By Suzanne Sparrow Watson

        Ray Nitschke

I’ve been watching a lot of the NFL Network lately.  It beats watching the news and it provides me with some people for whom to root.  That alone distinguishes it from the news channels.  There is a segment on the NFL morning show titled, “The Fit List”, short for outfit.  Each week they profile players, not for their accomplishments on the field, but for the sartorial splendor exhibited on the way into the game.  Yes, before the first whistle is blown, players are lauded for their achievement in wearing designer pants and carrying Gucci briefcases. Last week there were some particularly wild ‘fits’, and I couldn’t help but wonder what the old-time players – Ray Nitschke, Mike Ditka, Dick Butkus, et al – would think about the emphasis on designer clothing.


Deion on draft day

Today, players are judged on their “drip”. Football drip is all about how players look and carry themselves, from their clothing and accessories to their overall personal style.  It is also known as having swag, sauce, or style.  The focus on football fashion can be traced back to the intersection of hip-hop and sports culture. In the 1990s, hip-hop music began to grow more popular with athletes around the country, and many started to embrace similar fashion styles associated with what they saw their favorite artists wearing. Baggy clothes, gold chains, and other flashy accessories became more mainstream, creating new, unique, and bold looks that would eventually become known as “sauce” or “swag”.  Eventually, football players like Deion Sanders started to incorporate their own personal touches into their game-day fits, both on and off the field. As a result, football swag became an essential part of the culture of the sport.

Tyrod Taylor

As off-putting as this focus on fashion can be to hard core football fans, there is some sense in it for the players.  Most of the well-dressed athletes now have stylists who negotiate contracts with clothing and accessory companies. Tyrod Tayor, for example, the back-up quarterback for the New York Giants, has teamed up with high-end boutique Jeffrey, where fans can shop his Sunday looks — ranging from a Gucci jacket and YSL jeans to a Balenciaga sweatshirt.  His stylist says, “We’ve created revenue without him ever throwing a ball.”  In a sport where the average career lasts less than five years, it makes sense for these guys to make as much money as they can, as fast as possible.


The Tablecloth

This season a lot of focus has been on the Kelce brothers, who could not be more dissimilar in their game day ‘fits.  Travis has long been known for his wardrobe.  In fact, when his mother was asked if she was disappointed that she never had a daughter, she responded, “No. I had Travis and he’s a fashionista.”  Now that he has a famous girlfriend, there is even more attention to what he wears on game day and if there is a secret message in it.  I’m not so sure there is.  At times his outfit resembles something one might select blindly from a Goodwill bag.  And sometimes he looks like a picnic tablecloth.  But I’m sure he’s making money hand over fist, and good for him.

Jason being Jason

On the other hand, his brother, Jason, is more old-school.  He was recently asked why he doesn’t up his pre-game look, to which he replied, “Some people go to play football, and some people play dress up. I don’t like to play dress up. I like to play football, alright?”  He added that he had no interest in shopping or color coordinating his outfits with matching belts and shoes.  Last week he also demonstrated that sometimes clothing is optional.


I like to imagine what the notoriously tough Green Bay Packers coach, Vince Lombardi, would think of all this.  Lombardi coached during a time when coaches wore suits and ties (and oftentimes, hats) on the sidelines and players were expected to dress similarly.  Lombardi hated agents, preferring to negotiate with his players one-on-one. There is a legend (somewhat disputed but not by Lombardi) that he once traded a player within five minutes of that player even mentioning that he had an agent. It makes my hair curl to think what Lombardi might do when confronted with a player’s stylist.  I’m not sure there are enough four-letter words to encompass his thoughts, but it sure would be fun to listen in.

2 comments on “THE GAME DAY ‘FIT’

  1. Wonderful blog, Suzanne! I have been watching the NFL network so much lately, too – I love football and I also love so many great players playing “dress up” in designer clothes.
    And I really love Travis Kelce. I don’t care what he wears.. and unlike his bro, he keeps his shirt on!! wall wall

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