[Editor’s Note: Paul is on vacation this week, but today we have a guest entry from Kristina Cruz, who’s going to fill us in on some very interesting aspects of marching band uniforms.]
By Kristina Cruz
College football games often feature marching bands. But while football uniforms have evolved a great deal over the years, from wool jerseys and leather helmets to high-tech performance fabrics and armor-like headgear, most marching band uniforms are largely unchanged. I’ve never been a part of a marching band myself, but I love uniform aesthetics, so I decided to learn more about marching band uniforms.
The marching band originated with traveling musicians who performed together at festivals and celebrations throughout the ancient world. It evolved and became more structured within the military, from which the modern marching band emerged. Over time though, musicians became less important in directing the movement of troops on the battlefield and the bands took on more ceremonial roles. In the 17th and 18th centuries, military uniforms incorporated French influences by adopting elaborate trim, hats, and buttons. During the Civil War, military musicians wore baby blue and purple uniforms. It became too expensive to outfit the entire military in these brightly colored uniforms, so they were reserved for the musicians. The color provided the added bonus of making the musicians recognizable to the enemy and therefore less likely to be shot.
Many universities had marching bands before the 20th century. It is believed that the first halftime show by a marching band during a football game was performed by the University of Illinois Marching Illini in 1907 in a game against the University of Chicago. But more than a century later, marching band uniforms still feature many military-based flourishes. For example, the uniforms usually feature very distinctive headwear — often either shakos (as worn here by Oregon State) or pith helmets with feather plumes (as worn here by Evangel University). This ornamentation comes from old military militia members, whose hats would be topped off with a sprig from a local plant or a feather from a local bird, to show loyalty to the land they were protecting. This tradition is the basis of the modern marching band plume.
Many bands keep their headwear mounted on their heads with “chinstraps” — which actually go under or around the mouth, not the chin. This was my biggest question in researching marching band uniforms for this article. Why would someone choose to wear a strap over his mouth?
The closest I was able to find to an explanation was a quote from the movie To Hell and Back, a biopic about Audie Murphy (the most decorated American G.I. in World War II). At one point Murphy was told to undo the strap of his helmet to stop the explosion blasts from tearing off his helmet — and his head with it. Apparently some soldiers were killed by concussion due to a buckled chinstrap resulting in the development of a chinstrap release that would allow the strap to unhook under a pressure greater than 15 pounds. Also, an attacking enemy soldier could, theoretically, grab you by your headdress, yank your head back, and slit your throat. I don’t know of any such threats among marching band members, so I assume the mouth strap just a vestige of that tradition.
Drum majors typically wear different uniforms than the rest of the marching band, to better distinguish themselves from the rest of the musicians. This too is military-related: It reflects a heritage that dates back to the Middle Ages, when enlisted men would wear standard-issue overcoats but officers would purchase their own uniforms.
Some other notes and observations:
• Ivy League marching band members often wear a jacket and tie when performing.
• Southern Methodist University marching band members wear a different combination of jackets, vests, ties, shirts, and pants for each half of each game, with no uniform combinations repeated during the marching season.
• The marching bands for Texas and Texas Tech incorporate elements of the Lone Star State’s cowboy heritage, although Texas looks to me like they belong onstage at Hee Haw. [As an aside, that zigzag piping on the Texas pants is called rickrack. One of my favorite uni-related terms. ”” PL]
So which band uniforms do I like best aside from Oregon? Here are my favorites:
1. Defiance College. Obviously I do not share Paul’s hatred of purple. And if you’re going to do a plume, do it big.
2. Notre Dame Irish Guard. I can’t stand most things Notre Dame generally, but these lads look dapper.
3. University of Houston. Note the gradient blue on the front.
4. Army. No BFBS here. Just a clean, dark look.
5. Delaware. University of Delaware. Again, go plume or go home.
Who else is into marching band uniforms? I would love to hear comments and feedback from others on this topic.
