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Vince Lombardi was born in Brooklyn, New York, in 1913. As head coach and general manager of the Green Bay Packers, Lombardi led the team to three NFL championships and to victories in Super Bowls I and II (1967 and 1968). Because of his success, he became a national symbol of single-minded determination to win. As coach, general manager and part owner of the Washington Redskins, Lombardi led that team to its first winning season in 14 years in 1969. He died from colon cancer in 1970.

Lombardi originally wanted to study to become a priest, but instead went to college and played football at Fordham. He went on to coach the team in 1947-48.

In 1949, Lombardi left for West Point, where the iconic Red Blaik hired him as offensive line coach. Lombardi stayed at West Point for five seasons before packing his bags again, this time for the NFL, as head coach of the New York Giants.

After his stint with the Giants, we took the job as head coach of the Green Bay Packers, and the rest is history. Lombardi’s career at West Point was very important to his life story. There he honed the methods and coaching style that made him one of the greatest coaches of all time. Memorabilia from this time frame is quite rare, and just as important. Recently, MEARS was asked to evaluate a sweater worn by Vince Lombardi during his tenure at West Point. As part of our evaluation to see if the items were authentic, MEARS had to determine:

  1. Was the style of the jacket correct for Lombardi to wear during the 1945-53 time frame?
  2. Could the manufacturer, Alex Taylor, be supported as a potential supplier of the sweater?
  3. Was there any feature of the jacket that could be used to determine approximate dating to support available images? In this case, MEARS examined the zipper to look for answers.
  4. Although marked as “Lombardi” on a supplemental tag, was the writing authentic? MEARS examined the identification tag with the aid of a digital microscope.

Once these questions were addressed, an opinion could be offered. Our results:

1949-53 circa Vince Lombardi West Point Sweater

Style: Issued as the black knit pull over with zipper (talon) front sweater. The Talon Company supplied zippers to the garment industry from their Meadville, Pennsylvania plant. The style of the zipper is correct for the era. Long 3 ½” cuffed sleeves with yellow/white/yellow stripes.  “WEST POINT” is black on yellow lettering sewn in two rows on the front.  Examination of the WEST POINT lettering with a light table revealed the letters to be original with no signs of alteration.

Manufacturer (Alex Tailor’s): The Alex Tailors manufacturer tag is found in the collar. Alex Tailor was a supplier of football equipment during the 1930-40s (catalog cover image included). Located at 22 East 42 Street, New York, it is logical that the New York based West Point would use a local supplier.

Supplemental Tagging (Lombardi, 46): Written in ink is “LOMBARDI, 46” on a 1 ½” x3” cloth swatch which is sewn into the bottom inside of the sweater. Examination with the digital microscope could find no signs of ink removal or alterations. Additional review of the threads which adhered the tag to the sweater found them to be original and period to the shirt. This was noted by the aging/toning of the thread when both the exterior and interior were examined.

Size 46: Noted on the Lombardi tag is “46”, which is believed to be the size of the sweater. With a 23” chest measurement, this would be consistent with a size 46 sweater.

Condition:  Sweater shows heavy wear with some damage in the form of three holes on the right front side, 10 holes to the reverse and sleeves, and some holes in the sleeve striping.

Final Grade (Authentic): Per the examination of the style of shirt, tagging, and testing for originality, MEARS deems this shirt to be consistent with respect to the proper style, sizing, and a reasonable supplier as what would be expected to have been worn by Vince Lombardi during his time at West Point. The shirt compares quite favorably to the accompanying image with respect to style.