When it comes to college sports—and college football in particular—I am resigned to dual loyalty in life. I hail from the great state of Wisconsin and was raised in Madison. Great college town. GREAT. Inspiring football team (usually). But growing up in a college town can be a double-edged sword. By the time you graduate from high school, you’ve been going to games basically your entire life, and to the bars since you convinced your friend’s older sister to “lose” her ID into your wallet. Been there, drank that.
I wound up instead at Penn State (still the Big Ten!) and loved my time there. Although a big ol’ asterisk does hang over my experience after the whole, “horrible child sexual abuse covered up at the highest levels” thing came out and kind of tainted my memories of our team’s triple-overtime 2005 Orange Bowl victory.
Sorry, did that get really dark? All I mean to say is that today I root for both teams and therefore am stocked up on double the fan gear to wear during football season.
And I’ve had to hunt for stylish sports apparel, because everything procured from a school bookstore on campus generally is too baggy, or too tight, or feels too scratchy. Thankfully, several companies have jumped in to fill the void for college sports fans who are out of their college years and have a grown-up budget to spend on good style. Below, three brands to scratch your college football-loving style itch:
I am extremely obsessed with the Hillflint guys. The founders John Shi and Woody Hines dreamt up the company after graduating college and realizing the high-quality fan apparel they wanted to wear in their post-grad lives didn’t exist. Today, their cozy sweatshirts boasting chenille mascot patches, luxe stadium sweaters, and varsity bomber jackets fill the void.
And I mean it when I say “luxe.” Imagine Archie Andrews’ letter sweater from the old comic books, as interpreted by Elder Statesman (and yes, that is a very specific reference, but it’s also perfect, so I’m just going to leave it). Meaning? Don’t expect a dollar draft night-type price tag.
That’s not to say it’s a limited offering. Today, Hillflint boasts over 100 university partners in their line-up, and the brand is stocked at as many retailers across the country.
Iowa-born designer Todd Snyder created Tailgate with his dad back in 1991. Apart from elevating menswear during his tenure at J.Crew (hello, Ludlow suit) and founding his eponymous label that’s become aspirational for every grown man with no office dress code and a healthy disposable income in the New York City, Tailgate has served Snyder well. There’s money in college sports, kids! Just not for the athletes…
Where was I? Oh, right. American Eagle Outfitters shelled out $10 million (cash!) for the collegiate apparel line (and the Todd Snyder label, too). And they’ve already started to expand, with stores on two college campuses—one in my hometown of Madison!—and plans for more.
Expect the clean silhouettes and perfectly worn-in feel of the grown-up TS line, at a more friendly price point.
And last but not least, do not sleep on Old Navy’s college sports apparel. You won’t find a wide selection in stores, but online? That’s another story. You name it, they stock it.
They’ve nailed the “had it forever” feel of your favorite team hoodies and T-shirts, without the time spent wearing them in.