The Shirt 2021 Design Story

Author: Danielle Corbin

April 23, 2021: This year’s design of The Shirt is intended to capture the spirit and tradition of the Notre Dame Alma Mater. The Committee desired to utilize a simple and recognizable phrase from the Alma Mater on the front design, making The Shirt recognizable as “The Strong and True Shirt.” We chose the phrase “Strong and True” to signify how the Notre Dame family is strong in spirit and true to our community through times of adversity and prosperity.  

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the majority of The Shirt 2021 design process occurred virtually over Zoom. This gave The Shirt designers a unique opportunity to brainstorm alternative illustration styles that were different from the most recent designs that have been created digitally. In order to accomplish the illustration style of vintage Notre Dame football programs, the designers worked diligently to physically paint the design on a canvas in Florida in two days over the winter break. The designers’ goals were to use a painted style to convey a timeless image of Notre Dame football tradition and produce a design that students, alumni, and fans can all identify with. 

On the Shirt, the front and back designs are linked by the golden helmet held high-- a symbol of the strength of the Notre Dame football community that recalls moments of victory and strength in Notre Dame football history.  Likewise, the football helmet is framed by a shamrock to make the simple graphic unmistakably Irish.

The goal of the back design of The Shirt is to capture the spirit of the Alma Mater after every home football game.  Whether we win or lose, Notre Dame students, alumni, fans and football players join together, arm in arm, and sway to “Notre Dame our Mother.” The Alma Mater is fundamental to Notre Dame football tradition and truly embodies the theme of “Strong and True.” To frame the back design, we chose to draw from the architecture of Notre Dame’s campus.  Using a gothic arch form similar to the entrance of the Basilica, we commemorate Knute Rocke’s memorial service at the Basilica, for which the Alma Mater, itself, was written. As such, the Notre Dame architectural motif is symbolic of both “the House that Rockne Built” and the foundation of the Notre Dame football community. 

On the back design, the two football players are wearing jerseys with the numbers 18 and 87, representing the year that Notre Dame football was founded.  The Shirt Committee decided to include the leprechaun with the players to represent the Leprechaun Legion, the Official Student Body Voice for Irish Athletics. Standing alongside the football players, the Leprechaun Legion is symbolically unified with the Notre Dame football team. Although the two players and the leprechaun are the focal point of the back design, the impression of the fans in the stadium has a strong presence in the design, symbolizing the foundation of the Notre Dame community. In addition, the Committee highlighted a quote from Ara Parseghian because it perfectly expresses the theme of The Shirt 2021. As a national championship winning coach, Parseghian truly exemplifies the strength of the Notre Dame football tradition. “As long as there is unity, there is strength” demonstrates how a unified Notre Dame community has the strength to overcome anything.