Yet Israel does have one hard and fast rule: “There’s something that bothers me about buying a sports team hat that’s not in the original team color. I don’t give a fuck about baseball, but I have this ethic where the Yankees hat has to be navy, the Mets hat needs to be blue and orange.” He says if he’s wearing something green, he wants an Oakland A’s hat or an Angels hat for something red. As for the Yankees slippers? “I got those cause they’re Gucci, and they’re fly.”
Talking to Israel made me think that team-switching is an underappreciated style move. Wearing a sports team’s shirt or hat for the sake of liking how it looks is something we take for granted. Just look at Chevy Chase in Funny Farm, decked out in a Los Angeles Rams shirt, a Mets hat and a seersucker jacket. The movie doesn’t get into his sportswriter character’s backstory that much, but I doubt in 1988 he was rooting for both teams. Yet the randomness of the look works. If Mordechai Rubinstein (another fan of wearing both Yankees and Mets hats) saw Chevy’s character walking down the street, I assume he’d put him on Instagram.
Going on a sports merch walkabout seemed more acceptable once upon a time. If you grew up watching MTV in the 1990s, for instance, you’d see members of A Tribe Called Quest in any number of team hats or jerseys, while Snoop Dogg probably accounted for a quarter of all hockey jersey sales in the decade. Just about every kid that had a much-coveted Starter jacket —and thanks to those jackets’ popularity, many of those kids had to settle for a franchise they didn’t care about. By the following decade, everything was “throwback.” Franchises tried to update their logos (See the New York Islanders’ “Fisherman” jerseys, or the obsession with teal that you couldn’t escape for a time). Fans, for the most part, hated it. The answer was to go back to the archives and bring back old designs from the Denver Nuggets rainbow jerseys to the once-derided creamsicle-colored ones the Tampa Bay Bucs used to wear. Old became cool and the obsession with throwbacks doesn’t seem to be letting up anytime soon.
Lately, though, it seems as if we’ve backed away from that wear whatever utopian mindset. A few weeks ago, I posted a pic of myself in an Ebbett’s Field Sandy Koufax jersey—not because I’m a Dodgers fan, but because, to paraphrase Walter Sobchak, Koufax is a part of 3,000 years of my people’s beautiful tradition. Still, a friend called me a “sellout,” like I was some ‘90s indie band that had signed to a major. It happened again a few weeks later, after a friend gave me his coveted New York Mets hat (with the logo in the style of the Metropolitan Museum of Art) because it didn’t fit. When I posted a picture wearing it and beaming with pride, a friend messaged me: “New York has ruined you.”
I responded that wasn’t totally the case. Yes, I do feel like less of a Cubs fan than I used to. But I also said, “It’s just a cool hat.” I’ve realized that I don’t really need to wear something to signify “I’m a fan.” I’ve got better things to do. All I want is to put something on because I like it, and not because I feel some weird obligation to the team it represents. Whether it’s a David Robinson-era San Antonio Spurs satin Starter jacket, an old oversized Michigan Wolverines football jersey, or a Cleveland Browns dad hat with the old gremlin-looking logo on it, I just want to be able to put stuff on and not give it much thought.