Michigan Apparel from Department Store Catalogues

Submitted by Maize.Blue Wagner on June 18th, 2015 at 10:56 PM

Sometimes I feel my abilities to contribute to this blog are limited. I didn’t grow up playing organized sports, so I can contribute very little technical data. I spent much of my time learning nonessential sports information by studying books, magazines, and sports cards. I tried my hand at writing a diary about this kind of off the wall material once and enjoyed the experience. However, WolverineDevotee has admirably cornered the market on these types of posts, so I must look for something else to add.

Last summer, I happened to be in an antique store in Carson City (MI not NV) because of a rather bizarre part of my job in my former career as legislative staff. While there, I saw old department store catalogues for sale. They were surprisingly expensive, so I didn’t buy any, but as with most things in life, the internet answered my needs and scanned copies were easily found.

As I looked through them, I noticed that many displayed Michigan apparel in some form, and that gave me the idea to add some fashion perspective to the blog. With all the hubbub about Nike vs. Adidas and shades of Maize, I thought this would be a good time to collect these pictures and provide a laugh for some and memories for others. I hope you enjoy this brief look at ‘M’ fashion from the 1970s, 1980s, and 1990s.

First a quick disclaimer…my source for this post does not have an exhaustive list of catalogues, so there could be a many other images out there that would be good to add. Also, I may have missed some within these catalogues; scrolling through 500-600 pages in one catalogue can get tedious. However, I will add that the catalogues are fascinating, not only for the price and styles but the breadth of what they sold.

1970 Montgomery Ward

I started looking at the catalogues in the mid-to late 1960s, but there was very little sports apparel of any kind. Some NFL, but no NCAA until the late 70s. The NFL gear could be another post, but I couldn’t help including this gem. I realize Joe Namath was a big thing in this era, but I saw nothing else like this. A few team shirts and jackets each year, but then along comes a doll complete with 12 different outfits. Incredible. 


1977 Sears

Here we have our first instance of ‘M’ apparel. Unfortunately, the actual clothing isn’t shown, but the logo to be used on the jacket is in the second column from the left, second from the bottom. For this they stayed all business and used the traditional university seal. It’s also interesting to see the variety of teams offered, including schools like Maryland, Michigan State, Texas Tech, and California. In later years, options would be very limited to major schools like ‘M’, Notre Dame (who is surprisingly not offered here), and Penn State. 


Another offering from same catalogue is the “sport carry all”. Unfortunately, no ‘M’ logo is pictured, but it was an option (with colors navy and gold, really?), so I thought I would include it here. Interestingly, here Notre Dame is offered, along with very odd choices in Boston and Delaware. 


1980 Sears

Here is a t-shirt with a very large ‘M’ on it. It’s an interesting variation of the split M. But hey, at least it’s not that Gopher or the UCLA Bruin.


1982 JCPenney

A slew of interesting takes on various logos here. Again, a unique version of the split M. This time with university seal doing the splitting. I have certainly never seen this variation anywhere else. 


1985 Sears

I’m kinda liking this varsity sweater, though I’m not sure I would have occasion to wear it. This is an interesting rendering of the block M. Skinnier than usual, and it seems like the middle portion doesn’t come as low as it should. 


1986 Sears

These short, mesh jerseys were pretty popular in this era, at least they sold NFL versions in a number of different years. I thought it was interesting that they used Ron Kramer’s number here, but then I realized that they were each number 87…and this was Christmas 1986, right before 1987. 


Again with the number 87. Who wants to wear a jersey with the year on it? 


1987 JCPenney

Preppy collegiate sweatshirt? Sure, I guess. It’s interesting that apparel with the University’s seal was popular enough to be offered several times. Also, your nation’s rugby shirt if you’d like; I assume in anticipation of the Olympics the following year. 


Here’s another offering from 1987. Apparently, they felt kids would be disappointed if they got a Penn State helmet and it was blank, so they added an emblem. 


1988 Sears

Quite the large wolverine we’ve got here. But again, it could be worse; at least it’s not the cartoon Bruin of UCLA. Also, Hawaii with a rare appearance. Was that a normal logo for them? If so, it’s terrible. 


Mesh jerseys with another appearance in 1988. It’s pretty tough to see what is on the ‘M’ set. It looks like a typical split M on the shorts. 


1989 Sears

“In case anyone has any doubts or has terrible eyesight, I cheer for the Wolverines” says the fan with a massive split M on his sweater. In all fairness though, if there was a year to wear this sweater, 1989 was the year. 


While we’re on the subject of apparel from the great year of 1989, I’m going to make a quick interlude to insert a couple of personal pictures of ‘M’ clothing from that year. Though I probably should have included these in this post your own apparel thread. I found this t-shirt at a thrift store a couple years ago. Oh that there might be occasion for a similar shirt to be produced again. 


This sweatshirt was my older sister’s, but it ended up in a bag of clothing repatriated by my parents to my house several years ago. I don’t know what a teddy bear had to do with ‘M’ or with the Rose Bowl, but it was available if you wanted it. 


Here we have “team jackets by Chalkline.” And another logo variation with the words Michigan and Wolverine down each side of the block M. I can’t say I’m sad that this style of jacket has passed on. 


Back to the large wolverine here, also large stripes. Maybe this was the impetus for the “throwback” jerseys of 2011? 


Finally from 1989, another version of the mesh jersey. Unfortunately, only displayed with Notre Dame. But some pretty awesome socks down in the corner. 


