Ho-ho-ho! Welcome to the annual Uni Watch Holiday Gift Guide, your best source for cool, memorable sports-themed gift items. Our ground rules are simple: You won’t find standard-issue jerseys and caps here (you already know where to find those), but if you’re looking for unusual products relating to uniforms, team logos, and other areas of athletics aesthetics, you’ve come to the right place.
As usual, your friendly uniform columnist has tried to compile items from a variety of different sports and a wide range of price points, so there should be something for everyone on your shopping list (or just for yourself).
Keep in mind that Hanukkah is a bit earlier than usual this year (Nov. 28), plus lots of vendors are dealing with supply-chain issues, plus-plus some of the items in this guide are custom-made to order. So for best results, shop early!
Ready? Okay, here we go.
Do you have a ticket stub from a Major League Baseball game where something historic happened on the field, or just from a game that was special to you? Millburg Trading Cards will embed your stub as a “relic” in a custom-designed trading card based on that game. The cards, which are the same size as a standard trading card, come sealed in high-quality card holders, and each one has a QR code on the back that links to the box score from that game. As electronic ticketing increasingly makes physical tickets obsolete, this is a great way to preserve your stubs. Full details here.
Designer Randy Stolinas creates fairly minimalist but instantly recognizable portraits of old, now-defunct stadiums. If you still feel nostalgic about that old stadium that essentially served as your second home when you were growing up (and who doesn’t?), you’ll love these. They’re available, along with lots of other very nice sports-related artwork, in Stolinas’s Etsy shop.
(Want to see stadium depictions that are even more minimalist? Check out longtime Uni Watch favorite artist S. Preston’s prints.)
For the past few years, a California operation called Hometown Jersey has been offering high-quality custom-made shirts based on vintage auto and motorcycle racing jerseys. They offer a small range of styles and colors, and fairly basic lettering options, but the results are spectacular, with a powerful retro vibe. See for yourself here.
Big Ten football culture is steeped in long-running rivalries — and rivalry trophies. The bragging rights that come with winning the Little Brown Jug (which goes to the winner of the annual Michigan/Minnesota game), the Old Oaken Bucket (Indiana/Purdue), or the Paul Bunyan Trophy (Michigan/Michigan State) are part of the Big Ten’s history. Replicas of those trophies, and others, are now available in a variety of sizes — perfect for your rec room, Christmas tree, or fantasy league. Check them out here.
Craftsman Tristan Weiss creates spectacular framed replicas of NBA and NCAA court designs, each measuring 20” by 30” (hence the name Short Courts). After checking out his work on Twitter, Instagram, and YouTube, you'll probably want one of these made-to-order designs for yourself, but move fast — he says he has time to create only about five more in time for Christmas delivery. Contact him here.
Longtime Uni Watch favorite Tokens & Icons specializes in taking game-used jerseys, balls, stadium seats, and other pieces of sports ephemera, deconstructing them into small pieces, and repurposing those pieces into really clever gift items. One of their new product lines is a series of high-quality watches made from old seats at three of MLB’s most famous ballparks: Yankee Stadium, Fenway Park, and Wrigley Field. They’re available here. (Looking for something a bit less pricey? T&I also recently launched a line of ice cream scoops with handles made from game-used MLB bats.)
What's even better than gumball helmets? How about custom-made gumball-style wall art! Woodworker Gary Dahn, who operates as Lumberjack Logos, creates these hand-crafted beauties. It’s already too late for him to guarantee Christmas delivery, but you can place orders now for delivery in early 2022. In addition to the gumball helmets, he also specializes in end zone art and a lot more. You can check out his beautiful work, and also contact him, on his Instagram page.
Rediscover the pleasures of non-digital calendars with this Negro Leagues edition. Each of the monthly photos has been lovingly colorized by longtime Uni Watch favorite Chris “ManCave” Whitehouse, and the calendar also includes stats and other info. It’s available here.
For more than 30 years, hockey fans in Canada could mail in the labels from containers of Bee Hive Corn Syrup in exchange for black-and-white photos of their favorite NHL players. These photos, colloquially known as “Bee Hives,” are now highly prized collectibles. This heavily illustrated volume, which won an award this year as “Best Hockey Research Project” from the Society for International Hockey Research, is the first book to chronicle the Bee Hive phenomenon. It’s a great history lesson for NHL fans and a lot of fun for anyone who’s into sports collectibles. It's available here.
