It’s the eternal fall dilemma for the well-dressed NFL fanatic: How do you maintain your sartorial edge while also wearing the team-branded apparel that allows you to make clear to everybody who passes you on the street that you are definitely cheering for [insert the name of your favorite quarterback here] at the bar? Increasingly, men are fashion conscious and aware of their style choices, so why does that all end up going out the window on gameday, when baggy jerseys and stiff, ill-fitting T-shirts rule the day?
That’s a question that the NFL has been pondering itself, and it’s finally come up with an answer–the 2014 NFL Men’s Apparel Lifestyle Lookbook.
The lookbook showcases ways for dudes who love both their favorite teams and not dressing like sloppy teenagers to combine those interests. The photos–taken on the streets of Harlem this summer–offers suggestions that can be downright bold: pairing a Drew Brees jersey with a trenchcoat and grey trousers, or wearing a faded Seahawks T-shirt over a crisp white dress shirt and a suit, or putting on fitted team-branded sweatpants and wearing them anywhere out in public with a sweater and a nice watch.
According to stylist Rachel Johnson–whose clients include LeBron James and Chris Paul, as well as the New York Giants’ most fashionable wide receiver, Victor Cruz–rocking NFL apparel as a fashionable part of your wardrobe isn’t impossible.
“The goal is to show gentlemen how to incorporate NFL apparel into their everyday lifestyle,” Johnson says. “We wanted to take the stigma and traditional ideas of what NFL apparel should be, or how you should look on Sunday, and elevate it. So we paired it with items you wouldn’t expect. In pairing with the apparel with a trouser, or with a trenchcoat, you’re opening up new ways that these key pieces of NFL apparel can be worn–and you’re opening up where you can wear these items to,” Johnson says.
Some of this stuff isn’t exactly bold–pairing a snapback with a suit is old hat for guys with a sense of both style and team loyalty–but other of Johnson’s ideas push the envelope in ways that fashion-forward dudes who are superstitious enough to think that wearing navy and orange on Sunday really does increase the Bears’ chances of winning by at least 15% should find appealing.
“It’s about the pieces, but it’s also about what you pair them with–and it’s about what size you’re wearing,” Johnson says. “If you’re wearing a jersey with your baggy jeans, you’d wear an extra-large jersey; but if you wear it with your skinny A.P.C. jeans that you usually rock with a pair of boots, you might want to try a medium or a large in this jersey, so you can bring them into one world.”
The degree of difficulty with the jersey is high: T-shirts, snapbacks, sweatshirts, even sports vests all have analogs in the menswear world, but a jersey is a piece of utilitarian apparel designed to be worn while you’re playing a game that involves a lot of tackling. So how do you make that one look good?
“One of the things that I think is great about the jersey is utilizing it as a layering tool. In our lookbook, we pair the jersey with a classic grey trouser and a black trenchcoat. It works when you’re able to pair those things with items that have a more tailored appeal, and when those tailored items are in classic tones,” she says. “Part of our mission is for gentlemen to understand that they can take these classic pieces that they have in their closet–most gents have a grey trouser, or a black peacoat–and these color palettes can be mixed with team colors. Even if you’re a Minnesota fan and your colors are purple and yellow, if you take these classic colors and classic silhouettes with your team apparel, it helps to ground it and bring it more into that fashion space.”
If this catches on, it’ll be refreshing to see the enthusiastic NFL masses dressed in dapper tones that more recalls George Halas and Tom Landry than the Saturday Night Live Superfans. No word yet how to look your best when your muted navy suit and Seahawks’ T-shirt is covered in ranch dressing and buffalo sauce, of course, but we’ll call this a good start.