You definitely remember Starter jackets. How could you not? If you were even a casual sports fan in the 1990s—or just someone who hit the streets—the Starter satin jacket was a ubiquitous piece of sports apparel. Along with snapbacks and Jordans, Starter jackets were some of the first pieces of sideline and official team clothing to cross over into mainstream fan merchandising and street style. Your favorite players wore these jackets on the field, and you wore them to school.
Over this past Labor Day weekend, Iconix brand Starter, in partnership with legendary Giants linebacker Carl Banks and his company G-III, retroed the classic jacket and dropped a select few models at Footlocker stores. More colors and teams will become available as the 2013 NFL and NBA seasons roll on.
In New York City, we had a chance to sit down with Banks and Starter brand ambassador Terrell Owens, who repped his own Dallas Cowboys Starter jacket to the interview. We asked Banks to detail why now is the best time to re-release the jacket, and how he got Spike Lee—the man responsible for those immortal '90s Michael Jordan advertisements—involved with the forthcoming promotional campaign. We also picked his brain on the state of the New York Giants, and let Owens sound off on Roger Goodell and his quarterback, Tony Romo.
Interview by Justin Block (@JBlock49)
Why is now the time to bring back Starter satin jackets?
Banks: My motivation was to bring back iconic outerwear pieces. We had a series that we were going to put out—the first was the Detroit Lions Beverly Hills Cop jacket, and then the next in that progression was the Coming to America, which was the Starter Jets satin jacket—that's the one that Arsenio Hall wore.
So these are inspired by movies and entertainment?
Banks: The original thought was, "Let's do some really cool limited edition pieces." I knew the time was right when my son, who's 16, shows me like four different Starter jackets on his iPhone. He's like, "Dad, you need to start making these. These are so cool." He's a sneakerhead and probably saw A$AP Rocky wearing one. He didn't even know I was in conversations to do any of these
We had some conversations with the NFL. They were the first to sign off on it. Then the NBA, then Major League Baseball. It's still the most iconic outwear piece in all of sports. It's not about the vintage aspect of it, but more so introducing it to a new generation. — Carl Banks
projects. I'm like, "Okay, it's time."
We had some conversations with the NFL. They were the first to sign off on it. Then the NBA, then Major League Baseball. It's still the most iconic outwear piece in all of sports. It's not about the vintage aspect of it, but more so introducing it to a new generation, and reintroducing it to those who have an emotional connection to it.
It's kind of like how snapbacks came back, one or two years ago. It's interesting that you mentioned your son is a sneakerhead. Are you going to be dropping these like how Jordan Brand would drop Jordans?
Banks: It's hard to say. Starter was what Jordan is today. It's like the most iconic thing in sports. We've worked out some really great programs with our retailers. We have two major launch partners. One is Footlocker. They have a unique way that they like to introduce product into the marketplace. You can see probably some staggered releases. I don't want to say it's in line with what the shoe people do, but they have a way. We have a timeline that the jackets will hit the market. Our partners at Sports Authority are going to do things a little differently.
Why did you pick those two stores?
Banks: It's two reasons. Footlocker, because they're a part of the entire fabric of the culture of sneakers in sports. You pick that partner because that's where the kid will go. That cool kid. Foot Locker speaks the language that they understand. Sports Authority is part of the fabric of the sports fan. This jacket transcends cool, because like I said, it's an emotional connection to those who know the brand. For that sports fan who needs to get his fix, this is the jacket that does it, and Sports Authority is the avenue that we definitely think speaks to that consumer base.
So you're playing on the sports fan, but also the kid who's into fashion.
Banks: The elements of cool, and the elements of sports.
Tell us how you got T.O. and Spike onboard.
Banks: Rocking with Spike is a cool experience.
Had you known Spike prior to this?
Banks: I've known Spike for years. He goes hard for New York. Our company, G-III, has made jackets for him to wear. He's a Yankees fan, he's a Knicks guy, so we take care of him. The funny thing about it was when we first announced the relaunch of Starter, I took my sons to a Knicks game. They were there a little early. Spike kind of mosied up to me, and he says, "Is it true what I hear?" I'm like, "What are you hearing?" He says, "You're bringing back the Starter jacket?" I said, "Yeah." He said, "The real Starter jacket?" I'm like, "Yeah." "You mean the satin ones? The real satin ones?" in Spike Lee talk, so I'm like, "Yeah, original." He paused and says to me, "You know, something that's never been done before is an orange Knicks satin jacket. It's never been done before. It'd be nice if I could get it for the playoffs." Just like that. I chuckled and we went our
Get me an orange Knicks jacket prior to the playoffs. He [Spike Lee] has one of one, and he wore it. If you go back and look at the video bomb he did on Reggie Miller, he's walking back and forth on camera wearing the orange jacket. — Carl Banks
He wanted his fix!
