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In the world of sports, men and women really aren't portrayed equally. Most people view sports as a male-dominated field that appeals primarily to a male audience. TV shows that feature slack-jawed husbands ignoring their attention-seeking wives in favor of the big game certainly reinforce that stereotype. Naturally, men should be the driving force behind clothing with a sports logo, right?
Well, maybe not.
A study of students from the University of Michigan supply us with some rather confusing numbers about the psychology behind logo clothing. The study found that men and women both own clothing with their university's logo at about equal rates. The study also found that more men than women own clothing that features the logos of professional sports teams, and that men and women participated in campus sports at about equal rates.
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The researchers were rather surprised to discover that despite all this, women might actually wear sports clothing more often than men. The study found that about 15% of men and 10% of women wear clothing with sports logo as part of casual wear. That trend is completely reversed during sporting events. Only 28% of men wear sports clothing during televised sports events, whereas a whopping 39% of women don their favorite jersey. These numbers are similar at the stadium, with 30% of men and 38% of women wearing sports logos.
Why would that be? Why would women be the primary force behind sport logo clothing when the stereotype suggests the opposite? Regardless of whether or not the stereotype is accurate, the researchers behind the study suggest that, ironically, the stereotype itself might be the cause of this discrepancy. Clothing with sports logo is a way for women to visually identify themselves as sports fans. Women could be using these articles of clothing as a way to prove that they belong in what many perceive as a man's world.
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They write, "Men’s fluency in the language of sports culture needs no outward affirmation. It is assumed by all. For women, however, this is not the case. Women still have to prove to men—and to themselves—that they, too, have acquired fluency in the language of sports culture. One signifier of that language is wearing sports paraphernalia."
Of course, the researches also acknowledge that their sample might be too irregular to apply it to the American people on a whole. The University of Michigan is world famous for its Fab Five basketball team, which dominated the courts in 1992 and 1993. In 1991, the University of Michigan pulled in $2 million in royalties from sports merchandise, but in the 1993-1994 season that number spiked to $6.2 million.
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Overall, what can business owners take from this? It's hard to say for sure, but it's safe to say that there is a powerful force at work here that influences how men and women wear logos. Perhaps the key lies in marketing to members of the outgroup who desire to be part of the ingroup. Perhaps women are more willing to wear a logo during major social events. Perhaps this is just one of the many quirks that differentiate male and female psychology. Whatever the case, you may want to rethink how many male shirts and how many female shirts you plan to order on your next shipment of custom clothing. Focusing your market on women might be even more effective than any of us thought.