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Purdue debuts new football uniforms August 7, 2011

Posted by intellectualgridiron in Sports.
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As a former student manager for the Purdue football team, I, along with a handful of other lucky souls, have more than intimate knowledge about Boilermaker football uniforms, and college football equipment in general.  Needless to say, whenever I receive news of a total redesign of the Boilers’ gridiron game unis, my interest is more than a little engaged.  At first glance of this redesigned series of gameday garments, part of me says “neat!” while the other part of me says “what on Earth were they thinking?”  First off, I get it.  Young players these days love the latest and greatest football fashions.  It’s the marketing, stupid, and fresh uni designs have been smartly used as a recruiting tool these days.  Hey, it worked for Oregon.  Meanwhile, has Penn State gotten this memo?  Will they ever?

Before further discussions proceed, a full gallery of the new Purdue uniforms can be seen via this link.

First of all, here is what I like, either sort of, or all the way.  Let’s start with the numbers, which I sort of like.  Of all the number designs, do I find this font to be the most aesthetically pleasing?   No, I do not.  Frankly, the traditional jersey numbers have worked just fine for traditional powers such as Texas, Alabama, Oklahoma, LSU, Georgia, Ohio State, and so on, so part of me asks, ‘what makes Purdue so special?’  That being said, the press release on Purdue’s athletics website points out that these numbers are in the “DIN” font, a typeface first developed in 1923, and since the mid-Twenties has been adopted as the standard font for engineering applications.  It also became the typeface of choice for metal stencil applications in trainyards.  Seeing things along those lines, the engineering and train connection to the DIN font makes this a very appropriate choice.  Plus, a font that’s almost 80 years old, when applied in a new way (new jerseys) can still look current; further proof that what is old is new.

Speaking of the numbers, another thing I love about the new design is the all-gold numbers on the black home jersey.  Those familiar with earlier eras of Purdue football will no doubt recall that “back in the day,” Purdue had a long-standing history displaying gold numbers on black jerseys.  Iconic photos of players in the 1930s, 1940s, 1950s, as well as the 1960s attest to this (check out some of the photos of Bob Griese and Mike Phipps as Boilermakers, and you shall see what I mean!).  While that started to change in the 1970s and espeically in the 1980s with the introduction of white numbers on Purdue’s black jerseys, gold numbers were still not unheard of as recently as the ’90s, but have been no more for about 14 years, until now.  Kudos to whomever had them brought back, as they are a nice, throwback touch.

Dare I say, I also applaud the choice to go back to a plain black stripe on the helmets.   To be sure, white and thin double-black stripes were a unique touch, one that was without precedence when Coach Tiller had them implemented on his new design (that template essentially being a carbon-copy of his Wyoming uni template, one that he transplanted with him in 1997).  But the single black stripe on the gold helmet again speaks to some of Purdue’s glory days, such as the ’60s and the Mollenkopf era — another nice, traditional touch.

Now on to the more unpleasant matters.  Let us start with the stripes.  To preempt any misunderstandings, I am very happy that stripes stayed on the pants.  I abhorred the 1990s fashion trend of stripe-less pants, and I am glad to see that we in the football community have moved on, with some exceptions.  What I do not like is how the stripes changed.  I absolutely loved our thin, double-stripe pattern.  It was a direct throwback to our older styles of uniforms from the 1940s through the 1960s.  The black pants with the gold stripes looked like an army general’s dress uniform — very classy.  Plus, we, along with Alabama, were the only teams to use such stripes.  I understand that times they are a-changin’, but if marketing is going to modify the stripes on the pants, can they at least have the decency to make sure those stripes are complete?  These new stripes fail to go all the way up the pants, for goodness sake!

In another matter, there is no earthly reason why Purdue should ever be wearing white pants.  Ever.  Period.  The only time I would condone it is if we had a black road helmet to provide the proper aesthetic contrast, say, a black helmet with a metallic gold “P” and a metallic gold 1-inch center stripe.  Then the get-up wouldn’t look half-bad — for a road uniform, at least.  In the meantime, though, my advice is, forget the white pants ever happened, and stick with the black pants on the road.

One recurring issue that nobody seems willing to address is the terrible shade of gold to which Purdue has been chained in recent years.  A simple looking up of our official school colors will show the inquisitive individual that Purdue’s school colors are Old Gold and Black.  Got that?  Old Gold and Black.  Sadly, the last time the Boilers had a real, old gold in their helmets was 1996, and the last time their pants were the genuine old gold was 1995, Mike Alstott’s senior year.  Since 1997, the gold in Purdue’s pants has been a watered-down, urine-specimen shade of gold, and it’s downright pathetic.  The ghastly pale shade is made all the more evident when mated with the white road jersey.  One would have hoped that a total redesign of uniform would have given occasion to rectify this problem.  Yet nothing has been done about this glaring weakness.

Whether the marketing wing of Purdue’s athletic department is at fault for consciously picking this sickly shade of gold, or Nike is being a less-than-responsive provider in imposing a one-size-fits-all shade of gold on all its clientele that use that hue, or both, the bottom line is that it remains unacceptable.  Check out UCLA’s gold pants some time.  They still have a substantive gold in their uniforms, which is proof positive that the proper shade is available.  Get it together, you guys.

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