Starter (clothing line)

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Starter, Inc.
Company typeSubsidiary
Founded1971; 53 years ago (1971)
FounderDavid Beckerman
Area served
North America, Europe, Asia[1]
ProductsCasual wear and accessories
ParentIconix Brand Group

Starter, Inc. is an American clothing manufacturer, focusing on major league sports teams. Starter's current licenses include MLB, NBA, NFL, and NHL teams. Non-sports agreements include a partnership with Coca-Cola.[2][3]

Starter became notable in the early 1990s, with its licensed jackets of the main professional sports leagues in the US. Those jackets became iconic and a status symbol of that era.[4] Apart from jackets, some of the products currently manufactured by Starter include casual wear (t-shirts, hoodies, sweatpants, leggings, socks) and accessories (bags, hats).

Since 2007, Starter has been a subsidiary company of the Iconix Brand Group, after the latter company acquired the former from Nike, Inc.[5]


Rise and expansion[edit]

Starter was founded in New Haven, Connecticut by David Beckerman, a University of New Haven alumnus, to manufacture team uniforms for high school athletic programs.[6]

In 1976, the company entered into non-exclusive licensing agreements with a number of professional sports leagues, paying royalties of 8–10% for the right to manufacture and market copies of professional athletic apparel. Its first retail product was a line of jackets emblazoned with the insignias of Major League Baseball teams. Soon the company expanded its licensed apparel line to include headgear, activewear and accessories.

By 1983, the company had entered licensing agreements with the NBA, the NFL, the NHL and the Canadian Football League (CFL). But the company's growth during this decade can also be attributed to an aggressive marketing strategy. Not only had the company made licensed sports apparel a fashion status symbol, it also created brand loyalty by making its "S and Star" logo a prominent part of the apparel's design. Starter innovatively placed its embroidered logo on jacket sleeves and on the back of baseball caps.

Starter Miami Dolphins breakaway jacket

Starter won a contract to create the parkas that coaches wore on NFL sidelines. For the retail market, Starter designed the "breakaway jacket", a pullover jacket that closely resembled the coach's parka.[4] Sales in 1989 were $58.9 million. By 1990, they had more than doubled to $124.6 million.

In the early 1990s, Starter began to expand its distribution networks to reach over 25 countries in North America, Europe, and the Pacific Rim. The baseball jackets gave way to a hooded design with a side zipper, and eventually to a padded half-zip pullover. Starter apparel also expanded beyond sports clubs into styles such as plaid. A famous ad campaign featured Hip-Hop stars such as DJ Jazzy Jeff. Within two years, Starter's net sales nearly doubled to $356 million. The company went public on the New York Stock Exchange in April 1993, earning an estimated $98 million. Proceeds from the initial public offering were used to expand sales to Europe and the Pacific Rim and also to launch "Brand Starter", the company's own sportswear line minus team logos. Capitalizing on the high recognizability of its name, Starter went head-to-head against brands such as Champion and Russell.

Starter's competition in the licensed sports apparel business intensified in 1994 when Logo 7 Inc., the 2nd. licensed sports apparel manufacturer, won a much coveted NFL Pro Line license and beefed up its advertising budget in an attempt to knock Starter from its number one position. Overall, the boom in the licensed sports apparel market began to slacken in early 1994, slowing from an average of 38 percent annual growth to 15 percent annual growth. Starter moved into new markets with its licensed sports apparel, focusing on sales to young children and youth, and signed a new contract to manufacture the center ice jersey for the National Hockey League. The company purchased a retail chain, First Pick Stores, for $5 million of new stock in March 1994, and also established a Hong Kong office to better coordinate relations with manufacturers. Beckerman stepped down as president, although he retained the posts of chairman and chief executive. John Tucker, former president and chief executive of a sporting goods and sportswear concern, assumed the position of president.

Decline and restructuring[edit]

Although Starter began 1994 with a 23-percent increase over the first quarter 1993, it suffered a loss of $2.2 million in the second quarter. Second quarter 1994 sales were flat: $57.8 million, slightly lower than second quarter sales from 1992. Starter had predicted the loss, which it blamed on late deliveries from vendors, shipping delays to retailers, additional advertising and personnel costs, as well as start-up and contractor costs for a new Memphis distribution facility.[7]

1997 saw Starter become one of three suppliers (along with Champion and then-rival Nike) of uniforms for the NBA, most notably the New York Knicks and Charlotte Hornets. When the original company declined financially, their accounts went to Puma. In 2000, when 29 other MLB teams switched to the MLB Authentic Collection, the New York Yankees were the last team to wear Starter jackets.

