The Next Big Uniform Trend: Less Is More

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hop old school zima gear traditional pocket
LOVE the new helmets, but could we be doing more?

The current atmosphere surrounding big time D1 college athletics uniforms says that more is more, and that more is better. Teams are seeking higher levels of customization in their designs, and programs like Oregon Football whip out new uniforms almost every single week. But is this the way things will be forever? Is it just an ever-perpetuating arms race for gear? Or will we see a new trend emerge, where less is actually more?

Oregon football uniforms
The beginnings of the Oregon uniform explosion.

Right now, the entire set up is market-driven, and schools’ officials will even admit that fact openly. Big time athletic brands get maximum exposure, the schools become more powerful commercial entities, and the jerseys themselves are sold for top dollar.

The players don’t see a dime of it directly, but they do benefit from the increased exposure for their program if they hope to go pro, and many still get a free education out of the deal. Athletes getting paid is a debate for another post.

The point here is that teams are all competing for more, more, more, but at some point there simply is no more, without verging on the completely ridiculous, and then the only new direction to go is less. We’re not there yet, but we’re well on our way.

What do I mean with less being more? Am I talking about simpler uniforms? Maybe, but that’s just style, and it will continue to change at a moment’s notice. Am I talking about less uniforms produced per season? Not exactly, as sporting brands want to flood the market with their top work. So what am I talking about?

Let me use the Kings of Gear, known to most as Oregon Football, as my first example…

Currently, the Ducks’ football program gets more new gear per year than any other team in the country. It verges on obscene. After it is used, players can purchase it, or it is auctioned off, and the proceeds go back to the Athletic Department. People love seeing the new uniforms, and sharing the new Nike Oregon design is always popular amongst gear heads. But why does all this giving have to be limited to Oregon Football? Why outfit these guys week after week in new gear? When is enough enough? Why not do something GOOD instead, especially if it can still benefit the program and brand?

What I would propose is that programs like Oregon and brands like Nike “donate” half of their new uniforms to cash-strapped youth or high school football teams. What I mean is this: instead of getting new all-white uniforms for themselves, Oregon and Nike could donate all-white Oregon-INSPIRED uniforms to a program in need.

The designs would still be top level, the interest would still be there, AND we would get to see Oregon style uniforms in a ton of different colors and schemes, depending on who got the uniforms. Not only that, but it would grow the game of football, and in lacrosse, we all know how important it is to continually GTG.

So it’s not about making less, it’s about keeping less for yourself.

If lacrosse has any relevance to this right now, it has to do with helmets, above all else. The biggest issue for the growth of lacrosse is the lack of availability when it comes to safe and usable helmets. I have heard this from people in New York City, Montana, Florida, Prague, and Australia, and seen it for myself time and time again. It is a universal problem. And yet, while many college programs get one helmet per year, some college teams get 2, or even 3, helmets during a season, and others also receive special playoff helmets.

hop old school zima gear traditional pocket
LOVE the new helmets, but could we be doing more?

This is where we, as a sporting community, can step forward and lead. Instead of buying an additional set of helmets, I would love to see college programs use that funding to Grow the Game, by purchasing helmets for programs in need, or for not-for-profit groups that work to expand lacrosse. They can make it a local gift, and have an impact right in their own backyard.

I enjoy a new helmet for a college team, I won’t lie. I get all giddy when a new helmet drops, and I see why manufacturers and programs team up to create new lids during the season. I know that practice helmets are a big thing too, and I won’t lie here either… I think they’re cool. But what I would really love to see is for programs to settle on one helmet early on, and then do some good for the greater community.

The opportunity for great PR for the program, and for the manufacturer is still there. The exposure can still be huge through sites like ours, Facebook and Twitter. But at the end of the day, a lot more good would have been done for the game, and for people within our community, that I just can’t see why this isn’t happening already. Add in the availability of HeadWrapz style products and completely new helmets make even less sense.

The luster of fresh new gear, all the time, will begin to fade at some point, and I think we’re close. What happens next remains to be seen, but if the pendulum swings the way I think it will, some greater level of giving will have to come into play… after all, how many helmets does one team really need?

One. The answer is that a team needs one helmet.

What do you think? Does the Less Is More philosophy have any merit? Who will be the first program to take this path? Or is it just more, more, more, for the rest of time?

9 COMMENTS

  1. I think you make a lot of very good points, Payu. As usual!

    I don’t think any of this is a crime, and I also believe that programs can use their funds however they want to. At the same time, I think we can do a little more for our community, whatever it is. A start for Oregon would be to donate a set of uniforms to a team in need instead of just dropping a new of uniforms for their own team.

    When a team like Oregon gets 8 new uniforms, it starts to get a little repetitive. Eventually, gearing yourself out nicely gets old, just like anything, right? And I want to know what is next!

    The next step? Gear someone ELSE out nicely! You are absolutely right in how you describe the atmosphere right now… what do you think will happen in the future? Something different? Very curious to hear more of your excellent thoughts!

    Thanks for the insightful comment!

    • As for Oregon donating used uniforms, I believe there is an NCAA rule prohibiting colleges from giving HS teams or players their gear, for fear of recruiting favoritism. So new uniforms would have to be donated, and HS teams may still be ineligible for that. But youth organizations might not be, and we all know there is a lot of need there.

      As for Thailand, I think you guys can do whatever you want, and for that matter, so can Oregon! I am simply glad to hear people are considering or interested in the idea. Like I said, we may not have reached a change point yet.

      Thanks for the comments, Payu. I certainly see both sides, and I’m glad we could have such a constructive conversation here to keep it going.

        • As far as I know and have experienced, it is a violation… unless maybe they are going through a third party.  I used to run a sport non-profit that would receive old equipment from college programs and we would have to sign forms saying the equipment would not be given to any of our high school players for fear of violating that rule.

  2. i also agree. as cool as some of the specialty helmets are (UNC blackout, cuse &hop throwback) a team only needs one helmet. if the team wants to change their look for different games than can put head wraps and different decals on the helmet which is a lot more cost effective than buying a helmet that is only going to be worn once (cuse volt and hop wings) but on the other side the flashy gear does create exposure and awareness which in turn does also Grow the Game. as much as i enjoy seeing all the new gear and looks, one helmet will do. 

  3. I agree.   One of the problems that we’ve faced with growing the game in Italy is getting gear over to them.  It’s tough for us to get a person to play a sport they may have never heard of before to shell out quite a bit of money to buy equipment just to try it.   I know last time I was over seas I left there with much less equipment then I arrived with just because I knew I’d be getting updated gear soon and knew it would go further with them developing the program.   Who knows, maybe though LAS we can start a used equipment drive and start spreading our wealth of extra gear to some countries with developing programs.   Maybe like a LAS Missions trip haha

  4. Something forgotten in this article, is that even in many of America’s lower income areas, there’s plenty of money devoted to football- many might even say too much. 

    I think that because lacrosse is miles behind in cultural relevance, more manufacturers should be pressured into releasing 1-for-1 products- like Toms or Warby Parker do- and they should publicize the socially responsible steps they take. I have a funny feeling that a lot of gear already gets donated around the country, but maybe in informal and inefficient ways.