Monday, May 25, 2009

Starter Jackets

Mainstream fashion in the 1990s was highly brand-oriented--much of the statement the wearer chose to project was based on prominent name or logo emblazoned across every emblazonable area of a garment. It was as if 90s fashion was an insecure pre-adolescent, constantly seeking to reaffirm its worth by donning extremely visible status symbols. Children of the 90s often wore their affiliations on their sleeves; in this case, literally.

Of course, it was not only brand name endorsements that drove clothing status and potentially determined your place in the cafeteria and/or grade school popularity pecking order. In some cases, people relied on bold declaration of support for a sport team as their affiliation of choice. And when I say bold, well, I mean bold.

Let's be honest with ourselves here: 90s fashion was never one for subtlety. As much as we try to defend our childhood fashion mishaps, in retrospect it is fairly apparent that many of these clothing choices were at best misguided. In numbers disproportionate with the style's actual appeal, these unfortunate clothing choices frequently feature the once-coveted Starter Jacket. They were not flattering or even particularly comfortable, but dammit they were socially significant. Who was I, a mere fifth grader, to question the wind-and-rain resistant hooded power of the almighty Starter Jacket?

For your reference (that is, in case a time machine ever mysteriously drops you back in the 90s and requires you make quick-witted fashion decisions), here are some of the major components that made Starter Jackets universally attractive to young people in the 1990s:

1. They were expensive
While this may seem like a deterrent, it usually gave brands the allure of exclusivity. In actuality, the real deterrent was to our parents, who justifiably questioned the need to shell out vast wads of cash for a glorified windbreaker. Anyone who has a child, has met a child, or was ever a child themselves can verify that a parent's disapproval is the number one contributing factor to making anything immensely attractive. In the case of Starter jackets, it just took one or two spoiled brats at our schools to start the wave of inevitable begging and temper tantrums on every subsequent trip to the mall or sporting goods store. Sure, it was mildly demeaning to throw yourself screaming and crying onto the floor at the Sports Chalet, but it wasn't about the process. It was about the purchase.

2. They were ostentatious
Now more aptly classified as obnoxious, this level of eye-stabbery was once considered a good thing. The team colors were never muted or subtle, rather they were vibrant to the point of necessitating protective eyewear. The point was to show your commitment to a team as publicly as possible. If someone could not identify which team you rooted for from a distance of at least 100 yards, you probably weren't all that dedicated of a fan.

Of course, some team's color schemes were more desirable than others. You weren't putting yourself out on much of a limb by selecting a blue, white, and silver Dallas Cowboys puffy confection-style coat (pictured above), but God forbid you were a serious Charlotte Hornets fan. Sentencing yourself a long winter spent in flamboyant Teal and Purple was a risky choice, though it certainly showed admirable team loyalty. Extra credit for wearing it with matching Zubaz.

Rapper Omarion obviously doesn't shy away from broadcasting his flamboyantly-colored Hornets allegiance, even more than a decade later

3. They easily associated you with popular sports teams while requiring no input of personal athleticism
In essence, you acquired immediate and undeserving street credibility merely by purchasing an overhyped jacket demonstrating your support for a specific team. If the popular kids on the playground were huge Chicago Bulls fans and you showed up one day sporting one of these red-and-black nylon monstrosities parading as outerwear, you were in. Of course, many would consider that route to be sort of a cop out, as it was generally safe to select a universally beloved team behind which to heave your support. The true rebels would pick a team relatively disparate to their geographic location. We could only assume these kids really knew a thing or two about football or basketball to have selected favorites outside of the easy "root-for-the-home-team" alliance paradigms most of us adhered to. More likely, they just had parents who grew up elsewhere.

4. They had enormous pockets

This might not seem like much now, but as a child this was a fairly important feature. Imagine the toys and distractions you could smuggle into math class with one of these babies. It certainly had more than ample room to accommodate a splat of Nickelodeon Floam, a Tamagotchi, a pack of Dunkaroos, a jawbreaker, and an egg of glow in the dark Silly Putty. What more could you really ask for?

5. They resisted everything
We're not just talking wind and rain here. These jackets were actually poufy enough to deflect rogue snowballs or frisbees. Starter jackets were not only made of water-resistant material, they were also voluminous to a point of making children appear distinctly Oompa Loompa-ish in silhouette. The only thing they couldn't fully protect you from was the shame of choosing the wrong team.

These days, when you're sporting your demure baseball caps and quiet jerseys, just remember the path of loud fandom from which you came. Try as you might to deny your flashy Starter roots, the popularity of the photo scanner will likely replant these junior high memories into wince-inducing flashback Facebook albums. So be proud, children of the 90s. Your childhood selves certainly were in their outlandish displays of loud jacket-based team support.


LWLH said...

lol..I totally was a follower on this!
I begged my Pap for a Jacksonville Jaguars Starter jacket...and I didnt even really watch football..

Silly me

Ashley said...

hahaha! Mine was Greenbay Packers, in a world full of Dallas Cowboys jackets. (that'll show em)

Mr. Condescending said...

haha I was waiting for you to post these!!!

I had a new york rangers one. We always laughed at the kid with the mighty ducks one!

Frank said...

