Who remembers the very first time they played ultimate? I do. It was in May of 2004, three or four days after I graduated from high school. My backhand, on a scale from zero to Brodie Smith, was probably somewhere around one to summer league pickup. I didn’t even know a forehand throw existed, or that taking three steps at any time was illegal. Most importantly, I had no style. I probably I wore a cotton t-shirt, glasses, khaki shorts and tennis shoes. Needless to say, I epitomized the look of a proverbial “dork.” Since that day, I have evolved like a drunk Pokémon (they evolve right?) and I have noticed that as my overall game has gotten better, so has my sense of style. As a smart friend of mine once said “The only thing that really matters in ultimate is how good you look.”
I joined my college team in the first week of school, and I smartened up a little by at least wearing athletic shorts and cleats, but I still had my glasses on and no idea how to throw a Frisbee. That year I got my first ultimate jersey, a blue Adidas with a collar and a small v-neck. It is one of the most atrocious jerseys I’ve seen, but our college program was relatively young. Clearly our captains knew as much about ultimate strategy as they did aesthetic value (not to mention our logo was taken from clip art). It’s funny to look back at some of the pictures, and see just how gaudy I looked, with long hair, glasses, $30 cleats and a forehand that could barely reach 10 yards.
The next year our team got better, significantly better in both ultimate and panache. The captains decided to order white and black Patagonia jerseys. We still didn’t have a great uniform, but that was when I fell in love with everything Patagonia. I did a recent count, and realized that of the 22 ultimate jerseys I own, 17 of them are Patagonia. So, at this point I now have the jersey; I finally got contacts and cut my hair down to a reasonable level, but I still wasn’t very good. I seemed to be missing some key stylistic aspects. Skill wise I could finally throw a flick, but I couldn’t do much else.
I had the fly jerseys (or so I thought at the time) but needed to add more, I still felt like a proverbial “amateur.” I added a couple more stylistic accoutrements that were more functional than anything. I went Dwyane Wade and got some running tights, long sleeve Under Armour, a headband, and even buzzed my head. But the icing on the cake was when we our team got some Patagonia shorts. For those that have not worn them, it is like wearing Armani mixed with Nike mixed with the Shroud of Turin. I still prefer those shorts to any other piece of clothing I own, which I admit is limited. With these shorts we felt unstoppable; we pulled off some big victories and even trounced a national qualifying team 13-4. I’m not sure if it was our style, our play, or a combination of both, but we felt like a legit team.
After college I picked up my game quite a bit while playing club open and worked on my hucks, break throws and hammers. I also flexed my financial muscle by continually buying better and more expensive cleats. I’m not sure they actually helped my game, but again, it’s all about style son. Not only was my game improving, but also the ultimate community was given more options for jerseys. Last year was the first time that we were able to get sublimated ones. This is an eye opener, we were finally able to get a little more creative and add an overabundance of color. With our first design we made a jersey that is just swirls of color with our logo on the front. It kind of looked like a rainbow wiped its ass on our jersey. It was the definition of garish, but it worked. We finished 5th in the central region. It has to be the jersey right?
Is looking good the most important thing in ultimate? You could say so many other things are more important in ultimate, like teamwork and lifelong friendship etc. etc. And I suppose that in the end looking good is a part of it, but mostly these are just functional aspects, with a secondary aesthetic goal. Meaning, as I got better, I realized I could benefit from wearing newer cleats, better shorts, and even moisture wicking socks. I will argue that if you think you look good, you have more confidence and you will play better. So, if looking good makes you play better, playing better leads to winning, therefore looking good is the most important part of ultimate. Now that is sound logic if I ever heard it.
I just realized that when I dress up to play ultimate, my clothes are almost twice as expensive as when I “dress up.” And you know what, that’s the way it should be.