Clothes Make the Man

By Jason Menard

The word itself has a connotation of conformity, but there’s nothing uniform about sports fashions. And, although in public most guys will say we don’t care about how our teams look, deep down inside we know that clothes really do make the man!

A combination of my wife out of town visiting family and being laid up in bed with an illness left me with ample time to watch an inordinate amount of sports. With the television no longer being held hostage and forced to display home decorating shows, I had unfettered access to the sporting landscape and all the colours of which its comprised.

Whether we like to admit it or not, how our teams look has a great deal of influence on where our allegiances lie, and that stylistic selection process begins in our youth. As a kid, I was drawn to the San Diego Chargers not just because of Dan Fouts, but because I thought the lightning bolt design on their helmets were pretty darn cool. Watching a recent Chargers game, with them wearing their throwback jerseys and helmets, I was transported back to that time – and came away from that game a little more invested in the team than I was before I tuned in.

And I’m not alone in being partially swayed by style. Back in the late 80s/early 90s the Oakland/L.A. Raiders silver and black were the colours of choice for gangster rappers – and, as such, became the uniform of choice for their legion of fans and wannabes. This colour scheme’s impact was so great that we had a run on franchises, both new and old, adjusting their look (hello Los Angeles Kings) in order to change their image on the playing surface and in the minds of the buying public. In these cases, the hope was that silver and black would translate into green.

A fan of hockey’s Montreal Canadiens since birth, I have an inborn preference for classic colours and styles. That’s why the Habs’ bleu-blanc-et-rouge appeals to me, whereas the more modern Nashville Predators logo doesn’t strike any chord whatsoever. Overall, most fans appear to prefer the classic styles, and while teams may flirt with extremism, they eventually come back to a happy medium. Look no further than the Phoenix Coyotes whose Picasso-inspired logo has matured into a more traditional design and colour scheme.

The reason for this is, while logos and colour schemes may not preclude someone from becoming a fan, it certainly does weigh in with the amount of pride we can have. I’ve yet to find the soul brave enough to stand up and proudly proclaim his or her love for the Mighty Ducks logo, yet I can watch a Syracuse college football game and be overwhelmed by a sea of orange in the stands.

What it comes down to is that simple is often better. The gold of a Notre Dame helmet carries with it more tradition and majesty than any other logo could convey. Whether it’s monotone hue of Cleveland’s football Browns, baseball’s Yankee Pinstripes, or the green and white of basketball’s Boston Celtics, these colours have been woven into the fabric of our lives and are instantly recognizable.

New franchises — or old ones trade tradition for a quick spike in jersey sales – run the risk of irrelevancy. Closer to home, our Toronto Raptors, established during the Jurassic Park-inspired hysteria for all things dinosaur, now stir up fewer images of Tyrannosaurus Rexes and more thoughts of Barney. And the 90s were rife with new franchises in all sports embracing an entirely new pallet of colours, ranging from teal to aquamarine – colours that may have been trendy, but unable to stand the test of time. Yet, it’s not an exact science. The Montreal Expos, whose name was inspired by the world fair taking place in their city in 1967, served the team well for over three decades.

The problem with market research-inspired jerseys is that, by their very design, they must change when the market does. The appeal of classic styles is that they withstand society’s changing preferences, dynamics, and fashions, never being at the forefront of style, but always being respectable.

Then there are the truly memorable logos and jerseys. Of course, they’re often memorable for all the wrong reasons. Just once! Just once in this era of throwbacks and nostalgia, I’d love to catch the Vancouver Canucks take to the ice in their black, orange, and yellow chevron uniforms. Or how about the purple and gold Kings jerseys with the crown on the front? If it was good enough for Marcel Dionne, it’s good enough for today’s players.

So what becomes a player most and draws fans to the game? Essentially, when it comes to sporting fashions, simple is better. We want a logo, a colour scheme, to be proud of. We want the focus to be on the players and the game, not the uniform.

In sports, as in life, the classics never go out of style.

2005 © Menard Communications – Jason Menard All Rights Reserved

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