that no matter how overdone thanking the troops may be in the country today, November 11 is the best and most appropriate time to do it. A simple Happy Veterans Day in a public blog or to a passing veteran is not needed, but it is appreciated. I’m a veteran and I don’t want thanks, praise, or recognition for myself but I do believe the other veterans of this country deserve a thank you. If it was an oversight I completely understand. But to mention Veterans Day and then share a post opposing military tributes, no matter how ill natured, without saying a simple thank you is in bad nature IMO. You have the right to do it because of our military, but the day today is not about sports or the government abusing patriotism. It’s about appreciating veterans. I may be off base here, if so I’d appreciate your thoughts on the matter.

    You have the right to do it because of our military…

    No, I have the right to do it because of our Constitution.

    But your point is well taken: My best wishes to all who are observing Veterans Day and Remembrance Day, yourself included. I’ll add a note to that effect to the text.

    The addendum is appreciated Mr Lukas. I hope I wasn’t too harsh or annoying. As a final aside, the constitution that grants our rights is worthless without someone to defend it from people who hate it.

    Keep up the good work sir.

    the constitution that grants our rights is worthless without someone to defend it from people who hate it.

    If you’re implying that the military trumps the Constitution, I strongly, strongly disagree. But that’s another topic for another day (and probably another website).

    I think he was implying that if you can’t defend against invaders who don’t want to use the Constitution as the rule of law, then the Constitution is worthless. The military is the defending force that ensures sovereignty/self-governance (by the Constitution).

    I think we’re taking one persons comment way too far. Do people really call out others as not being a fan because they’re not wearing a jersey etc? I never wear jerseys and can’t recall anyone accusing me of not being a true fan or whatever.

    Here in Cleveland, it comes up every time the Indians (or the Cavs prior to last year) are doing moderately well and attendance is down and “the pulse of the fan” seems low. People will call up sports talk radio or opine in public that there are only a few “true fans” who buy the merch and the tickets and all sorts of others who just watch the games casually at home.

    It has created a dichotomy which has in large part completely ignored casual fans by pandering to super-fans who must have more money than brains, or by trying to get non-fans to buy merch or go the ballpark when the team is hot. It leaves out fans, like myself, who would come to the ballpark from work, grab a hot dog, keep score, and not spend $100 on a “gameday experience.”

    I seriously can’t imagine Jerry Jones allowing the Cowboys to put white stars on their helmets. I’d take that post with a rather large chunk of salt.

    It wouldn’t be the first time something on twitter/reddit was completely wrong.

    Also… doesn’t wearing all white sorta defeat the whole point of a “color rush” uniform?

    It doesn’t seem right to be spreading the Color Rash to the traditional Thanksgiving games, but then again, the whole Color Rash thing is about greed, not tradition.

    Besides, I thought it was hinted that the Cowboys were bringing back the 1990s double-star jersey? They shouldn’t be needing to mess with the helmets or pants with that.

    Also, I’m rather dreading the back-to-back Packers Thursday night games (Bears on Thanksgiving, Lions the following week) and what the Color Rash could bring about for those games. Packers in mono-green, or even worse, mono-cheese? And if the Packers go mono-green, does that mean the Bears will go mono-orange? And then there’s the Lions, and the mere thought that they could be bringing back the blue pants… ugh!

    I probably missed the conversation yesterday about the December shirt, but what a great addition to my wardrobe – and a fitting coda to a terrific t-shirt year! I just ordered my long-sleeve shirt, and an delighted to have purchased all 12. Some I ordered in the wrong size or did not care for; those were donated – but I proudly wear the rest of them (not at the same time), and am happy to explain the meaning behind the NOB when people ask.

    Paul, a huge thank you for this idea, for the never-ending creativity behind the shirts, and for the patch. I’m looking forward to whatever you may have planned for 2016!

