19 March 2014

Renegade Style: Pushing the Fashion Limits

Who knew that there were renegades in sports fashion? Heck, who knew that there were strict attire rules against which renegades could buck? Sure, there's the whole deal around tennis whites, and then there's the glory of golf togs (and the rules regulating them at courses and clubs worldwide). Let's face it, though, tennis and golf are moneyed sports that didn't originate in the United States.

Redblooded American sports though? Baseball? Football? Basketball?

Yup. There are standards, apparently. Very strict ones, in some places. There's a long history of rule-making authorities and the athletic personalities that want to express their creativity with their garb. And we're not just talking about adding a ribbon or a patch to a jersey to honor someone or a cause.

We're talking about rules about whether or not a player can untuck his shirt.

Though all I wanted to do was turn off all electronics last night and go to bed, H talked me into watching ESPN's 30 for 30 Short, "Untucked," all of 14 minutes and 44 seconds long.

I might have rolled my eyes a bit (internally, I swear) when he suggested a post on it. To tuck or untuck a jersey? Really? Within seconds, though, I was pulled in.

The 1970s Marquette basketball team was a group of unwieldy trailblazers. As they tell the story, they essentially had nothing to lose. They were a group of relative misfits cobbled together by an unusual coach named Al McGuire, who grew up in a bar - and coached like it. Turns out that one of these misfits, Bo Ellis, recruited to play, told his coach that he wanted to study fashion design.

Marquette didn't have a fashion design program, so McGuire found a way for Ellis to be the first man studying at a nearby sister university. Then he laid the gauntlet down - unintentionally. He said his player could design new uniforms. He didn't think his offer was serious.

As the players recount, the next morning, and after sketch after sketch, a new uniform design was on the coach's desk. He just happened to also own part of a business that produced uniforms.

The groundbreaking kits came to life. Not only were they downright snazzy in their use of the school colors, but their player number and university name placement was practically irreverent. These weren't the uniforms of serious white boys lined up and tucked in neatly for team photos.

Pardon my last-year-in-the-ACC-yes-I'm-a-Terp prejudice, but it doesn't get much more straight laced than the Duke 1977 team. Image via

These were, one can only imagine, players in all senses of the word. They took their sport incredibly seriously, going on to win a national championship no one thought they could win.

Their discipline took them all the way to the very last seconds of the championship. And they won. Video via

Their irreverence and their coach's atypical style had folks thinking they were fly-by-night and undisciplined.

See? Players. Image via

Not so, it turns out. Turns out these players - this team - with their designed-to-be-untucked jerseys was one of the most disciplined groups of players out there.

Listening to the players and some fans talk about the time at Marquette, there was clearly a spirit of rebellion. There was clearly a sense of "we're different." There was clearly a sense of "let's do something no one else has done before."

It might have been an untucked jersey, but it was created like any other groundbreaking design on the fashion week runways: so that the wearer wants to - can't wait to - put it on, and so that, once on, the wearer feels better than they've ever felt before.

These jerseys were fashion.

I only wish I knew what else Bo Ellis designed.

For a little more on the history of "the untucked jersey" across college and professional sports:
here's a great piece by Paul Lukas over at ESPN

or check out the "Sportsartorialist" over here at Grantland (Scott Schumann, eat your heart out. There are pictures and writing.

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