National Championship Style

by Tracy Robinson of Chic Made Simple

As we gear up for the much-anticipated BCS Championship Bowl, the thought on this fashionista’s mind is, “What will they WEAR?”

Both Auburn and Oregon will have new components to their uniforms (or “outfits,” as I have called them since I was a little girl).  Oregon will wear practically an entirely new ensemble from Nike, while the changes Under Armour has provided for Auburn are more subtle.

“Auburn and the SEC have a rich heritage in football,” said Matt Mirchin, SVP of sports marketing for Under Armour. “Auburn didn’t want to change the uniforms. They don’t really need gimmicks to their uniforms to authenticate themselves.” The tigers will be sporting new “accessories,” in the form of gloves and cleats. The gloves offer two designs, one with a tiger print and AU logo, and another with “War Eagle” on one of the fingers.

The new cleats worn will be from the Nitro III line, which have lightning bolt graphics on the bottom and several different looks from which to choose — low-tops, mid-tops and high-tops. Heisman winner Cam Newton will continue to wear the Nitro CompFit, which he’s tested in games since October. The cleat has a neoprene compression sleeve that surrounds the ankle, giving the low-top cleat the stability of a mid-top. Under Armour has added the Auburn logo on the tongue, a special touch for the big game.  Auburn Director of Equipment Operations Dana Marquez isn’t taking any chances with the newly laid turf at the University of Phoenix stadium, thus planning for any conditions with several different types of cleats (screw in, molded, etc.). That’s 3,500 pairs of cleats to be exact.  He also is prepared for each and every player’s and coach’s wardrobe preference and, in some cases, superstitions.

Assistant Coach Jay Boulware wears the same orange hat every game.  Defensive Coordinator Ted Roof wears the same pair of stained pants. When Marquez put a new pair of pants out for Roof early in the season, Roof maintained, “I need that stain.” As for the short-sleeve white pullover Coach Gene Chizik dons on gameday, Marquez cuts off the sleeves to the length the head coach prefers, revealing those mock turtlenecks he loves.  Marquez’s staff keeps busy as well: helmets get new decals, stripes, snaps and screws for every game and are checked daily to make sure air bladders are properly inflated and chin straps and facemasks secure. Every helmets is even run through an ozone machine to kill bacteria.  Rumors have circulated about a possible blue helmet for Auburn, but most say Auburn will stick to tradition.

While Auburn may have “classic style,” Oregon is anything but, with no other team changing their look more than the Ducks.  The University of Oregon has been partnered with Nike since 1996 (Nike co-founder and chairman Phil Knight is an Oregon graduate and booster) and continues to push the envelope with its teams’ uniforms.  In fact, the Ducks have worn a different combination for every game this season. Oregon Sports Information Director Dave Williford said the last time they wore the same outfit in back-to-back games was probably 2003.

According to Williford, Oregon has four helmets, five jerseys, four pairs of pants, four sets of socks and four pairs of shoes, creating a possible 1,280 combinations. That does not include a throwback ensemble or the BCS title-game outfit.

Oregon’s specially made championship game duds will feature the latest in sports apparel technology, including “Flywire,” a seaming technique which allows uniforms to be lighter, and Vapor Carbon gloves with SureGrip technology, which allows increased range of motion in the gussets between the fingers for a firmer grip. For added effect, a big ‘O’ graphic on the glove’s palm is revealed when a player holds his hands together to catch a pass. Nike will also unveil its next generation of skin layer gear through its arm bands, each displaying the player’s number.  Perhaps most noticeable will be the players’ feet, swathed in neon green socks to match their new Alpha Talon cleats, designed to create a blur effect when players run.

Finally, there is the helmet, manufactured by Riddell but designed by Nike.  Todd Van Horn, Global Creative Director for Nike Football points out that 10 years ago Oregon experimented with a green helmet that had refractive colored paint, supposed to mimic a mallard’s head.  Nike played with the design through the years with various colors and sheen applications.

According to Van Horn, the helmet Oregon will wear in the national championship game “has a carbon fiber aesthetic previously used on Oregon’s wing patterns and in their number font. The players liked it, so the natural progression was for it to be used on the helmets.”

Monday night’s game should prove to be a feast for the eyes in both athletic skill and apparel.  So, what does this fashionista – and Auburn grad – think about it all?  I think my 70-year old mother said it best, upon my recounting Oregon’s fashionable history: “They still look like Ducks to me. Shoot ’em.”

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