Banks: I went back and gave our production staff a mandate: Get me an orange Knicks jacket. I know we're not making it, it's not part of the original launch program. Get me an orange Knicks jacket prior to the playoffs. He has one of one, and he wore it. If you go back and look at the video bomb he did on Reggie Miller, he's walking back and forth on camera wearing the orange jacket. He had a seat next to him and he folded the jacket and laid it across the seat. It was his idea, so we'll eventually introduce it into the market place, but right now it's Spike's.
Why do you think it's taken this long for Starter to come back?
Banks: Well, I think because the Starter brand had gone through many iterations and many ownerships. Some were resolved to just make it an athletic brand and not really tap into the heritage of it. Starter was the brand that started everything. There was no sideline sports fashion before them. People didn't really understand that. For me, I got it because I was one of their first athlete endorsers. They signed me—I think it was my second year or rookie year—when they launched the brand. I kind of knew what it meant, and getting that confirmation from a younger generation, I said, "This is right." I have a passion. It's an emotional connection for me because I was part of it, and I got a chance to spend a lot of time with the founder of Starter David Beckerman.
It's an emotional connection for me because I was part of it, and I got a chance to spend a lot of time with the founder of Starter David Beckerman. — Carl Banks
What are your thoughts on the Giants upcoming season? They didn't make the playoffs last year, but they've won the Super Bowl twice in five years.
Banks: I think offensively, the Giants will probably be a Top 5 offense. I know Tom Brady led the league in scoring last year. I believe the Giants offense is very capable of leading the league in scoring. Offensively they have a ton of weapons if they're healthy. Defensively they were last in the league in three and outs by a huge margin. They couldn't get off the field in defense. They were 28th in the league, they almost gave up five yards per carry. They made some quiet but very functional changes on the defensive line. They have Cullen Jenkins in there, Shaun Rogers in there. Shaun Rogers is hard to move. That's going to make it so much easier for the defensive ends on the outside like JPP and Justin Tuck, and then the rookie out there Damontre Moore, who's going to do some things. They've gotten bigger inside, and still kept the speed on the outside.
Big question marks at the linebacker position though. I think once players lose the mindset that there's no Lawrence Taylor, Harry Carson, Carl Banks or Pepper Johnson playing, they'll do a better job. Don't try to do too much, don't try to fill shoes of a defense that doesn't exist anymore. I think the object was to get guys in there that can do what's expected of the them. When you have those big guys up front, just be where you're supposed to be. Fill the gaps and make the tackles. If you can't do that, then you're not doing your job. I think the group of guys they have there will eventually get there.
The past couple seasons the Giants have been living and dying on the pass rush. The question mark has always been the secondary. Do you feel like the Giants have made enough of an improvement so when those guys up front don't get to the quarterback, the secondary can do enough?
Banks: I think they have done some interesting things. I think what they've done a really good job of is evaluating the type of league we're in and the personnel needed. They were shot last year because they had two healthy cornerbacks the whole year. When they get four, two go down. They brought back Aaron Ross, Terrell Thomas is back, Jayron Hosley is in his second year, Prince's first year, and Corey Webster. Now you have five corners—technically three safeties who can play corner—so if you wanna put out three or four wide receivers, there's really not a scenario in which a quarterback will look and say, "Two corners on the outside, these two guys on the inside can't cover him." They've diversified their defensive backfield greatly.
Switching gears, as a former player yourself, if you were to ever have a teammate in Aaron Hernandez's situation, what's going through your mind and in the locker room?
Banks: It's a little unfortunate, and I think the thing that gets lost with the average fan—we're just all employees. We come to work and we work together, but when we go home, unless our families are close, we rarely see each other. Unless we go out and hang out, and then that's for that period of time. It's like any other occupation. We don't really know each other unless we become great friends, and we fight for each other in these scenarios, but it's hard to tell. When a guy leaves the locker room, he's got his own life.