1991 Sears

Here the apparel with the university seals is offered on kid’s clothing. Again, I don’t picture this conversation happening “Hey Tommy, that’s an awesome garland around the lamp on your sweatshirt.” Also, does Notre Dame still use that Leprechaun? It seems very familiar from that era, but not so much lately. Maybe I just haven’t paid attention recently. 


And here is an adult option of the clothing from the last page. Also, Zubaz. I’m young enough or sheltered enough that I associate these with the 2014 Tigers, but I guess they were quite the thing in 1991. The logo looks like the split M with “Wolverines” across it, an interesting twist. 


And Zubaz hats to go with those pants. I realize this is just like, my opinion, but these jackets are awful. Again, the ‘M’ offering isn’t the worst (I would say that goes to Georgetown). I would like to think that if I was a functioning adult (and not just a 6 year old) at the time, I would have had the same opinion in 1991, but who knows…


Here the M is split by a…wolverine? Might as well. It looks like they have two different shades of maize going here, but when has that ever worried anyone? 


1994 JCPenney

Replica helmet for sale, not much of note here. Unless you want a Super Bowl helmet with the score on it. I guess if you were a fan of the Cowboys this would be nice, but it doesn’t seem like there would be a wider appeal. 


And a duffel bag, again nothing too unique or interesting. I like the basketball court rugs. That’s an item that could do with a revival, if it’s not still available in some form. 


Ah, the Starter jackets of the mid-90s, certainly an iconic look. From a marketing standpoint, things seems fairly standardized by this point. It’s interesting that the split M has been dropped, it was such a ubiquitous symbol for quite a while. 


To complete 1994, a couple of seating options. It looks like they solved the multiple colors of maize from 1991 by going with blue, but interestingly they kept the wolverine. Maybe I haven’t noticed, but I don’t remember seeing a wolverine image used in marketing at all recently. You also had the option of buying an “ABC Wide World of Sports” beanbag if you didn’t feel like supporting a specific team. 


Finally, a couple bonuses. I had to include this page from the 1975 Montgomery Ward catalogue because it reminded me of Graham Glasgow.


And this offering from the 1976 JCPenney catalogue. I suppose I should mark this last one as NSFW or at least OT, but for those of you who were around and conscious of such things in 1976, were his and hers matching underwear really a thing? Like did people coordinate each day? Would you plan out your whole week in advance? I’m not sure I even want to know the answers to these questions. 


Wolverine Devotee

June 18th, 2015 at 11:02 PM ^

Holy 90s in some of these photos. 

The Michigan logo on the bean bag.....

I have a bean bag just like that from when I was a little kid but with the Split M. May be the same make of bean bag, as well.


June 19th, 2015 at 2:05 AM ^

Now that really does bring back memories. 
Consider Jim Harbaugh probably has every single one of those Michigan items in his closet today including the sansabelt slacks. Me, I have a 1978 handsewn 'M' flag with quality brass grommets and she hasn't faded more than 35 years. They really knew how to make nylon that lasted back in the day.
Why not post the old Sears bra and panties sections? They contributed to my adolescence significantly.


June 19th, 2015 at 2:15 AM ^

It is a great contribution and an amazing collection.
Im just thinking that its fate though that the 1986 image contains michigan apparel and khakis on the same page.. this has to be the work of harbaugh..
Ps. Everything from like 1989 on i asked for for christmas and was disappointed not to get. And especially the zubaz.. i can remember the days of going thru the catalogs and making the christmas list. Damn im old..


June 19th, 2015 at 9:52 AM ^

hand me down split color Raiders shorts like the kid in the bottom left of the 1991 photo, when I was in 5th grade. 

And boy did I think Sweatpants were awesome as a kid. 

oriental andrew

June 19th, 2015 at 10:22 AM ^

Those rugby shirts were all the rage in the mid-late 80s. I had some coca-cola branded rugby shirts, but also popularized by tommy hilfiger and polo. Also jams.

One of my favorite shirts from college, it's seen better days. My wife wears it as a sleeping shirt now, but I've been meaning to get this rescreened or something. I assume t-shirt places can do that, right?


June 19th, 2015 at 2:10 PM ^

... were the height of coolness back then. I loved my M one, especially since my hometown (southwest Michigan) was 1/3 each M, MSU, ND. 

Nice post, thanks!


June 20th, 2015 at 11:36 AM ^

My sixth and seventh grade basketball coach was a real hard-ass. Think purple-faced Bryan Kelly, at all times. I heard he was a middle linebacker for the Denver Broncos before he started coaching us. Back in the early 80's, I guess it was just expected that youth sports were to be coached by insane men trying to relive their youth, but I digress. Slowly, over the course of two seasons he whittled our roster down from 15 players to 7. At our final game of the season, he presents the remaining players with personalized Starter jackets for us to wear during pre-game warm-ups. We wore those jackets for the rest of the school year as a sign of pride, I guess that we were too stupid to quit taking verbal abuse from an overbearing jerk, but hey, we looked good in those jackets.

rob f

June 19th, 2015 at 4:02 PM ^

Chalkline Michigan jacket that you don't like, OP.  In fact, I still have it (and it is past the point of being repaired) and occasionally use it while doing yardwork on cold spring or autumn days, though it seems not to fit very well these days. 

In all, I counted 5 different clothing articles shown that I have owned over the years.  Great nostalgic diary piece, OP!