I may have been born a Steelers fan, but over the past 14 years since I moved from Pittsburgh to San Francisco, my love for the 49ers has been on a slow burn.
I partied in the streets of my neighborhood, the Mission, when the Niners won the NFC championship in 2012—and again in 2019 and 2023. I applauded Colin Kaepernick taking a knee with Eric Reid and cheered on Jimmy Garoppolo’s rise—and departure (sorry, Jimmy!). And a few weeks ago, I got moody as the Niners fell way behind the Lions in the first half of the NFC Championship Game, then celebrated my face off when they came roaring back.
All these memories and moments made me feel like I was entitled to my own piece of coveted Faithful swag in advance of their Super Bowl appearance. And what could be more special than gold?
Within the sea of vintage San Francisco 49ers gear out there, an authentic gold satin jacket is the most precious jewel—but not all of those shiny Joe Montana-era jackets are created equally. San Francisco thrift shops have had trouble keeping any vintage Niners gear on the rack, but there are plenty of online vendors hawking gold jackets for between $30 and $450. If I wanted my own to arrive in time for the Super Bowl, I couldn’t delay.
But how could I tell if what I scored was real or a fake?
According to Isreal Robertson from the sports-focused Bay Area clothing company Ninety Nine Plus One, there are a few different ways to authenticate an original vintage satin jacket so coveted by Niners fans.
One way is the brand. The earliest authentic jackets are Chalk Line, which began producing gear for the NFL in the 1980s after specializing in the high school market when it got its start in 1972.
Identical to the jackets the 49ers wore on the field, the Chalk Line gold jacket soared in popularity in the mid-1980s. After a problematic buyout in 1989, Chalk Line eventually filed for bankruptcy in 1993. Starter Sportswear filled the gap in the market and continued to sell gold 49ers jackets through the 1990s.
Another key element is the texture, Robertson said. The material used 40 years ago was high quality and not mass-produced. The fakes—of which there are many—typically come from the Middle East or China and are made of thinner silk. Real Chalk Line jackets are fluffier, heavier and softer.
While there are many different styles in terms of spelling out the team name on the back in script or block letters, the ones with script tend to be older—and so more expensive.
Robertson typically sells the gold jackets in the $250-$450 range, irrespective of what’s happening (or not) in the postseason.
But given I found my jacket on eBay for under $100 after a week or so of scouring, I began to worry. Was mine a fake?
When the slow-to-arrive white package arrived at my home this week, I tore it open and sighed with relief—the label on the jacket read Chalk Line in barely-there letters, a sign it was one of the very first gold jackets produced. The reason it was so affordable had more to do with its condition (it has various snags and pulls in the silk) and the lack of any lettering on the back—there's only an SF patch on the front left.
Yet when I slid on the gold satin, I knew: I was ready. Even though nothing could extinguish my love for the Black and Gold, this was home.