    As a Bruins fan, I’m really interested in what they plan on wearing when the Kings wear their Forum Gold in Boston. Were they in on the conversation when the Kings got “special permission from the league” to wear them? Will they wear their road whites at home or are they just gonna wear their home sweaters like it was any other game and give us a color vs. color game? Or, since they will have worn their Winter Classic sweaters by that point and, while it’s not from the same era, it is a pseudo-throwback; will they faux back to play along with LA? It also happens to be Milan Lucic’s first game back in Boston after being traded to the Kings in the offseason, should be weird seeing him getting a standing O in the Garden while wearing what is essentially a Lakers jersey.

    Re: “gear”: The only time I ever referred to any thing as “gear”, it was when I would go get stoned with my buddy on our lunch break at our old shitty job. “Gear” was the assorted paraphernalia involved. “You got your gear?” was our way of saying “you holdin’ bro?” in mixed company. THE MORE YOU KNOW.

    The Bruins have their schedule for their third and WC jerseys up link, and the Kings game isn’t on that list.

    As for what the Bruins will wear that game, while they certainly could opt to go white-at-home (which I know many of us feel is how it SHOULD be, myself included – thirds be damned), I expect that they’ll just go with their regular home black unis.

    Why can’t every sporting event be like the Kentucky Derby where most everyone is dressed nicely. As a woman, I love the hats. Besides, if people quit wearing team related merch and dress as if going out to dinner, people would probably behave better. Only sports merch I buy anymore is collectable pins like the Olympics.

    “if people quit wearing team related merch and dress as if going out to dinner, people would probably behave better.”


    Interesting. You think fan “gear” (and the wearing thereof) is responsible for (bad) fan behavior?

    Oh, that’s obvious. Not that every fan wearing team merch behaves badly, but there’s no question that team merch encourages more boorish (and occasionally criminal) behavior on the part of certain fans.

    Actually, it was the other part of the statement (which I didn’t address) that interests me more. The “dressing up” — a la the Kentucky Derby fans (which seems to me just like an Ole Miss pre game party in the grove, only slightly further north).

    You think fans “dressed up” behave better than fans in team “gear”? Just seems to me (and I could be wrong) like another costume to wear to an event with a heavy emphasis on drinking. Not sure they are any less boorish once the booze really kicks in.

    i think it’s being in an environment that promotes a mob-like mentality as well as alcohol not what the person is wearing

    The apparel often furthers and accentuates the “mob-like mentality” that you refer to. And seeing people dressed in “the enemy’s” apparel can be a trigger. There are documented cases of this, as you know.

    I’d also be interested in knowing how many boorishly behaving fans are NOT dressed in team merch. Not many, I’d wager.

    Would eliminating team merch eliminate boorish fan behavior? Of course not. But I think it would tamp it down a bit.

    I feel being formally dressed would create a more formal atmosphere among spectators. The possibility of ruining expensive, rigid clothes might be a big factor in keep behavior less boorish.

    Maybe the word “gear” refers to items of clothing and personal equipment that go together somehow, to form a set.

    We use the word “gear” to refer to a set of equipment, which usually (but not always) includes clothing, that goes together to be used by a particular person for a particular purpose. E.g., a firefighter’s gear (helmet, axe, boots, overcoat, mask, &c.), a football player’s gear (helmet, shoulder pads, mouthguard, jersey, gloves, &c.), or a soldier’s gear (fatigues, cap, boots, weapons, canteen, radio, &c.). When we hear a coach say to a player, or an officer say to a soldier, “Get your gear,” he means get the whole set, everything you need to play the game or do the job.

    The word “gear” translates to sports merchandising in the sense that “Jets gear” or “Mets gear” refers to the complete set of merchandise — clothing and non-clothing — bearing the logos of that team. Although no person actually has the complete set, one team’s sum total of all branded/licensed merchandise is (at least theoretically) a closed set.

    “Gear” is thus a broader term than “clothing,” and it’s easier to say than “merchandise.” It might also be broader than “merchandise” since it could include items that aren’t sold in stores; again, theoretically, people can make their own team “gear.” The point is that the word refers to the entire universe of items bearing the brand of one team; unlimited as to the former, limited by the latter.

