ONE OF the more memorable moments in the history of the Pittsburgh Penguins hockey franchise didn’t occur in Pittsburgh. Or even inside an ice rink. No, this landmark event unfolded somewhere in Southern California in 1994, when the syrup-voiced rapper Snoop Dogg wore a black-and-yellow Penguins jersey to appear in the video for “Gin & Juice.”
SHARE YOUR THOUGHTS
What hockey jersey have you added, or would like to add, to your wardrobe? Join the conversation below.
Snoop’s decision to wear a Pens jersey lent some cross-cultural validity to hockey and to the NHL, the underdog of the major sporting leagues. To this day, Snoop’s wink to the game resonates in the hockey community. Dan Near, the senior director at Adidas Hockey, the official uniform partner of the NHL, noted that the 26-year-old video was on his team’s minds when they crafted the company’s recent Reverse Retro collection. These throwbacks refresh classic jerseys by remixing their color schemes, triggering nostalgia among hockey fans, said Mr. Near.
Jerseys lure in men who covet them just because Frank Ocean wore one.
Nostalgia drives considerable sales in the clothing world today. It explains why 20-somethings drop hundreds on pre-Y2K Patagonia fleece jackets, or why
reissues decade-old Dunk sneaker designs. The surge in hockey jerseys provides not one, but two case studies in how nostalgia shapes buying habits. Predictably, they entice hard-core hockey fans who crave anything related to the game’s history. But the jerseys also lure in shoppers who covet one just because Snoop, Swizz Beatz, Joey from “Friends” or Frank Ocean all wore them in the past.
First, the ice obsessives. For them, the Dec. 1 release of the Reverse Retro line was a rare bright spot in an unsettled offseason (the NHL is still hammering out the details for the 2020-21 season). Twelve of its jersey varieties have sold out on Adidas’s website. Chris Smith, 36, the founder of Icethetics.com, a site covering hockey-branding news, noted that more than half the Reverse Retro jerseys are modeled on designs from the ’90s.
Recycling retro uniform designs is a strategy that sporting-gear makers have pursued for decades. Chris Creamer, who runs SportsLogos.net and co-wrote the book “Fabric of the Game: The Stories Behind the NHL’s Names, Logos, and Uniforms,” traced the idea back to 1990, when the Chicago White Sox baseball team reissued uniforms from 1917 for players to wear. The following year, the original six NHL teams played a number of games wearing throwback jerseys in honor of the league’s 75th anniversary.
Hockey jerseys started appearing more in mainstream culture in the mid-80s, imprinting the gear on the minds of many Americans who’d never seen a puck drop. In 1986’s “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off,” Cameron (played by Alan Ruck) reluctantly skips school in a red-and-white Detroit Red Wings jersey. In 1989’s “National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation,” goofball patriarch Clark Griswold (played by Chevy Chase) wears a Chicago Blackhawks jersey. Starting in 1990,
wore hockey jerseys from historically Black colleges and universities like Tuskegee University and Southern University on-screen as TV’s “The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air.”
As the ’90s wore on, hockey jerseys also became an unexpected cornerstone of rap style, appearing not just on Snoop Dogg but on Queen Latifah (who repped the New Jersey Devils), Method Man (in a Rangers uniform) and LL Cool J (yet another Penguins moment). This trend continues today with rappers like A$AP Rocky, Drake and Rihanna.
Ray McAndrew, 28, a student in Syracuse, N.Y., runs @HockeyRapper, a
account documenting the plethora of rappers who have worn hockey jerseys. “Hockey is a sport that hasn’t been the most welcoming to Black people or Indigenous people or [other] people of color,” he said. Though professional hockey remains a sport with few players of color, rappers—who are often Black—made the sport’s jerseys a cornerstone of covetable street fashion.
Today, many streetwear labels are capitalizing on hockey’s rich aesthetic history and making their own fashion-leaning jerseys. These can nod directly to the game: A recent mesh number by Supreme came in teal and purple, the same colors as a bygone Anaheim Mighty Ducks’s jersey. But they’re often tenuously related to hockey. A hot-selling collaborative jersey from Nike and eccentric American label Cactus Plant Flea Market reads “Air” on the front, a word more closely aligned with basketball than ice hockey.
These random hockey jerseys have found an audience. Jesse Einhorn, the senior economist at StockX, a Detroit-based clothing and sneaker resale platform, noted that sales of the streetwear hockey jerseys on its site are up 25% this year compared to last.
Puck Hcky, a 5-year-old Detroit-area outfit, is another brand that’s distancing jerseys from the arena. Its high-end, $120-and-up versions are made in partnership with musical acts like Anthrax, Less than Jake, Slayer and yes, Snoop Dogg. Together Puck Hcky and Snoop created a black-and-yellow jersey nodding back to his Gin & Juice get-up, only it reads “Snoop,” not “Pittsburgh,” down the front. Not surprisingly, it’s a top seller.
SHIRT TRICK / Three winning jerseys designed with retro-obsessed sports fans in mind
Write to Jacob Gallagher at Jacob.Gallagher@wsj.com
The Wall Street Journal is not compensated by retailers listed in its articles as outlets for products. Listed retailers frequently are not the sole retail outlets.
Copyright ©2020 Dow Jones & Company, Inc. All Rights Reserved. 87990cbe856818d5eddac44c7b1cdeb8