Paul “Bear” Bryant (left) with baseball’s legendary A’s owner, Charles O. Finley or “Charley O” (right).
From the desk of Contributing Editor, Eli M Getson–
The other day I was watching the Philadelphia Eagles play an entertaining one against the New York Giants. When NBC did the inevitable sideline shot of Eagles coach Andy Reid, I could not help but notice that he was clad in an all black nylon get-up emblazoned with Eagles’ logo that made him look like an NFL version of “Big Pussy” from The Sopranos. This “NFL Licensed Apparel meets Sergio Tacchini track suit look” is pretty comical on such a big dude, and it made we wonder– why is it that coaches are not required to wear a coat and tie on the sidelines anymore for the sake of decorum? It may help the guy who is in the midst of a 4-12 season keep his job– or at least help him look more in control. The sidelines have become another place where “Casual Friday” has spread its insidious reach.
Whatever happened to the tradition of the team coach actually getting dressed like a grown man? It makes me long for the last guy who dressed with some style and respect– like he was going to church. Maybe it’s because for him the sidelines were his church– Paul “Bear” Bryant.
Legendary coach, Paul “Bear” Bryant in a familiar pose– leaning against the goalpost.
With the Crimson Tide vying for the National title in the Rose Bowl on January 7th, it’s only fitting we pay homage to Paul “Bear” Bryant– a player and coach, synonymous with Alabama football. He also did more for houndstooth than anyone short of the Scotsman who invented the pattern. Bryant played “the other end” to NFL Hall-of-Famer, fellow Arkansan, and lifelong friend, Don Hutson on Alabama’s 1934 National championship team– and was second team all SEC that year. After graduating in 1936, Bryant began his coaching career which finally led him back to Alabama in 1958. “Bear” Bryant said about his return to Alabama– “Momma called. And when Momma calls, you just have to come runnin’.” By 1961 Bryant had his first National title, and would lead the Tide to five more in ’64, ’65, ’73, ’78, ‘and ’79. Along the way he would coach such greats as Lee Roy Jordan, Joe Namath, Kenny Stabler, Ozzie Newsome, Slyvester Croom, and Dwight Stephenson.
The Legendary University of Alabama player and coach– Paul “Bear” Bryant”.
I’ve always loved the bold, plaid sportcoat look, probably because so few wear them anymore– and no one did this with more flair then the Bryant. I used to relish tuning into Keith Jackson calling an Alabama game and seeing “Bear” Bryant, game plan rolled up in his hand, leaning against the goal post while the teams went through their pre-game warm up, resplendent in his houndstooth hat and an epic plaid sport coat, usually with a coordinating sweater vest to boot. There’s something reassuring about ritual and tradition– and I suspect it made most of the Tide faithful feel that they were destined to win on many a Saturday afternoon when they saw “Bear” Bryant with his trademark uniform on. I know when the Crimson Tide line up in a few days in the Rose Bowl for the National title game, there will be a lot of ‘Bama fans sporting houndstooth for luck. I hope a few go all out with the houndstooth hat, bold plaid sportcoat, tie, and sweater vest. My respect for Nick Saban would go through the roof if he coached the title game dressed like the Bear. We’re talking about Alabama tradition and legacy after all– and Bear Bryant’s legacy was the best there ever was.
–Eli M. Getson
Paul “Bear” Bryant in his signature houndstooth hat– known as a “Bear Bryant” to Alabama fans.
Bear Bryant in his signature houndstooth hat. He owned several over the years of varying boldness.
Joe Namath and Paul “Bear” Bryant. Probably the most famous coach–quarterback relationship in history was the one between Bear Bryant and Joe Namath. On the surface, they seemed to be total opposites— Bryant growing up dirt poor in an Arkansas town so small it wasn’t on the map, while Namath, the son of immigrant parents, grew up in a Pennsylvania steel mill town. Bryant was the full-time authoritarian, while Namath was supremely rebellious. Yet, they clicked, or at least they learned to. More HERE
Don’t mean to be a schmuck and not that it really matters, because that’s one great looking hat and outfit, but I think that’s a gingham pattern…?
Anyways, love your site!
No schmuck-ness taken, and others have raised that question before over some of Bear’s hats. As a longtime menswear mensch I could talk about houndstooth for hours… but here it is in a nutshell, and I’m going to get a little nerdy on ya, so get out your helmet…
You are right, the gingham and houndstooth are very closely related, and they are both checks. In fact, if you take a gignham (plainweave) and put it in a heavy twill (diagonal) construction you’ve got yourself a houndstooth. The boldness of the houndstooth’s appearance will depend on the scale of the pattern and the fabric construction. You can take a mini houndstooth in a 2×2 (referring to parallel yarns in the weave) , and get a pronounced houndstooth– but if you increase the scale of the check, it will be less apparent, unless you also increase the twill construction (more parallel yarns, and/or use chunkier yarns)– like in some of Bear’s bolder hats.
Anyway, Bear has a long tradition of wearing houndstooth. So much so that a houndstooth fedora is widely known as simply a “Bear Bryant”.
