- Paul Lukas
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A certain uniform columnist will be celebrating his 49th birthday later this week. That may seem old to some of you, but the uniform columnist still lives the same youthful (OK, immature) life he's always lived: no kids or mortgage to worry about, works from home, goes out to see bands at night, routinely sneaks beers into the movies, occasionally has popcorn for dinner. And hey, he makes a living by writing about uniforms!
Still, 49 is 49. So the uniform columnist is keenly aware that many people reading this, perhaps including you, consider him to be a fossil.
All of which seems relevant to the uniform discussion of the moment, which centers on those unusual college hoops unis being worn in recent days by Cincinnati, Notre Dame, and others. Adidas, which came up with these designs, calls the pattern on the shorts "impact camouflage," but come on -- that's not camo. Most non-adidas observers have been making Zubaz references, for obvious reasons. But your friendly uniform columnist has been calling them the Fruit Stripe uniforms, because the shorts look like Fruit Stripe gum. By any name, they look plenty weird.
Now, the soon-to-be-49-year-old uniform columnist has opinions -- often rather strong opinions -- about what constitutes a good or bad uniform. But he also realizes that other people may not always share his opinions, and he can often see things from their point of view, even if he doesn't agree with them. Case in point: A lot of the football uniforms worn in recent years by Oregon and Maryland seem more like superhero costumes than athletic uniforms, at least to the columnist's way of thinking. The columnist doesn't really care for athletes dressed up like superheroes, but he can understand why other fans might like it, especially younger fans. After all, who wouldn't want to be a superhero? Who wouldn't want to root for one?
But the Fruit Stripe uniforms don't look like superhero costumes. Frankly, they don't look like anything that anybody would ever find appealing, at least to the
elderly middle-agedseasoned uniform columnist's way of thinking. Like, seriously, does anyone like these designs? Anyone at all?
Yes, according to Cincinnati coach Mike Cronin, who was quoted in this article from last week. Here's the relevant section:
[Cincinnati's new uniforms] were a hit with the players but not so much with the media covering the game Wednesday. When [Cincy player] Sean Kilpatrick said the players loved them, a reporter asked if they feel better than they look.
[Cincy coach Mike] Cronin was quick to come to adidas’ defense.
“If you guys [i.e., the reporters] were going to go out tonight, [the players] wouldn’t dress like you either,” Cronin said. “They think they look good. And the most important thing is the recruits think they look great. That’s the most important thing."
Cronin (who, in case you're wondering, is 41) was echoing a standard talking point that's emerged in recent years, namely that non-traditional uniforms are a big selling point to potential recruits. That seems a bit sketchy at best (it's hard to quantify how many recruits, if any, actually make their school selections based on the uniforms, and traditional uniforms don't seem to have harmed the recruiting efforts for, say, the Alabama football team), but let's assume it's true, just for the sake of argument. That raises some interesting questions, not the least of which is this: Would you be willing to see your favorite school wear wacky, outrageous uniforms -- uniforms that you personally think are ugly -- if you knew it would result in a stronger recruiting effort? Or would you rather keep your team in a traditional uni, even if it meant fielding a slightly weaker team?
It's easy to see it from Cronin's perspective. As a coach, he just wants the best players, so who cares what they're wearing? But fans, alumni, and boosters (not to mention uniform columnists on their last year up the hill) tend to have a more complicated emotional relationship with a school's uniform. They also tend to have a range of aesthetic tastes that may not match up with those of the average 17-year-old.
The feeling here is that there's definitely a generation gap when it comes to uniform tastes, but it probably has as much to do with quantity as it does with quality. Those of us old enough to remember the Nixon administration grew up in an era when most teams kept their uniforms fairly constant for long periods of time, while today's young sports fans -- and especially college sports fans -- are used to seeing teams unveil a new uni every year or two (or even every week, in the case of Oregon football). For better or worse, that fast-paced cycle of uni changes creates a mindset that tends to value change over stability. In other words, recruits will likely be impressed by any new design dangled in front of them, as long as it's something they haven't seen before.
As for the Fruit Stripe uniforms, you can love ’em or hate ’em, but here's something to ponder: What exactly is the point of wearing a new, "innovative" design if a bunch of other teams are wearing essentially the same thing? Wouldn't you rather wear something unique, something you can totally claim as your own? Wouldn't that make a bigger impression on recruits than a cookie-cutter template that a bunch of other teams are wearing?
Or at least that's the take from here at the geriatric ward. What do you people think about all of this, especially those of you on the younger end of the demographic spectrum? Post your thoughts in the comments or e-mail your rapidly calcifying uniform columnist, who will round up the most interesting responses for a follow-up column (after taking a nap, of course).
At least one member of the younger generation has already weighed in, however. That news comes from an e-mail that was sent to Uni Watch HQ earlier this week by reader Cort McMurray, as follows:
"My 16 year-old and I just watched a commercial for the adidas 'Fruit Stripe' line. My son said, 'A couple of kids at school have those sneakers. We say they're "Hype Beast."' I asked, 'Is that good?' He looked at me like I was stupid, and said, 'It's, like, the worst thing you can possibly be. "Hype Setter" is the best.' So it appears adidas is losing the hearts and minds of Young America."
Take heed, adidas. And you too, Mike Cronin. Now where's the Metamucil?
Dolphins Redesign Update
Last week's column about Uni Watch readers redesigning the Miami Dolphins began with a lament that none of the reader-submitted logos featured a dolphin wearing a helmet with a dolphin wearing a helmet with a dolphin wearing a helmet with a dolphin (a phenomenon known as an infinite regression).
That prompted an immediate response from the very aggrieved Mark Rabinowitz, who pointed out that his design concept had included an infinite regression. Let's take another look at his submission (click to enlarge):
Sure enough, Rabinowitz's logo shows a dolphin wearing a helmet with a dolphin. And if we enlarge the logo further, we can see that he took the concept to one further level (again, click to enlarge):
So Rabinowitz designed a dolphin wearing a helmet with a dolphin wearing a helmet with a dolphin -- not bad! "I figure the reason they went with that "M" back in the ’60s is that it was too darn difficult to draw a dolphin inside the helmet," he says. "But with today's computer technology, there's no excuse for that cheesy letter."
Truer words were never spoken. Well done, Mark, and hefty apologies for neglecting to spot your infinite regression the first time around. Just another sign of a certain uniform columnist succumbing to the ravages of age, no doubt.
Paul Lukas' mom would probably freak out if she knew he sometimes has popcorn for dinner, so please don't tell her. If you liked this column, you'll probably like his daily Uni Watch web site, plus you can follow him on Twitter and Facebook. Want to learn about his Uni Watch Membership Program, be added to his mailing list so you'll always know when a new column has been posted, or just ask him a question? Contact him here.