By Jim Weber
I have seen the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse and they are wearing Nike’s Hyper Elite Road Uniform (left), Adidas’ “Bleed Out” jerseys (right), and two of whatever chintzy unis Under Armour comes out with next.
Yes, College Basketball’s Uniform Armageddon officially descended upon us during last night’s game between the Michigan Human Highlighters and the Ohio State Ketchup Popsicles. Surely it can’t get any worse than two of the most storied and traditional college sports programs in the country wearing the uniform equivalents of clown suits as a battle between Top 10 teams was overshadowed in the first half by constant ridicule over the ridiculous apparel each was wearing.
It was only a matter of time until college basketball got swept up in the “Uniform Arms Race” that has pervaded college football the last couple years in a constant effort to receive free publicity and appease 18-year-old kids. And this winter has seen the three major college sports apparel companies – Nike, Adidas and Under Armour – lose their minds with a dizzying array of terrible hardwood uniforms.
This all goes back to Nike.
A company that built its brand like Apple with a clean and crisp look has apparently applied its slogan of “Just do it” to every ridiculous uniform design concocted in Beaverton, OR. As a result, the awful “Hyper Elite Road Uniforms” being worn by over 10 teams this season are exactly like the logo uniforms worn by schools like North Carolina and Michigan during the 1999-2000 season that were shouted down from the rooftops.
Did the first go-round teach The Swoosh nothing? Bringing the uniforms back in Chapel Hill and replacing college hoops’ best uniforms again in the process with this buffoonery is a slap in the face to Tar Heel fans. Unsurprisingly, the uniforms don’t look any better now than they did then. Because while fashion is always changing, the practice jersey look will never work.
Lured in to the Arms Race to jockey for position with Generation Text, Adidas and Under Armour have tried their hardest to out-Nike The Swoosh with uniforms that scream even louder. Because sadly, the goal of uniforms no longer is to please the eye, but try to get as much attention as possible. Adidas’ “Bleed Out” alternate line has been a monochromatic blur that has fans hoping the trend will “bleed” to death. Meanwhile, Under Armour’s threads are always trying to recapture the attention brought upon Maryland’s infamous “State Pride” football uniforms.
The thing is, good uniforms aren’t that hard. They just require some basic common sense and fashion IQ. But apparently those are in short supply these days, so here are three basic guidelines to producing quality new college basketball uniforms.
#1: More Throwbacks
Throwback uniforms are always timeless. Good ones already have a special place in the heart of fans and look so sharp many fans wish they were still around.
For example, if Adidas wants to do something new for Michigan, why not have a Fab Five alternate – complete with black shoes and socks – to honor the greatest college basketball uniforms of all time? Or, if the athletic department thinks that would be too scandalous, how about the awesome “Block M” uniforms from the 1989 NCAA title team?
There are so many awesome old-school college basketball uniforms that fans would love to see again, and yet the Big Three keeps inundating us with new stuff we don’t want.
#2: Less Is More
If you’re going to do something new, stick with this principle. Just throwing more crap on a jersey usually makes it worse. That’s why Long Beach State’s “The Beach” threads that Nike unveiled last season and Adidas’ new UTEP threads for this year work so well – each is bold and creative but simple at the same time.
I love how Long Beach State was simplified to “The Beach” in cursive to go along with bright yellow fabric. And the Miners’ bright uniforms with checkered collars has an updated old-school feel that really pops.
#3: When Bold, Be Smart
Rule #2 doesn’t mean there’s no room to push the envelope and try experimental new things. But when apparel companies go bold, they have to be smart about it. Baylor’s neon green jerseys, Michigan State’s camo unis and NC State’s Jimmy V tribute threads all fit the description of out-of-the-box thinking that actually worked.
The Bears’ uniforms last March worked because neon is incredibly popular right now (go to the gym or running outside and count the number of neon shoes you see) and is especially sharp in that lime green hue; plus, Baylor’s normal uniforms are really ugly. MSU’s made sense because the hunter green is a natural fit for a camouflage pattern (unlike, say, Florida). And the NC State tributes are some of my favorite college basketball uniforms ever because honoring Jim Valvano with a faded, superimposed net was not only sentimental and great looking, it fittingly had a ghost-like quality to it.
College Basketball’s Uniform Armageddon is here and judging by Tuesday night’s uniforms worn by Ohio State and Michigan, it might be too late to stop. But here’s hoping three simple guidelines for the Big Three apparel companies can deliver us from evil.
Top Photo Credit: Rick Osentoski/USA Today Sports