I Still Love My Starter Jacket [Kicking Back with Jersey Joe] Feb01

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I Still Love My Starter Jacket [Kicking Back with Jersey Joe]

We’ve crossed into February and are about to hit the most brutal month of winter. Fortunately for me, I’ll be toasty warm thanks to my old Starter jacket! Read on as I reveal the secret to its long life!

Now to be fair, I don’t have one of those super flashy ones with a thousand different colors that only look good with a pair of Zubaz pants. But, a decade and a half later, mine still looks as pristine the day I got it!

Starter jackets were all the rage in the 1980’s & 90’s. Kids in my generation would beg their parents to pony up $150 for one, to show allegiance to a sports team, that in most cases, they aren’t even a fan of.

Celtics Starter jacket on the ski slope.

There were several different designs of Starter jackets and all were popular. There are the satin baseball button up style, the heavy winter parka ski jacket style, and the pullover with a large front fanny pocket style. While some were mainly sold in simple team colors, others had neon, or loud patterns, and giant logo designs. Some varieties had one giant team logo covering the whole jacket.  Most also featured a half side zipper that allowed for easy access to your front jeans pocket. Some game officials would also use that opening to clip on a microphone battery pack.

They were available for pretty much every team, in every sport, from pro to college.

The popularity of the jackets hit their height in the early 90’s, when big time rap stars could be seen sporting them in music videos. It didn’t matter if it was 100° and they were lounging by a pool, it was still cool to be sporting their Starter jacket.

At one point during the 90s, the jackets became a major status symbol. People started getting robbed and murdered for their jacket. City gangs would use them to sport their colors. Walking onto an opposing gangs turf sporting the wrong colors could end in most unfortunate circumstances.

A New York Yankees Starter jacket appears in a NASA sketch on Late Night with Jimmy Fallon.

Sadly, my parents would never drop the cash. It would take me getting a job in the real world, before I could pick one up. (OK, I did borrow a friends’ for a short period of time). But, I still have that black Yankees parka to this day (I still have an old Buffalo Bills & Pittsburgh Penguins jackets of similar design as well). It’s fairly simple, the Yankees NY on the front and their logo on the back, with a simple blue stripe on the cuffs and waste band.

Some of the most popular teams to sport a jacket for in the 90’s were The Oakland Raiders, Dallas Cowboys, New York Yankees, and Chicago Bulls. Those team jackets could be found in just about any city, in addition to jackets for the local teams.

While the jackets were the big seller, Starter has had a line of popular caps and hoodies. They also manufactured replica football and baseball jerseys.

Starter was founded in 1971 by David Beckerman, a former basketball player for Southern Connecticut State University. The New Haven, Connecticut company was created to manufacture uniforms for high school sports.

In 1976, after several successful years of business, they paid for the rights to manufacture replica jackets for Major League Baseball teams. The quality was so high that the MLB signed an agreement for Starter to officially manufacture jackets for the players on the field. MLB was impressed. They were the first to make their jackets out of satin, instead of cheap nylon.

In the 80’s, the company experienced big time growth, signing deals with all professional sports and a large number of universities. Some teams chose Starter as their exclusive uniform manufacturer.

Starter made sure everyone knew their brand, by placing their logo on the sleeve or in the center of a cap. Their great slogan “Look for the Star” made sure everyone knew it was an official product.

By the mid 90’s, Starter had expanded world wide and became the official sponsor of the 1996 Olympics.

But, other companies began to slowly cash in on Starter’s success and created their own line of sports apparel. Logo 7, a rival brand, won a license to sell NFL apparel and that, plus over saturation of the Starter team products in the market, caused the profits to begin to decline in 1994. As the company had predicted, sales fell throughout the year, some of which they blamed on shipping delays, advertising costs, and a new Memphis, Tennessee distribution facility.

In 2000, 29 MLB teams switched companies and only the New York Yankees were still wearing Starter jackets. The following year, they too finally switched to the Majestic brand.

The Starter name was sold in 1999 to a spin-off of their own company and again in 2004 to Nike. In 2007, the Iconix Brand Group purchased the brand and now manufactures athletic support apparel and caps. They signed a deal with Dallas Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo to feature his name and likeness on a number of products. Starter has also partnered with Wal-Mart to exclusively sell its merchandise in their stores.

Some fashion trends never die and now these old school jackets are once again gaining popularity. A few years ago, wearing old school throwback sports jerseys became popular and the Starter jackets and caps have followed. While pro jackets aren’t currently being manufactured, older jackets can be spotted all over New York City.

A few years ago, these old school jackets could only really be found for a few bucks at Goodwill or The Salvation Army. Now, they are going for almost their old school $150 price at clothing resale and consignment stores. There are hundreds available for sale on Ebay. This winter, I seem to spot at least one a day being worn around NYC. That would have never happened a few years ago.

Now, I’ve been known to really baby my sports jerseys and jackets and I’m proud to say that mine usually last for many, many years. My secret to keeping my old school jacket looking great? Simple: Dry cleaning. I also don’t wear mine every day. The older jacket really now only comes out during very harsh weather.

To clean it years ago, I would simply follow the directions on the tag; machine wash cold and hang to dry. That’s fine and worked to help break it in. But, I’ve found that dry cleaning seriously refreshes the jacket, plus gets out those tough stains that a simple wash cannot. It also seems to help repuff the inner padding, giving the jacket, a fluffier, less worn out feel.

The cost for dry-cleaning is usually around $11.

THE 411

Name: Starter Jackets
What: sports jackets featuring logos of popular sports teams
Sold: classic jackets sold on ebay & consignment shops – new apparel at Wal-Mart
Website: www.starter.com


Well, they are back in style!  So, if you still have one hanging in your closet, you have two options.  Go ahead and wear it out and about again or sell it and make a profit.  Either way, they’re back and pretty cool to see!

Hopefully, the company can pony up the cash to start making new team versions of their jackets, again.

Laugh at me if you wish, but you know you had one!  Besides, if they’re good enough for Bob Saget to spot in the Full House opening credits – then how could you possibly be wrong?  I’d love to hear which jacket you had!

Image credits: Erik J. Gustafson, ChrisMRichards, NASA Goddard Space Flight Center, & wickey29