Shoeless Joe Ballgloves, a boutique baseball glove brand based in Kansas, has an impressive-looking line of modern baseball gear. But they also have a small line of retro-styled gloves based on the styles that were common in the early 1900s. These aren’t old, beat-up gloves — they’re brand-new, but made like old gloves used to be made. Check them out here.
The Irish company SicSock makes high-quality socks with designs based on classic European soccer jerseys (like the Manchester United designs shown above). And in a socially conscious bonus, they match every purchase with a sock donation to a homeless shelter. Check them out here.
Why settle for a standard Bundt cake when you can have a Bundt cake baked in a pan shaped like a football stadium? Perfect for Super Bowl parties, birthdays, fantasy league get-togethers, and more. Available here.
Is there anything better than Peter Puck, the Hanna-Barbera cartoon character who gave hockey pointers during NHL broadcasts back in the 1970s? If you answered, “No, there is nothing better than Peter Puck,” then you have excellent taste! Happily, there is no shortage of Peter Puck apparel floating around out there — on Etsy, on eBay, and lots of other places.
It’s not often that we feature rowing-related items here in the Gift Guide, but these oar blade-shaped key rings emblazoned with national team designs are definitely worthy of inclusion. Available for 37 different countries (plus you can also get hundreds of different high schools, colleges, and clubs). They’re available here.
This book won’t actually be available until January, but you can pre-order it now. And you’ll definitely want to do that if your gift list includes someone who collects Panini football (i.e., soccer) stickers. Author Greg Lansdowne was given exclusive access to the Panini archives, and the result is a lavishly illustrated book with photos of over 2,000 stickers. You can pre-order it here.
The following vendors and products have been featured in the Gift Guide in previous years and are definitely worth revisiting:
Desert Lake Designs is the place to go for sports-themed string art.
Homefield Apparel specializes in very good-looking retro college sports T-shirts, hoodies, and more.
If you want T-shirts and other apparel featuring old designs from defunct teams and leagues, Streaker Sports is the place to go.
For beautifully soft wool pennants, banners, and more, check out Oxford Pennant.
If you’re into college basketball shorts, look no further than 19Nine.
If you're into hockey history, you definitely need a copy of Fabric of the Game: The Stories Behind the NHL's Names, Logos, and Uniforms, written by longtime Uni Watch pals Todd Radom and Chris Creamer.
Master woodworker Kevin “Gashouse” Cearfoss transforms two-dimensional team logos into spectacular 3D wall art. It’s already too late to order anything from him for Christmas delivery, but you could do a lot worse than to give a Gashouse gift voucher to that special someone on your shopping list. You can check out Cearfoss’s amazing work, and also contact him, on his Instagram page.
The great artist Daniel Duffy makes sports-themed posters and prints that consist entirely of lettering. Amazing stuff — see for yourself at his website, which is appropriately called Art of Words.
As always, your go-to source for throwback college football helmets is Gridiron Memories.
If you prefer custom-made mini-helmets, Rocker T Collectibles is the king of the hill.
Bill Henderson’s definitive Game Worn Guide to MLB Jerseys remains the essential resource for charting the history of baseball jerseys in the post-flannel era.
Sports apparel doesn’t get more niche-oriented than curling T-shirts. Steve’s Curling Supplies has a wide range of them.
And if you’re looking for a one-of-a-kind splurge, artist Sean Kane is still turning out spectacular artwork painted onto old baseball gloves.
Can’t find that right gift for that uni-obsessed special someone? We have lots of Uni Watch merchandise that might do the trick, including baseball caps, winter hats, pint glasses, T-shirts (including a seasonally appropriate “ugly sweater” design), pins, and a lot more. Our full line of merch offerings is listed here.
Whatever you have planned for your holiday season, here’s hoping it’s a good one, with lots of great gifts and memories — uni-related or otherwise.
Paul Lukas knows who’s been naughty and who’s been nice, but he’s not telling. If you like his Bulletin articles, you’ll probably like his daily Uni Watch Blog, plus you can follow him on Twitter and Facebook. Want to learn about his Uni Watch Membership Program, check out his Uni Watch merchandise, or just ask him a question? Contact him here.