There’s something about a team uniform that feels sacred. As individuals, players represent themselves, their families, their homes, and their heritages. Putting on that uniform blends that, strips the individual away in favor of the team.
In football, it’s something that blends from head to toe. The football uniform is more than just a shirt/pant combination; helmets cloak a head in perhaps the most identifiable part of the team with a steady move right on down to a team’s socks.
At Boston College, that football identity has been largely untouched through the years. There have been minor changes, but the uniform by and large remained the same. The team wears a solid maroon shirt at home and a solid white shirt on the road.
There have been changes before, but the template was always kind of the same. Occasionally there were stripes on the sleeve (see also: Flutie era) or a gold collar (Ryan era). There have been logos on the sleeves, like when Foley had the old Eagle and when Herzlich had the sweeping head that felt a little bit like the Philadelphia Eagles logo.
There have been numbers along with the logo, and, most recently, just numbers. But the template for the standard uniform, for the most part, always remained the same - solid maroon and solid white.
All of that changed this week when Boston College revealed new football uniforms for the ‘16 season.
It’s a new take on the Boston College uniform, with horizontal strikes on the bottom of gold pants and fully gold arms - something that’ll be sleeves when people aren’t wearing the uniforms over pads. Inside the gold are maroon and white stripes with the stained glass motif the school developed and released in several forms over the past few years in varying degrees of success and failure.
This is not the first time BC’s altered their uniform with something that feels a little bit radical. Who can forget the uniform Matt Hasselbeck wore at The Heights, with the “BC” etched into the collar and sleeves? There’s also been one-off uniforms, such as the gold uniforms in 2013 (with stained glass numbers, for good measure) or the Wounded Warrior uniforms.
This one just feels a little bit different.
Over the past few years, teams scrapped the notion of tradition. While Oregon’s gotten as weird as humanly possible with their millions of combinations, so many different schools changed their uniforms. 80 of the 128 FBS teams last year made changes to their uniforms, not including the special editions unveiled throughout the season.
Without breaking things down too further, college uniforms, for the most part, don’t carry the same sacred feel that they used to. They’re more about change, about being edgy, and about merchandising. They’re about appealing to a younger demographic, one that changes almost as fast as last year was released.
For schools with more traditional uniforms, they’re not even prone anymore to keeping the same uniform week-in and week-out. Notre Dame, the place where the uniform was almost as sacred as the religious affiliation of the school, lost the traditional special feeling of the green jersey for the year-in and year-out revolving door in the Shamrock Series.
Stanford has worn all-blacks despite having no black in their logo or official school colors. Ohio State has done a special edition thanks to Nike Pro Combat. Alabama, who for the most part keeps the same look, isn’t immune either to the occasional one-off.
The BC uniforms obviously aren’t perfect, but they’re a change, one that comes at a good time when the program is looking to reinvent themselves. There are no names on the backs of the jersey, but that’s been a staple of Steve Addazio’s tenure dating back to his first year. It’s part of what he’s trying to build into the fabric of the program, so while fans or even some players might not have liked it, it’s his way as part of constructing BC football.
The helmets also appear to be untouched. Though we haven’t seen a picture, there’s nothing to suggest those will be different. For some, that’s a good thing. For others, it’s not.
Personally, I don’t hate the uniforms. For the longest time, I felt like changing the appearance of a jersey was sacrilege. I hated changing things up because I love the notion of tradition. When I was in high school and even into college, there was something about wearing the same jersey as the previous years that linked one to the other. The uniform, after all, represented what you were trying to become.
That’s all changed over the past few years. It’s something I personally had to come to grips with when I witnessed D2 and D3 schools change their logos, their colors, and their uniforms. It’s something I had to adjust to when high schools got as weird as humanly possible on their uniforms. Uniform designs will change, and one day, we’ll rotate back to nostalgic and traditional. For the time being, though, we’re moving forward. Even newly designed NFL teams buck tradition in some capacity.
In terms of changes, BC’s uniforms really aren’t that bad. The big collar, the gold sleeves, the stained glass - it’s the direction they’ve chosen to go. Honestly, as long as the team wins, it doesn’t matter what they wear in the end.