A Tappara fan jersey featuring the famous hatchet logo.

In part two of a five-part series, we take a look at fan gear.

In today’s world, fan gear is a pretty big deal to most sports fans, allowing them to be identified as true supporters.

There may be sports fans out there with a desire to also be involved in creating merchandise representing their favourite team. Someone may look at a piece of clothing and say, “Man, I’d have that with my team logo on it” – such visions can be meaningful. Since someone has to produce the gear, it is hard to imagine a set-up without a business angle, whether it be on a hobbyist basis or not. And as a fan, you’d hate to learn the expensive way, by trial and error.

6D got some firsthand tips from a pro by the name of Mika Lehto, the man in charge of fan gear production for Tamhockey, the company behind the ice hockey club Tappara. Judging by the pre-game swarming of fans in the club shop, their fan gear products sum up a successful formula.

“You need a team to support, and to expect anyone to wear its colours, you need the right kind of design,” Lehto says. Tappara’s logo – the two-bladed hatchet – was designed in the 1950s by Kimmo Kaivanto, a designer of international acclaim. To defy time over generations is remarkable. In fact, this may be the most important aspect of fan gear: creating something that has genuine appeal.

Who creates the product designs and on what basis? “Mainly it’s me together with a colleague of mine. We decide on the products and the designs, based on knowledge on what sells at given times of the year, considering it’s a winter sport,” Lehto explains. “You need good relationships with product manufacturers to quickly get in new gear based on how your team is doing and which players are hot.” Who sells the gear then? “We have some people doing the sales at game events, and they are paid by the hour.”

How important is fan contribution? “Fan feedback is always welcomed. Giving feedback is something that anyone with ideas about the gear can do. An example of fan contribution is a T-shirt model, based on a competition we arranged for our fans in Facebook last year. The winning entry is still in production and available for sale,” Lehto says.

For hobbyist gear designers, a more low-key approach may involve just drawing up a whole new design, going to one of them shops that print images on apparel and placing an order. Just remember that the intellectual property rights of clubs must be respected. You cannot simply go and have gear manufactured using existing team colours without proper authority for this.

Mika Oksanen