“I got a lot of problems with you people and now you’re gonna hear about it.”
Happy Festivus Uni Watchers!
With Christmas coming this Monday, today we have another guest entry from UW contributor/pal Kary Klismet, continuing with his “Dressed for the Season” series. “Dressed for the Season” is a series on uniforms appropriate for particular holidays. The series began with Easter, and moved on to Independence Day, then to Hallowe’en, and finally to Thanksgiving. Today we’ll move on to Christmas, and Kary has packed so much into this we’re going to break it into two parts! There’s a lot to get to, so I’ll turn it over to Kary right now. Enjoy!
by Kary Klismet
Season’s greetings, fellow uni-watchers! We’ve just about reached the end of the year and with it, the final installment of Dressed for the Season – at least for 2023.
As we prepare to celebrate Christmas – what is, for many people around the world, the biggest cultural holiday of the calendar year – I once again felt drawn to create a definitive ranking (well, definitive at least in my mind) of sports uniforms that visually celebrate the season. As with the previous editions of this series, let me give you a bit of insight into the process I used to evaluate and select the teams on this list.
Any list of Christmas-appropriate uniforms has to include a discussion of red and green – the two colors that are ubiquitous to this time of year. I’ve heard people say that red-and-green-clad teams “are wearing Christmas colors” like it’s a bad thing. I mean, Christmas is such a festive occasion for so many of us that why wouldn’t you want to remind people of that? Besides, it’s a truly lovely color combination – whether for the holidays or as a way to make your favorite sports team stand out from the crowd.
But this isn’t just a list of teams that wear red and green. Rather, it’s a ranking of teams whose aesthetic captures the essence of the season. That often translates to their color scheme, but in a few instances, some other aspect of the team’s identity might compel their inclusion, whether it’s a holiday-centric team name, mascot, or logo. Consistent with the rest of this series, I did my best to play by a set of rules when choosing the teams for the list. As always, I gave more weight to uniforms a team wore with some frequency as opposed to specialty or one-off “costumes.” Indeed, there have been so many cringe-worthy “Buddy the Elf” and Santa alternates in recent years that I simply didn’t consider any of them for inclusion. If a team didn’t look ready for the holidays in what it wore the rest of the year, they weren’t committed enough to Christmas for my purposes.
Another consideration that became more important for the selection process of this list than the previous ones was how to evaluate teams with uniform ads. As we get into the rankings, you’ll no doubt notice I’ve included teams from foreign countries. As much as we decry the creep of uni ads in North America’s major leagues (and I do decry it! #nouniads!), it’s an epidemic with no cure in sight in much of the rest of the world.
If I drew a hard line excluding all teams with uniform advertising, I would have cut out some of the teams that are best known for weathering red and green. That didn’t seem quite right. At the same time, some teams – like Rögle and Frölunda in Sweden’s top hockey league – have turned their uniforms into such circuses of corporate advertising that you barely even notice what their team colors are. I guess I could have included them in the rankings as commentary on the increasing commercialism of Christmas, but I feared going blind from having to look at those monstrosities one too many times while compiling the list.
Ultimately, I made my decisions about how to handle uniform ads on a team-by-team basis. The more ads a team slapped on their uniforms, the less room there was for the uniform’s holiday traits to shine through, and the less likely they were to make the cut.
I also carefully weighed how much the inclusion of other colors alongside red and green would affect a uniform’s eligibility for these rankings. Again, without a hard and fast rule, I generally downgraded teams who elevated other colors to equal or near-equal status with red and green – other than white, that is.
As a neutral color, a canvas for other design elements, and as a well-established Christmas color itself, white was a welcome addition to many – perhaps most – of these uniforms. Besides white, small amounts of other colors used as trim – particularly gold and black – usually weren’t enough to knock a team out of contention.
Once I dug into the research, I was rather surprised by just how many teams there are out there who wear green and red. I expected a respectable showing among European soccer teams, but that just scratched the surface. I also wound up leaving out several American teams. For every team that made the list, there was a high school team like Smoky Hill in Colorado or Lawrence North in Indiana that I would have loved to include if I didn’t have to make some tough cuts.
Even with my best efforts to winnow down the list, I still wound up with 25(!) entries. Let’s just treat it as a nod to Christmas falling on the 25th day of December.
