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Books and Butt Shorts

Claire Heininger | Wednesday, October 8, 2003

The soothing, tinkling classical music. The gentle, subdued lighting. The rows and rows of Irish butt shorts, which come in more colors than a bag of M&M’s and are just as much of a guilty pleasure.

The sensual overload that is this shopper’s high is mostly elusive on campus – no boutiques line the Bubble. So when that insatiable itch hits, we flock to the consumer’s paradise that is the Hammes Notre Dame bookstore: a not-quite-Barnes and Noble with everything from keychains to Kant, shot glasses to Scripture.

Its title is innocently misleading. Yes, there are books for sale, a fact that most of us whine about at least four times a year when we shell out $80 for a textbook we will likely open twice, and then are dismayed when we get a buyback price of $15. But all concerns about books are forgotten and all remaining bitterness is forgiven when we consider the real attraction – Notre Dame apparel.

Few things in this world scream “I’m classy! I conform! I’m connected!” as well as a Notre Dame hooded sweatshirt. I’m not talking about the annoyingly Easter-eggish new arrival of pastel pink, or the snobbish superiority conveyed by the phrase “Notre Dame Engineering” imposingly splashed across gray cotton. You know the one I mean – always gray, hunter green, or navy blue with an interlocking ND or cursive “Irish” – simple, traditional and yet almost as satisfying to put on as it is to utter those magical words, “put it on my student charge.”

A Notre Dame apparel craving is as real as that of any other drug – it strikes quickly, tugs strongly and can only be subdued with a good hit. And like any addiction, it only gets worse every time you appease it. My own story started off innocently enough last year, with a Return to Glory shirt and a beanbag bear. Soon it was hoodies. And sandals. And a sweatshirt skirt. And another bear. Before I knew it, I was spiraling into spending class time thinking about how incomplete my life would be without one of those fascinating Play Like a Champion Today coffee mugs.

I fear that it’ll just get worse when I graduate. I can see myself as part of the swarm of alumni that descends on the bookstore on every home game weekend, straining to reestablish ties to my alma mater with just one more T-shirt of a silhouetted leprechaun. I will be that mom who dresses her kids in little football jerseys. I’ve even accepted that my addiction will probably be with me when I’m 80 and I actually like the pastel – clearly, once it gets in your bloodstream, Notre Dame apparel sticks with you for life.

And the best part is, Notre Dame knows it. Champion and Russell Athletic certainly know it. The bookstore is irresistible, and they’re smart for taking full advantage.

That said, I think I’ll wear the baby blue butt shorts today.