My first Notre Dame Fighting Irish T-shirt was a game day shirt.
As I recall, it was a gift from a friend of my father’s. It hyped “the final chapter” of a three game series between the Irish and the Miami-Florida Hurricanes.
The hallmarks of the game day shirt — which I believe Notre Dame still sells in its bookstore — are the game date and the opponent on the front and some cheesy slogan or tagline. Helmets are usually somewhere too.
A game between No. 6 and No. 2 doesn’t really require a lot of puffery, but nevertheless this shirt proudly proclaimed that, on Oct. 20, 1990, a “hurricane warning [would be] downgraded to a slight hot air breeze!”
This was the game day shirt, but the enduring apparel from this game was actually that year’s version of “The Shirt.” Instead of hyping that season — as is traditional nowadays — it concentrated its sole energy on that one game. Just in case a game day shirt and a student club shirt weren’t enough, a bootleg “Catholics vs. Convicts III” shirt was also produced and sold, although not in the bookstore.
While I wore this “Final Chapter” shirt when I was 11 — and for many years after that — I’ve only seen one game day shirt that I thought, as an adult, was cool instead of cringey. That’s this one, from the 1978 Cotton Bowl. Oh, how I love the picture of the leprechaun corralling the cattle along with the mixture of chunky and thin sleeve stripes.
Here is a sampling of other gameday and bootleg shirts. Which ones did you own?
1981 GERRY FAUST
1981 LSU TIGERS
That negative image of Gerry Faust is kind of creepy, right?
1983 BOSTON COLLEGE EAGLES (NEUTRAL)
Vertical lettering on the sleeves? NO NO NO.
1987 MIAMI (AWAY) — LIKELY BOOTLEG
1988 MIAMI (HOME) (BOOTLEG)
See kids, “Late Night with David Letterman” was a popular show at the time. And the host would do these Top 10 lists...
1989 “JUST LOU IT”
1989 MIAMI (AWAY) (LIKELY BOOTLEG)
1990 TENNESSEE VOLUNTEERS (HOME)
The lack of trademarked logos or names suggests this is a non-sanctioned shirt, but I’m not certain. Also, this is a post-game shirt, which is different from a game day shirt in that the score of the game is included. Actually, I think I’d might wear this since it’s so simple.
1991 HAWAII RAINBOW WARRIORS (AWAY)
Is there a more quintessential early 1990s shirt for a game in Hawaii?!
1992 PENN STATE NITTANY LIONS (HOME) (LIKELY BOOTLEG)
Long before Chase Winovich was touting Michigan’s 2018 revenge tour, Notre Dame fans apparently came up with their own version.
1993 TEXAS A&M AGGIES (COTTON BOWL)
This is just awful. Look at that logo on the Aggies’ helmet!
1993 FLORIDA STATE SEMINOLES (HOME)
On the front: “Tradition vs. the polls”
On the back: “Many are polled...few are chosen.”
1994 MICHIGAN WOLVERINES (HOME) (BOOTLEG)
“Nobody beats Lou, so Blue get wiser.” Someone was trying waaay too hard.
1995 OHIO STATE BUCKEYES (AWAY)
Other colleges were no better at producing game day shirts than Notre Dame was.
1996 WASHINGTON HUSKIES (AWAY)
When you are devoid of ideas, just smash the helmets together!
1997 GEORGIA TECH YELLOW JACKETS (HOME) (POST-GAME)
Post-game shirts are always so weird because they came out, by my recollection, about two or three days after the game was played — and after most of the fans who attended that game had returned to their home.
1997 LSU TIGERS (AWAY)
“Battle on the Bayou” is a pretty generic descriptor for any game played in Baton Rouge.
1998 MICHIGAN WOLVERINES (HOME)
“The defense of the national championship goes through the Notre Dame tunnel!”
1999 PITTSBURGH PANTHERS (AWAY)
“Celebrating our past into our future”
2000 NEBRASKA CORNHUSKERS (HOME)
“Traditions collide” is fine, I suppose. But, “the official kickoff the new millenium”? Oof, you’re a year off!
