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Shirt Project benefits ND, charity

Sam Stryker | Friday, April 15, 2011

Far away from the runways of Milan and the boutiques of Paris, Notre Dame will host a fashion event of its own Friday at The Shirt Unveiling.

The festivities, which begin at 4 p.m. at the Hammes Notre Dame Bookstore, will reveal the 22nd installment of the signature Notre Dame clothing item. The event will feature Irish coach Brian Kelly, the Glee Club, the Notre Dame cheerleaders and other student groups.

Junior Lauren Marzouca, president of The Shirt Project 2011, said the group hopes to sell 20,000 Shirts over the weekend and more than 150,000 overall. Despite the huge sales, she said most students are not aware of the goals The Shirt Project helps fund.

“I know that so many people are unaware, and it’s such a profitable and amazing thing that I think it is extremely necessary to get the point across,” Marzouca said.

Half of the revenue from the sales goes to The Shirt Charity Fund, which aids students with extraordinary medical conditions, Marzouca said.

“By paying medical bills on behalf of the students, The Shirt Charity Fund allows Notre Dame students to continue their education and recuperation without the fear of not being able to return the next semester because of financial limitations,” she said.

The other half is donated to student clubs, organizations and residence halls.

Marzouca said $100,000 is designated for The Rector Fund, where rectors can request money for students who otherwise could not afford things integral to the Notre Dame experience, like purchasing a class ring or textbooks.

The Shirt Project began in 1990 to unify the student body in the first game of the season against Michigan, and Marzouca said the second year of the project began the tradition of using money from the Shirt for donations.

Marzouca said The Shirt Project’s Financial Management Board (FMB) oversees all the proceeds from the shirt sales and their distribution, which includes the support of student memorial funds.

“FMB also officially establishes Memorial Funds in the name of deceased students,” she said. “Most recently, we established a memorial in the name of Declan Sullivan.”

Marzouca said the organization normally begins work in the early winter but altered the design process this year, which takes four to five weeks to complete.

“This year, the entire committee was able to help design The Shirt 2011,” she said. “In past years, however, usually the graphic designer comes up with the graphic, and the rest of the committee asks for modifications and critiques until the entire committee is pleased with the final product.”

Marzouca said last year’s Shirt was second only to 2006’s edition in terms of overall sales.

“It sold over 150,000 shirts, making a profit of [about] $600,000,” she said. “To date, The Shirt Project has raised roughly $7 million.”

What many students don’t know, Marzouca said, the significance of The Shirt Project.

“The Shirt Project sells more of one single designed clothing item than any other service or company in the United States,” she said.

Marzouca said the organization tries to vary the color of The Shirt every year, examining recent seasons for inspiration.

“We usually consider color from the most recent years, from the seniors’ freshman-year fall to their senior fall, and try not to repeat so that each of their Shirts from their four years here will be very unique,” she said.

From 2002 to 2004, The Shirt remained green. Marzouca said The Shirt Project noticed a drop in sales and student support by the third year. She added that student reaction is also considered in the design process.

“We like to hear what colors are most popular, and if students and fans understand how the quote ties in to the new football season,” Marzouca said. “We take what we’ve heard from the previous year and then we weigh it heavily when deciding what color to chose and which picture and quote will be most applicable.”

Over time, the image depicted on The Shirt has shifted from symbols associated with the University to illustrations related to the football team, Marzouca said.

“Many of the older Shirts used the Golden Dome, Touchdown Jesus, and iconic coaches and traditional Notre Dame themes,” she said. “In more recent years, we have focused more on the fans, the stadium, football players themselves, golden helmets, cheerleaders and the leprechaun.”

In choosing a theme for The Shirt, Marzouca said the committee tries to draw from the tradition of the University.

“We usually try to use a quote that ties in important Notre Dame themes and lyrics,” she said.

Though she did not reveal The Shirt’s color or the quote for this year, Marzouca said members of the Project are extremely pleased with their final product.

“We worked really hard to stress unique Notre Dame traditions while still giving The Shirt 2011 a modern spin that incorporates feedback from students, alumni and fans,” she said. “Each year the committee strives to come up with an original design that mirrors the eager anticipation of the upcoming football season. We feel that this year we’ve appropriately captured these emotions.”