Though it debuted a year before he was born, Charlotte native David Butler recalls the 1990 Charlotte Knights jersey well — black with metallic-colored stitching and pinstripes that when you look closely are actually purple, teal, peach, white and royal blue.
The Knights donned the jersey again during special ‘90s throwback nights in 2013, the same year Butler returned home after graduating from Winston-Salem State University.
Nearly a decade later and the jersey is now serving as the inspiration behind a fitted hat Butler designed with fellow Charlotte-based creative business owner Giovanni Brown. The two designed the hat in commemoration of the team’s upcoming HBCU Night, a special theme night scheduled for Friday, Sept. 2, celebrating historically Black colleges and universities.
“The hat design really tells the story of my beginning in Charlotte, coming back to Charlotte as a creative individual and looking to start a business and that’s tied through this jersey that the team had as well,” Butler said. “So it was an interesting way to kind of tell a story through design and using a hat as a medium to tell that story.”
Butler, a creative consultant and artist known by the moniker DavehasWingz, is the founder of Analogue Luxury. His practice is rooted in vintage photography mediums such as Polaroids and 35-millimeter film. Brown owns the Charlotte hat shop FittedsCLT, known for its custom designs of New Era brand 59/50 fitted hats.
In conjunction with the collaboration, Butler produced a film about the creative impact HBCUs have on the world and designing the hat with Brown and FittedsCLT.
“HBCUs are linchpins in global culture,” Butler said. “We know they produce the largest numbers of Black lawyers and Black doctors, but a lot of creative culture and movements that have pushed society forward, civil rights movements, the Black Panther movement, started on the campuses of HBCUs.”
He hopes their work on HBCU Night is a first step in forming a longer partnership with the Knights, as that was their original vision. Butler and Brown want to develop a platform and community brand that creates a pipeline of opportunity for Charlotte creatives to collaborate with the Knights on merchandise, performances and programming.
“It’s important for people to know that creative jobs and creative people have as much of a role in the city and the growth of the city as any other industry. Charlotte is known for finance, banking, health care and tech, but creative industries underpin all of those things,” Butler said. “We see opportunities like this to continue to tell stories and continue to push creative culture to the front, and a lot of that creative culture starts at HBCUs, through young Black people.”
In March 2021, the pair set out to collaborate on a hat that would help connect the dots between creatives in the city and the impact they can have on its culture at large. As a Charlotte native, Butler was set on paying homage to his city by designing a custom Knights hat.
Once the hat was finished, Butler and Brown approached the Charlotte Knights organization with an idea to work together on its release. They were instead offered the opportunity to collaborate on HBCU Night.
Brown designed a T-shirt that will be distributed to the first 2,000 fans to enter the park on Friday. It features the Charlotte skyline, “HBCU Night” and “1867,” a reference to the year the first Black college baseball team debuted at the Institute for Colored Youth — today named Cheyney University of Pennsylvania.
The hat will be released to the public at 11 a.m. the following day, Sept. 3, exclusively at FittedsCLT’s store at 621 McNinch St. in Uptown’s Third Ward.
HBCU Night will include performances from the band at local HBCU Johnson C. Smith University (JCSU), as well as members of the school’s historically African American fraternities and sororities.
Butler helped secure Dr. Jemayne L. King to throw the first pitch. King is a poet, podcaster, author and former English and Black studies professor at JCSU, where he created the world’s first collegiate English course dedicated to sneaker culture literature and identification within sneaker culture.
King also contributed to a book called The New York Mets in Popular Culture and in June gave a lecture at a symposium on baseball and American culture at the National Baseball Hall of Fame titled Straight Up NYC, Like a Mets Fitted: How the New York Mets Influenced Hip-Hop Music and Culture.
He currently teaches English and serves as director of the Institute of Hip-Hop and Cultural Studies at Virginia State University.
Campus Connections, BCT Inc. is the nonprofit partner for the Sept. 2 Knights game against the Durham Bulls. The college tour group works with high school students to increase their awareness of the educational and cultural opportunities available to them at HBCUs. Butler said proceeds from fans who round up their in-park purchases during the game will go toward the nonprofit.
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