"Uniform Tradition?  D.O.A. ?"



Uniform Tradition?  D.O.A!


By Dr. Ken 

My father was about as old school as one could imagine. A Polish immigrant who made his living as an iron worker and nightclub manager, his “life’s work” began at the age of eleven when he dropped out of school in the fifth grade. He worked a succession of hard, physically demanding jobs that included ice man and apprentice blacksmith/iron worker before settling on the latter as his vocation. He figured that anyone could be successful if they were willing to put the time and effort in to outwork any task, problem, or individual they were confronted with. He also figured that everyone should think exactly as he did and the social upheaval of the 1960’s had him bewildered and a bit perplexed. In addition to the hippies who refused to work for their living, young women who exposed far too much of their bare skin in public to be thought of as “nice girls,” and music that would force one to “smoke that heroin and other drugs” as he would not too subtly remind my brother and me, he didn’t “get” the colorful, outlandish fashion ensembles that marked both the hippie and “super fly” eras of the time.

“Geez, why in Hell would anyone wear that kinda stuff? The guys look like girls and I don’t even know what these girls look like” was standard conversation.

Decades since, I find myself thinking about my father, his complaints, and that perhaps one does in fact look at many things much differently as they get older and dare I say, even become “old.” I liked the football uniforms from my day, from the 1950’s and ‘60’s.

I liked the traditional identifying numerals on the helmets and the fact that the school colors were reflected in the uniform helmet, jersey, and pants. The identifying logos on the helmets and any lettering on the jerseys immediately let you know what college or professional team you were observing.

As the years have passed, I was and gradually became less accepting of an “accent color” like black or silver being incorporated into the uniform as if it was in fact, one of the school colors. If your college colors are red and white, that should be the color or colors of your uniform. Of course black became a dominant theme for football uniforms in the 1990’s. I could swallow it in the case of the Atlanta Falcons for instance.

Their switch to a black helmet and jersey could be justified because their official colors were in fact red, black, and white. I could accept the University of Cincinnati emphasizing black as the primary uniform color as red and black, like the Falcons, were official school colors and white has always been an acceptable trim or accent to any uniform.

When schools that had blue and white, or gray and crimson began donning black jerseys, pants, and helmets, even when trimmed in their true school colors, it became a bit much.

Hating to sound like an elderly complaining man, reminiscent of my father’s ranting about the “horrible music on the radio” when something like Cream or The Doors came on, I believe that related to football uniforms, and especially helmets, I have fully moved into a spiritual and emotional “retirement village.” The Nike Combat uniforms and the Under Armor attempts to “out-Nike” Nike have done me in!

I am a complainer, a whiner, a very unhappy traditionalist who believes the current trend in uniforms is horrid.  If black, gold, or silver is not an official color of your school or favorite pro team, it does not belong as a primary color on the uniform. I fully understand that the color black carries a connotation of “toughness,” “ruggedness,” or presents a team as “bad” as in “bad to the bone bad” but its rather ridiculous to see teams steeped in a tradition of green and white uniforms wearing almost all black uniforms. One can have pride in their state flag or specific tradition connected to a particular school but if one has no clue which college a uniform might belong to, even after long minutes of scrutiny, that school is not getting the representation sought when wearing that uniform.

Some universities have traditionally had the school or mascot name across the chest. This identifier is acceptable to “old guys” like me and serves to garner an awful lot of free advertising time when a game is televised, especially nationally. I recall the former President of Hofstra University, James Shuart who himself was an accomplished member of the Flying Dutchmen football squad, once saying that he wanted “Hofstra” in as many places as possible on the football uniform so that everyone who observed the game or photos during the following weeks or months, would know that it was in fact, his beloved Hofstra University that was being represented by their proud student athletes.

He also wanted the uniform to reflect the school colors of blue and gold because what the school offered in terms of an academic and social experience required no more than the representation offered by the name and school colors. For an “elder statesmen” university president, he certainly expressed the correct attitude and approach. This season, more than most, the need to attract attention to some programs by the use of uniforms that range from nauseating to absurd, has reached a peak, or perhaps more accurately, a nadir!