Which Brewers jerseys can you wear to games? An authoritative, unabridged guide
Recently I was sitting in the Miller Park press box, watching the ballgame and not live-tweeting the count, when I spotted, in the lower section along the first-base line, maybe 100 feet away, a man wearing a white Brewers jersey with a long name that started with 'N' but was difficult to distinguish from the distance and angle.
At first I thought it was a Kirk Nieuwenhuis, which, you know, weird, but at least he's currently on the team, so I guess props to you, Mrs. Nieuwenhuis. But then the subject turned slightly and I was able to see the full name in all its glory: Neugebauer. As in Nick Neugebauer, the portly pitcher and Brewers' top prospect in 2000, who was called up to Milwaukee in 2001 but lasted less than a year in the big leagues before a shoulder injury forced him to retire in 2004.
I was amazed that a Neugebauer jersey – a white, button-up No. 32 – was still being worn by this fan at Miller Park, 15 years after the only time since its manufacture that it was relevant and seemingly sincere (the man was middle-aged and keeping score, which are not typical traits of an ironic display). I went from shock to incredulity, briefly to hate, to ambivalence and then finally to admiration.
It also got me to thinking: What are the acceptable and unacceptable Brewers jerseys to wear to games? What rules constrain jersey etiquette, not only in terms of the garment but also the individual dressed in it? When must you stop wearing a particular jersey, which ones are timeless and which are never OK? Would my reaction to the Neuge have been different if indeed it had been a Nieuwenhuis? And, most crucially, is it a shirsey or a shirtsey?
This is an acknowledged rebuilding season for the Brewers, the first of at least a couple, but fans have proven they're going to keep coming out to the ballpark, even though the club is not contending; Milwaukee has a record of 49-62 but is 15th out of 30 MLB teams in average home attendance, at a little more than 29,000 per game. So if you're going to go and likely see the Brewers lose, you might as well look good – or at least make other people chuckle – doing it.
After crowdsourcing Twitter for fan consultation, here are some hard-and-fast rules to jersey-wearing, as well as an authoritative, unabridged list of acceptable and unacceptable jerseys to see at Miller Park.
In general: Current players are always fine, historical stars are good and historical fringe dudes that are now pretty obscure are the best. For Brewers Nation, that last category is where fans can have the most fun. Seeing a John Jaha jersey while in line at the bathroom really brightens up a 7-2 loss to the Cardinals.
Tuck rule: Never tuck. You're not on the team, and you're not AC Slater. I used to be a front-tuck-only kind of guy – especially as a medium who only ever-so-wants to be a large! – because the jersey was usually too big, but if we can see a belt, you're doing it wrong. Addendum: Don't wear matching pants. There's only one fan who can get away with wearing a full uniform, and it's Wrigley Field's Ronnie Woo Woo, and you are not him. Probably that's a good thing.
No personalizing: This borders dangerously close to sounding like a sartorial fan version of the stodgy old baseball columnist grumbling about playing the game the right way, but, honestly, putting your name on the back of a professional team's jersey just looks stupid. If it was a gift from your grandmother, that's very nice, but it needs to stay in your closet except when she comes over on holidays; otherwise, keep wearing that generic Kohl's Department Store Brew Crew T-shirt. Neither your own real name nor your nickname ("Schmitty," "Ace," "Chastity," whatever) belong on Brewers gear, you raging narcissist.
@jimmycarlton88 Specialized jerseys/shirseys with your own name are entirely unacceptable at games and otherwise.— Dan Shafer (@danshaferMKE) August 9, 2016
Customizing is OK: The overzealous purists will tell you that getting a customized jersey is as similarly sacrilegious as personalizing one, but I'm here to say nay. Nay! Like beauty in the eye of the beholder, senses of humor vary and depend on many factors, such as age, intelligence, how serious you take yourself and how drunk you were when you ordered it. Particularly during a down season, and especially when your franchise has a .476 all-time winning percentage, you need a little levity in the stands. Some of my suggestions: "Doctor Hot Dog," "Two Balls" and "Beer Here."
