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Bears fans take game-day style to the extreme

November 08, 2012|By Matt Lindner, @mattlindner | For RedEye

A grown man doing a beer bong in the bed of a pickup truck isn't an uncommon sight in Soldier Field's tailgating lots.

A grown man in a bright orange, three-piece suit doing a beer bong on the other hand—well, that's a different story.

"I totally forget that I even have it on, especially if I'm out walking with these guys," said Dan Bankmann, 34, of Old Town.

It's all in a day's work for Da Suit Crew, four longtime Bears season ticket-holders attempting to start a fashion revolution amongst a notoriously unfashionable fanbase.

 "I've been trying to class it up because I'm a classy guy," said Ryan Eichler, a 35-year-old Magnificent Mile resident who serves as the group's ringleader. "Any event I go to, why not wear a suit? This immediately adds a little more credibility to it."

Equal parts Barney Stinson in their steadfastness for suits and Chris Farley's iconic "Super Fans" "SNL" sketch in their love of all things Bears and beers, Eichler and his merry band of pranksters come to each game clad in the custom-tailored orange suits with white pinstripes.

"We keep them a little baggy just so we can layer up," said member Jeff Meyer, 34, of Lake in the Hills.

Finding a place that could make the suits was no easy task however.

The group checked out dozens of shops in the area and online before finding the perfect fit in, of all places, Packer country: Mike Bjorn's Fine Clothing in Kenosha, Wis.

"They do come from Packer country but they don't sell any green suits, I tell you that," Eichler said laughing.

"Their first response was 'I don't think we can do it,'" Bankmann said. "Then when I talked to them a little bit more about what we wanted to do, they thought, 'Oh well this could help our business a little bit.' Money talks and they were able to get it done."

The sight of four grown men tailgating in three-piece suits does attract a lot of attention.

As we're standing at their tailgate in the Adler lot prior to the team's Oct. 28 game against Carolina, numerous tailgaters wandered over to check things out, taking pictures and generally marveling at the spectacle.

"Gotta love the hometown spirit," added longtime season ticket-holder Brian Ban. "It's widespread across the whole tailgate. It's all part of the culture of Soldier Field."

"I don't know if this is classing it up but, whatever it is, we need more of this," said another fan tailgating near the group.

That is precisely the group's goal.

"I like to think that there's 45,000 Suit Crew members that fill that stadium every single weekend," Eichler said. "Anybody is welcome to get a suit and be a part of the crew."

Fashion isn't the only thing Da Suit Crew does differently when it comes to tailgating.

This year, the group began having their meals catered instead of grilling themselves, a move that Bankmann, their former designated chef, says was necessitated by the fact that a three-piece suit isn't exactly ideal grilling attire.

"You can't cook in the suits because it doesn't come off," he said. "You've gotta kind of change things up a bit. I have nice regalia and it all has burn stains, grease stains on it."

Matt Lindner is a RedEye special contributor.
 

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