2000 PURDUE BOILERMAKERS (HOME)
“You will be denied, derailed and defeated...” by Gary Godsey!
2000 STANFORD CARDINAL (HOME)
“Crunch time!” If you wear this shirt and you are older than seven years old, seek professional help.
2001 USC TROJANS (HOME)
No silly slogans. We’re just going to mimic the feel of a game ticket. I suppose I can dig this.
2002 AIR FORCE FALCONS (AWAY)
This one made a big, bold play. It didn’t work for me, but I appreciate them taking a chance.
2003 FLORIDA STATE SEMINOLES (AWAY)
“Here’s the ticket.” Yeah, we’re not playing the Boilermakers, so I don’t get it.
2003 USC (HOME)
The rare non-white home game-day shirt.
2004 NAVY MIDSHIPMEN (NEUTRAL)
I’m so glad the Irish helmets don’t look like a mirror image of Navy’s lids anymore.
2004 PITTSBURGH (HOME)
“...and so we meet again.” Is it just me, or is the T-shirt designer just phoning it in now?
2005 SYRACUSE ORANGE (HOME)
We’re not bothering with slogans anymore. Let’s just slap two giant helmets on this thing and call it a day.
2006 PENN STATE (HOME)
“September showdown...playing for January.” Both teams did play the following January, so...congratulations?
2007 GEORGIA TECH (HOME)
“Gameday rivalry”? Also, it’s black — like the color of our hearts following this game.
2007 BOSTON COLLEGE EAGLES (HOME)
We would all like to forget 2007, but this is a real misstep even by the standard set by the on-field play. Issuing a game-day shirt in Boston College colors? What were they thinking?!
2007 USC (HOME)
Essentially, a slight tweak of the Georgia Tech design. Who was buying black shirts from a terrible football season?
2008 SYRACUSE (HOME)
“Green jer — shirts are unlucky!”
2009 MICHIGAN (AWAY) (POST-GAME)
2009 MICHIGAN STATE SPARTANS (HOME)
I don’t love the Old English font or the giant, centered Adidas logo. But I don’t hate this try.
2009 PURDUE (AWAY)
No slogan, no helmets. But it’s a “game day” shirt for sure.
2010 UTAH (HOME)
Much like the one above. “GAMEDAY” — the designers are clearly devoid of ideas.
2011 USC (HOME)
Awful. Just No.
2012 NAVY (NEUTRAL)
2013 TEMPLE (HOME)
2013 USC (HOME)
Like a pastiche of the 1990 “Shirt” (front) and my first game day shirt (back).
2013 NAVY (HOME)
“What if...hear me out here...we called it ‘The Battle of the Golden Helmets?’”
“Perfect! With two helmets clashing or something?”
“What?! No, we’re not going to feature the helmets on the shirt! What a dumb idea!”
2013 BYU COUGARS (HOME)
It’s the most low hanging fruit of puns, but I like the staredown between the Cougar and the leprechaun.
2015 GEORGIA TECH YELLOW JACKETS (HOME)
2015 WAKE FOREST DEMON DEACONS (HOME)
Helmets have decals on the sides. They aren’t visually interesting straight on.
2016 NEVADA WOLF PACK (HOME)
I would have eschewed either the helmets or the logos on the bottom.
2016 N.C. STATE WOLFPACK (AWAY)
This one intrigues me. Is this something sold by the Notre Dame bookstore? Also, someone had a sense of humor. “You called down the thunder? Now reap the hurricane!”
2018 MICHIGAN (HOME)
I personally wouldn’t wear anything with Michigan’s helmet so prominent, but the overall design is nice.
2019 GEORGIA BULLDOGS (AWAY)
2019 USC (HOME)
Did Notre Dame sell both this one and the one above? Otherwise, why are the designs so similar? Also, is anyone getting a grasshopper vibe here?