Posted on January 08 2020
The throwback jersey is, more or less, the Mount Rushmore of items included in the hip-hop trend. Four finger rings, Kangal hats, and gold ropes are close seconds to it, however. It's almost as if the throwback jersey was worn by a recording star, one day in the studio, just to see what he could get away with. Could he set a trend, if for no other reason than just because he wore it? Before you knew it, throwback jerseys were popping up in rap music videos – specifically, the Utah Jazz number “4” jersey. The other items just mentioned became more or less synonymous as art forms in the new millennium, and back to the mid-90s. Even as far back as the 80s, they have a sort of b-boy culture tied to them.
Leading the nostalgic charge was Mitchell and Ness, a Philadelphia-based retailer. To entice a new generation to have an interest in sports history, they relied on retro color pallets, superstars of yesteryear, and vintage aesthetics. Why teach the latest generation such history? As they say, "Those who do not learn from history are bound to repeat it."
Someone Had a Great Idea
After working as a stock boy for years, in 1955, ownership of Mitchell and Ness was taken over by Peter Capalino. As the story goes, however, Mitchell and Ness was nearly bankrupt by the 1980s. Mr. Capalino scrambled for a way to salvage his sinking ship. He came across thousands of yards of flannel in 1983. Since 1970, when heavy, baggy flannel uniforms were dumped by baseball, the yardage had been just hanging around in storage. He decided to try something and manufactured six sleeveless shirts modeled after Pittsburgh Pirate shirts from 1957. At $100 a piece, the replica shirts flew off the shelves.
Clearly, he had discovered something! "Well," he thought, "let's just keep making them and see how long it goes." He never could've dreamed that a genuine fashion phenomenon would be created when his throwback jerseys were embraced by the hip-hop community.
A Major Milestone
In the 1998 video "Skew It on the Bar-B", by Outkast, a throwback Atlanta Braves Dale Murphy shirt can be seen worn by Big Boi. This was the first Mitchell and Ness major co-sign involving their throwback jerseys. Additionally, in the liner notes for Aquemini, Outkast’s album, more throwback offerings can be seen.
But what really put Mitchell and Ness throwbacks on the map was the services rendered by Ruben Harley, a.k.a. Big Rube. In April 2001, he brought a marketing idea to Capolino. Soon, throwback jerseys would be seen on Sean "Diddy" Combs, Jay-Z, and more.
Eventually, (before and after he became famous) Lebron James was spotted wearing Washington Bullets and Chicago Bears throwback jerseys (and others), both costing in excess of $390 each.
The Hits Just Keep on Comin’
Sales of $2.2 million were realized by Mitchell and Ness in 1999. Those sales increased to $25 million by 2002 and for 2003, they were projecting sales in excess of $40 million.
Part of the Adidas Group, SLD (Sports Licensed Division) acquired Mitchell and Ness in 2007. Their plan was to expand and strengthen sports fan relationships by allowing them to wear and collect authentic college and professional sports apparel. The rest, as they say, is history.
We carry some of the biggest names in headwear at Hat Heaven, including Mitchell and Ness. To find your favorite new hat, check out the Mitchell and Ness selections as well as other brands available at our website.