T.O: As Carl said, once you leave the locker room it's kind of like every man for himself. You fend for yourself, and you kind of take on your own lives after that. Once you're in the locker room, you bring about the camaraderie, the chemistry, the whole team concept. From a team stand point, an organizational point of view, obviously you don't want anything like this to happen, which is unfortunate. But again, with this situation, I think obviously they had some questions about his character prior to even drafting him. For me, it's an eye-opener for what they were trying to cover-up, because if it was someone else in this situation having troubles in high school or college, obviously it would hurt their draft status. I don't know how much it did with them, and how much they covered up. But again, it's an unfortunate situation for him and the organization.
We've seen PEDs come up in the sport lately. Von Miller just got handed down a suspension. As players who've been in the league, do you guys think that PED usage is a problem in the NFL, or that they've always been around the game and now we're just discovering it?
Banks: I'm a little older than Terrell, so I can say with a high level of certainty that they've been around, but they've become more sophisticated. Players travel overseas to get things that are not necessarily tested here and it's the whole Olympic thing, but it's around. I don't think it's a shock to anybody that plays the sport to hear that a guy was on PEDs. You kind of look at a guy and say, "Eh, I kind of figured that was what it was."
T.O: I haven't observed anything personally, but again obviously with the rampant use of PEDs, it puts people's integrity in question. It puts the sport in question. You think about the Lance Armstrong situation. I guess that was probably the most devastating of all the situations that we've had. None of them are good, but you think about how much money he gained, and how so many millions of people loved him for his story. He's philanthropy with the cancer stuff. A lot of people bought into what he was about and what he was doing, and I think he got caught up in the moment too with all the money being thrown his way and the endorsements. He probably felt like at one point that he had gotten away with it, and needed to keep doing it. He blindsided a lot of people. I've never really experienced it or suspected anybody on the teams that I've played on of using performance enhancing drugs.
Banks: Calling out the days where a superhuman wide receiver can be on one-leg and almost win the Super Bowl by himself, if it wasn't for some other guys running out of gas, you know? That's impressive by the way.
T.O: I appreciate that.
Banks: That's old-school, you know?
T.O: That's one of the things that I pride myself on, is really just working hard. Hard work pays off. Carl obviously said he's a lot older than I am. I'm sure he grew up in a day where it's lift all day, and you get on that field and let that work pay off. That's pretty much how I did it. My grandmother raised me right. She worked hard for her earnings, and in order for me to be where I am now, I had to put in that hard work. That's where all that work ethic came from.
It was the same with my rehab process. I had a short-window to get ready [for the 2004 Super Bowl]. Time wasn't on my side so I had to do whatever I could, legally. I didn't do anything illegal to get back. It was the result of hard work. — Terrell Owens
It was the same with my rehab process. I had a short-window to get ready [for the 2004 Super Bowl]. Time wasn't on my side so I had to do whatever I could, legally. I didn't do anything illegal to get back. It was the result of hard work. I went to surgery, and after the surgery I went straight into rehab. I thought I was going to just chill for like a week to let the swelling go down. Man, they had me in the pool and everything. I was like, "Are you serious?" But I had that goal in mind. I've never played in a Super Bowl. This is as close as I'm going to get. I did whatever I could from a rehab stand point to get back on that field and do what I could.
Do you have the same goal in mind now to get back to the NFL? The last time we saw you, you tore your ACL. Have teams been contacting you? Do you feel like you can contribute this season?
T.O: There's no question I can contribute. It's a matter of getting that chance. What's a chance without an opportunity? That's where I am. I'm keeping myself in shape the best way I can. Obviously, if I were to go into camp I'd get myself into game shape. It's hard to duplicate that on your own. I feel like I'm in well-enough shape now to go in and produce. That's what I do. Again, given the fact that I get that chance, the opportunity will provide itself and I can make it happen.
Both of you guys are NFC East cats. Who do you see coming out of the division this year?
Banks: Probably the one that's the healthiest at the end of the year.
T.O: The NFC East, that's tough man. The Cowboys, Redskins...
Banks: They all got talent. It always comes down to the last two weeks for first place in that division.
T.O: With the Cowboys, they're kind of iffy. It really, really depends on the play of the quarterback. He hasn't really been consistent throughout the years. That's why he's taken so much criticism. They can't get him beyond that threshold. If you look at the Giants, Eli has been doing his thing. He's one of those guys where he can pull a rabbit out of a hat.
It's interesting that you said that about Tony Romo. You famously went on camera and said "That's my quarterback." Do you think he's still that quarterback?
