The Crew and partnered up with local apparel maker Homage to develop a line of officially branded Columbus Crew merchandise. It's a limited edition run of t-shirts, sweatshirts, and scarfs in Homage's typical 80's revival style.
While the shirts are nice, the gear on the racks is the least interesting part of this news. This deal bucks the general trend in sports of consolidation. Sports apparel more than ever is made from template a couple years in advance by a few major corporations. This deal is the exact opposite.
Historically, there were dozens of uniform manufacturers around the country. Most of them were local or regional venders that served high school and college teams. Some of the bigger companies would serve pro teams around the country. A season's worth of gear might have been supplied by a couple different vendors.
Throughout the 1950's and 1960's, the uniform manufactures consolidated into some of the major players today. Champion, Russell Athletic, and new competition such as Nike, Starter, and international brands such as Adidas took the majority of the business throughout the 1970's and 1980's.
The end of this period coincides with the rise of fan gear. Team jackets and t-shirts started appearing bearing the logos of fans favorite teams. From the hodgepodge of decades previous, major sports leagues like the NBA, NFL, and MLB were signing league wide contacts for licensed apparel.
MLS was no different After having different vendors, MLS signed an exclusive uniform contract with Adidas in 2005. Jerseys have multiyear production cycles. The Crew's 2014 jersey likely have already been through final approval with the league and the team.
The Homage deal is the exact opposite of a 40 year trend of sports apparel history in America. This is a league deal with a local vendor for one team. Homage doesn't have a league wide license. They will only produce Crew gear. The designs aren't the monolithic templates from Adidas. These are designed in town with input from the team and the league.
Ultimately Crew fans are going to have the deciding vote if this trial works. If Homage and the Crew got it right, those t-shirts and sweatshirts will be flying off the racks and appearing in the concourses and seats of Crew Stadium. Success in Columbus may mean a new trend, official apparel with a local connection to the team. It's an experiment worth watching.