After nearly a decade at Ohio State, Jim Tressel has developed a reputation as a coach who is extremely well prepared, conservative, meticulous and set in his ways. Need proof? Look no further than the man’s sweater vest that has become as synonymous with Tressel as houndstooth caps are with Bear Bryant and visors with Steve Spurrier.
Tressel’s as consistent in his game-day attire as he is keeping No. 1 Ohio State a college football powerhouse. You’ll find him every Saturday in the exact same outfit: sweater vest with an American flag pin at the bottom of its V-neck covering a white collared shirt and tie, along with dark pants and white tennis shoes.
He started the vest’s tradition during his previous job at FCS Youngstown State but can’t recall how it all began – perhaps a gift from someone. But he does remember finding them very comfortable. Once people came to expect it of him, well, he couldn’t stop then.
Many have speculated that Tressel wears the outfit as a tribute to his late father, Lee, who coached him at Baldwin-Wallace and was known for his patented bow ties. But Tressel said he never consciously started his own tradition with that in mind.
Sweater vests are great attire for crisp fall weather, making them ideal for a football coach. But Tressel wears them regardless of how hot it gets outside. When Ohio State played Texas in Austin in 2006, Tressel raised some eyebrows when he wore the garment in 85-degree weather. That’s nothing, the coach said.
“It’s been much hotter than that at a number of home games,” Tressel said through e-mail.
He always wears a gray one at home and scarlet on the road to stand out on the sidelines from his players (Ohio State wears scarlet jerseys at home and white on the road). He has the Nike-issued tops ordered for all the games before the season and never wears the same game-day sweater vest twice; the used ones are given to charities.
Of course, sweater vests have now turned into a must-have for OSU fans. They can always be seen on super fans in The Horseshoe and there’s even a site called jupmode.com that sells everything from sweater vest baby bibs to sweater vest koozies. Local retailers have said customers often walk into stores specifically asking for a “Tressel vest.”
Heck, they might as well rename them that. He’s become such an ambassador for the item that he’s even featured in the Wikipedia entry for sweater vests . People have joked that he’s helped bring them back in style, and it should be noted they are now seen as trendy. The vests are a littered across men’s clothing catalogues and are now often worn by stars such as Justin Timberlake.
Tressel vests are now such a staple of Ohio State football that you’re more likely to see his players trying on different uniforms than the coach himself.
Never a school accused of being “Oregon-ized”, OSU bucked their regular uniforms for last year’s Michigan game and traded them in for throwbacks to honor the 1954 national championship team. And this year the Buckeyes will face their arch-rivals in Nike’s pro combat outfits.
Would Tressel be open to a “combat sweater vest” to match his team?
“Nike knows what I like and knows I’m not big on changing it,” Tressel said.
In other words, never mess with another man’s sweater vest.