Ken, you’d be well-warned never to make that statement to a hardcore Alabama fan, lest the fur will start a-flyin’. Careful where you throw that statement around, others may not be so forgiving…
I stand corrected. And also my RSS reader didn’t get that Sports Illustrated pic, where the houndstooth pattern really stands out. Anyways, thanks for the clarification and I’ll be sure to never use the word gingham in the state of Alabama or anywhere near a Tide fan;-)
No worries. Like I said, you ain’t the first to raise this very question.
I can’t remember his name, but whoever was coaching the 49ers a couple of years ago wanted to wear a jacket & tie, and actually had to petition the league so he could do it. They have rules about what the coaches are allowed to wear these days! It all has to do with marketing & sales of course. What a shame. An inevitable shame, but still…
With most things these days, all one has to do is follow the money for the answer.
Like you say– what a shame.
I liked Bum Phillips and his cowboy boots and hat – which was always removed in the Astrodome , because “My Mama taught me to remove my hat indoors”.
Agree I loved Bum Phillips back in the day, you forgot the big belt buckle. An all time classic.
Bum Phillips wore some classic stuff.
Yeah, GQ did an article a few years ago on NFL coaches, and that 49ers coach was singled out as the best-dressed coach. Hell, I think he was the only coach who dressed in some sort of business wear. And yes, I believe the NFL (not sure about college) REQUIRES coaches and staff to wear team branded apparel. Too bad they can’t just have a lapel pin or even some sort of club tie with the team logo all over it–yeah, I know, but it’s better than nylon track suits.
One more thing–are those french cuffs folded over the sleeves of a sportscoat in the first picture?
As stated above, yes, the problem is that the NFL requires all coaches and players to wear Reebok gear because of marketing tie-ins. And it wasn’t until 2 years ago that Reebok actually made any kind of suiting. I don’t think they do this every year, so that was a bit of an exception. But I think there’s also a way to make the best of what you have. While most just look like they are in mid-workout, thank God they don’t all go for the Bill Bellichic cut off hooded sweatshirt look.
“I can’t remember his name, but whoever was coaching the 49ers a couple of years ago wanted to wear a jacket & tie…”
That was Mike Nolan.
“It may help the guy who is in the midst of a 4-12 season keep his job– or at least help him look more in control…”
Didn’t help Nolan achieve either, but he looked cool.
I forgot about Mike Nolan..The Niners have not been good for so long, how could I forget. The Bill Walsh/Joe Montana era would be great post in itself.
I hope Saban does dress as Bryant – Bear Bryant went 1-7-1 vs. Texas (0-1 at Kentucky, 1-3 at A&M, 0-3-1 at Bama).
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Nice piece on the ‘Bear.’ Do you know that the ‘Bear’ still walks on water at the University of Alabama? Yep, I know.. because I had the privilege of being a student/athlete at ‘Bama during the mid-1960s. Saw Coach Bryant win two National Football Championships in’64 and ’65; along with watching a great quarterback by the name of Joe Namath! I even met the ‘Bear’ once…and I’ll never forget his handshake. It was like shaking G-d’s hand! I swear!!!
As a ‘Bama Alum, I have always felt privileged to have met the ‘Bear’..and to have watched the University of Alabama’s athletic organization grow over the years to become one of the most outstanding programs in the country. Coach Saban will be a great torch bearer of the legacy that Paul ‘Bear’ Bryant established at the University.
There’s only one more thing I can say: ROLL TIDE, ROLL…GO BAMA, GO..ONTO THE NATIONAL CHAMPION and #1 AGAIN!
Lee Raskin, JD. Baltimore, MD. ZBT/’BAMA ’67
Thanks Lee. It’s nice havin’ you along for the ride.
Wonderful comments about Coach Bryant. The Championship trophy is now at the Bryant Museum which I visit regularly. I knew him well and visited his family often. About the ‘walking on water’ faze that happened here which he didn’t like. I asked him about those bumper stickers and he told me ‘I don’t walk on water. Jesus walked on water. I just coach. That’s all you need to remember about that.’ Then he snorted. I knew most of the major players on his teams starting the the 70’s. Sylvestor Croom was a classmate of mine. Namath and Stabler lived about a block from me. While they were good quarterbacks for Bama they also had drinking problems. After Namath received his green Dodge Charger after winning with the Jets he came back and lived in T-town for a while. Most of us knew why Bear kicked Namath briefly off the team. It was never told nationally. Saban is a great coach and I think he has finally learned some things from Bryant’s years as a coach. Alabama is now #1 and hopefully will stay that way for a while. Roll Tide!
Thanks so much for the insiders point of view.
Go Bama, Roll Tide
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i know u wrote this article a while back, but i as looking for a good houndstooth pattern to take for a tattoo i’m getting (( a houndstooth hat on my ankle)) and i had to read it… i really liked it, but i will say this…as much as i love Nick Saban, i think the fact that he doesn’t try to dress like Bear is a good thing….he’s not Bear, he will never be Bear, and he knows that…he wants to leave his own legacy, and while his clothing choice isn’t going to be that legacy, i think fans would be a little put off is he showed up dressed like Bear Bryant…he’s doing a damn good job coaching in his own wardrobe…i especially loved his blue blazer he wore to the A-Day game this year…