Fall is the time when many people turn their attention to football. Some of us turn a lot of attention to it. We hear ourselves explaining to loved ones that, yes, there was a game we just watched, but now there is another game, and they’re all very important and there’s no way to possibly, under any circumstances, miss them.
I’ve lived in New York City for more than 20 years, but that has not diminished my profound love for my hometown Minnesota Vikings. I believe you’ve heard of them. The Vikings do not always make it easy to be loved. They are a good team, often close to being a great team. But they’ve never become the greatest team, and, alas, Vikings fans of many generations have been hurt many times.
Let’s start with what we shouldn’t wear. Not purple face paint, if for no other reason than it might end up streaked with tears (particularly if this is a playoff game). Generally speaking, you don’t want to wear anything that looks as if you’re about to invade the European mainland a thousand years ago. So no Viking helmets, fake blond braids or plastic armor. I know you live and die with your team, but I might counsel against a jersey, too — because football jerseys look far better on actual football players or wide-eyed children rooting for them.
What a grown man should wear to the game requires a little more nuance. First, let’s talk color. Vikings fans, as we know, bleed purple (though this advice works for whichever team you support). Start with a scarf. The wonderful corduroy scarves schoolboys wore, usually in the UK or at East Coast prep schools, are the perfect sporting accessory. You might find this so agreeable that you end up wearing it in your civilian life. You can track these down from classic New England stores like the Andover Shop.
You’re going to want a really good — and very lucky — hat. You might consider a baseball cap for the big game. But I’m not going with the latest thing from the souvenir booth; let’s get a little more creative. We need a Vikings hat and, if you don’t have an old one yourself, then it’s time to get on eBay and look for a hat with some personality. Without too much trouble, I found a good corduroy hat that says “Vikings” in a simple gold font. This is the good stuff.
Now purple is not a color most of us wear very often, but you have to do what you have to do. So I’m thinking about a purple knit tie from, say, Charvet. I know very few people would consider this approach, but they should! Who wears a tie to a football game? Well, coaches used to dress very well patrolling the sidelines in a coat, tie and even a raffish hat. That’s no longer the case, but you can still maintain the tradition. If you arrive at a game in a tie, you might be ushered right to the owner’s box to join the only other person wearing a tie (besides the TV announcers). But that’s alright!
If you want to get in the merchandise game, you have to commit and really do your research. I love those windbreakers that the late great Vikings coach Bud Grant wore to games. Or those old gray sweatshirts that say “Property of the Minnesota Vikings” in faded letters. These will definitely win you admiring glances from your fellow fans.
Not everybody reading this is a Vikings fan, so a good guideline for any game this fall is to wear sporting clothes that translate well, like a rugby shirt. These look great under any jacket, with just the right amount of color showing through. I envision olive-colored cords or easy-fitting khakis, some L.L. Bean duck boots, maybe a barn jacket or chore coat (cotton if you’re indoors and wool or waxed cotton if you’re in the elements). Imagine you’re back in college standing on the sidelines cheering on your team — a little twist of Ivy style is welcome. If you’re attending a game outside, what about a purple Shaggy Dog sweater from J. Press? You can whisk it off and wave it around your head when the Vikings win.
Many men have one old tweed jacket that’s been destroyed over the years. Now’s the time to take it out of retirement. This will look a lot less fussy if you’re wearing a cap and jeans or chinos. You can also wear a Vikings pin on your lapel. And that’s the spirit here: to stylishly support your team. Hopefully our next decision will be what to wear to watch the Vikings in the Super Bowl. A man can dream, can’t he?