Clean Sheet Co.
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Clean Sheet Co.

We’re making a jersey for independent American soccer fans.

The evening of Tuesday, October 10th, sucked.

It sucked because we found out the US men’s national team would not be playing in the 2018 World Cup. I consider myself a diehard American soccer fan, and what happened on that night affirmed why that particular term — diehard — so accurately describes many of us.

It also sucked because I run a business, a soccer apparel business built on connecting with U.S. soccer fans. And we were planning something special for the 2018 World Cup — a special American jersey, by and for the fans.

Not your average jersey, mind you. Custom fabrics. Incredible craftsmanship. American references, like denim. Sized for fans, not on-field players.

I should mention: it looks like this:

It turns out preparing to make a jersey from scratch is pretty exciting. Designing patterns. Sourcing fabric. Lining up factories. Bringing product specialists (from adidas, Puma, Reebok and New Balance) on board. Partnering with a growing number of American Outlaw chapters for a rollout.

I founded Clean Sheet Co. four years ago. Every second since has been leading up to making this jersey.

On the afternoon of Tuesday, October 10th, I was editing the intro video.

Then Tuesday evening happened, and a lot of hard work was thrown into serious question.

As the post-loss haze started to clear, two things came into focus.

  1. The U.S. soccer corporate establishment is more detached from American soccer fans than ever before.
  2. American soccer fans seem more united, with a single, independent voice and vision, than ever before.

After a few days, it started to crystalize. The jersey we were working on was never tied specifically to the World Cup. It was always, and remains, tied to the American soccer community. And right now, speaking as an American soccer fan, we need something that symbolizes our unity, apart from any official structure or corporate body.

We need a People’s Jersey.

And, dammit, we’re (still) going to make it.

Today, I’m here to find out if we can make our People’s Jersey for you. To make this work, we need to produce 500; the first 50 are already spoken for. So to make this jersey happen, we need a few fans like you —proud, independent, and united — to support it. You can support the jersey risk-free; if we don’t hit the magic 500 number, no one will be charged.

(But we are going to hit the number. And then some.)

I will offer you my promise, as a life-long U.S. soccer fan (one who’s travelled from Kaiserslautern to Rustenburg, Manaus to Columbus) and the owner of a business with a strong track record in the American soccer community: this is going to be one incredible and meaningful jersey. We couldn’t make it any other way.

The U.S. Soccer Federation and Nike will soon have a new jersey for you to buy, too. They will sell you an offical on-field jersey for about $170 (seriously). If history is any guide, the so-called “replica” version will retail for about $95. Your money will support the established corporate interests overseeing our game.

You can reserve your own People’s Jersey for $86. The heft and quality of the fabric, the design, the workmanship, the fan-focused fit, and the attention to detail are going to lap what anyone else makes. You will be investing in an independent business born from the American soccer community. Even the crest we’re placing over the heart, the People’s Crest, is an open-source, free alternative logo for the American soccer community. This project exists because of you.

And we intend to give back to the community that has given so much to us.

This pre-order is available to all, but we’re doing something special for the group that unites us as fans: American Outlaws. If you specify an AO chapter when you reserve your jersey, we’ll keep a tally of how many from each chapter have placed orders. Once a chapter hits 15 jerseys, we’ll donate $100 to your charity of choice. And we’ll also affix your chapter’s patch to your jersey’s sleeve if you like, free of charge (as long as your merch person sends us the patches). But to make this work, we need to hit that magic number. 500.

I don’t doubt for a minute that we can do it. Well, scratch that. I did doubt it for a few minutes. Sometime after 10pm on Oct. 10th, I admit, I doubted that this was going to make sense.

After this past month, seeing how the American soccer community has united in purpose, I don’t doubt it any longer.

October 10th sucked. But the next four years won’t.

A new chapter in American soccer is unfolding. Be a part of the story. Support the People’s Jersey. Go, U.S.

PS: Why “Won’t Back Down” inside the collar? The early part of October 2017 was a tough time. This simple phrase, on everyone’s mind over those few weeks, has the right amount of acceptance, hope and defiance to make it perfectly — maybe imperfectly—American. And maybe it’s just me, but I want to see see stadiums full of American fans singing like this at US matches.

Mark Willis is a designer, digital artist, and the founder of Clean Sheet Co., an independent apparel company focused on soccer.



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M. Willis

M. Willis

designer, digital artist & founder of Clean Sheet Co.