Do CFL and NFL Fans Have the Worst Style?

Credits: Photo - Anonymous, Styling - Sarah G. Schmidt, Location - McMahon Stadium

September brings many things. Fashion weeks, back to school shopping, and watching football are just some of the activities that come to mind. The CFL is well underway and NFL is now, too, in the groove. This past weekend I was at a Calgary Stampeders game. While enjoying popcorn - I mean the game - I took a hard look around. There are so many people wearing team gear my mind started churning.

First, let’s chat about the big business of sports merchandise. I am calling it merchandise on purpose. It is not fashion(able). Getting back to business, let’s say everyone spends $20 at the minimum on a team shirt, ill-fitting for the vast majority, and there are 25,000 people at a regular season game (capacity is over 35,000 at McMahon Stadium). That amounts to $500,000 spent in merchandise. That is a conservative estimate. Say we agree it’s more like $50 of merchandise per person, that $1,250,000. Big business it truly is. That number explodes when you think about one person owning multiple items of the same team.

I was also curious about the typical lifespan of merchandise. A lot of merchandise is worn over and over. Other gear is purchased for the sole purpose of adding to a collection, never to be worn. While many of us take pride in having vintage merchandise, it is more common to upgrade your gear over the years. Multiple purchases make sports gear business (and the owners’ wallets) bigger. It’s even bigger business if you factor in all the other sports teams outside of football one proudly has merchandise for. It really hit home for me when I counted out ten items in my closet for just two of my beloved teams.

Now that the money and lifespan of merchandise is addressed, I feel it is time for me to provide full disclosure. I am a Roughrider fan. I grew up in rural Saskatchewan and you don’t change teams just because you live in Calgary (or any other town or city for that matter). Rider fans don’t, anyhow. That said, I am of the belief that a fan cheers for his or her team and we should not fault each other when that differs. I like to remember it’s the athletes playing, not the fans. However, I happen to cheer for a team with a name and logo that is relatively PC friendly. Rider history is here if you are so inclined.

This led me to think about my next topic: some NFL and CFL teams still have bigot-fuelled names in 2014. I considered how hard it would be for me to wear and cheer for one. I want to think that I simply would not. Cheer as a child not knowing what that means, maybe. But as an adult, with our bountiful access to information and years of human experience, it’s no longer acceptable. It makes me cringe to think about perpetuating the hate through a name and logo.

Fortunately things seem to be shifting for the better. Etsy has banned selling any product that includes the Washington NFL team’s name or logo. I applaud the company for taking a stand against selling products with racist slurs front and centre. Earlier this year the U.S. Patent and Trademark office cancelled the team’s trademark registration calling the team’s name and logo “disparaging.” While the cancellation does not prevent the team from using the name and logo, it does chip away at protecting the name and logo from potential copyright infringement.  Washington NFL team’s trademark situation, at the very least, is creating a larger conversation about the desire for change and why that change should happen is paramount. I interpret this as a step in the right direction of renaming racially offensive teams. Maybe others will soon take a look at themselves and make a change. I’m talking to you, Edmonton football club.

Switching to a lighter point of view, and perhaps a borderline rant, I have often struggled with how horribly unflattering sports merchandise, for the most part, is. I very rarely think to myself, “Wow, that baggy zip up sweat shirt really flatters that fellow’s body. Good for him.” Or have you heard anyone say, “Grey sweats with a logo on the tush look great on almost everyone. It’s their best look.” 

Joking aside, I am not commenting on the athletes that travel to and from practice and their games in exercise or lounging gear. I get it; that’s their uniform for their job. But for us common folk, the fan, why so much blah? Or maybe the question should be reframed as, why do we choose to spend so much money on that blah? Keep in mind that the power lies with the buyer. Companies will keep selling if consumers continue to buy.

I’m sure many of you are thinking, “It a football game, not a fashion show.” To which I reply, “I couldn’t agree with you more.” Thinking defensively (Ha! Sports pun), don’t try blaming it on weather either. If you don’t believe me please go check out the exemplary style of most snowboarder and alpine skier enthusiasts cheering on the athletes while on the chilly slopes.

I also see the horrible effort of trying to make things ‘cuter’ by making it in pink or adding sparkles. Whoever is buying this, please stop. Aside from cause-related paraphernalia, there is no point. In fact, you are making it worse by drawing more attention to it. There is no way to make a sports team’s nylon rain jacket with a cinched waist band and sloping shoulder look better by jazzing it up with rhinestones. It reminds me of the expression, ‘trying to polish a turd.’ A turd is turd.

After all of this petulance I am ready to make a declaration. North American football fan garb may be the worst offender of sports team fan style. There, I said it. Maybe the merchandise is so aesthetically poor so that we can really enjoy what we can to the game for. That is to watch muscular, professional football athletes smash into each other while we cheer in our frumpy clothes and stuff our faces with junk food and beer. Maybe that’s why the clothes are so roomy?

What do you think? Any ghastly apparel at a football game you have seen recently? Or are there worse offenders than football fan’s gear?