Creating a new set of varsity uniforms is usually a lengthy process, lasting at least 18 months and requiring approval from people in the football program and the athletic department.
For Northwestern, a crucial step in its recent football uniform update came at the end of last season, when the team’s board of directors got a glimpse of the set. According to Eryk Jackson, head of football equipment since July 2016, the players loved the new threads. The wrong side? Seniors would never get the chance to wear uniforms to a game.
“Every time they see something new, they get excited,” Jackson told The Daily. “When we first showed it to the board of directors last year, there were guys who were like, ‘Oh, I can’t even wear it. “”
The wait was worth it. The Wildcats’ enthusiasm for their new threads was matched by the overwhelming support from NU’s fan base in the months following its release. Ahead of making their debut on the pitch in Dublin for their season opener, the Cats posted photos of players wearing the new purple, white and black jerseys on the programme’s Twitter account in June. Jackson also confirmed that the goth alternates will remain in the uniform rotation.
While the changes to the Cats uniforms aren’t drastic, both Jackson and NU players believe the shades make the uniform much cleaner and central to the Cats brand.
The most obvious change is that the Northwestern stripe, a staple of NU football since 1909, has moved from the shirt chest to the shoulder sleeves. The strip color also changed to create more contrast, eliminating black and placing purple shoulder stripes on the white uniform and white shoulder stripes on the purple uniform. The change fixes one of the aesthetic flaws of the previous set, which featured an almost invisible black stripe on the purple jersey.
In 1928 we applied what came to be known as the “Northwestern Stripes” to the sleeves.
This season, we’re putting them back in their place.
— North West Football (@NUFBFamily) June 21, 2022
“If you look at the uniform, it’s a modern take on a historic look,” Jackson said. “What we did was take the opportunity to move the stripe to an area where you can see and make it one color, which is more in line with our brand guide. We brought out this stripe and we said, ‘Hey, that’s us.’ That’s our take on our brand.
The update continues the innovation and respect for tradition that characterized the Partnership between Cats and Under Armor. When NU transitioned from Adidas and became Under Armor’s first Big Ten school in 2012, the Cats kicked off their marketing campaign with the line “Reclaim the Stripe!” and the bold placement of the northwest stripe across the chest. Over the next few seasons, NU experimented with dozens of uniform combinations and alternatives, including the wildly popular Gothic set.
Ella Brockway, former Gameday editor for The Daily and an expert on the history of NU uniforms, said the restoration of the Northwestern tape set the tone for the Under Armor partnership.
“The whole point of this was to take something that had been something very iconic for Northwestern and reuse it,” Brockway said. “If Northwestern didn’t have a huge history of success in the field, at least they had these cool patterns and historic things they could put on.”
The new set also harkens back to decades past, with the single-color sleeves on the purple and white jerseys paying homage to the look of the Cats in the 1970s and a white and purple striped pattern on the black alternates evoking memories of the dominant teams of the 1990s. Jackson said he was also inspired by NU interpretation return uniforms in 2019, which emphasized simplicity and contrast.
Hello. Lots of Northwest uniform history packed into this relatively small change!
Left and right: the purple + white clutch definitely evokes the black plains of the early 90s.
— Ella Brockway (@ellabrockway) June 21, 2022
Graduate tight end Charlie Mangieri admits he’s ‘not a big dripper,’ but when the Cats video team approached him during pre-camp practice looking for players to model the new uniforms for their social media outing, he couldn’t say no.
“I didn’t expect to be one of the role models, to be honest with you,” Mangieri said. “I was just doing bodybuilding at the time, and I was one of the only guys here. I was like, ‘Hey, why not?’ It was a good feeling, and I had never been a part of something like this.
Along with senior receiver Malik Washington, senior defensive back AJ Hampton Jr. and graduate running back Andrew Clair, Mangieri dressed and posed outside the Deering Library.
Washington, who helps pick overalls for games as a member of the Cats’ uniform committee, thought the backdrop was an appropriate choice.
“We went past the library and everything, and it shows how far northwest we are,” Washington said. “Putting this thing on for the first time and being one of the cover models felt good.”
NU certainly played well in the uniforms’ first appearance against Nebraska in August, a 31-28 Cats win in which NU donned purple jerseys and purple pants. The uniforms failed to prevent the Cats’ three-game slippage in September, but the white jersey debut in NU’s road game at No. 11 Penn State could provide some much-needed magic.
“We haven’t worn all the jerseys yet, but the guys are loving it,” Jackson said. “It’s a classic take; it is a timeless piece. It is something that can stand the test of time for generations to come.
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