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The uniforms that Nike contributes to college football are over the top. False. The uniforms that Nike puts out are all unique. Wrong again. Before I explain that behind all the glitzy photo shoots and martial wording Nike uniforms are very much similar; lets all agree that the University of Oregon’s un-uniform costumes are not a fair representation of Nike’s touch in College Football aesthetics.
Remember five years ago when your school hosted a black out and your team came running out in uncharacteristic black jerseys? You felt special right? Until the rest of the country was doing the same exact thing the next week. You should feel the same today, but since Nike has stepped up their game, you don’t.
I won’t lie: many Nike collegiate football uniforms are sick. I will; however, point out that many of them are extremely similar. (Resist immediately shaking your head) Nike uniforms all exhibit numerous identical characteristics, but are covered up by few traits that are customized to fit the individual customer, in our case, the individual college football team. Years ago it was the 1)Nike fly-wirethreads that teams sporting on the jersey’s shoulders, now 2)Nike jerseys are secured by a particular collar of leather webbing. 3)When the players put theirtwo gloves together it makes an image? Get out! next you’ll claim Notre Dame isn’t relevant or some complete nonsense like that! 4)Matte helmets started out cool but will be a thing of the past within two seasons. 5)Nike uniforms incorporate undershirts as an extension of the jersey, a new element to the tradition uniform. Check the inside of your 6)team’s collar, I bet there’s a phrase stitched that’ll send shivers down your spine. I didn’t guess that because your alma mater is unique, I know that because Nike does the same for a majority of their squads. Lastly, don’t give the folks up in Eugene, OR credit for supplying a team with 7)two or more helmet choices, isn’t that the logical thing to do when you run out of ideas?
Besides inserting intimidating, war-like words to each of their products, the area where Nike excels and its competitors fail is personalized identification. For example, Nike took Rutgers: a squad who donned the brand’s usual outputs (matte helmets, an alternate jersey, flywire etc.) and produced a look that is recognizable and personal to Scarlet Knight fans. The jersey and pants currently still follow the usual Swoosh template, but is tattered with random ‘battlescars’, a tribute to the team’s medieval mascot. It is the small details like this one, like the faint tiger stripes revealed for Mizzou’s new SEC-worthy garb, like the sand colored footwear the Army black Knights run around in to tribute their service in desert warfare. The list is endless, chances are if you claim your team’s look is different than all the rest, it’s because Nike does a marvelous job at taking a quality but basic uniform and making it inimitable…just like the school the team represents.
Where Nike produces highly recognizable products for the gridiron, its competitors do the exact opposite. Under Armour, the company based in Baltimore and known for creating those groundbreaking costumes Maryland wore last season, made steps in the right direction with the new look it applied to Northwestern last month. Byemphasizing the Northwestern stripe, a design that originated with the Wildcats, a non-Nike brand had finally put together a look that is different from the rest. Not so fast my friends, before I could even catch my breath after celebrating this accomplishment, UA leaked Maryland’s new uniforms for theupcoming season. Not only did they revert to the same Maryland state flag pattern of last season’s debacle, but the new look completely does away with the terrapin-inspired garb worn by the players a year ago. Back to square one as far as non-Nike schools go. Stick with a look guys: Notre Dame is blue and gold, with occasional green. So why last week did I see the “traditional” dynasty reveal multi-colored helmets to complement an overall gaudy look for their game in Chicago? Nebraska wearing black, Michigan altering therecognizable winged helmet? “What the Hell’s Goin’ On Out There!?” You’re killin’ me, underdogs.
Nike is Dr. Jeckell, the Oregon Ducks are Mr. Hyde. When Nike returns to it’s crib in Eugene after producing respectable get-ups for collegiate football squads, the Swoosh that we all know morphs itself into a circular shape. From there, all Hell breaks loose: mirrors are added to helmets, colors are renamed after weather occurrences and uniform combinations are thrown together without second guesses. The swoosh started experimenting with the O long before the Ducks blinded us with theirhelmets at last year’s Rose Bowl Game. In fact it was architect and right hand man to Nike chairman Phil Knight, Tinker Hatfield, who first played the role of Hyde in creating outlandish products, then staining them with the Nike swoosh of approval. Hatfield, who also constructed the most groundbreaking footwear of the late 20th century, the Nike Air Max, was asked in 1996 by Knight to help better attract athletes to the University. The O was born, and with it, the false identity of the world’s most dominant athletic brand.
Since the turn of the century, the folks up at Nike have used the University of Oregon as their very own lab rat: not only can the Ducks sport over 300 different uniform combinations on any given gameday, but it has become a tradition for Nike products to be debut by the company’s gem. It is crucial to observe that no other Nike school (or any other school for that matter) is comparable to Oregon when it comes to uniforms, because no other school is backed in the way that Nike supports the Ducks. Most importantly, it is this relationship that has broadened the gap between the look of Nike teams and the rest of the NCAA aesthetically, not even Maryland’s bond with Nike-rival Under Armour is comparable. What’s to come? I believe the next big thing to be overused and poorly duplicated will be both shiny helmets and ‘color-changing’ jerseys or pants. Have no fear, fans whose team doesn’t look ‘unique’ on Saturdays, as long as the Ducks flaunt around in obnoxious fashion, they’ll be enough Nike sparkle to trickle down.