“Those uniforms are hideous!” has replaced “Turn down that rock music!” as the most common phrase yelled by your local curmudgeon, directed toward a younger generation that is intrigued by flashiness and show.
It was guitar riffs and loud drums back then. It is shiny football helmets and eye-piercing colors now. But just like the notion and acceptance of that music came to be, so too is the constant release and re-release of infinitely interchangeable, mixable-and-matchable shoes, socks, pants, jerseys, and helmets in college football.
It means profit for the companies and--no matter how loudly you’d like to scream in protest from the rocking chair on your porch--is a recruiting tool for college football programs.
At the forefront is Maryland, the flagship school of the Under Armour brand, and in turn the guinea pig for experimentation for the Baltimore-based company.
“You know, one of the first questions I get from the young men is, ‘Coach, what new uniforms are we going to have next year?’” Maryland head coach Randy Edsall joked at a press conference on National Signing Day.
“I have them, but I can’t really let the secret out of the bag.”
This year brought Under Armour’s newest release, custom hand-painted “Maryland Pride” helmets paired with all-red get-ups that were featured in a nationally televised game against West Virginia at M&T Bank Stadium in Baltimore and again on homecoming against Clemson.
Call it a gimmick if you want, but having an innovative equipment partner makes a difference. There’s the obvious perks, like the financial support, but there’s also something to the idea that being able to offer the opportunity to play at a school that innovates with uniform design can be an attractive asset.
It’s a fashion show for young men who often happen to be around 6-4 and upwards of 240 pounds.
“Our association with them in terms of what they do for us does aid us in recruiting,” Edsall said. “The product that they put out and that they’re going to be able to wear, knowing that we’re going to have these opportunities...is something that we think is very, very positive for us in the recruiting process.”
Maryland is striving to be the flagship of a brand in the same way that Oregon is Nike’s flagship. Similar to the relationship the Ducks have with founder Phil Knight, Under Armour CEO Kevin Plank is an alumnus of the university and the school's football program.
As Under Armour’s brand continues to grow, not only at the college and professional levels but at the high school level, the ecosystem that feeds football programs, the influence, too, will grow.
And you can bet that Uncle Kevin will keep churning out something new for next year’s fashion show.