Ravens' John Harbaugh can start a coaching trend in the NFL: T-shirts

John Harbaugh is an NFL coach, which means his gameday attire is about what you'd expect to see on a private golf course: Comfortable shoes. Light, dressy pants. A polo shirt when it's warm out, a sweater when the temperature drops.

Over his nine seasons in Baltimore, he's coached the Ravens in 145 games, including the playoffs. By now, we know what to expect from Harbaugh on the sideline. It can seem as predictable as an early pass to Kyle Juszczyk.


Sweaters have long dominated his typical Sunday wardrobe: A historical analysis, based on gameday photos, reveals that more than half of Harbaugh's tops as Ravens coach have been fleeces, long-sleeve T-shirts, sweaters or windbreakers. Falls and winters in Baltimore and AFC North cities are indeed cold.

Polos are a respectable second, followed by down jackets, polos over a long-sleeve shirt, and hooded sweatshirts. Each has been worn at least three times. (Yes, I counted, what of it?)

John Harbaugh's all-time fashion
(Jonas Shaffer)
On Sunday, in an otherwise unremarkable game against the Cleveland Browns, John Harbaugh wore a paradigm shift. John Harbaugh wore ... a T-shirt.
Ravens coach John Harbaugh, in a T-shirt, smiles as he walks off the field Sunday after a win over the Browns.
Ravens coach John Harbaugh, in a T-shirt, smiles as he walks off the field Sunday after a win over the Browns. (David Richard / AP)

Never has 100 percent cotton been so 100 percent surprising.

Bill Belichick has his cut-off hoodies. Rex Ryan has his vests. Andy Reid has his Hawaiian shirts. Mike Nolan had his Reebok suits. Bum Phillips had his cowboy hats. But can you remember a head coach rocking a short-sleeve, collar-free, nonsmock top (sorry, Hue Jackson) — without an undershirt — on gameday before Sunday?

Todd Haley would wear a T-shirt with the Kansas City Chiefs. But, in an apparent tribute to my elementary-school days, he'd wear it over long sleeves.

Todd Haley
(Dilip Vishwanat / Getty Images)

Raheem Morris couldn't fully commit to freeing the forearms, either, with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

Raheem Morris
(Harry How / Getty Images)

Both began their head coaching stints in 2009. Neither lasted past the 2011 season. Just saying.

So why the Dad-doing-errands look, Harbaugh?

"I like that T-shirt; it had a good feel to it," he said Monday. "You know, just a changeup? Just a changeup, trying to be cool. A lot of these guys, you see these NFL coaches, these guys on the sideline, they're wearing their cool stuff, and I felt like I wasn't cool enough with my golf shirt out there, so I wanted to freshen it up a little bit."

Harbaugh wore a white polo in Week 1 against the Buffalo Bills, but he did not stand out from the pack. The "coolest" it got in a 2016 season opener, depending on your definition of cool, was Mike Tomlin (long sleeves and dangling crucifix) or Bruce Arians (short-sleeve windshirt).

So either it was laundry day at the Harbaugh household or he's at the vanguard of a style movement.

"Seemingly casual and carefree in a T-shirt, Harbaugh is actually rocking a major fall trend — athleisure," Anisha Bhasin Mukherjee, co-host of Sports Illustrated's Sports Style Swipe and co-founder of fashion website and app Dress for the Day, wrote in an email.
"The T-shirt and sneaker combo is the new button-down and oxford, and the trend is here to stay! Plus, NFL players take enough style risk off the field, more so than ever before, so it's a nice balance for the coaches [to] keep fashion at a minimum." 

Harbaugh already has won a Super Bowl. It's time he leaves a sartorial mark on the league. His trailblazing started Sunday in Cleveland. It can continue in Jacksonville, predictions for scattered thunderstorms be damned. Leave the polo; take the T-shirt. Be the Cool Dad of the NFL.

John Harbaugh
(David Richard / AP)

Just ... leave it untucked, OK?

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