It might be difficult to see on television or while attending a game in Sanford Stadium, but if you were to examine the University of Georgia’s football jerseys closely, you would see tokens from past games in the form of darned tears or re-stitched seams.
These repairs tell the story of the Bulldogs’ season. They are a “memory map,” said Sanni Baumgaertner, the owner of Community, the downtown Athens business that performs weekly repairs on the jerseys.
“As you continue to wear something, that garment gains more value—it doesn’t lose it. I believe these jerseys become very valuable to the players,” Baumgaertner said. “When something is repaired and valued, it takes on a different meaning. Also, to the fans, that becomes a valuable object—almost like a good luck charm.”
After the field is cleared, football equipment intern Roger Velasquez and his team gather up the jerseys, give everything a thorough wash and check for rips, tears and missing patches. Any uniforms needing repair are then driven downtown, where Community gives them a second life.
“They do a great job with repairs. Our timeline can change depending on when we need the jerseys—if there are back-to-back home games or back-to-back away games, we’ll drop them off Monday morning, and then we can pick them up on Wednesday afternoon,” Velasquez said. “They’re great about making all of those fixes, or if they notice an additional rip or tear, they’ll patch that up as well.”
Partnership supports local business, sustainability efforts
This is the fourth season UGA football has worked with Community.
“Before they brought the jerseys in, I thought the jerseys were disposable,” she said. “I was pleasantly surprised to learn that they wear them and repair them, and it fits perfectly into our mission. Our mission is seeing clothing not as a disposable good but a garment that’s worn longer and taken better care of.”
Repairs started from a practical perspective: The cost adds up if you replace jerseys after every rip or tear. But working with Community also means the Bulldogs can implement more sustainable practices and support a local business.
“Personally, I always try to support and buy local, and the fact that they’re right downtown and an easy drive for us is a great bonus,” Velasquez said. “For us and the university, it’s a great way to look out for local business and local entrepreneurs.”
Community also provides a resource to add specialty patches on a quick turnaround during the season. Following the death of beloved UGA coach Vince Dooley, UGA Athletics was able to drop off commemorative patches and have them sewn on in time for the next home game. They can also alter jerseys if a specific change is needed.
“Sometimes, like this season, we had a pullover jersey to make. We have two players who are 96, and on the pullover jersey we asked them to add two inches of gusset to make it bigger so it’s smoother to put on and take off,” Velasquez said. “They do a great job with whatever we ask them, they do a great job creating.”
Reducing waste and conserving resources through repairs
Clothing and textiles account for nearly 6% of annual municipal solid waste in the United States, according to the Environmental Protection Agency. Even when clothing is donated, less than 20% is reused and a majority ends up in the landfills, Baumgaertner said. Placing more value in clothing, she said, can help reduce the buildup of this waste.
“Part of the problem is we see things as disposable because it’s disposably made,” she said. “The goal is to set off buying a better-quality item, taking better care of that item over time and extending the lifespan.”
Whenever the shop posts on social media about jersey repairs, Baumgaertner says they receive positive comments for the shop and UGA football, as customers appreciate the support of a local business. And even though she did not grow up watching football, she said this partnership has provided a connection to campus and to the game.
“It’s interesting because almost no one who works here has a lot of knowledge about football. I, for example, grew up in Germany and didn’t grow up with American football,” she said. “For me personally, it has been exciting to learn more through this partnership. UGA is so much about what Athens is about, and we want to be a part of that.”