The Starter name was purchased in 1999 by Official Starter Properties and Official Starter. These holding companies were in turn purchased by Nike on August 12, 2004, for about $43 million.[8]


Starter partnered with Walmart during the late 2000s/early 2010s. On November 15, 2007, Iconix Brand Group bought the Starter brand from Nike, Inc.[5] In 2009, Starter signed an exclusive endorsement agreement with quarterback Tony Romo, who was the featured brand ambassador for Starter's national advertising. In those years, Starter manufactured compression shirts, similar to Under Armour brand compression shirts, compression shorts, basketball shorts, snapbacks for other companies/brands, basketball sneakers, tennis shoes, sport team logo-less jackets and slide sandals. Starter had a Tony Romo line of track pants, jerseys and jackets. On March 12, 2013, it was announced that Starter would be relaunching the Starter satin and pull-over jackets in the latter half of Summer in Foot Locker stores and Sports Authority stores within the United States and Canada. The new line of satin and pull-over jackets were sold in stores and online. Starter operated with the assistance of G-III Apparel Group, which produces the jackets had helped Starter acquire licensing to the MLB, NBA, NFL, NHL and NCAA.

On July 24, 2018, it was announced that Starter was selected as the official on-field apparel and game day uniform supplier for all eight teams of the Alliance of American Football, which would shut down midway through its only season in 2019.[9] Starter provided equipment to all teams until the league folded in April 2019. In November 2019, the company announced an agreement with Coca-Cola to produce and commercialise apparel with the logo and image of the brand.[2][10]

Former sponsorships[edit]

American/Canadian football[edit]





Association football[edit]


Ice hockey[edit]

  • Canada United States NHL – Boston Bruins, Colorado Avalanche, Florida Panthers, Hartford Whalers/Carolina Hurricanes, Los Angeles Kings, Montreal Canadiens, New York Rangers, Phoenix Coyotes, Pittsburgh Penguins, St. Louis Blues and apparel supplier of the New Jersey Devils 1992-1996


Merchandising licensed manufacturer[edit]

During the 1980s and 1990s, Starter was a prominent manufacturer in the market of licensed uniforms of the main sports leagues in USA and Canada. The following is a list of the products made and commercialized by the company in those years:


  • United States AAF – all teams
  • Canada CFL – all teams
  • Canada United States MLB – all teams
  • Canada United States NBA – all teams
  • Canada United States NHL – all teams
  • United States NFL – all teams
  • United States NCAA – all teams

Replica jerseys[edit]

  • United States AAF – all teams (2019)
  • Canada CFL – all teams (1993-1999)
  • United States NFL – all teams (1992–1998)
  • Canada United States NHL – all teams (1994–1999)


  1. ^ "History of Starter - official site". Archived from the original on 2012-05-06. Retrieved 2012-05-27.
  2. ^ a b Starter Black Label Teams Up with Coca-Cola for a Collegiate Inspired Capsule Collection Archived 2020-08-12 at the Wayback Machine on Iconix Brand, 1 Nov 2019
  3. ^ Starter black label products Archived 2020-08-05 at the Wayback Machine, 2 Aug 2020
  4. ^ a b Look For The Star: How Starter Jackets Became The Iconic Clothing Of The Early ’90s Archived 2020-08-14 at the Wayback Machine by Jamie Cooper, 31 Jan 2017
  5. ^ a b NIKE SELLS STARTER TO ICONIX BRAND GROUP Archived 2016-11-12 at the Wayback Machine from Nike Inc. website, 15 Nov 2007
  6. ^ "This Coach Knows Clothes", Sports Illustrated, 1997-03-10 Archived January 14, 2010, at the Wayback Machine
  7. ^ Grant, Tina (October 19, 1995). International Directory of Company Histories. Vol. 12. Detroit, Michigan: St. James Press. ISBN 978-1-55862-327-9. OL 8607017M. Archived from the original on November 20, 2023. Retrieved October 25, 2023 – via Funding Universe.
  8. ^ "Company News; Nike Buys Official Starter and Enters Discount Market". Bloomberg News. 2004-08-12. ISSN 0362-4331. Archived from the original on 2021-04-27. Retrieved 2023-10-25 – via New York Times.
  9. ^ "Alliance of American Football strikes multi-year uniform, apparel deal with Starter" Archived 2018-10-03 at the Wayback Machine,, 24 July 2018
  10. ^ "Starter Coca-Cola collection". Archived from the original on 2021-09-26. Retrieved 2024-02-27.
  11. ^ NFL teams uniform suppliers Archived 2021-06-22 at the Wayback Machine at the Gridiron Uniform Database
  12. ^ "Cowboys QB Tony Romo signs apparel endorsement deal" Archived 2016-02-05 at the Wayback Machine, Star-Telegram, 19 Sep 2008
  13. ^ "Report: Tony Romo signs endorsement deal with Under Armour" Archived 2016-03-06 at the Wayback Machine on
  14. ^ Oxford United FC Starter 2016-17 Home Kit Archived 2017-08-23 at the Wayback Machine on Todo sobre Camisetas, 4 Jul 2016

External links[edit]