- Paul Lukas
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You can have your Black Friday, your Small Business Saturday and your Cyber Monday. Everyone knows the holiday shopping season doesn't officially shift into high gear until we hit Uni Watch Wednesday -- our annual round-up of uniform- and logo-related gifts for that special uni-obsessed someone on your shopping list (or just for yourself -- we won't tell).
OK, get ready to stuff those stockings -- here's this year's haul:
1. Baseball glove artwork from Painted Glove Collectibles: Ontario-based illustrator Sean Kane buys up vintage baseball gloves and paints museum-quality baseball artwork on them, creating magnificent keepsakes that stand alone in the sports marketplace. His work does not come on the cheap -- expect to pay $2,750 to $4,500 depending on the complexity of the design -- but each glove artwork is a one-of-a-kind item. Kane's attention to detail comes through in every little brushstroke. First-rate!
2. The Hockey Hall of Fame Book of Jerseys, by Steve Milton: This superb book should be just the thing for that NHL fan on your gift list who is going through withdrawal because of the lockout. Spectacular photography and informative text adds up to the perfect stocking stuffer for hockey fans. Further info and photos are available here, and you can order the book here.
3. Cards and T-shirts from Left Field Cards: French expatriate artist Amelie Mancini -- the subject of a Uni Watch column in July -- is still in love with the national pastime of her adopted home, and the result is a new series of cards devoted to ballplayers who had unusual second careers. (There's an additional set here). Mancini has also started producing T-shirts, including one showing the proper grip for various pitches. Fun stuff, and hand-crafted to boot.
4. NFL team logo Crock-Pots from Create-A-Crock: Just when you thought there was nothing left that could be NFL-branded, along come these super-cool Crock-Pots, perfect for slow-cooking your secret chili recipe, your famous baked beans or whatever you plan to serve at your next tailgate or TV party.
5. Team logo spatulas from Sportula: Speaking of tailgating, why flip burgers with a regular spatula when you can have a spatula whose blade is stamped with the logo of your favorite team? That's the idea behind the Sportula, which is available for all 32 NFL teams, all 30 MLB teams, a slew of college programs and even a few NASCAR drivers.
6. Game-used college football helmet cufflinks from Uncommon Goods: What's better than helmet-shaped cufflinks? Helmet-shaped cufflinks that are actually made from game-used helmets. Granted, they're pricey ($180 a pair), but the little earhole is a nice touch. This is one of the better equipment-upcycling projects to emerge this holiday season.
7. Baseball bracelets from ByStudio13: Speaking of upcycling, check out these very cool and very affordable bracelets made from the stitches and leather of a real baseball. Also available from the same vendor: baseball keychains and basketball bracelets. Pretty nifty, right?
8. Gold-foil Jumbotron portraits from Iconic Ballplayers: Remember the old-style baseball scoreboards, which featured dot matrix-style portraits of your favorite ballplayers? California artist Peter Chen uses gold foil to create portraits that evoke this old-school scoreboard style -- guaranteed to induce nostalgic sighs from anyone who grew up in the 1970s and ’80s. For more info on Chen and his technique, click here.
9. College sports ceiling fan blades from Sports Fan Products: Sure, you could cool off with a conventional ceiling fan. But wouldn't that air circulate better -- or at least seem to circulate better -- if it were driven by fan blades rendered with your favorite team's colors and logo? Available for dozens of schools in 42-inch size and 52-inch size.
10. Personalized sports hero comic strips from Personal Creations: Every fan dreams of suiting up in his favorite team's uniform and throwing that last-second touchdown pass or hitting that walk-off homer, right? Now you can have a personalized comic strip account of yourself -- or your lucky gift recipient -- doing precisely that. Available for all NFL and MLB teams.
Honorable mentions and past favorites: The go-to source for authentic reproductions of old college football helmets is still Girdiron Memories. ... Does someone on your list have a broken arm? Get them one of these MLB team logo slings. ... The folks at Retro College Cuts -- a favorite from last year's gift guide -- have added more selections to their product line of throwback college basketball shorts. ... Perennial Uni Watch favorite No Mas is offering a Smokin' Joe Frazier boxing robe this season, plus it's still the place to go for the world's coolest Wiffle Ball T-shirt and lots of other very sharp sports-related apparel. ... Do you like to display your jerseys on the wall but can't find a hanger wide enough to keep the sleeves from drooping down? The ShirtWhiz -- essentially a glorified hanger, but a clever one -- should be just what you've been looking for. ... If you're willing to deal with foreign language translation, currency conversion and overseas shipping, a German company is selling some pretty sweet handbags made out of soccer balls. ... If you're looking for a beer koozie shaped like a football helmet, your best bet is still FanMug. ... Backpacks and luggage shaped like giant baseball caps with your favorite team's logo? Sure, why not. ... Want to have a giant inflatable NFL lineman guarding your lawn? Of course you do.
Paul Lukas knows who's been naughty and who's been nice, but he's not telling. If you liked this column, you'll probably like his daily Uni Watch website, and you can follow him on Twitter and Facebook. Want to learn about his Uni Watch Membership Program, be added to his mailing list so you'll always know when a new column has been posted or just ask him a question? Contact him here.