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Originally the gray was supposed to be darker, but Nike the company Wyoming has a football contract with didn’t have the fabric. The camouflage that covers the shoulders was supposed to also be on the numbers, but the NCAA wouldn’t allow it.
Aanonsen’s talk of fabric and prints sounds strange coming from a Laramie legend everyone calls «Mad Dog.» This discussion sounds like it belongs in a New York design studio instead of an equipment room tucked into the bowels of War Memorial Stadium.
But college football has changed. Uniforms and therefore fashion is now more important than ever before. And the Wyoming football team is doing its part to stay ahead of the competition.
«My heart will tell you I would rather have one home jersey, one road jersey, and one pair of pants for either pair of them, and that’s it,» Aanonsen,wholesale nfl jerseys from china who has been team’s equipment manager since 1979, said. «But, because of the Oregons, because of all the bigger schools, and even some of the smaller schools, it’s like Keeping up with the Joneses. The kids want flash and dash. They want something that looks neat, looks cool, looks different. It sounds weird. You shouldn’t have to sell a kid on a uniform. You should have to sell a kid on a school. But kids are kids.»
«We wanted to be out there, to be purposefully controversial,» Nike designer Tinker Hatfield told the Sports Business Journal in 2011. «That’s part of what we do that’s not very well understood.»
Christensen understood. He switched Wyoming’s football contract from New Balance to Nike as soon as he got to Laramie. He had been a recruiter for years. He knew what teenagers liked, and it wasn’t New Balance. He saw how his own son, in college, reacted to the departure from traditional uniforms.
«There’s a reason Oregon continues to get some of the top players in the country,» Christensen said recently. «They’re in Eugene, where it is rainy and cloudy every single day, and yet, still, the top players in the country go there. Everybody’s knows about Oregon’s uniforms.»
Wyoming, along with schools like Arizona State, Oklahoma State and Washington State, told Nike they wanted to follow Oregon’s example.
«Does it make you win or lose? In what you put on, it doesn’t,» Christensen said. «But if it attracts players, great student athletes, it does. So we set up a deal with Nike when I first got here. We have tried to build that relationship and be one of Nike’s schools.»
Wyoming’s uniform changes over the years have included a redesign of the team’s traditional uniforms; the addition of new pants and helmets; and most recently the newest camouflage option.
Others have caught on. These days, teams sticking to traditional home and away jersey with no alternative options is rarer than a team that mixes it up. Not just Nike, but Adidas, Under Armour and other companies have started to push the limits.
Paul Lukas has watched it happen.
«If anything stays the same for 10 minutes without some burst of stimulation, that’s considered too long,» Lukas said. «Teams used to keep the same basic designs for maybe 10 years, then five years, three years. A few seasons ago, we reached the point where you could expect a team to have new uniforms every season. Now you can reliably expect for many schools to have new uniforms almost every week. Or at least four or five different combinations in the course of the season.»
Lukas has heard the argument before that any talk about a team’s uniform is good for that team. He disagrees. While wacky designs (copper colored helmets, for example) get talked about the most, he prefers more traditional looks like the ones shown week after week by Alabama and Florida State.
«I hear that a lot, that if it get’s attention, it is, by definition, a success,» Lukas said. «That is a low bar for public discourse and public criticism. When a baby gets your attention by throwing a tantrum, we don’t call that a success. We call that a tantrum. When a creepy looking guy in the park gets your attention by walking over and opening his trench coat, we don’t call that a success. We call that a misdemeanor.»
He points to one example specifically. Last year, Maryland rocked the boat when it wore a three color Under Armour uniforms that split down the middle. Half of jersey was red and white. The other half was yellow and black. Even the helmets were divided. Maryland won the game and the country could not stop talking about the Terrapins.
Then Lukas delivered the warning.
«Do you recall how many more games they won the rest of the year? They went 2 10 on the season,» he said. «And no one talked about them much after that. I think the lesson is, if you dress up like a clown and you win, you look like a winner. And if you dress up like a clown and lose, you just look like a clown.»
Wyoming sees itself as «The School of the West.» And it is Popplewell’s goal to make sure that idea is attached to everything Wyoming does. That includes football uniforms.
He supports the camouflage alternatives. But he says there is also a line. While Oregon has wild designs and colors, the school’s most important «O» logo is always predominantly displayed. Popplewell says the same needs to happen at Wyoming.
«Is this going to be a continuing trend? I don’t know,» Popplewell said. «We need to keep a pulse on it. It’s probably something the purists, the traditionalists aren’t excited as excited about to see. We will continue to be creative and be one on the forefront and ahead of the curve. But we also need to stay true to our roots and make sure we are always branded. When I say we are always branded, it means we always have our steamboat logo and we have our gold and browns and everything else in line.»
While changes to the team’s football uniforms will continue, Aanonsen said the steamboat isn’t going anywhere.
«As long as I’m around, that bucking horse will be on the helmet,» the equipment manager said. «Because that is Wyoming.»
The newest addition to the Wyoming football wardrobe has received mixed reviews from fans. Lukas, a man who has seen a lot of uniforms, called it the ugliest uniform in college football this season.
But what about fashion experts?
Caroline Bartek has spent almost 10 years working for Cintas a company that designs corporate uniforms. She also teaches in the fashion design department at Stephens College in Columbia, Mo.
«If Wyoming came to me and said, ‘What do you think?’ I would tell them I don’t care for it,» Bartek said in a phone interview this week. «It doesn’t look as athletic to me as I think these football players would have wanted.»
Vincent Quevedo, an associate professor of fashion design at Kent State University, was more direct in his critique.
«I have to admit the uniform are not attractive,» Quevedo wrote in an email. «Albeit the colors can’t be changed, the print placed on the shoulders look like flowers resting and growing from their upper arms. Football uniforms should be designed to help intimidate the enemy. It should be menacing, masculine and demand respect. Unfortunately, these uniforms look as if algae has infested a concrete wall while yellow flowers has grown aimlessly and for no reason.»