The Popularity of Gameday Apparel
Olivia DeVille, Sandini Fernando, Daniel de Souza, and Emily Gilliland
Gameday apparel can best be characterized as the attire that football fans wear to sporting events. Examples of this type of apparel include jerseys, stylish outfits, costumes, and other themed accessories. The rise in popularity of gameday apparel on college campuses such as Louisiana State University is attributed to its evolution in style, increase in fabric quality, ability as a means of self-expression, and the revenue it creates for businesses.
The development of gameday apparel throughout the decades is prevalent. The design of this type of merchandise has become more extravagant and versatile than it was in the past. From the beginning, LSU fans wore the school colors, purple and gold, in order to celebrate the game and cheer on the team. Christina Stephens, an avid LSU fan, declares that “Wearing purple and gold is a sign of pride for our team, unity against evil and joy for all that we do together. It’s sharing in love for our Tigers” (Stephens). At the time that seemed to be enough, but today gameday attire has evolved into something more than supporting a football team or wearing a logo. In more recent times, gameday apparel inspires team pride through comfort and self-expression.
Looking back at LSU apparel from the 1960s, the difference in graphics and style contrast greatly with modern designs. According to the Journal of Marketing Theory and Practice, “Sports apparel has changed the way Americans dress, thereby affecting the apparel design and retailing industry” (Fowler). In the 1960s and prior, it was popular for women to wear corsages to the football games; however, fashion has shifted throughout the years and the trend has become obsolete (Brasted). This is just one example of changes in gameday apparel that used to be as common as ball caps today. The apparel found in the LSU bookstore nowadays can be categorized as flashy, bright, busy, or even tacky compared to older models. T-shirts, bottoms, sweatshirts, and any other articles of clothing you can think of catered towards men and women obnoxiously brandish “Geaux Tigers” in bright purple and gold letters. This is an obvious contrast to the styles of the past that exemplified simplicity with the use of muted color tones and minimal graphics. The growing garishness in gameday apparel has not deterred fans, rather has attracted more consumers, providing customers with a wide range of different articles and styles to choose from. This development in style over the years is the result of more funds and attention being poured into the LSU school system. As the college itself developed, so did the style of its students.
Not only has the visual appearance of gameday apparel evolved, but also the material used to manufacture clothing. Anyone attending an outdoor sporting event or tailgate must take the weather into consideration when deciding what to wear. Specific to the Louisiana climate, the start of football season is typically hot, humid, and remains this way until late October. Different qualities and technologies of fabric have been incorporated into collegiate apparel to maximize comfort while allowing consumers to maintain school spirit. These fabrics supply comfort and health benefits by possessing ultraviolet protection factor (UPF) qualities, superior breathability, and anti-odor properties. Basic thermal research from a Western Michigan University study found that “moisture-wicking shirts lower one’s core temperature” during activity in the heat (De Sousa). Thus, shirts with higher air permeability prevent the possibility of overheating while being exposed to the harmful rays of the sun when tailgating on the parade grounds. This kind of textile technology accommodates the needs of fans ensuring their comfort all day. If customers feel more comfortable in garments made from moisture-wicking fabrics, they are more inclined to wear gameday apparel and increase its popularity (Brasted).
With the wide variety of gameday apparel items, fans are beginning to create their own unique looks to express their own identity and sense of style. Some fans prefer to wear jerseys, while others take that a step further and use their creativity to wear old jerseys in new ways. Fans can purchase vintage jerseys at local thrift stores in Baton Rouge like Goodwill, The Purple Cow, and St. Vincent de Paul. They can then pair these jerseys with accessories to create a specific look that suits their own individual tastes. Fans are constructing new ways to celebrate their team and cheer their hearts out. From shopping for garments to piecing an outfit together, each individual comes up with their own exclusive way to express pride in their own team. The originality creates excitement, bringing in another aspect of fun to gameday that everyone can participate in.
Jerseys have become an important hallmark in gameday apparel allowing the sports industry to collect a hefty profit from team jersey revenues. The sports industry has grown wildly in the last fifty years, particularly growing exponentially within the last twenty. Stadiums have gone from seating tens of thousands of fans to over one hundred thousand fans. Some of the most dedicated aficionados will come from all over the country just to watch their favorite teams play a single game. In addition to expansion of stadium size, fan bases for sports teams have also gotten increasingly larger. This size of a fan base is crucial to the sports industry as the larger the fan base for a particular sports team, the larger the profit on jerseys and other merchandise.
