Not more than a stroke past midnight on July 1, 2019, in a not-so-cryptic message, UW Athletics dropped a simple “///” on social media signifying the beginning of a 10-year contract with German apparel giant adidas and joining “Three Stripe Life.” The message was clear to Nike: “Three stripes and you’re out”. No fond farewell, just a new beginning. A new partnership. And a home run.
While it seemed to be very “Oregon” of hardcore Washington Husky fans to worry about the new Adidas football uniforms, they certainly breathed a bit easier as pictures began to leak out late in the day on July 1st. Although the images weren’t high-resolution, they showed enough detail that satisfied most fans on social media.
For their first go-round of the 10-year contract, it appears that Adidas played it safe with the designs, yet they still managed to hit it out of the park. The difficult task facing Adidas was being true to Purple and Gold heritage, started by former Washington Head Coach, Don James in 1975, to satisfy the “traditionalists” and have just enough “drip” to make them pop for the kids.
On the Adidas “Primeknit” purple and gold combo Bill Swartz, the host of KOMO radio’s “Dawg House,” says that “it appears that Adidas has captured the winning uniform scheme of the Coach Don James era,” He also said that these are a bit sleeker, with a tighter fit around the waist.
The Drip, in the form of faint drops of rain inside the numbers, is a harkening to the 1984 Purple Reign Defense and Seattle’s notorious rainy season.
Mike Martinez, 39, of Tacoma, and a lifelong Husky fan, says that the switch to Adidas was an upgrade with an updated look. He called the new uniforms “traditional looking uniforms that are simple and neat with slick and interesting modern features.”
Todd Rolak, Sr. Design Director for Adidas U.S. Sports calls features, “subtle, yet premium details.” He said that the aim was to “connect the entire University of Washington community.”
With that goal in mind, Adidas collaborated with the Washington staff. In their “Calling All Huskies” pitch, Adidas asked for fan input and promised “an experience built for Huskies, fueled by creativity.”
For 38 year old Alex Bolton, who grew up listening to Bob Rondeau call Husky games 30 years ago in his home town of Spokane. A die-hard Husky fan, he decided to run a “very unscientific poll” aimed at other Husky enthusiasts on Twitter about their expectations for the new uniforms.
“The results of his survey are reflected in new uniforms,” Bolton said. “Everybody seems to love the purple and I say they got that right.” But he also thinks that the traditionalists aren’t as thrilled with the numbers and are the biggest point of contention. “Some are disappointed that they aren’t more traditional block numbers,” he said.
But traditional is a relative term. According to long-time James assistant, Skip Hall, the input from other influencers for switching from blue to purple was sought out by Coach James when he oversaw the conversion to the school colors of purple and gold in 1975.
“Coach James explained to the players the importance of wearing the school colors,” Hall says. “He told them, ‘That’s who we are.'” In finalizing the uniform design, Hall said that Coach James sought the input of the staff and captains.
The purple and gold combo became an instant hit with the players and fans…and a mere 44 years later the original purple and gold is now considered traditional and iconic.
Washington Head Coach, Chris Petersen understands the love for the uniforms but feels that on-field performance matters the most. “I think it matters how we play,” he said. “We can wear nothing (brands) and if we play really good (fans) are going to want to wear that nothing brand.”
Many former players, including Husky Hall of Famer, Walt Hunt, concurs. He said that it only really mattered how hard they hit the opponents, not how pretty they looked doing it. To his point, his game-worn Orange Bowl jersey is from a manufacturer that no longer exists. It’s simple white open-weave mesh that had his purple “45” ironed on. But they beat Barry Switzer’s #2 Oklahoma Sooners in the 1985 Orange Bowl. “That’s all that matters,” he said.
But it’s not just a Don James-era way of thinking. 2020 Washington football commits are cut from the same cloth. 247sports.com four star receiver, Jalen McMillian was approached on social media by an Oregon fan who told him that Oregon’s uniforms were better and he simply responded, “Gear and jerseys ain’t all of college bro.”
And that’s the sentiment that’s echoed by fellow UW commits: coaches and players win games not uniforms. “I didn’t commit to a uniform; I committed to the university,” says Washington commit, who is ranked by 247sports.com as the number 8 tight end prospect in the country, Mark Redman. He could have worn any uniform in the country but he chose Washington for a first-class education and to “get to play for the best coaches in the country.”
That said, there is a lot to love about the new adidas uniforms:
5 Things to Washington Husky fans Will Love About The New Adidas Uniforms
They Didn’t Screw It Up
A common theme, when speaking with those Husky fans who call themselves “traditionalists” all agree that the new uniforms are true to Don James-era. The “not screwing it” up rings true for former Husky, Kaleb McGary, who wasn’t a fan of the Purple Chrome helmets. “I didn’t go to Washington to be Oregon; I went to Washington to beat Oregon,” he said. But he also said that he didn’t mind the alternate jerseys for one game. “I guess I’m a traditionalist because I just like the ol’ Purple and Gold”.
The Iconic “Block W” Remains Prominent on the Chest
In the spring of 1975 Don James asked his equipment manager, Phil Bytheway, to redesign the “W” for the helmet. Little did Bytheway know that what he made in a few hours with his scissors, a can of white paint, and a couple of old W stickers that he had created what would become the symbol of the university. That “Block W” remains in the middle of the chest on the new uniforms.
All You’ll See is Purple
Not only did they not “screw it up” but many are calling them a home run with the new color of purple as it seems to be a deeper shade than that of the swoosh. Also, with the fan replica jerseys, there are different weave patterns called to where the purple seemingly changes colors depending on the lighting.
“The purple is gold,” joked 22 year old Port Townsend-native, Kaila Olin. She said that the new shade of purple may be enough for her to retire her Byron Murphy autographed “No.1” jersey.
Gold Piping, Gold Shoes, Gold Pants
Not only does the purple pop but the new features of gold piping around the numbers, the truer gold pants, but the new Gold Cleats will make Usain Bolt freak. In fact, the entire cleat collection is called “FREAK” by adidas
Raindrops On Numbers
“I don’t like the ‘purple rain’ on the numbers but I think the recruits will,” says 29 year old Grayson Bullinger.
Jesse Kolowitz, 21 of Ellensburg agrees. “I like the unique symbolism of the rain inside the numbers” he said. To the coffee drinking tail-gaters they may be able to use the drops as camouflage for any tail-gating mishaps.
“It’s such a beautiful color combination,” said 1991 Washington National Champion, Walter Bailey. He said that the new uniforms are sweet and he could easily see himself wearing them as he picked off another pass intended for a Heisman Trophy winner.
Q13 Fox’s Talkin’ Huskies host, and former Washington running back, Terry Hollimon, likes the old school purple and gold. His 1996 Holiday Bowl no-frills jersey is more to his liking: a purple jersey with a plain while “6” ironed on. “But I know we have to jazz it up from time to time for the new generation,” he said.
Jazz it up… not screw it up.