‘skins Watch: Why are Goshen High School’s athletic teams still called the “Redskins”? According to this article, sent in by Terry Mark, “The overriding answer is community insensitivity ”“ people either don’t know or don’t care that the nickname is offensive.” … “It’s fairly common knowledge among those of us who follow Peter King and his Monday Morning Quarterback site that he does not use the ‘Redskins’ name any longer,” writes Nick Vendetti. “I noticed (Mon)day, however, that he also replaced their logo with a generic football graphic on the dropdown team menu on his site. Interesting choice, considering he could have used the arrowhead logo or script ‘R’. Seems like he went generic to make a statement.” … Obviously, not everyone is in favor of changing the name. Matthew McConaughey hopes they never do. In fact, he says, “We were all fine with it since the 1930s.” Also interesting in that article are his thoughts on gun control and how be became a fan of the team (despite growing up in Texas) because he “rooted for the Indians” in old Westerns and the team had a linebacker named Chris Hanburger (he also likes hamburgers, so…there you go). … “Now the Minneapolis City Council looking at trying to ban the use of the Redskin name and/or logo when the team plays the Vikings in Minneapolis on November 2nd,” writes Patrick O’Neill. “Such an action would necessarily have 1st Amendment implications.”
Uni Watch News Ticker
Today’s ticker was compiled by Mike Chamernik
Baseball News: At the end of Game 2 of the World Series, the Royals sent out a guy in a full KC throwback uni to hang up a “W” in front of the crowd (from Jamie Burditt). … The new West Virginia-based New York-Penn League team will be known as the Black Bears (from Brice Wallace). … The Revenue Cutter Service, a predecessor to the modern day Coast Guard, wore uniforms with the wishbone C in the 1920s (thanks, Lieutenant R. Caleb James). … Zach Hoover works for a member of the Pennsylvania State Senate. Last month the legislature held its second annual All-Star Softball Game and Zach designed the jerseys. “Since the two teams are (loosely) made up of Senators and House members from the Western and Eastern parts of the state respectively, I decided to go with a Pittsburgh Pirates-themed jersey for the West and a Philadelphia Phillies-themed jersey for the East. I named the teams after the competing, colloquial terms that refer to “You”-Plural in Pennsylvania: ‘Yinz’ for the West and ‘You’se’ for the East. I also created a basic jersey for the announcers, who were all legislative staffers. While I would obviously have loved to work with colors used by the Bucs and Phils, the ‘awareness color’ for eradicating hunger is orange and thus the jerseys had to be orange. However, with the help of a longtime friend in graphic design, I think we came up with something that worked. I’ll note that I didn’t work on the caps – that’s my plan for next year.”
NFL News: Emmanuel Sanders was identified as Julius Thomas during the CBS telecast last night (from Terry O’Donohue). … The band One Direction promoted its American tour by wearing various NFL jerseys (from Phil). … Andy Henderson was watching an episode of Finding Giants and one scout held his phone upside-down while talking with a potential free agent. … I have no idea what the story is behind this customized Broncos jersey.
College Football News: Urban Meyer was asked about Ohio State wearing black jerseys and he provided possibly the greatest example of coach-speak (from Michael McLaughlin). … Colorado will wear a helmet decal for David Quessenberry, who is battling cancer. … Marshall is encouraging fans to wear green on Sunday, and the school is calling this a Greenhouse Effect (from Brice Wallace). … Boise State is going gray, blue and pink tonight (from Phil). … Gold chrome helmets and purple jerseys and pants are on tap for Washington on Saturday (from Phil). … Arizona State is going gold/white/maroon on Saturday (from Phil). … East Carolina wore all-black last night and even painted its center logo black (from Phil). … Here’s a look at the Gray Ghost unis Illinois will wear Saturday (Phil again). … Cal will be going with gold tops vs. Oregon tonight.
Hockey News: The 1994 Lockout saved the Penguins from debuting some seriously outlandish unis (thanks, Tony Caliguiri). … Red Wings goalie Jimmy Howard has a new breast cancer awareness mask (from Phil). … Pavel Datsyuk still has the old Red Wings wordmark on his helmet (from Phil).
Grab Bag: Alabama unveiled the state’s bicentennial logo. … Everton played without a sponsor yesterday (from Phil). … The Knicks tweaked their orange alternate jerseys. … Grantland made an interactive animation about celebrity NBA Fans. … Three Rivers Stadium’s website is still active!
And that’s all for today — Paul will return on Monday, and I’ll be back tomorrow with the usual Saturday fare. Everyone have a good day and a better weekend. — Phil
“[T]hat play cemented every Twins fan’s affection for Hrbek. I figure it was his way of working through his rage at all the Gold Gloves Don freakin’ Mattingly won with his bat that Hrbek should have been awarded for his glove, if anyone in the 1980s baseball press had bothered to notice that there were teams that play home games outside of New York.”
–R. Scott Rogers