On mornings with home football games, collegiate men and women across campus rifle through piles of maize and blue clothing in an attempt to put together the perfect game day outfit.
A game day outfit could be the most important form of garb University of Michigan students wear throughout their time at the University. Captured by Snapchat, Instagram, Facebook and the like, what one wears on Saturday football lives on eternally in the realm of social media. Now, this demand for Michigan spirit wear could soon be leading to changes with local retailers.
The Michigan Daily conducted a campus survey on student spirit wear choices to 500 randomly selected students, of which 56 students responded.
Based on the survey results, 56.14 percent of respondents suggested their primary source of tailgating clothing was campus retailers, such as the M Den or Moe Sport Shops.
The M Den, a staple University clothing store on State Street, has been serving the University since 1982. In 1992, it became the University’s official retailer, taking over a space in Yost Ice Arena.
M Den owner Scott Hirth said they are currently working to further expand their retail space.
“We’ve been doing this a long time and we’ve been trying to address all parts of the Michigan market,” Hirth said. “We just were able to take over the space above the Victors Collection, so there’s about 4,500 square feet that is under construction right now that is going to become a new expanded women's department.”
Hirth says this new space should be completed by homecoming weekend on Oct. 27 and will be revolutionary to the collegiate apparel market for women.
“It’s going to be the biggest women’s department in all of college campuses,” Hirth said. “It’s the women’s segment of the market that, frankly, manufacturers haven’t done a good enough job on. That’s changing, and it’s not as good as it needs to be yet but it’s certainly moving in the right direction.”
The M Den has also recently begun to bring in bigger brands, including the University’s switch to Nike and Pink by Victoria's Secret, the newest addition.
“The key driver to us doing that expansion is the arrival of Pink,” Hirth said. “For college-aged women, that brand is highly sought after. And if you’ve seen the product, it’s great product.”
“It’s gonna be like nobody has seen before,” Hirth added.
The M Den is not the only retailer conscious of the failure to provide equal quantities of sports apparel to women. A League of Our Own, a company founded by LSA sophomore Gabrielle Gedeon and Engineering sophomore Lauren Reynolds, produces University-inspired athletic hats that are designed specifically for women.
“I created a brand of hats because I realized that there is such a demand for ball caps for women and there aren’t really well-fitting hats out there,” Gedeon said. “It’s a relaxed fit, it’s not as structured as a man’s hat.”
Gedeon and Reynolds were roommates last year at South Quad, where the idea initially took off.
“I never used to wear hats until I saw this lady come in with her big box of hats,” Gedeon said describing her first encounter with Reynolds. “She got me a Michigan hat and I’m obsessed with it, and I wanted to create my own. I knew what people were looking for.”
A League of Our Own is not just a hat company. According to their website's mission statement: “Baseball caps are usually made for the male audience, A League of Our Own has tailored hats just for women. Our feminine design starts with college women who are in a position to evoke change. We strive to influence and empower our community to create the lives that they want to lead.”
Reynolds added their focus is to empower women and disrupt the male-dominated realm of sports.
Gedeon and Reynolds are not the only students shaking up the game day apparel scene. LSA sophomore Kate Vargo also created her own brand, Tees by K-Tee, which she operates out of the basement of the Alpha Gamma Delta sorority house.
“It’s really nice to just be able to make them whenever I want. I’m not on anyone else’s schedule,” Vargo said. “I like to do it, I’m not a business person, but it’s been really fun.”
Vargo makes her designs using the Cricut, a do-it-yourself crafting tool, and then prints them out on her cutting machine. With the hot press that she keeps in her sorority’s basement, she puts the design onto shirts.
The Tees By K-Tee website is live, but Vargo said she is working on redesigning it so it displays more of her styles.
“I recently made a Michigan Trophy Grandma shirt for someone,” Vargo said. “A lot of my designs are Michigan oriented. It’s really just about making goofy, individualistic stuff.”
Customers can also submit original designs to Tees By K-Tee using the website.
Vargo’s business serves a niche group of Michigan students — 15.78 percent of survey respondents indicated they purchase tailgate apparel from individual sellers. Another 12.28 percent of students who took the survey say their primary source for tailgate clothing is Greek Life or other clubs on campus.
Fresh Prints is a customizable apparel company that serves over 100 universities across the country and hires students on those campuses to serve as campus managers to aid with communication and the creative process.
“A good chunk of Michigan Greek Life works with Fresh Prints because they have three campus managers,” LSA junior Devon Shalom said.
LSA senior Jessie Baren is one of three campus managers at the University and handles all sorority orders with Fresh Prints.
“We’re tasked with going out and finding the business,” Baren said. “I personally work with 15 (sorority) houses.”
Baren has been working with Fresh Prints since his freshman year, meaning he has experienced four football seasons from a sales perspective.
“Busiest time is definitely August and the first week of September. It’s a mix of working with the apparel chair on tailgate apparel and working with recruitment chairs on bid day and recruitment shirts. It’s insane. It’s basically a full-time job all of August,” Baren said.
Shalom agreed saying events ease the organization of orders.
“Having an event makes it easier to organize an order because it gets everyone on the same page,” she said. “Most of the time people only want apparel surrounding a specific event like game day.”
Every football season brings a new trend, and this year was no exception.
“In terms of sororities, bodysuits and skirts. Everyone likes those. I’d say out of the 11 sororities I worked with on game day orders, about 6 ordered bodysuits and 8 ordered skirts,” Baren said, adding that fraternities prefer “just T-shirts and tank tops.”