Sports Opinion & Analysis

Timeout: What Is Going On with Collegiate Uniforms?

In College on March 1, 2013 at 3:51 pm

By Chris Carosi

Even though analysis and opinions about trades and such mularkey are a big part of my egghead sports fantasia, I also have an absolute obsession with sports uniforms. They are so very important for a team’s image, either in a marketable kind of sense and also in a subliminal intimidation sense. Sites like these, which satisfy dual cravings for endless hockey jerseys and endless things to click on give a great insight on the history of sports clothing.

The colors red and black when put together yield speed and strength in my opinion. The Chicago Bulls or say the Atlanta Falcons just have that factor to me. Even “non-masculine” themes have picked up speed due to an established tradition: say, the Minnesota Vikings use of purple. Color schemes can and do have meaning. Whether it’s the official colors of the city itself like the Pittsburgh Steelers and the New York Mets or colors reflecting the culture of the city like the Boston Celtics, uniforms are just as important as the team itself. Design too is a big deal and in a lot of ways can spell out a new look or attitude. Take for example the Denver Broncos who happen to be 0-4 in Super Bowls wearing the old orange jerseys and 2-0 with their new design, debuted in 1997.

So, that being said of professional sport, I recently I came upon this and… what the deuce do you call this?!


Agh! My eyes threw up into my brain!

This is real. All too real. There’s been a trend in collegiate sports in recent times for sportswear companies like Nike, Reebok, and  Adidas (pictured above) to experiment with uniform design. The onslaught is most noticeable in college football, where teams like the University of Oregon Ducks have (literally) a different uniform design for each and every game and spectacularly unfair mirrored helmets with duck wings on them. It can work if it makes sense. Take Rutgers’ cool “scuffed” chrome helmets: makes sense if your team is called the Scarlet Knights. That is inspired design.

Reflecting the sun’s rays into your opponent’s eye is what Oregon football is all about, not national championships.

Innovation is good. And while Oregon simply takes advantage of Phil Knight’s ridiculously gracious alumni donations (and seemingly vacant rules regarding uniform standards), other teams have blown the doors off the whole argument with designs and things that make your eye stomach lurch.

The pro game is a different beast. The NFL is infamous for crazy-strict uniform protocol, levying fines in the five-figure range for low socks.  The Golden State Warriors recent short sleeve jerseys that look like 60’s warm-ups but are not might be a starting trend. Might. Let’s take a look at 3 trends of the fabulous in college sport.

Matte-Finished Helmets

Word. It has an old school gridiron-ness to it that everybody likes. It is becoming really rampant in NCAA football. Everybody is doing it. And isn’t that weird that the trend is either no reflective surfaces OR completely mirrored surfaces? I’ll take matte finish because it’s not cheating.

Multiple Helmet and Uniform Combinations

Okay. Have to draw a line here. This is when it becomes a distraction. Above are the University of Marlyand’s uni combos, which far exceed the amount necessary. There’s an all-white Stormtrooper look? For really hot days or when you really want to show dirt? And a yellow-on-yellow with a black helmet? Dude on the far right looks like a banana popcicle with an olive on top.

This distresses me because it’s an illusion of identity. It might be exciting for casual fans or for Under Armor, who no doubt sells more jerseys this way (isn’t that why alternate uniforms were invented in the first place?). Actually, this makes perfect sense. Sportswear companies can’t sell player-specific jerseys, so they opt for this in a seedy attempt to make more money and to make me upset. I vote for a strict home and away with perhaps an alternate. It’s important to signal to the universe and yourself that your team has conviction. Every team with any kind of tradition of excellence has a traditional look.

Multiple Team Designs Otherwise Known As Fascism

Above are the new Nike “Hyper Elite Platinum” jerseys, made to create a black hole of sameness that sucks all the possibly interesting things that could make a school’s basketball program singular into a far region outside of space of time. Designed at the “intersection of performance and sustainability” with a name featuring at least three too many adjectives, these one-tone monstrosities seek to take away anything that could be cool about wearing a team color and absorbing it all with indifferent gray. What’s worse is the shortened name-mark like “Cuse” or “Zona” on the player’s chests defeats the purpose of nicknames by putting it directly on official team uniforms. That’s a no-no.

The Zubaz shorts shown above are the other side of the same coin. While the uniforms all have a common design, the idea is to accentuate the colors of the team. This has respectable ambition but just… I mean look at it again!

See? It doesn’t improve. Once your eye actually goes up, you realize that the Notre Dame player is donning the “key lime pie” color they’ve apparently had since Pope John Paul II.

These trends are the sign of sportswear companies pushing their power further and further. They seek to define a school’s image, or at least (working with the sports program) to keep recruits interested in their “brand” which (subjectively) gets more enrollment for the school. On paper this is shrewd but it is obviously distracting from the game. The players will play no matter what they wear, and I’m sure more than half of them could care less what they wear as long as they have the opportunity to compete. But still. Most people don’t play the game.

It’s as if sportswear companies are just going for it, trying whatever creeps out of their brain, coming up with reasons to create designs based solely on “performance and sustainability” rather than say, “colors that go together” or “non-ironic attempts at solid design”. This trend develops no doubt with the advent of HD-quality television, which show in crystal clear definition every last contour and detail of elaborate design.

What frightens me is even classic teams with a literally cinematic look like Notre Dame football aren’t safe from this. The two-tone helmet design this year was so gross it hurt my teeth.

There’s no big elaborate conclusion to this. If there’s a way to make money, universities will do it because they are evil. I mean, isn’t 75% of the college experience pretending you have a personality? That mentality has trickled back up to the top. In cutting down on arts education, we have created a monster.


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