In honor of UniWatchBlog.com, a blog devoted to the obsessive study of athletic aesthetics (in other words, sports uniforms), I am sharing a series of posts I call “Logo C.S.I.,” which stands for Logo Creative Scene Investigation.
These posts will be about logo forensics — how me and my company, Black Fives, Inc., went about finding, identifying, tagging, bagging, dissecting, storing, and bringing back to life the previously unidentifiable remains of the many dead or missing logos of the Black Fives Era.
Until I visited their site for the first time last year, I didn’t realize how close I am to being a sports aesthetic fetishist myself.
My first logo “episode” is about the Independent Pleasure Club of Orange, New Jersey (IPC). The IPC possessed the most titillating basketball team name ever. I had to resurrect this logo.
I discovered this team late one night working in the Black Fives creative lab examining microfilm of old African American newspaper sports pages. I loved the name but wanted a team photo so I could see their logo.
After some digging I found a team shot (the only known photograph in existence) in an obscure dust covered publication from the basement catacombs of the United States Library of Congress in Washington, D.C. This logo had been missing since about 1912.
The IPC was formed in 1908 in Orange, New Jersey at a time when sport was still considered a “pleasure.” They stood for “uplifting the colored athletic standard” and staged social events — including picnics, cigar “smokers,” music recitals, dances, poetry readings, and theatrical plays — to raise funds and build camaraderie among athletes.
After procuring special Library of Congress researcher’s credentials to gain limited access to the logo corpse as well as authorization to do an autopsy, I made an image of the published team photograph, which revealed the team logo in a monogram style, possibly hand-sewn by someone’s mother.
I took the images back to the lab, where I used Photoshop to digitally zoom and isolate the logo, and Illustrator to place it into a digital workspace where I could trace its outline. I further isolated each letter of the monogram, then compared these to existing typefaces in order to choose a matching font.
Using this procedure as well as trial and error, I finalized the black and white version of the logo and its corresponding team font.
To determine a color scheme for the logo and uniform I reviewed census records of the individual players to create a psychological profile of the team to get a sense of which color scheme they would have selected from one of the vintage sports equipment catalogs that existed in 1912.
The leading sporting goods manufacturer was the A.G. Spalding Co., and its catalog included blank woolen jersey-knit sports tops available in a limited set of basic athletic colors.
I combined this psycho profile, the catalog, and my first-hand knowledge of what colors work well in retail sports fashion merchandising (including the addition of a third “pop” color to bring out the two primary colors) in order to arrive at a full team color palette. I chose dark green, white, and a “pop” color of black.
But that wasn’t enough for an airtight case.
I had to build an actual prototype of the uniform kit, which included a game jersey and a long sleeved “cage shirt.”
The team pic showed a sleeveless style jersey (vs. a tank top style) with wide contrast color trim. I decided that the IPC front sash was not necessary (and difficult to manufacture in bulk in Korea). The cage shirt showed contrast stripes on the sleeves with a center front chest logo application.
The home and road uniform set colors would simply be opposites of each other.
I traveled to Seoul, South Korea, to work closely with our factory to deliver top quality against my specs.
A crucial step in creating the uniform was deciding on the actual logo executions. Were the logos embroidered? Chain stitched? Cut from felt? Multiple layers? Were the layers stitched down with contrast color thread? What would their mothers have done?
I decided on multiple felt layers for the jersey and chain stitched embroidery for the cage shirt.
Next I sent the team name and logo to the United States Patent and Trademark Office (U.S.P.T.O.) in the form of an application for trademark registration. This step protects the logo and the name as intellectual property. (I’ll explain how to do that some other time.)
The samples arrived from Asia, and now it was time to show them to the jury—retail stores and potential customers. After a short period of deliberation, the verdict came back. They were convinced! Retail buyers placed orders and the jerseys were distributed (along with others) to about 200 stores nationwide.
But one more thing had to happen.
In fashion, few honors are bigger than having your designs worn by celebrities on popular, nationally broadcast television shows. Logo forensics work goes beyond that. We’re talking about the life or death of a logo and its matching team identity, a much more serious matter.
So when Xzibit wore my IPC game jersey (home colors) as the host of MTV’s wildly successful Pimp My Ride, and when Big Tigger wore it (road colors) while hosting BET’s ever popular Rap City (since discontinued), I knew that the long lost and once forgotten logo of the legendary, earnest, quirky, free-spirited basketball team of the Independent Pleasure Club of New Jersey was officially revived.
With that, the case was closed.