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Anna G. Larson, Published September 19 2013

Fan fashion: Game-day attire all about showing spirit

FARGO – Bison fans have a herd mentality.

The proof is in the sea of green and yellow at North Dakota State University football games. Some fans are more subtle, while others go all out. But they’re all united by school spirit.

“We try to create a ‘gold rush’ and get everyone in the (Fargodome) to wear gold so we can create a united herd,” NDSU senior Shelby Heimbuch explains. “It is amazing to look around the dome and see all the gold. You may have no idea who all of the other people are, but you know you have being a Bison in common, and that is comforting.”

In the past few years, Bison attire has spread from sporting goods stores to gas stations, department stores, big-box retailers and high-end haberdasheries.

College-age fans like Heimbuch go for T-shirts and other apparel they can customize. The apparel, retail merchandise and design major typically wears a fitted gold V-neck NDSU T-shirt with dark skinny jeans and leather boots. She layers thermal clothing, a jacket and thick socks for cooler temps, and tops off the look with her wool NDSU tartan scarf.

For senior Katie Macht, Bison games are about going all out. She’s been known to sequin entire shirts.

“I put a lot of work into what I wear,” she says. “I want to be unique and stand out, and for every game, I think about how to represent NDSU.”

Holland Lind, another NDSU senior, shares Macht’s “all-out” game-day dressing philosophy, saying “the more spirit, the better.” She goes for layers of green and yellow clothing capped with jewelry in school colors, a tartan pin, and sometimes, a furry Bison horn hat.

“At the end, I may look a bit overwhelming, but I embrace it as a true Bison fan,” she says.

Going all out in green and yellow isn’t for every Bison fan. Some prefer to show team spirit in a subtler way, says John Stern of Straus Clothing. Straus first started stocking fan attire in 2011, and the collection’s been growing ever since.

“It’s all about pride and association. People want to be associated with a winner. NDSU is a winner,” he says. “If you go to a game, you’ve got to look like you’re a Bison fan. That’s part of the belonging thing.”

Yellow baseball caps with a green outline of North Dakota, custom vests with buffalo nickel buttons, official NDSU Bison tartan neckties and long scarves made in Scotland are some of Straus’ sophisticated offerings for men.

“We carry items that appeal to the typical Straus customer who prefers subtle items that are high-quality,” Stern says, pulling up his pant leg to reveal the green and yellow striped socks the store special orders.

Bison fan gear for women has expanded in the last few years as well, says Fargo Scheels event leader Caryn Olson.

Vintage-inspired items, like broken-in sweatshirts and retro cardigans with understated Bison logos, are appealing to fashion-conscious women who want something other than athletic apparel, she says.

“The evolution of style … just to see it explode and take off is kind of cool,” she says.

Olson, an NDSU alumna who’s been a Bison fan since the team’s days on Dakota Field, notices women pairing a piece of branded apparel, like a fitted T-shirt or sweatshirt, with items they already own, such as jeans, a scarf and a basic flat shoe.

Fans with an extra $280 can show team spirit by wearing Bison boots made by Western boot outfitter Nocona Boot Co. The brown leather boots that come in a men’s and women’s style are one of Scheels’ priciest pieces of fan attire.

Women typically pair the boots with a skirt or wear them over jeans to show off the NDSU logo, while men’s pants hide the green shaft, making it a surprise when their pants creep up to expose the green color, Olson says.

“If someone’s crazy about it, I don’t think the price tag is going to be a huge factor,” she says.

As her sparkly green and gold-tipped fingernails point out more Bison attire, Olson says the bottom line about fan fashion is having fun and supporting the local team.

“To hear AC/DC’s ‘Thunderstruck’ on a game day, once you’re inside the dome and everyone’s screaming and it’s loud … that’s it. That’s all it takes,” she says. “It feels like it’s always fourth-and-2, and the season’s on the line. That’s how exciting it’s become.”

Readers can reach Forum reporter Anna G. Larson at (701) 241-5525

Tartan pride

FARGO – Bison fans have another way to show school pride.

North Dakota State University now has an official tartan that decorates T-shirts, scarves, pins, neckties and more. The green-and-yellow fabric was designed by NDSU graduate Kelly Nelson.

Nelson won the tartan design competition when she was a junior at NDSU, and shortly after, the NDSU tartan she designed was approved and registered with the Scottish Registry of Tartan in the U.K. The tartan is also licensed in the U.S.

Royalties earned from the sale of tartan products fund scholarships for students majoring in apparel, design and hospitality management.

The official NDSU tartan tie is sold at Straus Clothing, and the NDSU Alumni Foundation uses the tartan as part of its marketing materials.

NDSU tartan gear will be sold at a booth during this year’s homecoming parade.

– Anna Larson, The Forum

Fan fashion tips

FARGO – Ajit Berg clearly remembers her first encounter with North Dakota State University Bison fans.

She’d recently moved to the area with her husband, Fargo native Chris Berg, and they were attending a Christmas party for then-Gov. John Hoeven.

Berg, a former personal shopper and stylist at Barney’s New York in Beverly Hills, Calif., was shocked when party attendees walked into the fancy fete wearing NDSU jerseys and other team gear. She found out they’d just come from a game, and Bison fans are Bison fans, Hoeven party or not.

Berg shares tips for dressing fashionably on game days, although you might want to change if you’re dining with the governor.

- Balance.

Berg recommends wearing one piece of Bison gear and keeping the rest of the look simple.

Game-goers wearing an NDSU sweatshirt or top could wear a dark skinny jean with a trendy fall bootie, she says.

“It’s almost like a cross between a chic boot and a cowboy boot,” Berg says.

- Buy what fits.

Most fan gear comes in sizes and shapes tailored to women’s bodies, but if donning a larger top, Berg suggests knotting it to the side to create shape.

- Accessorize it.

A single piece of Bison apparel, like a shirt, can be accessorized with a scarf with green and gold tones in it.

Caps are also a fun way to add sporty appeal to game-day attire, Berg says.

Retailer J. Crew debuted jeweled, wool and embroidered caps this fall that strike a delicate balance between femininity and playfulness. Lucky Magazine’s editor, Eva Chen, is a huge fan of the look, and so is Berg.

- Color check.

Green is easier to wear than yellow/gold for most people, Berg says, although gold is the Bison fan color of choice this year.

Jewel tones, like lush emerald green, were big on runways for fall and look flattering on many people, she says.

– Anna G. Larson