By Douglas Smith
Hockey sweaters are popular for a variety of reasons outside of showing your team spirit. They are warm, have commercial appeal appearing in music videos like Craig Mack’s "Flava in Your Ear", and if you search the internet you will see that they seem to serve as fetish material. The hockey sweater or jersey has went through plenty of changes over the years and has featured some of the greatest and worst designs in major North American sports.
While the members of the league stayed the same, so did the uniforms. As the 1960s approached, players would realize that the tight cuffs were inhibiting their performance. Those cuffs would be gradually loosened as the league moved toward expansion and the “original six” settled on designs most fans recognize today. The expansion that doubled the league to 12 teams in 1967 would bring with it brighter colors as the Los Angeles Kings would showcase a yellow and purple combination, while Philadelphia introduced their orange flare to the sweater. In the early 1970s, teams would switch their home jerseys with their away ones, with white or yellow becoming the dominant color used for home games. Also, name plates were now being added to the backs of jerseys. Regardless, more teams and more colors were introduced as the helmet became a mainstay in hockey equipment through the 1970s and early 1980s.
authentic jerseys starting around $300 prior to customization. The hockey sweater’s place in popular culture would rise in the past 20 years with new television contracts and teams in hotter climates like Dallas and Florida. Third or alternate jerseys would be introduced for special occasions as well. In the 80s and 90s, many companies would make sweaters such as Nike, CCM, Sandknit, and others. However, at the beginning of the 2000s, the NHL would introduce an official jersey provider, Reebok. Even though the teams may be wearing Reebok, other manufacturers are authorized to make throwback jerseys to relive this evolution.
Although many would put professional hockey as the fourth most popular sport in the United States, the sweater has found its place in popular culture. In addition to Craig Mack, the hockey jersey has starred in rap videos. The famous “Tootsee Roll” song featured Montreal and Florida. Other rappers like LL Cool J, Nas, A Tribe Called Quest, and Nelly prominently displayed the hockey sweater in some of their most popular videos. The most memorable may be Snoop Dogg.
Sometimes the apparel is worn as a marketing ploy or not necessarily by choice. Of course, if a celebrity like Taylor Swift or Demi Lovato happens to show up to a game, they may be seen in a jersey. Others, like Dave Matthews Band drummer Carter Beauford, rely on sports jersey for their wardrobe, especially in a town with a professional team. Even Clay Aiken has been known to wear a variety of sweaters on stage. Robert Smith wears the Stars jersey a bit better though.
Reading this will immediately activate your memory of the best and worst designs you have seen. Lack of market research, less technology for creating sweaters, and comparatively less funding make it hard to fault the early franchises for less-than-flattering designs. Still, there would be plenty of designs in the early to mid-1900s that have stood the test of time and today have a classic feel.
Unfortunately, even advancements in fabric, technology, and the growth of a league have not perfected the sweater look. There has been plenty of talk about the biggest sweater mistakes in hockey and an informal poll agrees with what has been written. The Dallas Stars tend to surface frequently in the informal poll with the unfortunate anatomy look-alike on the sweater. Also, generally agreed upon was a Vancouver Canucks jersey better suited for a road sign, or, perhaps, a scuba diving signal. One PensUniverse staffer expressed a general dislike for one of the newer Minnesota Wild jerseys, justifiably. Another staffer adds that this jersey isn’t appealing at all, perhaps reminding fans of elves.
One could spend days talking about the ugliest jerseys out there from various angles and viewpoints. However, it is best to end this on a positive note. When asked about the favorite jerseys out there, the PensUniverse staff offered up these beauties:
It will be interesting to see what comes of the hockey sweater in this coming year with some more news to be released regarding Winter Classic sweaters and speculation about changes to third/alternate jerseys around the league. Hopefully, whatever is released does not make you think, "Oh My God".