clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Rating and ranking all of the designs in Homefield Apparel’s Northwestern collection

The moment we’ve been waiting for.

If you buy something from an SB Nation link, Vox Media may earn a commission. See our ethics statement.

Photo by Ben Chasen.

As many of our readers know, Inside NU has a collective favorite apparel company.

For years, our staff has admired the work of the good folks over at Homefield Apparel, who have pleased scores of college sports fans with their detailed, fashionable, and comfortable products. A year ago, I advocated that Northwestern was as deserving of a Homefield drop as any other school, and the t-shirt gods heard my prayer, giving NU its Big New Saturday a week ago.

The release went swimmingly, with Northwestern fans and others alike giving praise to the Good Brand’s vintage designs. Things went so well that NU, a private school of fewer than 9,000 undergraduates, sold comparable levels of merchandise as much larger athletics powerhouses like Oklahoma and Alabama.

To mark the occasion, I decided to go through the catalogue and give each design a rating out of ten and then rank the designs based on their respective ratings. For legal and ethical purposes, I’ll state upfront that Homefield did not pay me/Inside NU to do this, though my ratings may skew on the higher side due to my appreciation of Homefield’s style. I did receive two shirts from Homefield for (allegedly) being a Northwestern sports influencer (lmao), and I’ll indicate those two designs using an asterisk. I am also including links to each piece so that you, reader, can easily purchase one (or more) if you feel so inclined.

Without further ado, here’s how I’d rank/rate each of the 13 designs from Northwestern’s Big New Saturday:

13. Northwestern University Vintage Tee and Crew (5.5/10)

I didn’t want to have to rank any piece in this collection last, and the rating is probably lower than it ought to be here because I realized that if I start too high, I was gonna have to give ratings down to the hundredths. Still, this is admittedly not my favorite design. I’ve never been a huge fan of Northwestern gear featuring “realistic” sketches of an actual wildcat, because, compared to similarly-styled drawings of other feline mascots (think tigers and lions), wildcats are kinda (dare I say it) ugly. While the circular framing of the drawing and font selection makes the shirt and crew neck as appealing as they could possibly be, the feral-looking cat — sourced from a 1980’s button, according to Homefield’s description of the product — at the center is just a bit too scruffy to get past.

12. Vintage 1967 Northwestern University Homecoming Tee (6.5/10)

This shirt features a significantly less off-putting Willie than the design behind it in the rankings. On the contrary, this Willie is actually kinda cute, though it’s difficult for me to understand what he is doing or why this design — stripped from a button from NU’s 1967 homecoming — is otherwise relevant. Homecoming in 1967 was a 6-2 loss at the hands of Ohio State in the midst of what would wind up being a 3-7 season for the ‘Cats, so it’s probably not anything related to Northwestern sports lore. So what is that Willie doing? Has he been tied to the top of a rocket headed for the stars? Does he just have an impressively high vertical jump that he is showcasing by ascending through the clouds? We may never know.

T-10. Classic Northwestern “NU” Crew and Wildcats Baseball Script Hoodie (7.4/10)

As irony would have it, the two items I was closest to buying but did not wind up actually purchasing ended up coming in tied at 10th. This isn’t that much of a shocker when you think about it, though; while the crew neck and hoodie are both fairly practical pieces to regularly wear (and, as such, two of the designs that would make the most sense to buy), neither stands out too much in a field of impeccable and eccentric competitors.

9. Northwestern Baseball Tee (7.8/10)

This design, on its own, is objectively awesome. Look at that cat with his little hat and his Dontrelle Willis windup. But, regrettably, it is the victim of a two-point reduction because it could’ve been a Northwestern softball shirt, which would’ve fulfilled this request of mine from months ago:

Instead, the Good Brand opted to make a program-specific shirt for arguably the most disappointing team at NU. Great idea, but the execution would’ve been much stronger if the same Wildcat was emulating Danielle Williams’ windup and the ball was yellow instead of white.

8. Retro 1995 Northwestern “Expect Victory” Football and Crew (8.3/10)

This design (in crewneck form) was the only item I actually purchased from the Homefield release, and it’s easy to see why. It’s simple, regularly wearable and a strong reference to the mantra of Northwestern’s legendary 1995 Rose Bowl team. All in all, I’m sure it’ll make for a perfect wear for an 11 a.m. kickoff at Ryan Field on brisk autumn day. The only reason it’s not rated higher is because its simplicity (which plays into its wearability) limits its ability to fully compete with some of the designs ahead of it.

T-6. Northwestern Wildcats Vintage Football Mascot Tee and Go Northwestern Go Tee (8.8/10)

At long last, our beloved Cocaine Cat gets its Homefield Moment. For years, Northwestern fans have clamored for the iconic, massive pupils of this variety of Willie on the blanket-soft fabric of the Good Brand’s shirts. Now, we have gotten our wish in the form of not one, but two stellar shirts. Of the two, I would’ve slightly preferred the purple “Go Northwestern Go” tee for my own buying purposes, but the designs are basically level in terms of quality. A lot of people were anticipating the Cocaine Cat designs, and Homefield sure as hell delivered.

5. Retro NU “I’m Wild About the ‘Cats” Tee (9.1/10)

This one probably wins the award for weirdest piece in the collection, and I love every bit of it. The face of this Wildcat — who, according to the Homefield description, was used in the 1970s and early 80s — screams “I seek to cause chaos,” the perfect expression for a Northwestern logo. The text around him drives the point home. The only thing left to do is take this Willie and stick him in this meme.

4. Northwestern Wildcats Vintage Band Tee (9.4/10)

NUMB alums, this one’s for you. That peppy drum major cat embodies the spirit of the finest band in the land, and the design also features lyrics from Northwestern’s (incredibly underrated, in my opinion) alma mater. Add in the block NU logo (which the Athletics department should consider incorporating into some sort of throwback football uniform), and you’ve got a shirt that even non-band folk could enjoy wearing.

3. Northwestern Basketball Tee* (9.6/10)

When the Northwestern basketball team announced its alternate senior day uniforms featuring this design, I instantly wanted to buy some sort of gear featuring the clean “The ‘Cats” script, but none was made available online or at Welsh-Ryan Arena. Thankfully, the Good Brand answered my prayer and delivered me the apparel I desired less than five months after the jersey’s release. Homefield is known for its incorporation of old-fashioned artwork on modern clothing, but the Indy-based company showed with this piece that it can still produce an incredibly appealing product while using very recent designs.

2. Vintage Northwestern Wildcats “Push On” Tee*, Hoodie, and Tank (9.8/10)

I mean, where do I even start. I love this shirt. I would love it as a hoodie. I would love it as a tank top. It’s got a special combination of charm, distinctiveness and wearability that will probably keep it in my wardrobe for decades. When I envisioned what a Northwestern Homefield drop would look like, it was pieces like these that came to mind. Glad that the ‘Cats got their Big New Saturday just in time for football season to begin so this can become my new lucky shirt (hopefully).

1. Northwestern Women’s Lacrosse Vintage Tee (10/10)

Homefield’s first ever women’s lacrosse shirt (yes, I checked) is also one of its best shirts ever, period. I love the way the components of this design seamlessly overlap with each other to create a menacing testament to Kelly Amonte Hiller’s lakeside dynasty. The darker purple of the lacrosse sticks and the seven stars (meant to represent NU Lax’s seven national titles) also seem to contrast quite nicely with the lighter purple of the shirt’s fabric. With this shirt in tow, it’s easy to say that the Lakeshow brand has never been stronger.

So, what did you think? Let us know if you agree/disagree with any of these rankings and what your favorite pieces/purchases were in the comments!