Most coaches reading this are clueless as to what Chicago in the 1920s has to do with football. You’ve no doubt been watching football all your life, and yet have no idea about the origins of some of the biggest trends and innovations in the on-field product you see each and every weekend in high definition. It was in Chicago, long before the first television ever aired a game or the name Ripon Athletic graced a uniform, where a man by the name of John A. Sand II started down a path that would forever shape the way that the gridiron looks and feels.
Sand was a knitter by trade following his service in World War I, and in 1921, he had the vision, daring and business savvy to shift the focus of his company to producing athletic uniforms. What followed was a decades-long run of making uniforms known across the country as the absolute best threads money could buy — not only surviving, but thriving through all the challenges of the ’20s, ’30s and ’40s.
“During the period of time following World War II and into the 1950s, Sand Knit was the name in football and basketball uniforms,” Sand II’s son, John A. Sand III recalls. “Many NFL teams and many of the top college teams all wore Sand uniforms.”
Over the years, the company changed hands and moved locations a few times, but the appreciation for what it meant to wear Sand Knit remained constant. Today, a century after Sand II started the Sand Knit line, Ripon Athletic carries this tremendous legacy forward.
Hank Derleth joined Sand Knit in 1963, and by 1972, he was promoted to president and general manager of the company. Much like his predecessor, Hank’s vision and passion set him apart, and eventually bridged the gap between the company’s roots in Sand Knit and this modern era.
Hank’s family-run-business approach and genuine care for his staff, suppliers and customers alike took what started as a premium-quality brand made by highly skilled, salt-of-the-earth people, and transformed it into an extended-Ripon-Athletic-family business.
“In my mind, it gets back to the golden rule,” Hank explains about the sincere care for people they have built their reputation on. “Treat people the way you want to be treated. If you do that, you’re doing the right things.”
Words like these might seem like lip-service, but for the Derleth family, it comes from the heart.
“If we can accomplish anything, it’s to try and carry that forward,” Hank’s son Peter and CEO of Ripon Athletic says. “It is essential that we communicate well so people know where we are going and how they are an important part of those efforts.”
“Whether we are riding high as a company or facing challenges, we have kept trying to do that next right thing for our Ripon family and our customers. That’s what’s helped us weather every storm that has come our way.”
The relationships, trust and confidence Ripon has built within the school sports market evidences their long history of continually keeping people at the heart of everything they do. Carrying on a century-long legacy simply cannot be done without working with experienced, knowledgeable people and treating them right.
Everything Sand Knit and Ripon represent, all the product innovation, tenacity in the face of adversity, commitment to being American made, staying on the cutting edge of trends and technology — all of it boils down to those individuals who make, purchase and wear Ripon Athletic uniforms. As a salute to all of these truly incredible people, Ripon Athletic Uniforms in 2021 will bear the Sand Knit name/label.
As 2021 dawns, and coaches are filled with hope for what the future may bring, we invite you to join Ripon Athletic in celebrating 100 years of Sand Knit influence and innovation. And the next time you turn on the big game, maybe you’ll find a new appreciation for just how much passion and pride goes into each and every uniform you see.
For more information, visit http://www.riponathletic.com.