T.O: I've always been in his corner no matter what. It's just one of those scenarios of old stories that just keep coming up. It's inconsistent play. That's not me throwing him under the bus or anything like that. I think everybody sees that. I think he's aware of that, and it's just a matter of trying to right the ship and trying to figure out, "How can I prevent these things from happening?" I think he puts a lot of pressure on himself to try and be that quarterback. He's the number one guy. You get put in that situation, you wanna make the play. I was that way earlier in my career with the 49ers. I just wanted to make every play. Every time I touched the ball I wanted to score. You gotta allow the game to come to you.
This is something I couldn't afford growing up. I was one of those kids who always wanted a Starter jacket, and now I have my first Starter jacket. I'm cool.
Terrell, how did you first get involved with Starter and the jackets?
T.O: They reached out to me. I was excited about the opportunity. I'm still a Starter, just not a starter. [Laughs.] This is something I couldn't afford growing up. I was one of those kids who always wanted a Starter jacket, and now I have my first Starter jacket. I'm cool.
Are there any particular memories you have about Starter growing up?
T.O: Growing up, Starter was like Nike. You had to have it. It was like Member's Only jackets. This was the jacket to have. Other than that, when I was younger I didn't really follow football very much, but I was very aware of certain brands and things of that nature. It was one of those things where you kind of see it. I didn't realize I was kind of window shopping at an early age. I couldn't get it.
That's interesting that you say you didn't follow football much at an early age, and yet here you are as a professional football player.
T.O: Nah, I didn't. My grandmother was really strict. Didn't watch a lot of TV. I didn't really know who the 49ers were or who Jerry Rice was, until I was a sophomore or junior in college. I saw the 49ers on like a Monday Night game. I saw Jerry Rice play and I was like, "Oh man, this guy is awesome."
Now I believe back in 2008 you had that popcorn TD celebration against the Packers...
T.O: Was it popcorn? I did the pom-poms against the Packers.
Oh it was the pom-poms against the Packers. I'm glad that you remember all your celebrations.
T.O: Some were a little bit more defined than others.
That season you just torched the Packers.
T.O: I remember that. It was a rainy game actually that day. We played at home [Dallas], and I caught a pass. Basically, I kind of drug [Packers CB Mike] McKenzie into the end zone with me. It was one of those impromptu type of deals. Just went to the cheerleaders, grabbed the pom-poms.
Are the celebrations usually spur of the moment for you?
T.O: Some were kind of pre-meditated and rehearsed, and some were impromptu.
If you were to get back to the NFL and score a touchdown, do you think you would still have the best celebrations out of everybody in the league?
T.O: Nah, they cracking down so much on celebrations, it's ridiculous. You can't even spin the ball anymore now. It's not a whole lot you can really do, besides the traditional spike the football. It's really not a whole lot you can do to spice up the celebrations, because it seems like every time somebody tries to find a loophole in the celebrations, they're finding another loophole to try and take it out.
Since he's [Roger Goodell] been in, we've had an increase of guys with off the field problems. I can't really say he's making a difference. It's definitely being brought to the surface as far as some of the things that he's addressing, but is he really getting the job done? — Terrell Owens
How do you feel about Roger Goodell's NFL then? He's been cracking down on the players, acting as a no-nonsense type of commissioner.
T.O: He's tried to make some efforts. But since he's been in, we've had an increase of guys with off the field problems. I can't really say he's making a difference. It's definitely being brought to the surface as far as some of the things that he's addressing, but is he really getting the job done?
Do you think the league needs to be doing more. Maybe not with punishments, but with educating the players. Like if you do x, y, and z off the field, bad shit will happen, just don't do it.
T.O: If you think about that, some of those things really start at home. At this point, you're grown men, you should know right from wrong at this point. I'm sure there are programs with each team where they have these seminars and every team has somewhat of a guidance counselor or consultant on your team to address these issues. But again, some of these things are just guys being guys. At this point you should know right from wrong.
The Bengals were back on Hard Knocks this year. You were on it a couple seasons ago with Chad Johnson. Did anything crazy happen off camera? You guys really played up the Batman and Robin characters.
T.O: We tried to do the best we could. We didn't end up saving the day or anything like that, but we definitely wanted to have fun. Chad is a good friend of mine, and we kind of feed off each other like that. I wish the season would've been a lot better. I enjoyed the moment that we had there, but it was hard to really put the Batman and the Robin thing into play when we weren't playing so well and we were losing games. That was tough to pull off. The idea was great though.
Now do you plan on repping that Cowboys Starter jacket out in these New York streets?
T.O: Do you see this jacket? Yeah! I ain't scared of New York. Shoot. About to let them know. Represent! Better get your Starter jacket. It may not be Cowboys, but you gotta get your Giants or Jets or whatever.