    I think also, though, that the word “gear” is used instead of, say, “merch,” because of the aforementioned athletic, military and paramilitary connotations; i.e., it makes people feel heroic.

    It’s similar to a phenomenon I’ve observed involving a certain other type of retail consumer product, which I’ve written about extensively in other forums but won’t mention here (although some of you can probably figure it out). The product in question is one that people who own, and…appreciate such products don’t like to think of as mere retail goods, but as something rather more…shall we say…symbolic? And they don’t like to think of themselves as mere retail consumers, or customers of the product’s sellers, but rather as…umm… American heroes. So the product has to be considered more than a product, because there’s nothing heroic about buying or owning retail merchandise.

    Same thing with sports “gear.” It’s a term used by athletes, soldiers, firefighters, and other assorted heroes. It makes people feel heroic, whereas “merchandise” (or “merch”) makes them feel like ordinary retail consumers, and what’s heroic about that?

    RE: the Kitchener Rangers special Remembrance Day sweaters. Someone asked the guy with the Twitter account about the big W on one arm. I don’t have a Twitter account, so I couldn’t answer the question to him, but I can tell you that it stands for Waterloo; the two towns are hard by each other, and the lines have blurred to the point where they’re occasionally referred to as K-W.

    A la George Carlin, your stuff is “gear”, and their gear is “stuff”. Or, “shit” if you prefer.

    While I’m a trademark and advertising lawyer, I tend to get a little tired of advertising.

    For example, I dated a woman back in the spring and summer of 2012 who worked for Pepsi in the marketing division (if you ever followed Pepsi products on Twitter and Facebook, chances are she was responsible in 2012).

    In any case, it got to the point of silliness. We’d make sure a restaurant was a Pepsi restaurant – else I couldn’t buy anything but hard beverages. And we’d only go to Mets games, not Yankees games. (Not that it matters since I’m a Phillies fan.) Of course, it’s because Yankee Stadium is a Coke venue.

    Like I said – it ended in the summer of 2012. My head was spinning a little too much.

    Hopefully if you are still a supporter of the defunct Saginaw (multiple iterations and later briefly Ohio) Gears link and you still have team merch you can say you are “going to get your gear on.”

    Paul, just a couple quick questions about the t-shirt club. If/when the shirts become available next year, will they still have the number 15, or will you change it to 16?
    Also, have you ever thought about making some of the shirts available with a personalized name/number on back? I know that would create a number of other issues/problems from a production standpoint, but I would be very interested in a shirt if that option were available.

    I think the numbers will still be 15, but we’ll see.

    Teespring’s production methods don’t allow for personalized shirts. Also, the whole point of this project is that the NOB describes the shirt, so a personalized NOB would defeat the concept. Not gonna happen. Sorry.

    Not only did I order the Uni-Watch December t-shirt, I ordered this gem today while looking for “Ugly Sweaters” on my office break. If this was on here before, I am sorry, but I thought it kind of fit the theme for today.


    I don’t know about the shirts for 2016 but if there were a Uni Watch lace-up hockey sweater, I could easily be convinced to purchase a couple.

    That would be a big no for me. I think the laces look ugly, and unlike decades ago, they serve no practical purpose today.

    What gets me about the laces is that they went out in the 1970s, with Bobby Orr standing out as one player who actually removed them from his jerseys for a while (up until the Bruins went to V-necks). And then the Rangers come along in 1997 and bring the laces back for no reason other than misplaced nostalgia.

    And I consider it especially misplaced in the Rangers’ case. They’d just won the Cup a few years before, ending their long drought, and they decided to revert to a jersey style that was worn for at least half that drought?

    I’m sure this has been noted, but was reading through the ESPN article from yesterday. Those “on the floor” pics are really all about emphasizing the clothing company, not the team. How aggravating.

    Wouldn’t it be great if one day, when a team unveils a new uniform design, somebody goes off script and doesnt give us any crap about “stories” and whatever corporate speak were given?

