If you can button it, zip it, clip it, twist it, snap it, pull it up, glue it on, slip it on or paint it on, it’s fashion fodder for the Who Dat Nation.
Game day isn’t exactly a red-carpet event when Saints fans head to the Superdome for kick-off. There’s a bit of ’80s overdo when the diehards show allegiance to their team.
But black-and-gold garb as the sartorial expression of Saints solidarity is now a bonafide Saints style. And lifestyle.
“Saints fans are true fans and they like to show their team spirit every day,” says Rob Brandegee, CEO of Little Earth, a manufacturer of licensed fashion accessories and apparel for professional and college teams.
“They may not live in the biggest market in the country, but Saints fans are among the leaders in the NFL when it comes to the merchandise they buy.”
That consumer report reflects humble Saints T-shirt beginnings reaching new proportions. New Orleanians’ dedication to recovery after Hurricane Katrina in 2005 and the Saints’ Super Bowl win in 2009 deepened a devotion to New Orleans that manifested itself in wearing one’s pride.
Gone are the days when Saints gear inventory was solely about crew neck versus V-neck.
“The fastest-growing market for game-day fashion, both college and NFL, is in women’s apparel,” says Vicki Adjmi, owner and co-founder of Jeantherapy stores. “Our first Saints theme item was a V-neck tee.
“As more and more requests came in from our customers, we started to add fashion items.”
Now, not only is Saints style a head-to-toe look, it’s no longer limited to game day. Fans show devotion every day of the week.
“We are having fun with team colors this year; it’s not just about T-shirts,” says Lauren LeBlanc, the owner and founder of Fleurty Girl stores, which features all things NOLA. “It’s more about black and gold fashion apparel. How lucky we are to have those colors! Think about the Cleveland Browns. Black and gold are great colors to combine for fashion statements.”
The concept, LeBlanc says, easily translates from a closet of black and white basics, with gold accents in accessories and jewelry. Among LeBlanc’s newest inventory is a knee-length gold metallic tulle skirt (which one Saints fan said she would pair with a bomber jacket to “balance the look,”) and black and gold snakeskin leggings.
From classy to trashy
As all Saints fans know, with the abundance of Saints clothing on the market, the interpretation can go from classy to trashy, and sometimes a combination of the two (think Taylor-Swift-meets-Lady-Gaga) creates that fashion edge.
Others simply want to insert the Saints quotient into an everyday wardrobe.
“You have to listen to the customer,” says Ashley Evans, buyer and manager of the Magazine Street Jeantherapy store, which specializes in jeans wear and sportswear for men and women.
“Do you have these in a size 8?”, asks a woman shopping the Sunday before the first Saints home game. She holds up a pair of black sequined ballet flats soft enough to fold in half. “This is my third pair.”
The Yosi Samra ballet flat, which also comes in plain black with a burnished gold heel and toe accent, is a basic.
Naturally occurring colors
The fact that Saints colors just happen naturally in the fashion industry is shopping lagniappe.
Evans can pull together six pieces for a head-to-toe look in a matter of seconds: a white store-brand hi-lo tank (with the number 9 in black and gold), a long tailored black blazer by BB Dakota, a pair of AG skinny jeans, a pair of Bernie Mev gold mesh slip-ons, and a geometric pendant and cuff bracelet in polished brass by Jenny Bird. The finished look says go-to-work, geaux-Saints, go-party. Apply as needed.
“New Orleans has a very diverse fashion sense,” says Evans, who sees a variation to each fashion theme. Tank tops can be replaced with hoodies, blazers with biker-chic moto jackets and slip-on shoes with booties. Accessories, such as a burnished gold wool gauze scarf accented with a sprinkling of matte sequins, provide endless options.
Scarf it up
Local designer Sarah Ott’s penchant for accessories put her NOLA-theme designs on the Saints-fan list. She was quietly hand making cotton jersey scarves with a Saints logo and selling at school markets without any thought of her work becoming a business. But the first week of playoffs the year the Saints ended up winning the Super Bowl, Ott decided to kick up the production of her scarves.
Timing is everything. With each game putting the Saints closer to a World Champion title, Ott’s works attracted locals who were seeking Saints gear to honor their hometown team.
Today, Ott’s collection includes not only scarves, but also T-shirts, jewelry and clutches. Her jewelry and accessories are carried by local boutiques, and she recently opened her own shop on Maple Street.
“Real Saints fans wear (black and gold) all week long. Not everything they wear screams Saints,” says Ott, whose designs are offered in local boutiques and in her own store on Maple Street.
Her delicate necklaces last year featured the outline of the New Orleans skyline with the Superdome and this year features a double necklace in vermeil or sterling with one chain holding an outline of the dome and a shorter chain with that of a football.
Fashion follows fan base
The fact that 46 percent of current NFL fans are women has also impacted store offerings. Black-and-gold dresses get the vintage treatment with ’50s fleur-de-lis prints and full skirt silhouettes at Trashy Diva boutique; a T-shirt dress is a new offering at Jeantherapy this year, and maxi-dresses are sold at the Black and Gold Sports Shop. Pink shirts with Saints logos are also NFL licensed.
There is no shortage of Saints clothing outlets for fans, male or female. Walk into just about any drug store, grocery store, convenience store, gift shop, service station and, well, there could be a drone delivering your Saints order any day now. Consumer demand ranges from dog jerseys to onesies to sportswear to scrubs. Yes, even your medical team has the Saints bug.
“We have a large New Orleans customer base,” says Kari Raderstor, spokesperson for Scrubs Identity, a medical scrubs company based in Indianapolis offering NFL-licensed uniforms since 2011.
She describes the New Orleans customer as “loyal and passionate.”
Stores specializing in NFL-licensed Saints clothing have also grown beyond shirts and hats. The Black and Gold Sports Shop carries quilted jackets for women.
The NFL Store offers everything Saints from thongs to yoga pants to animal-friendly faux-fur-lined Cuce boots. For men, there are puffer jackets and plaid shirts with Saints logo.
Hands down, however, with all the fashion merchandise devoted to New Orleans’ NFL team, T-shirts are still the best sellers, and each year new versions appear compliments of the local vendors who know the lingo so well. But even that expression has been tweaked to meet fashion standards.
Shirts are long (tunics), short (cropped), hi-lo (short in front, long in back), swing shapes (fuller at bottom).
Every sleeve length known to woman and every fabrication known to T-shirts is now expected by football-happy consumers.
“Men are just as picky,” says Evans, who says they shop less but buy more at a time. “And they pay attention to how the fabric feels.”