The main thing we were taught as children was that perception is reality. Whether it was going to school, making healthy food choices (maybe), obeying our parents or selecting our own wardrobe, as children, we made our decisions based on how we viewed them. If there was one thing that individuals desired growing up, it was to own a pair of Jordan’s. Why Jordan’s? It’s a proven fact that everyone knows Michael Jordan as a basketball player. He brought life to the National Basketball Association and achieved everything from winning titles and being a consistent scoring champion to being a regular in every All-Star Game and being the NBA’s Most Valuable Player. To the average fan, the accolades on the court should’ve been enough to cement Jordan’s legacy, right? Of course, but for Michael Jordan he wanted his name to live on in something more than just stats and highlights.
In 1985, a movement was born. It was the first time that the thoughts of men, women and children were on the same page. When Nike and Michael Jordan released the new shoe brand, Air Jordan to the world, retail stores went mad. They stop at nothing to make sure that shelves across the globe were stocked with the iconic footwear and every individual on the planet risked going into debt just to make sure they got a piece of NBA history to wear on their feet. So what’s the point? The point is everyone loves Air Jordan’s; it doesn’t matter if it’s your mom, dad or even your grandmother. People love celebrities and nine times out of ten, if a celebrity is marketing a product, fans are going to buy it. Air Jordan’s have become the admiration of people, but an enemy of their wallets for three reasons: they are a constant reminder of the greatest NBA player in the world, they go great with any outfit that you wear and the designs of the shoes themselves are amazing.
We have reached the stage in life where everyone wants to look good. It doesn’t matter whether you are at work, home, eating, going out with friends or in P.E. playing dodgeball, everyone wants to look their best. With this being said, Michael Jordan produced the shoe that does it. In just 28 years since the first pair of Jordan’s were released to retail stores, more Jordan’s are being produced. Nike is even taking old Jordan’s and creating new ones from them. To make a long story short, I am reminded of two songs: “Watch my shoes” (Lil Boosie) and “Stepped on my J’s” (Nelly). What purpose do these songs serve in this piece? They serve the purpose of the attention that the shoes draw. When your product is able to make mainstream media and has other celebrities using it, you are going to draw ordinary people to want to buy it. It all goes back to setting the tone with how you look. Nobody wants their shoes to be scuffed up, stepped on or dirty because you are not only trying to appear fresh for yourself, but for people who may be watching.
I know Michael Jordan is amazing, but come on this is the SEC. The only thing that controls our minds 24/7 is college football. We have talked about how important appearance is to the everyday person where Jordan’s are concerned, but what about the athletes, who actually play the game? This brings me to the question can appearance really affect performance? Most high school and college coaches have caught on to the phrase known as “When you look good, you play good.” To a certain degree I can believe that because no one wants to play for program with sub-par uniforms. Young athletes want to play for team that has uniform swagger. In this case, they want to play for a program that has flashy, colorful uniforms that draw attention. One team that has set the trend of this fashion craze is the Oregon Ducks.
In the 20th Century, Oregon was no different from any other football team. The Ducks had a basic, traditional uniform. The uniform features a yellow helmet (with the “UO” emblem) and yellow pants, along with a green home jersey with gold letters or a white road jersey with green letters. In this time with traditional uniforms, Oregon won four conference titles (1919, 1933, 1948 and 1957). Not bad for a Pac-12 team with traditional uniforms, but in 1995 the Oregon Ducks were in for a fashion overhaul that would change the course of how they would look and play. Tinker Hatfield, an Oregon alumnus and Nike executive, went to work on designing new uniforms that would help his Alma mater become a force to be reckoned with. After helping Michael Jordan conquer the world with his brand, Hatfield turned to Oregon to provide his assistance.
In 1999, the uniforms for the Oregon Ducks went through drastic changes. Oregon went from traditional (bland) uniforms to rocking Nike-designed gear. The helmets were solid green and redesigned with the “O” emblem on the side as oppose to the “UO” emblem in the past and the jerseys were green, with lightning yellow letters revealed. Since ’99, Oregon has completely revised its uniform appearance and the flashiness has really attracted a lot of recruits. In 2006, Nike provided Oregon uniforms with 384 combinations. The special thing about these uniforms was that they were more technologically advanced than what other teams had. They were 28 percent lighter when dry and 34 percent lighter when wet. The jerseys not only looked good, but they were durable as well. In the 2012 BCS Rose Bowl Game, the Ducks added chrome to their jerseys. In the past few seasons, Oregon has come out with more fashion in their jerseys than the Kardashian’s have in their clothing. With the unorthodox styles that the Ducks have achieved, it is amazing that fashion police, Joan Rivers isn’t saying anything. Since this new found lease on swagger in 1995, Oregon has won six conference titles (1994, 2000, 2001, 2009, 2010 and 2011). The flashy uniforms may attract players and win your conference, but for Oregon it has failed them in the postseason. The swag from their clothing has netted them a terrible 11-15 postseason record.
The West Virginia Mountaineers, outside of the spread offense and the mascot with a raccoons cap on, seem like a common team. In the 80s, there uniforms were straight forward, nothing flashy at all. They had just dark blue (home) jerseys and white (road) jerseys. The pants were gold and the helmet was blue with a “WV” logo on both sides. In 2012, West Virginia added a gray uniform to the rotation and in 2013 they created new uniforms with 27 different combinations. The Mountaineers received a generous offer from Nike in 2010, when they sported the new Nike Pro Combat uniforms against the Pittsburgh Panthers. With their uniforms, West Virginia has won seven Big East titles (1993, 2003, 2004, 2005, 2007, 2010 and 2011). Like Oregon, the uniforms got WVU the players and conference titles, but in the postseason the Mountaineers were 14-18.
Style is great, fashion is cool, but it’s only part of the job. For a team to be successful, they need to have a great coaching as well as players that are devoted to winning. In college football, there are teams who don’t have the flashiest of clothing, but they have great players and coaches. For example, Alabama is crimson, black and white and they shall remain that way for as long as time will allow. Though they may not have the uniform swag, their swag is in the trophy cases. Alabama has won 15 national titles and 23 conference titles. This speaks to the testament that it is a three part deal: you have to look good, play well and having great coaching if you are going to be successful.
With the fashion world continuing to evolve, people still ask themselves does appearance affect performance. My answer to this question is no because it doesn’t matter how well you look on the field, NFL teams are not going to draft you by how well you look. They will draft you on how well you play. Teams that win national championships don’t win with how they look; they win by fighting each day on the gridiron.