Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Curb your Enthusiasm: A sweater is a sweater is a sweater... (or not)

One of the things I've enjoyed most about making these replicas is the amount of attention they've garnered on social media. Who knew so many people were interested in historic uniforms and other regalia?

(Of course, I need to give credit where credit is due. I'm well aware that most of you wouldn't know anything about these projects without the many retweets, photo tags, and active participation of people like Todd Radom, Baseball by BSmile, Phil Hecken, Paul Lukas, John Thorn etc. Thank you all so much for your enthusiasm and support. It's made a real difference.)

So anyway... Back to blogging...

NOT the same sweater... (pic credit: @BSmile)
Since I began tweeting about the Ty Cobb sweater, various pictures have been posted, all with Cobb wearing a sweater that appears to be the one I'm recreating. If you look closely however, it becomes clear that he owned a number of different official team sweaters. It may even be that he sported a different sweater every season, in much the same way that official team hoodies change from year to year. (After all, these sweaters were basically the early twentieth-century equivalent.)

Still not the same sweater... (pic credit: @BSmile)
Considering they were wool, it makes even more sense that a team would annually issue new ones. Wool may be warm, but it wears out faster than you'd expect. Anyone who wears hand-knit wool socks (*raises hand*) can attest to the fact that they develop holes much more quickly than store-bought cotton ones. Sweaters are prone to the same problem, especially at the elbows. (See? Those leather elbow patches are there for a reason! :)

In addition, sweaters tend to "pill" under the arms. You know, those little blobs of lint that stay attached and seem impossible to get rid of... And of course water (or sweat) is always a problem. While wool is reasonably water-resistant and will keep you warm even when it's wet, a good soaking can lead to warping or shrinkage. (C'mon. How many of you have shrunk a sweater in the wash? Be honest...)

Yep, this is the original! (pic credit: @JDaniel2033)
In short, a sweater that's pristine in March might look pretty ratty by September. In fact, that may be part of the reason there are so few vintage sweaters left, and why the ones we do have look practically unused. Why would a player keep something that's worn through, especially when he knows he'll get a new one next season?

That's an overly-long digression, but my point is that, unless they were taken in the same year, each of those Ty Cobb photos probably shows him in a different sweater. And we should be grateful that any of them survived to the present day...

(Final note: If anyone reading this knows of a vintage baseball sweater that is neither in the Baseball Hall of Fame nor the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum, PLEASE CONTACT ME!! At present, I only know of nine or ten still in existence. I'd like to think there are more, and every replica I produce is another piece of history saved.)

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