Mark Koesterer first became a sports fan when he was a kid growing up on Long Island. After the Jets won Super Bowl III, running back Emerson Boozer visited his school and showed the class his Super Bowl ring. “I became a Jets fan for life,” he says.
Now Koesterer, 57, gets to interact with sports from a different angle. As CEO of Sports Studios, based in Torrance, Calif., Koesterer is responsible for sourcing and outfitting all sports materials for a variety of movies, television shows and commercials. Watch any sports movie, and it’s likely that Sports Studios had a hand in creating and producing the jerseys, helmets and cleats.
With a 20,000-square-foot facility, featuring approximately 135,000 uniforms, 5,000 pairs of footwear, and 3,500 helmets, the “world’s largest locker room,” as Koesterer refers to it, is able to re-create items from any period, and ensure that they look as accurate as possible. Sports Illustrated got an inside look at the studio as Koesterer explained how these pieces came together. Photos by Kohjiro Kinno.
“There were no wool uniforms. In that movie, we had to come up with a fabric that represented the period correctly, but also showed well on camera. So we had the wool knit in China. It took four months. We delivered 750 period uniforms from 1947 to the production floor of 42. There were no digital archives back then, mostly black and white photos. Sometimes the leagues will have archival information, like logo design or the thickness of borders. But a lot it is looking at pictures online and then having some concept of what the period correctness was, and then re-creating it. It was really difficult. There were a lot of discrepancies and irregularities in the archival footage. We worked closely with Major League Baseball and with the Dodgers to represent those uniforms the best we could.
“The previous owner of the company was great at collecting vintage equipment, whether it’s from lawn sales or flea markets or closeout sales. We never throw stuff away. We've gone to bootmakers to recreate low tops for baseball. The things that are 60 years old, you can’t wear them, they’ll fall apart. but we use those as models. Those cleats have been used in 42, Eight Men Out, Field of Dreams, A League of Their Own, The Natural. For the catcher's mask, it’s pretty straightforward. It’s leather, and we painted on the cage, and then a wool strap, because there was no nylon back then.”
Mr. 3000, Jerry Maguire
“In that time frame of the movie, licensing was not as prevalent as it is now in professional sports. There wasn’t one concentrated supplier of uniforms. We actually re-created those uniforms in our factory.”
USSR helmet from Miracle
“This is a reproduction. The previous owner actually went to the manufacturer in Canada and found the original molds and had the helmets recreated. Obviously the design of helmets have changed since the Olympics in 1980. We have a great skill set in recreating authentic equipment, fabrics, uniforms. In the Miracle helmet, we’re actually using the original molds which aren’t in use today.”
Bats from a variety of baseball movies
“We retain these in stock. Some are original, some are reproductions from Louisville Slugger. We’re good at finding items that we know will be hard to source down the road. We hang onto them.”
A League of Their Own
“These [uniforms] are from the original movie. We made these. There are no style guides to that time period, there’s no patterns available. We found vintage uniforms in museums. We knew somebody that had a collection. We’ll take measurements, examine the fabric, create patterns, source fabric that will suffice and then make them from scratch. We create a pattern, sew it, decorate it. This is one of my favorites. The movie transcends sports. There are people who wouldn’t call themselves sports fans who know that movie. It’s some of the most iconic pieces, given the cast of Geena Davis, Madonna, Rosie O’Donnell, Tom Hanks.
Mr. Hockey: The Gordie Howe Story
“We’ve done several hockey projects for Canadian television. You can’t just go to your local store and say you want hockey gloves from the 1950s. We have those in stock, and we created some of them. The sweaters we made, going off of old grainy black and white photos.”
“That was a big cast, with George Clooney. It was representing early professional football in the U.S. Unique fabrics, custom-knit wool jerseys with real felt sewn on them. There were cotton twill pants, almost like a Carhartt, canvas-y type feel. Period football. Leather helmets. We have about six or seven sets from the hero team and the opponents in that movie. We’ve re-used those in several projects, including a Super Bowl ad with the NFL where we did a timeline of the beginning of football up until five years ago to show the advances in equipment.”