Friday, April 12, 2013

Creative Liberties With The "42" Uniforms

Nice feature story over on ESPN's Uniwatch about how the baseball uniforms in "42" took a couple of liberties with reality:

The Jackie Robinson biopic "42" is set to open nationwide tomorrow. But Uni Watch readers, ever observant, have already spotted a historical inaccuracy in the film's uniforms.

The issue involves the Brooklyn Dodgers' caps. If you're into collecting game-worn gear (or if you're just a serious uniform geek), you may know that the Dodgers' cap logo from the 1940s era had lots of subtle variations -- sometimes thick, sometimes thin, sometimes attached as a separate patch. As you can see in those photos, however, one thing remained constant: The "B" logo was always rendered in white embroidery thread.

But if you look at stills from the movie, the logo on the Dodgers' caps appears to have been rendered in sewn-on felt, not embroidered thread. That impression is confirmed by a photo of the cap that was posted on the Facebook page of Sports Studio, the California company that made the major league uniforms for "42." (The minor league and Negro League uniforms for the movie were made by Ebbets Field Flannels.) [...]

The distinction between an embroidered logo and a sewn felt logo may seem small -- and it is! -- but it's still somewhat surprising, because movies like this one usually strive for 100 percent authenticity. I figured there had to be a good reason for the discrepancy, so I got in touch with Sports Studio president and CEO Mark Koesterer, who discussed the situation regarding the Dodgers' caps and the other uniform elements shown in "42." Here's the story:

Let's talk about this situation regarding the Dodgers' cap. It looks like you used a felt logo, instead of an embroidered one, which would have been historically accurate.

That's correct, we used felt. It was a joint decision between the costume designer, Major League Baseball and our company. Obviously, we knew what the Brooklyn Dodgers' caps really looked like. We even had access to some of Jackie Robinson's game-worn uniforms and caps from the L.A. Sports Museum. We made a number of cap samples -- different weights of wool, different stiffness on the bill, different leather sweatbands. And we did try an embroidered logo, but it didn't have the sense of depth and dimension that everyone wanted. When all was said and done, the felt seemed to show up best on camera.

Within reason, there are certain liberties taken in Hollywood, and we all felt that this was a minor one. We always strive for authenticity, but we have to live in the real world, and that means it has to look good on camera.

Another thing about the cap logo is that the little triangular notch on the left side of the "B" looks much smaller on your cap than it did on the Dodgers' real caps.

I know exactly what you're referring to. Again, that's a function of using felt -- some of that detail isn't going to be as fine as it would be if we had used embroidery. If we had opened up that hole a bit more, we wouldn't have had enough felt surface to sew onto the cap. It's another one of those small compromises.

Did these compromises feel like a major sacrifice to you? Like, did it pain you inside to make a cap that wasn't 100 percent historically accurate? You hate to compromise, but sometimes it's necessary. We do things like this with all of our projects. Sometimes new fabrics are made to look like old fabrics, for example. I think in the big scheme of this project, the felt lettering on the cap is a very minor concession, especially compared to all the standards we did uphold on the rest of the uniforms. [...]

OK, there's one more thing about the cap that I want to ask you about. If you take a close look at the poster for "42," it looks like the cap logo in the poster doesn't match the one in the movie stills. What's up with that?

I know we made several versions of the cap. [Looks at poster.] You know, I don't think that's the hat we made.

It's a different logo altogether.

Yeah. That's not one of ours. I don't know where that came from.

photo courtesy Warner Bros.