Jerseys in particular have become more specialized as indicated by varying prices based upon quality and authenticity. A fan can pick from low quality jersey to a higher quality jersey they can purchase for a premium price. For example, a Brazilian national team jersey will cost a fan over one hundred and fifty dollars and a signed jersey from a famous athlete from the same team will be sold on eBay for over five thousand dollars. There is no end to this madness as fans are willing to outrageous amounts of money to have the jersey as their favorite players. Jersey manufacturers have also protected their products by using authentication logos with serial numbers to ensure the fan that the jersey is authentic. This allows them to control the market for jerseys and gives the jersey special worth to an individual fan. This authenticity also makes the jersey a collectible item. The serial number allows the jersey to be traced and will give the jersey a way to be valued at a later date.
Gameday apparel is not limited to jerseys and can extend to fashionable outfits used to display a personal expression of style. Popular boutiques in Baton Rouge such as Frock Candy and Blink stock up in the late summer for the upcoming football season (Kelley). Local fashion magazines showcase trendy clothing items and outfit inspiration for both men and women, where to buy them, and how much they cost (Labat). The locality of these magazines allows for them to take the specific apparel needs of LSU students into consideration. They cater to the style of these individuals by offering a variety of purples, golds, tiger themes, pants, dresses, and other accessories to choose from. Myia Hambrick, writer for LSU’s newspaper The Reveille, addresses that “Everyone knows the struggle of trying to find the perfect game day outfit to showcase your school spirit and originality, without showing your sweat in the Louisiana heat” (Hambrick).
For many fans, this apparel acts as a vehicle for self expression. Vintage jerseys, boutique outfits, and gameday apparel of all kinds attempt to evoke a sense of unity while also inspiring team pride amongst male and female fans.
Another element contributing to the increasing prominence of gameday apparel is the revenue it generates and the starting platform it creates for businesses. In the past gameday apparel was mostly targeted towards men, but now it has become a growing market for women as well. Prior to the 1990s, retailers predominately marketed to men rather than women (Fowler). Since then, retailers have realigned their views and sales have skyrocketed. Tom Zehmer, senior buyer at Penney’s Simply For Sports boutiques, has acknowledged that “Obviously, our shoppers are mostly women, so this is something we had better be looking at” (Lefton). Entrepreneur Shawnna Feddersen recognized the potential profits that can be gained through gameday apparel and has begun a company called Gameday Couture. Her business sells gameday apparel for women by providing tops, dresses, and accessories. After making an appearance on “Shark Tank,” a show dedicated to promoting entrepreneurship in America, Gameday Couture is projected to gain $12 million in revenue in 2018 and $20 million in sales total (Isbell).
In recent years Victoria Secret PINK has been carrying a new collegiate and NFL collection. The collection includes clothing designed for 77 colleges and 27 NFL teams sold both in stores and online (Crane). This collection is a great go-to source for women wanting a fashionable attire for gameday. Victoria Secret profited greatly after the release of this new collection and the teams profit ten percent from the wholesale cost of the licensed product. This new collection is not only a markable, but the consumers love the new collection. Customers enjoy the duality of the quality of the material: comfortable and cute. Victoria Secret PINK carries a majority of the university’s apparel. The University of Minnesota decided not to participate in the collection and opted out as a result of several factors. These factors included the students’ negative reaction and the university’s decision to strictly concern itself with education rather than propaganda.
Nike, commonly known as a popular sports brands, makes majority of their money through the college and NFL teams. Although Nike provides the players with all the equipment they need for the big game, this is not where they make most of their profits. Nike resells the same jerseys, gloves, and other sportswear autographed with a player’s signature to the fans for a higher price (Bloomberg News). Nike manufactures their uniforms mostly for their athletics. In order to ensure that athletes feel comfortable when they play, the company utilizes high tech material to guarantee that their sweat will be absorbed. According to Bloomberg, an international agency dedicated to providing news and data, “The same feats of fabric wizardry meant to enhance the performance of elite athletes see more use by fans rushing the beer vendor at halftime and blitzing platters of chicken wings in front of the TV (Bloomberg News).” Nike also makes money by sponsoring individual teams and athletics at the FIFA World Cup and at the Olympics Games from around the world. This will expand their markets internationally. By expanding their markets to a wider audience, they can make an even larger profit. When an athlete stands on the podium or on the field and sings their national anthem, the crowds back at home will see Nike’s signature logo on the athlete’s jersey and sportswear. This encourages fans to purchase Nike products so they can support or emulate their favorite athletes.
Gameday apparel is not only popular on college campuses like Louisiana State University, but around the world and has evolved with the global culture. It has proven successful in the business industry by satisfying consumers’ desire to comfortably express themselves while supporting their favorite teams.
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