For the last 28 years, The Shirt has been uniting the student section at home football games, as well as Notre Dame fans across the country. First created by students as a way to raise money for various student activities, The Shirt has become a prominent part of the Notre Dame football tradition with over 2.5 million shirts sold and upward of $10 million raised with the first 29 Shirts.
This year, over 100 students applied for a position on the highly-competitive 15-member committee responsible for the creation of The Shirt, senior Justin McCurdy — current president of The Shirt committee — said. The group is composed of two graphic designers, alumni correspondents, a social media and marketing team, public relations representatives and an unveiling ceremony team. McCurdy said selected students for next year’s team are currently going through interviews with the expectation that the final team for next season’s Shirt will be finalized by fall break.
For many of the committee members, involvement with The Shirt has been a goal for years. Both juniors Kayleigh McGuigan and Lindsey Meyers, the designers of this year’s Shirt, have collected iterations of The Shirt for almost their entire lives. (Editors note: Meyers is a former graphic designer for The Observer.)
“I’ve collected these Shirts since I was really little,” Meyers said. “It was always my dream to design The Shirt. It’s a very collaborative committee. Kayleigh and I would come up with designs and make them in Photoshop and Illustrator and present them to the team. … We started with the hangtag and went all the way down to every little detail.”
The group decides on a vendor and a color for The Shirt, begins research designs and has the hangtag finished before the end of the fall semester, McGuigan said. In the spring semester, the two designers will create designs for The Shirt, send ideas back and forth to the rest of the committee and implement any feedback. A few of the members will take a trip to the vendor’s facility — they visited Colosseum Athletics in California last year — to finalize the fit and design. Each season’s design is revealed at the unveiling ceremony in April.
“Hundreds of hours of work go into it,” McGuigan said. “There’s not a single pixel that we didn’t think about or touch — color and placement and size and everything. It’s a lot more work than people would think. … There’s so much that goes into it that you wouldn’t know.”
For this year’s Shirt, McCurdy said the group decided to use discharge printing, which replaces the pigment of the shirt with the color of the ink, making the shirt softer and less likely to fade.
One of the hardest parts of the process of creating The Shirt, McGuigan said, is designing a Shirt that will appeal to all Notre Dame fans and understanding that you can’t please everyone. This year, McGuigan said the response has been overwhelmingly positive.
“We wanted to go traditional this year because last year was a more modern color and design,” she said. “We also wanted to have a nod to Crossroads, which is new and modern, so it was kind of balancing the tradition and modern.”
The group underwent a slight restructuring of where the proceeds from the sales are directed last year, McCurdy said.
“We realized that the proceeds from the endowment were supporting well more than what was needed to support the medical requests,” he said. “We decided to split from that endowment and put more money towards what was the rector fund and what is now the Office of Student Enrichment, which makes sure all students have the full [Notre Dame] experience no matter their socioeconomic status.”
The committee decided to allow The Shirt Charity Fund — which collects money to help students with extraordinary medical expenses — to continue to grow on its own, but will split all future proceeds between the Student Union Endowment — which distributes money to student organizations — and the Student Enrichment Endowment. All of the money raised stays on campus and benefits students, Meyers said.
“The biggest misconception is that I don’t think people know all of the money goes back to the students,” she said. “It’s unbelievable. The total sum of the money they made from last year’s Shirt was around $760,000 total and … 100 percent of it goes back to the students.”
In addition to selling as many Shirts and raising as much money as possible, McCurdy said the group always attempts to break the record for most Shirts sold. In 2015, The Shirt came within a few hundred of the 165,000-Shirt record. With remaining home games this season, the group hopes that sales will pick up as the football team continues to prove themselves, McCurdy said.
Meyers said The Shirt committee believes a student section unified in a single color sends a message of strength and unity to opposing teams as well as signals support for the Irish at all of the home games.
“We really want people to wear The Shirt to the games every week,” she said. “We want to look like a unified whole, so we want everyone to wear it. It helps the football team, too.”