Oscar Nominees' Runner-Up Prize: Custom Sweatshirts

The Academy has been handing them out since at least 1988; says sound engineer Greg Russell, who's received 15, "It feels like adolescence all over again."

This story first appeared in the Feb. 8 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine.

If Hollywood really is high school with money, then the annual Oscar Nominees Luncheon is when stars get their letterman jackets.

At this year's Feb. 4 event, 150-plus nominees will shuffle alphabetically across the stage to receive a certificate, after which an Academy official will hand them a sweatshirt emblazoned with the Oscar logo and the word "nominee." The tradition dates to at least 1988, when then-AMPAS president Richard Kahn began handing them out.

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Sound engineer Greg Russell, now nominated 16 times, still has 14 of his previous 15 sweatshirts (a guest at a Fourth of July party walked away with one). He has seen the styles and designs change through the years -- crewnecks, hoodies, fleeces in blacks, whites and greens -- but remains partial to his first, a white sweatshirt that includes the names of all the nominees (though it's "a bit snug now," he says).

In fact, that first year -- he was nominated for 1989's Black Rain -- he wore the sweatshirt to work the next day and got his picture snapped with Jack Nicholson. Russell admits to still being "giddy" when he gets his gift. "It feels like adolescence all over again," he says. "Like you're really part of a graduation class."