With ho-ho-ho season once again upon us, it's time for the annual Uni Watch Holiday Gift Guide, your best source for gift items related to the visual culture of sports. Looking for your basic jerseys and caps? You won't find those here (and besides, you already know where to find those). But if you're searching for interesting products relating to uniforms, team logos, sports equipment or any other area of athletics aesthetics, you've come to the right place.
Lots of good stuff this time around, so let's get started. Ready? Go!
1. NHL Team Onesies
Onesies are for babies, right? Right. Unless you're talking about these super-cool adult onesies that mimic the uniform of your favorite NHL team. The jersey, the short pants, the socks -- they're all included (further info here). Perfect for wearing to the game, and then it can double as your pajamas when you get home. The manufacturer, Hockey Sockey, also makes some very cool trapper-style hats and endearingly silly toques, but the onesies are the real attraction. Get them here.
2. Tecmo Bowl NFL T-Shirts
Even the most fanatical Madden player has to have a nostalgic soft spot for the old Tecmo Bowl video game and its laughably low-res images. Relive those old arcade days with this line of T-shirts, featuring Tecmo-ized versions of familiar NFL helmets. Look they even have one for the Jags' two-tone helmet -- and it actually looks better when rendered that way. Get them here from Tecmo Bowlers.
3. "Full Color Electric Football"
As long as we're talking about old-school sports games, fans of Tudor's old Electric Football -- that's the game with the vibrating field and the little plastic players that inevitably ended up in a big scrum at one corner of the end zone -- will want to check out this new paperback book by Earl Shores, Roddy Garcia and Michael Kronenberg that examines the game's history and evolution. Gorgeous color photography shows just how tricky it can be to get the uniforms painted onto those tiny players and how rewarding it can be when it's done well. Get it here.
4. NFL and NCAA Drinking Straws
Jazz up your next holiday party or tailgate with these bendable drinking straws, printed with the logo of your favorite pro or college football team. As a bonus, the NFL designs include diagonal stripes, which create that mesmerizing pattern when you roll the straws on a table. (Come on, you know you can't resist doing that!) Imagine using your team's straw to suck the last bit of beverage out of your glass as the clock counts down another victory -- ahhhh, refreshing. Get the NFL straws here and get the NCAA straws here from Aardvark.
5. "The History of the NHL Hockey Jersey, 1983-1993"
This new hardcover book by Chris Delorme is intended as a guide for game-worn jersey collectors, but it's also first-rate eye candy for anyone who loves hockey uniforms. Every NHL team is covered, and so is every conceivable jersey detail, including commemorative patches, manufacturers' logos, captaincy designations, fight straps and more. Loaded with color photos, background info and fun facts, this book is a surefire hit for hockey uniform fans. Get it here.
6. College Sports-Themed Sneakers
If you want to support your favorite team from head to toe, the "head" part is easy -- you get a cap. But what about the "toe" part? Skicks (short for "sideline kicks") solves that problem, offering sharp-looking sneaker designs featuring the colors and logos of top NCAA schools. Get them here.
7. Uniform-Themed Smartphone Cases
Show your team loyalties while sending a text or checking your email with these jersey-patterned smartphone cases, available in an variety of NFL, MLB, NHL and NCAA designs. Choose from team logos or customize your own design with your choice of name and uni number. Get them here from Blueshirt Designs.
8. Replica Stadium Models
Is the ballpark or the football stadium your home away from home? Do you wish you could have a good-looking representation of it on your office desk or shelf? Are you still heartbroken over your favorite stadium being torn down years ago? Home Fields founder Ken Small, a former sportswriter and Miami Dolphins marketing director, has produced a series of beautiful stadium models that capture the excitement and beauty of big-time sports facilities. They're available in several different sizes, can be illuminated for an extra-dramatic effect and have text on the back with historical details on each stadium. Get them here from Home Fields.
9. Baseball and Puck Bottle Openers
Opening a bottle of beer with a baseball or a hockey puck sounds like a circus trick (or maybe an upcoming skills-competition category), but you can do just that with these nifty bottle openers made from real baseballs and pucks. The puck openers are available with a variety of hockey-related designs printed on them, and the baseball openers, you know, look like a baseball. Get them here from Buffalo Bottle Craft.
10. Painted Baseballs
Paul Nichols, an artist based in Washington, D.C., specializes in painting intricate designs onto baseballs, resulting in unique keepsakes and souvenirs. He also paints on bats and footballs, but baseballs are his best medium. If you want a special design, he takes commissions. See his work here.
Honorable Mentions and Old Favorites: This year's NBA Christmas Day socks would make a great stocking stuffer. ... Lots of beautiful old St. Louis Cardinals jerseys and memorabilia are showcased in the new book "Redbird Relics," published by the team's excellent historical museum. ... Oriental Trading sells packs of team-based napkins in MLB, NFL, NCAA and NBA designs. OK, so the NBA logos are a little out of date, but just think of them as throwbacks. ... Info-Rama specializes in highly attractive infographics posters, including one devoted to baseball and another that focuses on football. ... Soccer fans will enjoy this canvas print of a world map rendered in soccer balls. ... Some of the most famous plays of all time -- the Immaculate Reception, Doug Flutie's Hail Mary and a lot more -- are diagrammed on very cool-looking posters and T-shirts by Prinstant Replays. ... Need a new belt? You could do a lot worse than Mission Belts, whose products feature team logo buckles. ... These NFL helmet-themed space heaters look like just the thing to warm up the room while you're watching the game on a chilly winter day. ... You can get NBA team logo sandals from iSlide. ... College team logos rendered as handsome wooden sculptures are available from Campground Productions. ... Your go-to source for throwback college football helmets is still Gridiron Memories, you can still get impressively quirky baseball-themed postcards from longtime Uni Watch favorite Left Field Cards, and your best bet for spectacular one-of-a-kind painted baseball gloves is still artist Sean Kane.
Paul Lukas knows who's been naughty and nice, but he's not telling. If you liked this column, you'll probably like his Uni Watch Blog, plus you can follow him on Twitter and Facebook. Want to learn about his Uni Watch Membership Program, be added to his mailing list so you'll always know when a new column has been posted or just ask him a question? Contact him here.