Who are you wearing?
That’s the question du jour whenever you’re writing about fashion. Oscar nominees stroll out onto the red carpet in their glistening formal wear, and some peppy entertainment “reporter” quizzes them about their designer. To wit: who are you wearing? And those Hollywood actors have that name ever at the ready: Calvin Klein, Louis Vuitton, whoever.
If someone was to ask Baylor, who are you wearing, the Bears would be able to answer simply, Phil Knight.
Saturday marked the rollout of “United: Baylor x Nike Experience” at McLane Stadium. Perhaps you’d seen the billboards around town and wondered, “What’s this all about?” It’s pretty simple, really. It was the culmination of a project between Baylor and Nike to make the Bears’ athletic uniforms more, well, uniform.
Baylor athletic director Mack Rhoades traced the project’s genesis back to November 2017, when Nike representatives visited Waco to essentially clean out the Bears’ closet. They took an inventory of the different colors and logos Baylor was using, and found that there wasn’t much of a common thread there. Maybe the Bears didn’t quite resemble the late Craig Sager’s wardrobe, but there was still a kaleidoscope of options under their green-and-gold umbrella.
In fact, Nike identified that Baylor was using five different shades of green and three different shades of gold across its various uniform options.
“It was a little bit of a shock, but I think we knew we needed consistency,” Rhoades said. “But when you see it on paper, and you see the inventory of all the different uniforms, all the different BUs in our facilities, we kind of looked at each other and said, ‘You know, we’re a little bit of a mess. We need to clean it up and make it consistent among all 19 of our sports programs.’”
Hence, the idea behind becoming “United.” Beginning with the 2019-20 school year, Baylor will use the same shade of green and the same shade of “gold” – it’s officially called university gold, but come on, it’s basically spicy mustard – throughout its athletic department. (The green is called “gorge green,” which as a lifelong vegetable hater certainly sounds better than being engorged with greens.)
But I’m not here to bash the new duds. Not at all. I thought, by and large, they looked pretty sharp. (Then again, sportswriters usually have spicy mustard splotches on their clothes all the time, so what do we know?)
Baylor equipment manager Jeff Barlow said that he likes the way the streamlined green and gold colors mesh.
“It’s a brighter tone green,” Barlow said. “Our base color right now is a fir green, more of a muted color than we’ve had in the past, the gorge is a brighter color. And we’re going with university gold, which marries really well together. It pops really well.”
That’s a good way to describe it – I’m stealing that, Jeff. Several of the uniform combinations really popped. I thought the all-white baseball uniforms popped so deliciously they could have been sponsored by Orville Reddenbacher rather than Nike.
Not every fan is a fan, though. People’s fashion tastes are kind of like their musical preferences. They’re distinctly individual.
As I strolled through the “United” exhibit alongside dozens of Baylor fans Saturday, one asked me, “Brice, what do you think of those West Virginia uniforms?” He was specifically identifying the monochromatic all-gold football threads. I shrugged. It’d be a fair critique, I guess, if the helmets didn’t still feature the interlocking BU, or a small, scowling Bear logo on the chest, or if they were accented with Mountaineer blue instead of Baylor (sorry, gorge) green.
“They’ll have to change to the Yellow Wave Band,” the fan continued, clearly disgusted.
Rhoades understands that it’s impossible to keep everyone happy. He went through similar rebranding efforts in his past AD stints at Houston and Missouri, and there were always people who didn’t like the new looks.
But this wasn’t a case of one person picking out the color of the church carpet, either, and everyone else getting stuck with it. Baylor reached out to its athletes, coaches, staff, and even alumni and former letter-winners – “We thought that was really, really important,” Rhoades said – in trying to check as many boxes as possible.
“We’ve gotten great buy-in from our coaches, great buy-in from our student-athletes throughout the process,” Rhoades said.
The general consensus from the athletes has indeed been favorable. Six of the football players participated in a photo shoot with the new uniforms on Thursday night, and Barlow said that they strutted around like runway models.
“They absolutely loved it. They’re very on board and excited about all the colors,” Barlow said. “It’s good to see them being excited about the direction we’re going. It’s really all for them.”
True that. The kids are the ones who have to wear the uniforms, right? Makes perfect sense to get their input, to assure that they look “on fleek” – or whatever the fashionable term for dressing for success might be.
If you’re a fan and you don’t like the new look, that’s fine, but my advice is to get over it. There’s much bigger problems in the world. Don’t get your green-and-gold undies in a wad while you dicker over the hue of what truly constitutes green and gold. Besides, if you show up to the game wearing some old Baylor gear from days gone by, they’re not going to turn you away at the gate.
I applaud Baylor’s efforts to get streamlined, for everyone to get on the same page of their favorite fashion magazine.
“It certainly is important to our brand, but even more important is the consistency of it and the way it looks throughout the athletic department,” Rhoades said.
In these oft-divided times, there’s nothing wrong with a little unity.
Even if we’re just talking about trousers.