Once upon a time I worked for Sears Holdings Corporation, the entity that owned Sears department shops, Kmart stores, and the Kenmore, Craftsman, and Die Hard brands. For an excellent chunk of the twentieth century, Sears was principally Amazon, featuring each an unlimited brick-and-mortar retail operation and a strong catalogue business. They’d proudly check with themselves because the World’s Largest Retailer, and for much of their existence, that was true.
Sears died a typical corporate death, out-innovated by web giants like Amazon, and a victim of the all-too-common leveraged corporate raider scheme, once they were purchased by hedge fund billionaire Eddie Lampert, who saw value of their real estate portfolio, just before the large real estate crash. It went poorly.
For all of Sears’ issues, kids of the 80s and 90s just about all have fond memories of the Sears Wishbook (and to be fair, its JCPenney equivalent). The Christmas catalogue was a masterclass in creating desires in children for the most recent motion figures, dolls, video games, electronics, and (fortunately for us) sports-related fashion. Sears recently auctioned off much of what stays from their former headquarters in Hoffman Estates, Illinois, and I managed to accumulate Wishbooks from 1987-1993 or so. This was done partially for nostalgic reasons, partially for research purposes, and partially because these items actually fetch a fairly penny on eBay. But mostly, I assumed it is perhaps fun to see just how much sports fashion has modified, especially from the 80s to the 90s, because man, it was wild.
The Conservative, Mustachioed 1987
We start with big blocks of basic color and collars.
Who needs custom logos when you may just use stars and a few type of comics-y baseball version of your favorite teams’ name? It’s basic, it’s shiny, the collar makes it formal, and man is it healthful. However the 80s could also get wild! Are you able to imagine grown men wearing, well, literally any of this?
Consider it or not, there was a time when Snoopy was almost as recognizable as Mickey Mouse, and the NFL was all about hitching a ride on the recognition of Snoopy’s “Joe Cool” iteration, seen here. The difference between regular Snoopy and Joe Cool is literally the sunglasses.
But additionally, the night shirts! Are you able to even imagine? Only a bunch of pants-less dudes relaxing on the couch with the sport on. 1987 – Free and straightforward.
1988: Mesh debuts, Snoopy Dominance Continues
Here at Acme Packing Company, we’re fans of “mesh” route concepts, that are essentially crossing patterns where one receiver serves as a pick for the opposite. You’ll here various APC members say “run mesh until you may’t” across all of our podcasts. Perhaps this ought to be our shirt.
The mesh cover up on the Giants’ jersey is just getting began, and can dominate the rest of the 80s, but we’re still hanging on to Snoopy as well:
But nothing defined 1988 greater than only a bunch of fellows hanging out. Wearing your multi-sport block sweatshirts. Bears man is extra intense, like he knows what’s coming in a number of years. The glory days? They’re about to finish.
Also value noting how little the Packers factor into any of this. Pre-Favre, they really weren’t on national radars. The 49ers, Bears, Giants, and Washingtons dominate pictures within the Wishbook. It really was a special time.
1989: The Bears’ Last Stand
In 1988, the Bears and 49ers faced one another within the NFC Championship Game, and this catalogue is stuffed with Bears gear, released in the midst of their disappointing 1989 follow-up which saw them go 6-10.
We still have some Mesh, but greater than anything, within the basketball section we get our first glimpse of the madness the 90s will bring.
1990 and 1991: The whole lot is yelling at you
While we have now some 80s carryovers featuring old-timey sports stuff and acid-wash jeans:
We also get our first glimpse of the aggro 90s:
But most significantly, we get certainly one of the nice advancements within the history of fashion. That’s right, it’s
Most of you already know what Zubaz are, because the ironic nostalgia factor is off the charts with them, but if you happen to’re just learning, know that for a temporary time period, zebra-striped parachute pants were all the craze.
1992: Zubaz, and the convergence of other sports.
Within the ‘92 catalogue there’s as much hockey as some other sport, which is odd to take into consideration now. Hockey was a daily feature on ESPN, the LA Kings were at the peak of their popularity as a result of Wayne Gretzky, and the NHL and NHLPA video games were just ramping up.
Zubaz are still going strong, and expanding right into a welcoming NBA.
While the NFL sees a crucial advance in Zuba technology: the Zubaz sweats.
While college ball joins the in-your-face aggro party.
And with that, we’ll take a small time jump to 1997, partially because I even have a small gap in my catalogues.
1997: The Packers Arrive
One yr after the Packers’ first Super Bowl, a number of these burgeoning trends have reached their apex. There’s Starter, a brand that might define much of the 90s:
And there are many actual jerseys within the Wishbook as they begin to take off. But most significantly, there’s the best catalog page I’ve ever seen, even besting the night shirts from earlier. It’s, I feel, chargeable for defining the look of Green Bay natives for not less than a decade. Perhaps two.
You’ve got Zubaz, you’ve got Texas Tuxedos, and you will have oversized sweatshirts with HUGE writing. The Chiefs jacket adds some additional flair to what I feel of as a masterpiece.
Denim on top, Zubaz down low. You walk into the Kimberly Clark HR office wearing this in 1997 and also you’ve got yourself a job.
I hope you enjoyed this trip down memory lane, and I hope a few of these make a comeback. I’m going to go find myself a affordable nightshirt at once.