Get a jersey that fits: This is a different issue than the tuck rule, and I'm going to go in an unconventional direction here. A lot of people will tell you to wear clothes that contour to your body and look appropriate; not me. This is Wisconsin, which means a few things for jersey-wearing. First, it will be cold half the season, and you'll want to have a sweatshirt underneath, preferably with the hoodie pulled through the collar because, come on, that looks pretty sweet. Second, if you're from Wisconsin there's a good chance you're fat; but even if you're not, after 10 beers, three brats and a large Dippin' Dots, you're really going to be straining the fibers of that fabric, whether it's an authentic jersey or a Chinese knockoff.
You shouldn't be swimming in the thing, but it's way, way worse for everyone else to be grotesquely spellbound by a skintight jersey that precisely outlines your obese globe of a gut. (Fun fact: In the case of free shirts, either launched by T-shirt canons or given away by Gruber Law Offices, the issue is moot, because those are always and only XXL.)
Speaking of authentics: Hey, speaking of authentic jerseys ... who cares? You won't find any elitist, top-shelf, league-certified-apparel-or-bust gear-shaming from me. Everyone's got a different price point for things, and when you're one of 30,000 in the stadium, it doesn't much matter if your shirt says Majestic or modest on it. It's already expensive enough to be a sports fan.
Don't wear third-party colors: Look, this isn't the Crips and the Bloods or anything, but if it's Brewers-Pirates, don't come to Miller Park wearing a Diamondbacks jersey. (Unless it's an Arizona Richie Sexson, which would be awesome, because Milwaukee totally won that trade.) It's obnoxious. I once was happily tailgating before an important Brewers-Cubs game in 2008, when both teams were playoff-bound, and a woman in White Sox garb walked by. Wait, what? I don't get it. Are you indirectly signaling temporary Brewers fandom by wearing Cubs-rival clothes? Are you just a visiting tourist being proudly provincial about the South Side? "Look I'm from another place!" Shut up, go away, leave us alone (to paraphrase Gene from "Wet Hot American Summer"). This doesn't involve you.
Don't divide loyalties: "Well, I was born outside Cincinnati and my dad used to take me to Reds games when I was a kid but then I moved to Milwaukee for college and tailgating is really fun, so, like, I kind of cheer for both teams now!" No, you don't. Wrong. Remember how Laura Quinn Hawk once wore a split Notre Dame-Ohio State top because she was the sister of Brady Quinn and the boyfriend (future wife) of A.J. Hawk? Well, now both players are out of the NFL, presumably because she couldn't just make a decision a decade ago.
Embrace analytics: If you're an advanced metrics sabermatrician like David Stearns, don't shy away from it, fly your nerd flag high by showing off that custom-designed jersey with the pocket protector for your mechanical pencils and oversized calculator! In exchange for meathead bullies not giving you a swirly in the Miller Park bathrooms, you can kindly explain to them how Weighted Runs Created Plus (wRC+) is computed.
Minor league jerseys are good: The Wisconsin Timber Rattlers, Milwaukee's Class A affiliate, are just up in Appleton, and the Double-A Biloxi Shuckers' name is an homage to the city's oyster and seafood industries. Terrific! Either of those would be well-received at a Brewers game, because after all, the prospects are our future. It's just alternative enough to be cool, without being baseball-hipster annoying. Bonus points if it's an Isan Diaz jersey.
Hats: This is only tangentially related to jerseys but it's still significant. Guys should always wear fitted caps, girls should wear adjustable hats with their ponytails pulled through the opening and no one should wear those beige Brewers ones sponsored by Culvers that were given out for free a few years ago.
Colors: Don't wear pink except on Mother's Day, and then ideally it should be a Carlos Gomez jersey with all the pink accouterments because he looooved wearing pink on Mother's Day. Women don't need to be pandered to with girly pink jerseys; they are perfectly able to wear regular team colors. Similarly, avoid camo gear (this applies to you, too, Packers fans), holiday-themed apparel and anything plaid. Also, stay away from the licensing-skirting knockoffs, like the ones sold at every mall kiosk, with the weird colors and designs. They're dumb and confusing.
