Jim Tressel is almost as well-known for his geek-chic style as he is coaching.
We often say the clothes make the man. In Jim Tressel’s case, make that sweater vest.
Though the comfy knit has been a steady, quiet niche seller for years — the choice of golfers, grandpas and football coaches alike — Tressel is the unintentional ambassador for these sweaters sans sleeves — and arguably single-handedly responsible for their juggernauting fame and acceptance, not only into mainstream society, but into the upper echelon of fashion.
Heck, Tressel’s even featured in the Wikipedia entry for sweater vest.
Because Tressel’s sweater-vest origins have been the topic of much speculation, the man who made the vest a staple in Columbus — and beyond — offered us some insight as to the genesis of the vest.
Though some contend he wore it as a tribute to his late father, Lee, who coached him at Baldwin-Wallace and was known for his bow ties, Tressel says he was never conscious of following (or even starting) any tradition when he first began donning the vests during a wildly successful run at Youngstown State in the ’90s. That first vest may have been a gift, but he can’t recall exactly. What he does remember, however, is finding it very comfortable.
“It was cold one game, so I started wearing it,” says Tressel. “And you know how coaches are superstitious? Well, we won — so I better put it back on.
“At Youngstown State, we had no money, so we went to JC Penney and bought a line of sweater vests and we sewed a ‘Y’ on it. That’s how it started. When I got to Ohio State, they asked, ‘What are you going to wear?’ I said, ‘I’ve always worn a sweater vest, but we played at night and it was usually cool.’ NIKE said: ‘OK, you’re wearing a sweater vest!’
Tressel quickly learned that with fame, comes sacrifice.
“The first couple of games, it was like 100 degrees at noon on the turf in Columbus, and I’m out there looking like Humpty Dumpty with a sweater vest on!”
From there, Tressel says, “it just kind of evolved. But I doubt there will be a run on them here.”
While there’s no indication (yet) that stores at Summit Mall are stacking their shelves with blue and gold sweater vests, we’ll know more when fall fashions arrive — since, as Tressel can attest, crisp autumn evenings make ideal sweater-vest weather.
Check back in mid-June for our complete story on Jim Tressel and his new life at Akron University.