    Why not just come out and say something like “we felt the fans of thisteam wanted a new look”? They wouldnt even have to speak the truth about counterfiters and merchandise sales!

    Did you do that on purpose? Are you trying to induce Paul into giving himself a concussion from banging his head against the wall repeatedly?

    Looking at Eddie Lack’s pads, and how their front surfaces are so flat, I realize how much I miss the aesthetics of the older, lumpier, goalie pads. It also disappoints me that so many pads these days tend to be primarily white, with fairly sparse decoration.

    While looking for early instances of “gear” I found this 1988 article which traces the growth of the business. One of the earliest stores was in Milwaukee; in 1977 Merle Harmon (the Brewers’ play-by-play announcer) opened a business called “Fan Fair”. He sold licensed merchandise, which wasn’t new, but he was one of the first to sell items from teams all around the country and not just the local clubs.


    That article was before jerseys were made widely available. The only “authentic” items he sold at the time were caps. The whole thing would explode in just a couple years….

    My two cents re: “Gear”

    My memory from my 1960s childhood is that “gear” was exclusively used as a synonym for “catcher’s equipment”.

    The Dickson Baseball Dictionary adds this:
    equipment 1. n. A team’s game paraphernalia, including such items as bats, gloves and the catcher’s protective gear.

    Here, in the definition for “equipment”, “gear” is reserved for the catcher – and not applied to the bats and gloves.

    “Batting helmet” they define as “protective headgear . . .”

    But “gear” without the “head” before it, to me, only applied to what catchers wore. Not goalies. Not golfers. Not full backs. And certainly not spectators.

    Hopefully there will be a moratorium on “merch” as well. Abbreves are just as ridic.

    On the year by year NFL logos graphic, it pains me to see browns logos from 1996-98, when there was no football team in CLE. Clevelanders don’t need any more pain in sports

    Sorry, since I didn’t work today,I didn’t get around to my usual morning reading until tonight.

    i use the term gear. Always have. Maybe it’s a West Coast/California thing that’s migrated. I really can’t see much of an issue with it. What I call a soda is a pop in many places. I get on a freeway to go places, some people get on the expressway. Not much difference to me.

    This reminds me of a courtroom joke:

    Lawyer: What gear where you in when the crash occurred?

    Witness: I believe it was Adidas sweats.

    More thoughts:

    – technically, Paul is right. It makes more sense to reserve the word “gear” to refer to equipment that is worn, as opposed to clothing.

    – however, basically Paul is having a “get off my lawn” moment and complaining that the English language is constantly evolving.

    – also, he’s ignoring that words can have multiple meanings depending on context. If we say “Cam Newton is putting on his gear in the locker room”, it’s understood that we mean he’s putting on his pads and uniform. If we say, “Cam Newton gave a football to a young fan decked out in Panthers gear”, we understand that he’s not wearing actual shoulder pads but rather multiple team-related items like a shirt and hat. (In that sense, it is interesting that “gear” requires you to be wearing more than one item. A t-shirt by itself is not “gear”, but a t-shirt and a cap are, and only if they sport team colors and logos.)

    – It doesn’t really make sense to refer to a fan wearing “merchandise” because once you have purchased something it ceases to be merchandise and is just whatever it is. Nobody refers to the kitchen table they bought ten years ago as “merchandise”.

    – All in all, Paul makes an interesting point but I think he’s fighting a losing battle.

    Your site, your rules. But language evolves and will continue to evolve. The use of “gear” as a synonym for sports team jerseys and other apparel has gone on long enough and is widespread enough that pushing back now, however noble the principle, seems like an attempt at holding back a rainstorm and a denial of the nearly irreversible path our language has taken over the course of decades. New terms are created and old ones acquire new meanings regularly. This just one case of many. If you want us to stop using “gear” in this manner, I’ll abide, and in fact only post very occasionally anyway, but I disagree with this ruling and hope you’ll reconsider.

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