Baylor football has about as many costume changes as a Broadway production of The Phantom of the Opera.
The Bears can trot out a traditional look with a green helmet, green jersey and gold pants.
They can go for the intimidation factor with black jerseys and pants complemented by a black matte helmet.
If they want to throw a little flash into the mix, they can bring out gold chrome helmets. For a sleek look, they can go all white.
Last week, the Bears rolled out their newest uniform featuring gunmetal gray jerseys with green sleeves and gold numbers. The jersey is complemented by gunmetal pants with green and gold stripes and a gray helmet.
These aren’t your father’s football uniforms. It’s all about appealing to the Xbox generation of players, and Baylor is on the cutting edge.
“It’s about what’s new out there, what’s fresh, what’s cool,” said Baylor equipment manager Jeff Barlow. “We like trying to do something different than what everybody else does instead of just copying. We want to be trendsetters.”
While the Bears have unveiled their new uniforms, they’ve won back to back Big 12 championships. The Bears’ success and fashion statements have traveled down the road in lockstep.
Baylor partners with Nike for its uniforms and goes to companies like Riddell, Schutt and Hydro Graphics Inc. for helmets. Baylor coach Art Briles and his staff often unveil the uniforms at football camps or when recruits are in town for visits.
The new gunmetal uniforms were a hit at a camp last weekend at McLane Stadium as many high school players tweeted out photos of the Bears’ new threads decked out on mannequins.
“Everywhere I go across the state and nation, the No. 1 theme with recruits and fans is Baylor has the best unis,” Briles said.
While recruits choose football programs where they can best develop their athletic and academic potential, it doesn’t hurt to look good. A flashy uniform (or two or three or four) can help coaches sell the program.
“When you’re young, the first thing you’re going to look at is uniforms,” said Baylor sophomore receiver KD Cannon. “Some people feel you look good, you play good. I like (Baylor’s uniforms) because you don’t want to come out with the same old plain uniforms. We have a variety to choose from each and every game.”
Baylor has six different kinds of helmets: traditional gold, gold chrome, white, gray, matted green and matted black. The Bears have four types of jerseys: green, black, white and gray. They’ve got five colors of pants: green, white, gold, black and the new gunmetal gray.
The NCAA mandates that the home team wears a dark colored jersey. But with so many types of jerseys, pants and helmets along with the cleats, the Bears’ uniform combinations are endless.
“We could come up with 120 combinations,” Barlow said. “Nike does a really good job of setting the bar and that’s why they’re such a great partner to be involved with. They do a really good job with the design part of it and working with the teams and the schools, so it’s about piggybacking off them.”
Adopting a new look
During Briles’ first few seasons at Baylor, the uniforms had a more traditional green and gold look. But he was always willing to shake the tree a little. He suggested wearing a white helmet that was unveiled for the 2009 season opener against Wake Forest during his second year.
“At the end of 2008, he brought up the idea of the white helmet around Thanksgiving,” Barlow said. “He got the idea from the Cowboys because they always wear the white helmets on Thanksgiving. That’s when it all kind of started.”
Barlow said Baylor began having serious discussions with Nike about expanding uniform design during 2012.
“They came to us and we talked about ideas and they heard us out,” Barlow said. “What does Coach Briles like? We wanted clean but subtle uniforms, not too flashy. Not too in your face or too busy. We always wanted the bear paws (on the shoulders) because people loved those jerseys back in the 1980s. Now we do a modern version of that.”
Baylor unveiled a variety of uniforms in the 2013 season, but two stood out in two of the Bears’ biggest games.
Baylor promoted a “blackout” for its showdown against Oklahoma at Floyd Casey Stadium. The Bears dressed in all black uniforms and wore a matted black helmet. With the fans also donning black colors, the Bears pounded the Sooners, 41-12.
“The blackout was a huge hit,” Barlow said. “I walked out and it was full to the brim, everybody was donning the black. To me, it’s still the best atmosphere I’ve been in at Baylor.”
In the season finale against Texas, Baylor wore specially designed throwback uniforms with green jerseys, white pants and gold helmets that resembled the ones they wore in their first year at Floyd Casey Stadium in 1950.
On a bitterly cold December day, the Bears closed out their old stadium with a 30-10 win over Texas for their first Big 12 title. Baylor executive associate athletic director Nick Joos came up with the idea for the throwback uniforms which were only used for that game before they were sold to Baylor fans.
“I think we had half of them sold before the game even started,” Barlow said. “We sold the helmet, jersey and pants for $750. Between the end of the game and the time we got here on Sunday they were all gone.”
Choosing a style
While Baylor designates uniforms for some games well ahead of time, players choose uniforms for most games only a few days before kickoff.
Several of the upperclassmen get the honor of choosing the uniform.
“It’s usually seniors or guys who have been around a long time,” Barlow said. “Our main two last year were Shawn Oakman and Antwan Goodley. Shawn loves all black. I’m sure (intimidation) has something to do with it. Antwan loves all white.”
Cannon isn’t surprised a defensive end like Oakman prefers all-black uniforms while a receiver like Goodley likes the all-white look.
“Defense is in the trenches and they feel like they have to wear all black because they mean business,” Cannon said. “Offense wants flash and wants to be seen. The all white uniforms are my favorite.”
While Baylor’s success on the field isn’t because of its uniforms, athletic director Ian McCaw believes they’ve given the Bears a certain appeal to recruits who see it as a cutting edge program.
“The uniforms add a great dimension to our brand,” McCaw said. “We’re a young brand but very dynamic and appealing. We’ve created edgy uniforms and that’s a powerful factor in the recruiting process.”
While some fans would likely prefer the Bears stick with traditional green and gold colors, McCaw has received a lot of positive feedback from the public.
“There is definitely a generation of Baylor fans who prefer the traditional look, but everyone has become more comfortable with the uniforms the last couple of years,” McCaw said. “I’ve heard a lot of compliments. Baylor Nation has by and large really embraced the uniforms and the look.”