College Uniforms Matter. Consider This When Designing Your Next Sports Uniform

We’ve come a long way. Consider typical female basketball uniforms from 1950:

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Compared to those of today:

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The same evolutions are typical of all major sports. Over time, as cultural and societal mores have changed, as sports have demanded greater flexibility of movement, and as newer fabrics have been developed, sports uniform styles have changed. 

But the evolution is not over, nor will it ever be.

Each year, as the Summer and Winter Olympics occur, new uniform styles are displayed, giving uniform designers and sports teams new ideas, even if they are somewhat controversial. (e.g., the U.S. snowboard team in distressed jeans).

So, as college sports teams consider new uniform ideas, they want to think in terms of what will set them apart from other teams. Here are some factors that should be considered in new college sports uniforms.


Many uniforms in the Winter Games sported aspects of their countries’ flags. At the college level, consider using aspects of the seal or other symbols of the institution. Uniforms already sport the colors and mascots, but other elements that identify a college could be incorporated too. 

One design feature that will certainly be unique would be using embroidered rather than screen printed elements on uniforms. 


Once upon a time, it was thought that loose-fitting clothing was best for most athletes because it allowed more freedom of movement. American football was one exception because of the padding that was required for safety purposes. Another was clothing for equestrians because they could not risk getting it caught in any of the tack apparatuses. 

Opinions changed over the years. Spandex became a popular fabric because it reduced sweating, and it was tight-fitting. Gymnasts and swimmers hopped on board this fabric.

Today, there is compression clothing, comprised of elastin and nylon. Compression garments first came to be in use for medical purposes, for those who were on their feet a day or who have poor circulation. It has been specifically targeted to prevent vein thrombosis and swelling. 

Now we know that compression clothing has significant benefits for athletes too. It allows for the holding of muscles in place and aids blood flow to those muscles. It has been widely used in martial arts, by skiers, and even cricketers. And swimmers use it to keep warm during early morning practices. And because such clothing is sonic-welded rather than sewn together, it does not stretch out and loses its shape. Look for compression clothing to be more in use over the next year, even if it goes under those looser shorts that at least men’s basketball teams tend to wear.

Compression socks will probably also be in wider use.

Matching Design with the Sport’s Culture

Sport “cultures” do evolve. Think about past Wimbledon outfits – everyone was dressed in white – in conservative short shorts and collared shirts. Watch any of the major tournaments today, and you will see a massive shift. Almost anything goes – from long baggy shorts and T-shirts to a lot of colors. Even spectators have adopted this new culture. They no longer dress in their conservative finery to attend a tournament – their dress is more casual too.

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Every sport has a “culture.” English equestrian events, for example, are still “conservative” and more formal, both on the part of contestants and audiences. So, for that matter, is the American Kentucky Derby. But both American and European football has become far more casual, and uniforms will continue to reflect that more relaxed culture. Soccer is another more casual sport, and uniforms for college teams can now be bold in colors and designs.

Hoodies and Warm-Up Jackets

From gymnastics to swimming to basketball and volleyball, college uniforms have added the hoodie or warm-up jacket to their basic uniform dress. This trend shows no sign of decline as we head into 2019. Team/college colors, players’ names/numbers, and even mascot emblems will don these items.

Keeping it Clean and Simple

There is a trend toward simplicity in uniform styles that seems to be catching on for college uniforms. Even the NFL is looking toward toning it down. The one exception appears to be socks and shoes for NBA players. If uniforms trend toward more classic styles, however, they will have “staying power” with designs that last for years.

The other trend that will continue will be the durability of materials through the selection of fabrics and materials that are wrinkle-free and easy to clean. Keeping a team looking great in their uniforms is great for both morale and appearance.

Customized Fits

This has long been a practice of professional athletic teams, and it will continue to move to college campuses as well. Having each player fitted for a custom uniform makes them feel better in their uniforms. When they feel better, they perform better.

Times are Changing

College life is changing. When students attend class these days, they were whatever they want. Many see this as a form of self-expression. So when it comes to participating on an athletic team, students want to look good and feel good. That said, they want their uniforms to match both their physical needs and the latest design trends. Athletic departments should embrace these new trends for uniforms to meet the needs of both athletes and the culture of the sport.

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