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Football and its Attire: NCAA Uniform Changes

I don’t know much about any sports. For my college newspaper, though, I had to write about them in occasion. My solution? Pick the least sportsy topic. I enlighten my audience about uniform trends in this republished article from 2011.

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Football players aren’t known for their femininity, but they appear to have picked up one stereotypically girly trait in recent years: when the big game rolls around, they can’t settle on what to wear.

More fairly, Nike can’t decide. Since 2008, the sportswear-supply giant has sustained its Pro Combat series, a deal which consists of new uniform models worn on select dates by select teams in the NCAA.

The uniforms’ designs incorporate quite a few fancy new technologies with names like “Dri-fit” and “Titanium D-Ring belts.” The uniforms don’t simply sound like something out of a sports-themed Power Rangers show, though; they look futuristic, too. And not in a good way.

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The Pro Combat series has been widely panned for its poor visual designs. Since each team’s uniform is different, the criticism isn’t universal, but the general agreement is that Nike neglected the aesthetic appeal in favor of the technical one. One online comment regarding the design for Nike’s UGA version of the Pro Combat series was simply the word “horrible.”

“When did college football uniforms start looking like they came out of the costume room for ‘Blade Runner?’” complained Tom Shatel, columnist for the World-Herald. His following opinion argues for the sentimental value of the old jerseys, similar to those who hate Facebook’s constant updates.

A sense of tradition is strong in college football, so few people want to part with the uniforms they know and love. The futuristic feel, with a crisp color contrast reminiscent of artificial flavoring, adds injury to the insult. When stripped down, the negative reviews are driven by these two basic forces: nostalgia and good taste.

One comedy website, the Pickle, reported on Adidas’ purported “unique design approach” that seeks to “differentiate itself from its competitors with uniform styles that ‘don’t look like crap,’” a joke blatantly at Nike’s expense.

Adidas and Under Armor, two of Nike’s rivals, have their own campaigns. Adidas’ latest foray into football uniform design constituted retro uniforms for Michigan and Notre Dame. That’s right; football uniforms can now be retro.

Despite the Pickle’s favorable take on Adidas, Michigan and Notre Dame have their share of haters. Complaints include the jersey’s tendency to hug the stomach too much and the short sleeves, which are shortened even more by the pads.

Under Armor is helping out the University of Maryland Terrapins this year. They released new designs earlier this month at their season-opening game against the Miami Hurricanes. The football uniforms got mixed reviews.

Maryland is the home college of Under Armor’s founder Kevin Plank, and it has subsequently had a strong relationship with the sportswear company. The Oregon Ducks also have seen much of Nike’s uniform change-ups, due to doubt to its alumni and CEO of Nike Phil Knight.

Based on the reaction to the uniforms of each team, though, both colleges might not be entirely thrilled with the support of their respective graduates. Nike, at least, is undaunted: they’ve having recently gotten the rights to their Pro Combat uniforms.

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