I totally had that Charlotte Hornets jacket, minus the bitchin' sunglasses.

Jenny @ Practically Perfect... said...

Oh gosh, my brothers had these!

Fidgeting Gidget said...

I had the Chicago White Sox fact, I'm sure it still lurks around in a closet at my parents'....I wore it out in the snow for years, because you're right, they resisted everything!

Sadako said...

I never had a jacket like that. But yes, the 90s were anything but subtle. Remember those ridiculously tiny backpacks?

Katie said...

Every guy at my elementary school had one of those things!

nikki said...

Eye-Stabbery. Awesome!

Awesome Sara said...

i didnt have starter jackets. i was one if the lucky ones.

Cassiopeia said...

:-D those things were hilarious... sigh. makes me kinda want one. bright pink please! ;-D


Jessica said...

I remember those hideous things. The girls were more interested in wearing huge leather bomber jackets though. I couldn't afford one, so I would borrow them during certain periods.

Chase said...

oh, Starter's Jackets and all things 90s.

love LOVE this blog.

JUST ME said...

"Eye-Stabbery" is a great way to describe much of what I wore during this time period.

Eye Stabbery ... plus glitter.

Badass Geek said...

I never wanted one of those. Its a good thing, too, because I wouldn't have gotten one anyways. Too $$$.

Anonymous said...

At my school, it was all about the Adidas jackets. Nobody cared about our crappy football team.

Optimistic Pessimist said...

I don't remember these either. I was in a pretty big grunge/hippie phase so I probably just didn't pay any attention to this type of stuff!

Progressive Momma said...

Everyone single boy that I went to grade school had one of these...I never understood it...I thought they were so ugly!

Muppet Soul said...

Oh my G-d.



I was just flipping through my Jr High yearbook ( because kids from my old neighborhood were on DATELINE, and not for good reasons) and everybody had one on. There is even a page of the yearbook DEDICATED to starter jackets.

Ahhh... Not subtle, sure. But don't you miss it?

courtney said...

AHHH! Starter Jackets! I really wanted a cowboys one...and I hate sport especially football and I am not from Texas.

Funny story: when they were really popular my dad found one in a ditch, washed it, and used to wear it to walk the dog every night for probably 5 years.

ceecee said...

lmao... I used to have a Cowboys Starter Jacket...ohhh the memories.

Stephen said...

I had a White Sox one, and a Notre Dame one.

Anonymous said...

In fifth grade I had a Milwaukee Bucks hooded jacket...and I'm from Jerz. I wonder if I should cop a Jets satin jacket off ebay...hmm.

Anonymous said...

go bucks

Anonymous said...

Charlotte Hornets, ftw! I just liked the colors ;) Then we switched to Adidas jackets.. and then I stopped caring, thank God.

Anonymous said...

Talking abour bright colors, i used to wear the SF 49ers. Gold. This was a crime to style,
but i loved it.

Paigealicious! said...

Man, I've never been a sports fan, but I always wanted the Hornets Starter jacket. I thought the colors were really cool.

DaughterofJubal said...

I totally still have one in my trunk's from the 7th grade and I'm's a Houston Rockets one...and it's like brand new LOL..any takers?

The Whiz Kid Forte said...

Ahhhh, starter jackets - and I remember seeing a couple of 'em in my childhood! I even saw them on vacation at Walt Disney World when the weather was warm, namely in Disney's Hollywood Studios (then Disney-MGM Studios). I remember Mickey and his pals (including Roger Rabbit himself) wearing them, and I think it fits the identity of the park very well! Too bad they're in regular clothes now and the hoodies are in vogue - for us Guests anyway.

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Unknown said...

I had 49ers, Redskins, Fighting Irish Starter pullover and a Raiders & Bulls bomber. Always hated the guys who spent a little more for the Starter parkas just to up the ante. Bastards! Those were usually the numbnutts who opted for the Nike pumps instead of the original Reebok Pumps... FAIL! Bad move by Nike, their pumps sukked! Nice post!

Cait Donahue said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Cait Donahue said...

At my school all the boys wore Dallas Cowboys and all the girls wore Charlotte Hornets. I had a Green Bay Packers winter coat and a Vikings windbreaker.

I will never forget the day in 6th grade when I came to school after the Patriots (I am from Massachusetts) lost to the Packers and everyone booed me when I walked in the door sporting my Packers coat. I didn't even watch sports, I just liked the colors!

Everyday after that when I left home to walk to the bus, I would take off my coat and stuff it in my bag so my parents wouldn't yell at me for wearing no coat and no kids would boo me.

Scarred me for life! Damn you Starter Jackets!

Unknown said...

Vintage Starter Jackets

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Unknown said...

Back in my day...youd get jacked for your starter jacket. No doubt. Its an l.a.thing.

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expertshelp said...

I really love it when you talk of the children of the 90's me being one of them. I never got to see one of the jackets though, but i can say that they are very pretty. The designer knows just how to do it, and for sure getting one would be great. Literature Review Help Thank you for the information.

Gianna Blake said...

I remember I used to wear my dad’s jacket when I was little. Now you can’t see these anywhere. Fashion has changed a lot. My alo yoga pants are just this color and this post just made me think of buying a new one (lol).

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