Column: Look good, play good

Style matters. In business, the fashion industry and, of course, sports. Many people dress up to go to the grocery store, so why shouldn’t athletes pretty up for the court or field?

Football, basketball and baseball fashion style is continuously evolving from sport to sport.

Go to any high school, college or professional game, each player stands out with what they are wearing. Sleeves, tape, gloves, sweatbands, tights and flashy shoes are prevalent in today’s sports world. And as the sports world changes, so must the equipment and it’s a welcomed change.

Football has come a long way since loose, long-sleeved jerseys and metal spikes. Arguably, football is the sport with the heaviest influence and transition on style. Go through the decades of helmet and uniform updates — it’s obvious.

Until the 1950s, players were wearing death-trap leather helmets. Logos only began to be painted on leather in the ‘40s. Helmets did not start to improve until the introduction of the padded, full-facemask Riddell brand in the 1970s. Now, helmets are safe and look slick. With hundreds of facemasks and several different visor shades, football players are spoiled when it comes to aesthetics.

Creator of Riddell, John Tate Riddell —  a top designer name for football equipment — initially set forth changes in football style. Riddell introduced gloves, mostly for cold weather and hand protection in 1939. Gloves would not replace taped hands in the football world until grip was introduced in the 1970s. Today, it is difficult to find any player on a football field without gloves, whether it is because they look cool or their function.

Robert Griffin III unknowingly created a new trend in the football world while playing at Baylor in 2010. Griffin began to wear one sleeve, usually an accessory reserved for basketball players, and it caught on. Now the single-sleeve has stuck, a trend since RG3 popularized it. It started with the quarterbacks, but eventually spread to every position on the field.

Nike, Under Armour and Adidas and are primarily responsible for creating stylish uniforms to go along with the accessories. Most uniforms — both college and professional — are created by these brands, and they have revolutionized sports clothing. Now, the competition is not only the game, but who looks better while playing.

These brands have given the fans something as well. Sure, sports apparel has always been for sale, but now the exact accessories the players wear in-game and on the sideline can be purchased by fans. This was not the case until Nike took over the duties of NFL apparel in 2012, forever allowing fans to match their favorite players.

In additions to the changes in football, the style seen in the basketball realm has evolved just as much.

The short-shorts, kneesocks and Converse sneakers are now trends of the past. Although the headband remains as one of the only sports apparel pieces to survive for almost the complete existence of the sport, basketball style has come a long way.

The old days when Isaiah Thomas, Gary Payton and Michael Jordan wore tight, mesh jerseys and thigh-high shorts are now gone. Trends replaced by a new kind of swagger popularized by late ‘90s stars such as Allen Iverson and Kobe Bryant.

Iverson was the first to wear a single-sleeve on the basketball court because of a problem with elbow bursitis in 2000. He said the sleeve improved circulation and protected his elbow, eventually other athletes with his problem began to wear the sleeve.

Smaller, elastic bands are seen prevalently on wrists of basketball players, often for the fashion or as a shout out to a person or company. Wristbands are not as popular as they were in the ‘70s and ‘80s, mostly because of the introduction of these elastic bands.

Uniforms became more loose and flashy throughout the ‘90s, possibly taking after popular hip-hop fashion trend.

Players later began to compete through another craze, the basketball shoe. Michael Jordan took the reins of the shoe bandwagon and was ultimately followed up by Kobe Bryant and LeBron James. Shoes are now the sought-after accessory for basketball fans — Nike obviously leading the charge.

Baseball’s uniforms have not evolved much, as many clubs attempt to keep a “classic look.” But some accessories are a somewhat a new feature in the sport. Take players such as Boston Red Sox star Pablo Sandoval or Los Angeles Dodgers’ right fielder Yasiel Puig. Both wear every accessory possible – gloves with taped wrists, bands with their numbers, double compression sleeves and a baseball undershirt. No one really needs that much — it is just a fashion statement.

There are definitely differences when relating uniforms of the past to present. Compare the Chicago White Sox of the 1976 season with today’s Arizona Diamondbacks. Arizona comprises the flashiness in baseball, with teal outlines around stitching and digital spotting spreading around the shoulders and ankles on the pants. Today’s uniforms, made by Majestic, are great, extremely comfortable but maybe a bit too expensive.

Any sports fan is a participant of sports fashion. Players wear accessories to make them feel better, or play better depending on the product, and fans support these players by donning their jerseys or team apparel. Fashion is a major part of today’s world, so why shouldn’t athletes play with style?

Colton Clark can be reached at arg-sports@uidaho.edu

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