With the year-end holidays right around the corner, it's time for the annual Uni Watch Holiday Gift Guide, your best source for cool sports-themed gift items. The ground rules this time around are the same as in the past: You won't find the standard-issue jerseys and caps here (you already know where to find those), but if you're searching for unusual products relating to uniforms, team logos, sports equipment, or any other area 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 sports and with a wide range of price points, so you should be able to find something for that special someone on your shopping list (or just for yourself). Ready? Here we go.
1. Nap Caps
Why should humans have all the uni-related fun? Nap Caps are oversized ball caps that serve as dual-purpose naptime spots for your dog. The "brim" is a comfy blanket where Rover can stretch out, and the back of the cap features a cozy nook that's perfect for curling up. The caps come in small, medium or large, to accommodate a range of pooch sizes. For now they're only available for NBA teams, although the company says MLB, NHL and NCAA versions are on the way. Check them out here.
2. Vancouver Canucks 'Flying V' shorts
From 1978 through 1985, the NHL's Vancouver Canucks wore one of the most deliciously hideous uniforms in hockey history. Sure, any knucklehead fan can wear the Flying V jersey, as it is legendarily known, but it takes a more nuanced sensibility to wear Flying V shorts. They're available here.
3. 'Art of Words' prints
At first glance, artist Dan Duffy's prints look like fairly standard portraits of athletes and stadiums. Take a closer look, though, and you'll see that each of his illustrations consists of thousands of handwritten words. His print of Wrigley Field, for example, features the name of every player in Chicago Cubs history, and his portrait of Houston Astros star Jose Altuve includes the date, opponent, and score of every game from the Astros' 2017 championship season. Awesome stuff. You can learn more about Duffy in this Uni Watch interview, and you can browse through his artwork here. (And if you like sports prints with hidden details, Alex Bennett's "Sports Mishmash" prints are also worth checking out.)
4. Soccer jersey-themed smartphone cases
Nostalgia Cases produces smartphone cases designed to resemble throwback soccer jerseys. Their collection currently features over 650 jerseys, each available for over 100 phone models. If you want a case based on a team jersey they don't currently carry, you can even request a custom design. Browse their full collection here.
5. NBA and NHL skateboards
You may not be able to use your skateboard on the hardcourt or the ice, but the skateboard company Aluminati offers a full range of decks and cruisers with NBA and NHL team designs, including some throwbacks. Check out their product line here.
6. NFL-striped duffel bags
The travel gear company Hudson Sutler has just launched a cool line of limited-edition duffel bags with NFL-style striping patterns. There are no team logos or wordmarks, but the colors and stripes make it easy to see which teams the bags are meant to represent. Check them out here.
7. Retro-styled sports-themed wristwatches
What time is it? Time for some awesome watches! Coolstub takes vintage sports graphics, many of them taken from old ticket stubs, and uses them to create sharp-looking watch faces. Their product range covers a variety of sports, but the college football designs seem to work the best. See for yourself on their website.
8. NFL overalls
If you're looking for something a bit, uh, different for your next tailgate, or if you just want to be that wacky-looking fan who ends up being shown on TV during the game, these NFL overalls from Shinesty should do the trick. Check them out here. (And if you want something even more absurd, check out these NHL adult onesies, which we originally featured in the 2015 gift guide.)
9. College football throwback jerseys
You've probably heard of Ebbets Field Flannels, the company that's famous for its reproductions of old-school flannel baseball jerseys. But you might not realize that EFF recently launched a line of spectacular college football throwbacks. If you like striped sleeves, these are definitely the jerseys for you. See all of them here. (And if you like football jerseys with striped sleeves but don't want to bother with uniform numbers, Orvis -- yes, the fly fishing company -- has just the thing for you.)
10. Personalized sports memorabilia artwork
Artist Walter Whitman (yes, that's really his name) has an interesting niche specialty. If you give him a bunch of your personal sports memorabilia -- ticket stubs, baseball cards, pins, program covers, electric football player figurines, whatever -- he'll cobble them together, along with some additional vintage items that he sources on his own, into a unique piece of art. He calls these WallStories, and they're amazing. Whitman consults with his customers during the design process, so he can tailor the final piece to client's preferences. WallStories don't come cheap -- Whitman charges $150 per square foot, with a six-foot minimum -- but the craftsmanship and imagination that go into these one-of-a-kind artworks is worth it. A special gift for the serious sports fan. You can learn more at Whitman's website.
Honorable mentions and old favorites
• John Devlin's new book, "International Football Kits: The Illustrated Guide," is a great visual database of the world's leading national soccer team uniforms from 1966 to the present. It pairs nicely with Simon Doonan's "Soccer Style: The Magic and Madness," which examines the historical overlap of soccer and fashion.
• A pencil specifically designed for use on a baseball scorecard? Sure, why not! CW Pencil Enterprise's baseball scoring pencils are made by the General Pencil Company, whose New Jersey factory has been cranking out writing tools since 1889. And they come pre-sharpened, too!
• If you like old-school NHL uniforms, you'll love the third and latest issue of "Old-Timey Hockey Tales," a fun comic book from ace cartoonist Rob Ullman. (The first and second issues are still available as well.)
• Speaking of hockey uniforms, Nicholas Hirshon's new book, "We Want Fish Sticks: The Bizarre and Infamous Rebranding of the New York Islanders," tells the full story behind the inexplicable development of the Isles' infamous fisherman uniform.
• The retro-focused sportswear website 19Nine has a really nice selection of throwback college basketball shorts.
• Gucci -- the pricey fashion label -- has a line of New York Yankees gear, including a $1,850 cardigan and a pair of $1,250 track pants. Sure, it's all a bit nuts, but you have to admit that it's the perfect marriage of high-end fashion brand and high-end sports brand.
• If you're into jerseys and caps from defunct leagues like the USFL, WLAF, WHA, and so on, 503 Sports is the place to go.
• Your go-to source for throwback college football helmets is still Gridiron Memories.
• If you want a sharp-looking display for showcasing your bobblehead collection, Bobblehouse Industries has the goods.
• Bill Henderson's Game Worn Guide to MLB Jerseys remains the essential resource for charting the history of baseball uniforms since 1970.
• Ever find that your hands get so sweaty while playing basketball (or other sports) that you lose your grip on the ball? Point 3 makes basketball shorts with sewn-in wipeable fabric panels. It's like having a towel built into your shorts.
That should be enough to help cross off a lot of the names on your gift list. But if you want to shop a little more, we also have Uni Watch merchandise for your consideration.
Paul Lukas knows who's been naughty and who's been nice, but he's not telling. If you like this column, you'll probably like his Uni Watch Blog, plus you can follow him on Twitter and Facebook and sign up for his mailing list so you'll always know when a new column has been posted. Want to learn about his Uni Watch Membership Program, check out his Uni Watch merchandise, or just ask him a question? Contact him here.