Limited edition can be OK: Even though it's a blatant money-grab gimmick by the teams just to sell more merchandise, the Brewers' Sunday alternates and the gold Cerveceros jerseys are truly excellent. You're feeding the corporate beast, but you look bad-ass as hell.
Past fan favorites: This is tricky. On the one hand, Geoff Jenkins was a beloved player, genuine good guy in the community and decent player during a moribund Brewers era; on the other hand, his three true outcomes were solo homer when the team was down by eight runs, ground into double play or strikeout. You can wear a Jenks jersey and nobody will really mind, but they'll probably just assume you don't want to pay for a new one, rather than think you're honoring the one-time All-Star.
The Braves legends and the greats from the '80s are always a safe bet. But just because you had a love affair with some random player, like 1996 Matt Mieske, doesn't mean everyone's going to get it. And they might even think it's your name on the back, which would be terribly unfortunate if it's a Matt Mieske.
@jimmycarlton88 Mieske is the best possible jersey. I currently have Fielder, Sabathia, Segura, and of course Gagne— Paul Gagne (@TheKiddsTable) August 9, 2016
Other sports jerseys: I know it's August, which means this is NFL preseason time, and you love your Packers. But that's not the team or sport you're watching right now. If you want to wear a green-and-gold Aaron Rodgers jersey, go up to Green Bay and stand on that hallowed ground. Miller Park is a Brewers cathedral. I'm not thrilled about Bucks gear, either, but at least that still represents Milwaukee and, let's face it, nobody's gonna complain about seeing a Giannis or Jabari jersey at the ballpark.
@jimmycarlton88 Only jersey I ever wore was a Prince jersey and it was retired the day he left. I'll rock Giannis jersey till I die, though.— Scott Wegener (@TheScottWegener) August 9, 2016
No Russell Wilson jerseys: Just a reminder to never be that guy.
Shirsey, not shirtsey: Are you listening? Hey, stop singing along to "Roll Out the Barrel" and pay attention to me. This is important. The colloquial term for a T-shirt/jersey – you've no-doubt seen literally thousands of these at Miller Park – has become a point of contention among the T-shirt/jersey cognoscenti, with some claiming it is shirsey (more closely resembling the latter word) and others calling it a shirtsey (with the emphasis on the former word).
@jimmycarlton88 Also to be settled in your piece: shirtsey or shirsey? I've never once heard shirtsey before. Wish I was on your copy desk.— Jim Kogutkiewicz (@jimmyfk) August 9, 2016
Linguistically, what we've got here is a portmanteau, which blends the sounds and meanings of two component parts, not a compound, which joins two stem words. It is no more a shirt than a jersey, nor vice-versa; it is a combination shirt-jersey, and that makes it a shirsey. There can exist no more debate on this.
Don't be like me: As a cheapskate who's floated between being a fan and media member the past half-dozen years, my jersey-wearing game has frequently been the opposite of on-point. My first baseball jersey was a Derek Jeter Yankees shirsey (!) that my parents brought back for me from New York. That sucks. I even wore it in my fourth-grade class picture. Ugh. Later, I bought a Ben Sheets replica jersey at Kohl's and wore that sucker through 2009, when he was no longer on the team, and then I actually, honestly, regrettably taped over the name and number to keep using it. I was a cheap idiot in college.
But wait, solidarity!
@jimmycarlton88 ben sheets jersey FTW— isaac (@__sac__) August 9, 2016
Later I got a Ryan Braun shirsey – note: shirsey – and kept that for five years, even after it acquired bleach stains. I currently do not own a Brewers jersey or shirsey, but have several T-shirts, and I now realize I'm really not qualified to write this article.
On that note, let's get to the acceptable/unacceptable lists! Page 1 of 2 (view all on one page)
At this point, who gives a flip what people are wearing to games? You're lucky anyone is actually going to games. Go drink a PBR and get over yourself.
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