I won’t pretend to know much about sports. We are familiar only on a basic level: I know what I find exciting, and I know what I do not. Therefore, as someone who often calls uniforms "costumes," I find sports most exciting when the costumes are good.
It was hard for even the fairest-weather psuedo-fan to miss Baylor's outrageous neon and camo get-ups during March Madness. Similarly, I took notice when Twitter blew up last September as Oregon debuted TRON-inspired football unis against LSU. I'm sure this license to creativity drives football purists nuts, but it's the reflection of some sort of cultural shift. I'm convinced.
Is the middle-American average Joe now in tune to the precision, creativity and consideration that bolsters any good design? It's kind of like when Justin Timberlake debuted his first solo album; suddenly, guys thought he, previously the d-bag of a boyband, was the purveyor of all things manly and cool. Along the same line, an unexpected dialogue on design (whether some men like to admit it or not) has formally entered the sports arena.
Nike has designed uniforms for Oregon since 1995, thanks in part to alumnus Tinker Hatfield (what an appropriate first name), who can also be credited for Air Jordans 3 through 15. It's only been in the past several years that the designs have challenged the teams’ fans to stretch their imaginations to the point of some criticism — understandably, many had a hard time taking sports-flair seriously.
But that’s exactly what's interesting: It can't be ignored that fashion trends are informing big-wig athletic designers’ decisions. Baylor, my friends, is the perfect example of a commercial trend mash-up.
Sure dudes, laugh at me all you want, but two things I do know are marketing and fashion. I can guarantee you that designers were thinking about how spin-off merchandise from these uniforms can be sold to the millions of males now shopping online.
There have certainly been some failures, too. Take Maryland's poor court jesters. In those get-ups, I expect them to launch into back handsprings rather than incite fear in an opponent.
"I've always said if Oregon would have offered me (a scholarship), it would have been a tough thing to turn them down just for the uniforms," ASU defensive back Omar Bolden told Sports Illustrated a few months ago. ASU is currently undergoing a rebrand led by Nike’s global creative director Todd Van Horne.
"I think if you listen to what the athletes are saying, they like to wear something different every Saturday," Van Horne also told Sports Illustrated. "They like to mix and match. A little different look gives them pep in their step. It is the old Michael Jordan adage, 'I look good, I feel good, I play good.'"
Maybe looking good can equate to better ball; maybe it’s a distraction from a less than stellar sports program. Either way you slice it, an evolving (read: more accepting) attitude about the unconventional sports uniform has pushed old school traditions to the wayside in the name of creating fully-branded sports “packages.”
But what do I know. I'm just a girl who likes costumes.