A tribute to the 49ers gold satin jacket
Photo: Peter Hartlaub
I’ve been going to 49ers games at Candlestick Park for more than three decades, beginning a few years before the first Super Bowl in 1982. While at the 49ers/Rams game with my wife on Sunday, I tried to think of my first memory as a child at the park.
I’ve narrowed it down to two things:
1) Riding the giant escalator on the north end of the stadium. I remember being small and the escalator having a “Jack and the Beanstalk” just-keeps-going-and-going quality — like we might end up on the moon. (It’s possible I imagined this. Were the escalators around in the Steve DeBerg era?)
and 2) The classic gold satin 49ers jackets.
If you were a 49ers fan in the 1970s and early 1980s, in the era before Sports Authority and replica jerseys, these were the ultimate symbol of fan support. There were a few random 49ers licensed products (I had a red cotton T-shirt with gold cotton stripes sewed on the sleeves) that you could buy at places like Sears. Others created their own, with iron-on decals or letters.
But if you were in a position to drop an extra $50 on top of your $15 ticket to support the team, the gold satin jacket was a Cadillac-style symbol of 49ers fandom. I knew very few if any kids who had them. Even in the Reagan 1980s, it seemed like a ridiculous extravagance to buy such an amazing jacket that your child would outgrow in one season.
It was as if the jackets were designed to be seen from space. State-of-the-art technology was definitely involved:
* They had shiny gold satin bodies with an Eisenhower cut, offering a full view of the ass of your dad’s Levi’s Shrink-to-Fit jeans from Miller’s Outpost.
* There were matching gold snaps across the front, and red-white-red striped elastic surrounding the waist, sleeves and neck.
* Each was stuffed with at least a bushel of cotton or feathers or Styrofoam packing peanuts or whatever, so even a fan with a Barney Fife body looked like Lou Ferrigno from the waist to the neck.
* There were two variations on the back: A red embroidered “49ers” logo, or the words “FORTY NINERS” in letterman jacket-style raised white and red terry cloth.
As the decades passed, Candlestick Park changed. The stadium was renamed several times. The passageway below our “box” was filled in to create more seats. Different mascots and uniforms came and went, the “Berkeley Farms Junior 49ers” sign in the west end zone was removed (*sniff*) and fan support slowly waned before quickly returning.
But the gold satin jackets always remained, in the exact same numbers that I saw in 1982.
I counted six in our section on Sunday, and dozens more during a walk to the bathroom in the 3rd quarter. Most were worn by old-timers with white hair, making steady runs to the beer line. A few had been bought by younger nostalgic/hipster types like myself — there are several jackets right now in the $200 range on eBay.
Below is a vintage variation on the satin 49ers jacket. I saw this woman in the concessions line. If I’m one of her two kids, I’m letting my sibling get the house and I’ll take the jacket.
After Sunday’s game, I searched for “gold satin 49ers jackets” online. There were one or two knockoffs, but they’re not for sale at the 49ers store. This is apparently the ’67 Mustang of jackets. Built to last, with owners who lovingly keep them in circulation.
I’m not a fan of Candlestick Park. It makes me angry to think about paying $90 for an experience that is basically like watching a game in a giant urinal. But I’m getting melancholy for the impending loss of the fan experience when the team moves in 2014. The old timers and younger thrift store-loving nostalgia junkies have been preserving these jackets like a religious order. And I suspect that the old timers and hipster types will be the first to be priced out of the Santa Clara stadium.
“Something is missing,” the rest of us will say, as we walk into our first game at the Santa Clara stadium. The 49ers will probably be smart enough to give Banjo Man a ticket. Willie Brown and Huey Lewis will be up in a box. But instead of the sea of gold satin, there will be a sea of red fleece.
And I’ll avert my glance away from my sons, so they don’t see me quietly weeping in my $12.75 beer.
If you have a photo of yourself in a gold satin 49ers jacket, please e-mail it to me at firstname.lastname@example.org with “gold jacket” in the subject line. Bonus points if you have a photo from 1995 or earlier. Please write a few words of tribute to your jacket if possible. If there’s enough interest I may use the photos in a follow-up post …
PETER HARTLAUB is the pop culture critic at the San Francisco Chronicle and founder/editor of The Big Event. He takes requests. Contact him at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @peterhartlaub. Follow The Big Event on Facebook.
Photo: Luanne Dietz