The Vintage Starter Jacket - How Starter Changed Sports Merchandise Forever

Starter was started back in 1971 by David Beckerman, a Sportswear Salesman and New Haven Alumnus. David realised that Sports Merchandising companies were missing out on a huge market for adult licensed apparel outside of replica jersey's. In 76' Beckerman succeeded in convincing the MLB to license his merchandise. He focused on creating 'authentic' apparel that the athletes themselves would wear, this was the first time fans could own the exact same clothing as their favourite athletes.

 

 

By 1983 Starter was the official merchandiser for every major sports league in America, from the NBA, NHL to the NFL. Starter had become so popular that teams were signing the brand to redesign team colours to increase their value. By the 1990's Hip Hop had exploded across the US, and Michael Jordan and his Chicago Bulls were a household name. Rappers such as P Diddy and RUN DMC frequently wore their favourite team's colours, and their fans soon adopted the fashion having seen the jackets plastered across MTV, and on the like's of Eddie Murphy in Coming to America and Will Smith in The Fresh Prince Of Bel Air. 

 

But Starter becoming a status symbol would soon become it's undoing. Costing over 100$ per jacket, young people soon started to become the victims of violent robberies as certain jackets started to sky rocket in value. Kanye West's Mother cited Starter Jackets as one reason she banned him from riding the L train in Chicago as she feared him becoming a victim of the same crime. 

 

This coupled with Beckerman's decision to take the company public and in turn losing his creative control, seen Starter file for bankruptcy in 1999 as their popularity weaned and pop culture moved on. Started was relaunched in 2004 after being acquired by Nike CEO Phil Knight, and since then has continued to be a sportswear staple, but has never managed to reclaim it's icon status. As recently as 2019 J Cole performed at the NBA All Star Game donning a classic Charlotte Hornets Starter Jacket