Satire | Why is our merch straight up garbage?


John Blair | Senior Staff Photographer

The Pitt Shop on Forbes Avenue.

By Paige Wasserman, Staff Columnist

Pitt is a fantastic place to learn and make memories, and many of us honor this special place by wearing the royal blue and gold wherever we go.

You can find Pitt merch in many places. You can use secondhand apps like Depop, Poshmark and eBay. A lot of Pitt merch also lands in Pittsburgh’s many Goodwill stores, such as the ones in East Liberty and South Side. But if you want something brand new and easily accessible, your best bet is The Pitt Shop or the University Store

Here’s the thing — a lot of these clothes are heinous, cheap and poorly made. And for an institution that prides itself in being sustainable and cutting-edge, these clothes massively miss the mark when it comes to encouraging responsible consumerism.

 First, here’s the Blue 84 Adult T-Shirt Pitt Panthers – Gold, as the website calls it. 

My first gripe — who wears v-necks anymore? The text reads “Pittsburgh Panthers,” and beneath it is the official Pitt logo. Pick one! I take major issue with the cotton/polyester blend which takes the form in this thin, flimsy heathered fabric. One wash, and this garment will feel like paper-mache. Not to mention — assuming you’re wearing this on a warm day — you’re going to be in Pitt stain city within 30 minutes, pun absolutely intended. 

What I find most confusing about this garment is the rounded hem. Does Blue 84 expect people to french tuck college merch? This garment assumes you’re going to make a cute outfit out of your Pitt merch, which is not the case. Pitt merch is what you wear to your Friday 10 a.m., violently hungover with last night’s contacts fused to your eyeballs. No one french tucks in a situation like that.

John Blair | Senior Staff Photographer

Blue 84 is 0 for 2 with the Women’s Striped T-Shirt

Again, why the french tuck hemline? This shirt’s armholes are so small, the top is strangely long, AND there are horizontal stripes. It was made for someone who’s 5’10” and weighs 100 lbs — you know, a supermodel. Kendall Jenner would rather chop cucumbers without the help of her private chef than wear this top anywhere near a camera. The small Pitt logo on the left breast is so non-committal, too. Are you a trendy fashion top or are you college merch? This shirt is having a bigger identity crisis than an engineering student in a weed-out class.

Blue 84 continues to disappoint me with this Women’s Long Sleeve Shirt.

Yet again, B84 is bringing us the cheap burnout fabric, this time with gray, the official color of sweaty pits. This warm-toned gray camo makes no sense against the blue, and besides the outline of the Pitt logo, our trademark gold makes no appearance. I can’t even read the text atop this awful camo, and why is the “Pittsburgh” text filled and the “Panthers” text just an outline? I hypothesized that Blue 84 — who manufactures for multiple institutions — just copy-pasted this style across universities. And they did! They also make this heinous shirt for the University of Oklahoma and Harvard. If Blue 84 was a college student, Pitt would flunk and penalize them for academic dishonesty. 

Chicka-D’s Established 1787 Pittsburgh Hoodie is not the most egregious of these options — you might even like it. I at least like the cut and color of the hoodie. But the text is unofficial-looking and excessively juvenile — it looks like the Redbubble stickers that many students slap on their water bottles and computers. The thing with Redbubble stickers is once you get a big kid job, you remove them to achieve a more grown-up look. It doesn’t make sense to spend $62 on a hoodie, realize the text is trendy and time sensitive, and throw it away a short few years later. This one is simply not worth the money in my opinion.

Buckle up, folks, it’s time for THE DRESS.

WHAT IS THIS?!?!? This is like the “Avengers: Endgame” of bad college merch. It has everything — the burnout fabric, drawstrings, a hood, long sleeves, complete and utter shapelessness. I’m truly in awe. I have no idea who would wear this. As for the aforementioned garments, while ugly to me, I could see why someone would wear them. Some sunburnt college mom from Bucks County would probably eat that Blue 84 crap right up. This, however, I cannot understand. 

This dress is $45. The Pitt Shop thinks you’re going to buy this — or I’m at least assuming so, because it’s on their website. They’re saying this is a “nightdress” on the page, but who still wears a nightdress, and who wears a hood to bed? Why would you spend $45 on a cheap garment that’s poorly made and that no one will ever see?

The thoughtlessness of it all is troubling. You may be familiar with the term “fast fashion,” which refers to the business model that entails cheap, low-quality and high-speed production of garments for maximum profit. So long as we produce subpar products en masse, we are contributing to overproduction and overconsumption of textiles, which has a severe effect on our environment.


John Blair | Senior Staff Photographer

85% of U.S. textiles either end up in landfills or get incinerated, and manufacturers produce 13 million tons of textile waste per year. Pitt is an R1 institution, meaning that we are leaders in academic research. If we continue to manufacture hideous, cheap merch that no one wants to wear, then we are complicit in the very practices that our researchers, and many other researchers, have deemed dangerous. 

You might be wondering — what do you want in Pitt merch? I want something high-quality, something made of fine materials that can withstand hundreds of washes. I want the Pitt seal or the Pitt logo embroidered and maybe another timeless embellishment like a ringer neck. And I’m willing to pay $60 or more for it if it means I’ll wear it forever. Our experiences and education deserve better commemoration than burnout fabric and ripping seams. We deserve quality parallel to that of our institution. 

Paige Wasserman (she/her) writes about the arts, pop culture, campus culture and things that make her want to scream. You can reach her at [email protected].