FASHION STATEMENT?–This photo illustration released by Adidas shows the uniforms for NCAA basketball teams, from left, University of Cincinnati, University of Kansas, University of Notre Dame, Baylor University, UCLA and the University of Louisville. (AP Photo/Adidas)
by Samantha Critchell
AP Fashion Writer
NEW YORK (AP) — It seems an unpopular position in college basketball is fashion forward.
The neon-colored jerseys and camouflage-covered shorts debuted by six teams in their postseason conference championships ahead of the NCAA men’s basketball tournaments weren’t well received in the press or social media, with critics particularly targeting UCLA, Kansas and Notre Dame because of the schools’ tradition-rich athletic histories. Louisville, Cincinnati and Baylor also got uniform makeovers from Adidas, and they didn’t go over so well, either.
They were called Underoos, Fruit Stripes and LMFAO costumes. Some people just called them ugly — and you can search for them online that way.
The changes happened to be in line with fashion runways and recreational athleticwear, where highlighter brights and creative camo have been bona fide trends. And alternate uniforms have become part of the college football and basketball landscape — but these uniforms still made some fans cringe.
“What is distracting is all the patterns,” said Sam Gordon, a Johns Hopkins student and big NCAA basketball fan. “It could take the crowd’s focus away from a player’s jump shot to what they are wearing.”
Even President Barack Obama felt compelled to weigh in. In going through his bracket with ESPN, he cited the uniforms as a reason Notre Dame shouldn’t go any further than the second round, saying “that neon glow wasn’t working for me.”
Jeff Halmos, half of the menswear designer duo Shipley & Halmos, called the uniforms “ultra-forward” — but that may not be a compliment.
“I was so shocked at UCLA. If I was part of a storied franchise like that, I’d say, ‘Absolutely not.’ I would tell my team that it’s an honor to wear this traditional jersey, and I wouldn’t cheapen it,” he said. “There’s a threshold to which innovation crosses a boundary. The ‘throwback era’ — when classic uniforms had a mainstream moment a few years ago — that was so much better. To me, there’s so much in menswear that’s about heritage.”
If the goal was buzz, though, that’s certainly been accomplished. And maybe these limited-edition uniforms weren’t created for most of the armchair — or barstool — fans. They could be a recruiting tool for next-gen talent, said Will Welch, senior editor of GQ magazine.
“There’s something gimmicky about them, but outlandish choices like this can end up defining an era,” said Welch. “They’re pretty shocking now, but I’m an adult fan, and that’s different than being a 12-year-old kid dying to grow up and play at Kansas or Louisville. … There’s a good chance that these kids love the idea of debuting something that’s exciting.”
Sports fans are quick to get behind fashion trends that help show support of their favorite teams and players, he said. How many people wore dorky glasses with no lenses to games — and even their offices — after the NBA’s Russell Westbrook did?
Among the less popular innovations in the new uniforms were short sleeves on jerseys for UCLA, Baylor and Louisville — something Adidas also introduced this year for the NBA’s Golden State Warriors.
But guess who likes the sleeves? Louisville guard Peyton Siva, the Big East tournament’s MVP two years in a row.
Last week, after Louisville’s win over Notre Dame, he said, “I think everybody shot a lot better today with the sleeves.”
He also wanted to take home the shorts, and gave a compliment to Notre Dame’s uniforms, too. “I thought they were pretty awesome. Other people might not like them because they’re different, but I love them.”
Several players interviewed by The Associated Press cheered the uniforms — and sports being sports, those who won while wearing the uniforms seemed to like them more.
“I could see the uniforms becoming a good-luck charm,” said Gordon.