Swag before Swag was Swag
Starter recently announced the re-launch of the satin jacket. Hold the freaking phone. My mind instantly wandered back to my childhood days in the mean streets of suburbia Cincinnati to the time when Starter jackets ruled the schoolyard and playgrounds everywhere. Growing up you may have watched different TV shows or had different favorite movies than me and my friends, but one thing that we can all agree on is that the Starter jacket was the one childhood item that was hotter than Beyoncé at the Super bowl and Katy Perry’s dress at the Grammy’s.
I am here to dissect a few things about the legend of the Starter jacket.
Status. The popularity of the Starter jacket can be traced to its cost. The most popular model, the pullover cost roughly $100 in the late 1980’s and early 1990’s. Put in perspective, today $100 could fetch you a trick in Vegas, a pay-per-view MMA fight, 2 upper deck tickets to a sporting event in the last row, or 100 junior bacon cheese burgers at Wendy’s, in other words a lot. Having a Starter was exclusive, it represented being elite and was swag before swag was swag. You begged and begged your parents to buy you one and even cited your friends and the popular kids who were donning the hottest item out. Eventually you broke them down like an Allen Iverson crossover and zipped up that prestigious jacket with the big “S” zipper. Mostly this happened to coincide with Christmas and was just as awesome as the time you got the GT Dyno bike or when you unwrapped the original Nintendo.
Popularity. Aside from college, the one time you were actually excited to come back to school from Christmas break was to show off your new Starter jacket that you got for Christmas. Suddenly you were a brand new player in school and walked with more strut in your step than Jerry Stackhouse. Immediately you jumped up the popularity chain and sat with a new group of friends at the lunch table in the cafeteria, and were picked higher for the recess football and basketball games. Instead of coming home to watch tv, you were at your new friends house playing Tecmo Super Bowl and RBI Baseball, or shooting hoops with the neighborhood gang. Wearing a Starter jacket was like belonging to a country club, it gave you a mystique and opportunities you just did not have before.
Teams. After owning a Starter jacket, you were then judged on what team you were rocking. Sure you could sport your hometown team, but at that age you may have not yet gained your die-hard allegiance or your hometown team was not that popular. The Reds and Bengals were actually pretty good at this time too, but did not carry the clout that other teams and colors did. I am talking about the Charlotte Hornets, Dallas Cowboys, Los Angeles Raiders, Chicago Bulls, and San Francisco 49ers. These teams had the best colors, most popular players (Michael Jordan, Bo Jackson, Emmitt Smith), and they were winners. The first day I strutted to grade school donning that prestigious teal and purple Charlotte Hornets pullover for the first time was a life changer. I finally made it and belonged. And best believe Susie and Michele, the best looking girls in your grade, noticed not only that you had a Starter, but what team you were sporting.
Four Styles. There was the satin, pull over, zip up, and windbreaker. All great wears.
The Satin was the original model with a smooth button up with the team name across the front and a symbol on the sleeve or on the back. This was usually found on an older die-hard fan that cared more representing their favorite team than a popular one. Now it can usually be seen on people in their late twenties and early thirties who pulled it out of their parent’s closet. Like a Toyota Camry, it is a hand me down and lasts forever.
The Pull Over was the Rolls Royce of Starter jackets. It was the luxurious model that put Starter on the map and was the desire of every kid growing up in the 80’s and early 90’s. These are a rare breed now due to overuse and wearing every day for every situation. When you see one, you have to stop, gasp, and slap whoever you are next to as if Kathy Ireland was walking down the street in a bikini.
The Zip Up was a conservative coat but still solid garb that got lost in the shuffle of the pull over. This was like a used Honda, a great alternative for the cash strapped parents to save a few bones. Today this is popular in the tailgate scene as a nostalgic piece taking you back to days when you were the best playground quarterback in grade school.
Finally you had the Windbreaker, the Hyundai of the “S”. It was a new model that tried to shed the normal and originality of the brand. It worked in the warmer weather but never quite caught on like the big dogs. Plus it was really tough to afford two Starters. It was always winter coat first, windbreaker second.
The Starter jacket of the late 80’s and early 90’s was a true iconic landmark of my childhood and most certainly yours. There is no question everyone who had the privilege to put one over their shoulders can remember exactly what style and team they rocked. If you did not have a Starter jacket growing up you did not have street cred.
Now I am going to work harder and put in overtime the next few weeks so that I can rush out and get that Charlotte Hornets Starter jacket and go back to the days of WWF on Saturday mornings, Macgyver/Knight Rider/Baywatch trio on USA, and when I was at the height of my popularity because I was rocking that teal and purple coat with a big “S” on the sleeve.
I’d love to know if you rocked a Starter jacket as a kid. If so, what model and what team? And what memories does it bring back?