With so many teams to get through, we’re going to present these rankings in two parts. Part I will focus on the teams ranked 25th through 16th, while Part II will cover the top 15. (As you’ll see below, one team in the lower part of the rankings required a lot of hand-holding to secure their spot, so we’re splitting the list more or less evenly by word count rather than numerical rankings.) If you don’t see your favorite green-and-red team in Part I, be sure to check back in tomorrow, because they just might show up in the next part of the rankings!
Buckle yourself into the sleigh, because we’re about to set off on a much longer flight than you’d normally expect for the entry bringing up the rear of these rankings. When I discovered during my research for this story that there was a high school in Clarkton, Missouri, that called its sports teams the Reindeer, I knew they were destined to make the list. You see, I love reindeer. (Except for that scene-stealing interloper, Rudolph, and his earworm of a song. But if that’s what it takes to promote reindeer awareness, I guess I’ll tolerate him and his misfit toys.)
What is it that I love so much about reindeer? A better question might be, “What’s not to love?” Quite simply, they’re one of the coolest members of the deer family. Natives to the northlands of three continents, they’re the only deer species to be successfully domesticated – and the only one in which the females have antlers. Reindeer are indispensable to the way of life of several cultures, including the Nordic countries, the Sami people of the northern Scandinavian Peninsula, the Inuit and Inupiat of North America, and the Evenki and other indigenous peoples of Siberia.
Reindeer have been an integral part of the Santa Claus legend since the early 18th century, popularized by a couple of different American poems depicting St. Nicholas delivering presents in a reindeer-drawn sleigh. But most importantly to me, they’re the namesake of my favorite coffee chain (caribou/reindeer: same diff).
I’m sure you understand, then, why I couldn’t wait to find the Clarkton Reindeer a place on this list. Heck, in my head, I’d already penciled them into my top three! All I needed was to find a photo of any of their sweet reindeer logos being featured prominently on one of their team’s uniforms, and we’d be all set!
Nevermind that the Reindeer wear purple as their main color, not red and green. I’d already come up with all the arguments about how purple has a well-established place in the Christmas tradition. There’s sugar plums and Advent candles, for example. And you can find almost any of the trappings of Christmas available in purple – from gift wrap, to garland, to Christmas cookies, to Christmas tree ornaments, to the trees themselves! Indeed, purple has been a part of the holidays at least as far back as 1965, when Charlie Brown first went shopping for the perfect tree in his attempt to find out what Christmas is all about.
So yes, I put some time and effort into laying the groundwork for Clarkton to charge their way to the front of the line. The only problem was they didn’t do much to help in return.
With such a unique team name and identity, you’d expect Clarkton to go all out in displaying their logo on their uniforms, right? Wrong! From the boys’ basketball team, to the volleyball team, to the cheerleading team, and even to the baseball team, it was like pulling teeth antlers to find even one example of the Reindeer putting, you know, a reindeer, front and center, on any of the uniforms they wore in competition. Instead, they were too busy poaching the Colorado Rockies’ logo.
But I kept on with my research and – wait! What was that, in those blurry shots of the basketball team in action? It’s almost impossible to make out from those distant images and bad angles. (It might help if someone tried zooming in and using their camera’s “action photography” setting.) But is that a reindeer logo on the back of their jerseys? Sure enough! It’s on the back of the volleyball jerseys, too! And there’s another one on the back of the baseball caps!
It turns out they use the logo on the basketball team’s pregame shooting shirts, as well. And the baseball team has worn it on the front of their caps for a couple of team photos (in these – once again! – very grainy and low-resolution images), although it doesn’t seem there are any photos of it in game action. (The baseball players are also wearing mismatched shades of purple between their belts and jerseys, but that’s a rabbit hole I don’t have time to go down today!) It’s almost as if they’ll pay a bit of lip service to the cervid side of themselves before the games and hidden away on the backs of their uniforms, but they’re afraid to embrace their full reindeer-ness by putting it on the front of their game garb.
The cumulative effect of these drips and drops of deer (deer droppings? That doesn’t sound right…) is that, while no one Clarkton team does enough by themselves, all of them together just barely get over the hump. In the past, I’ve always chosen only one team from a school or program that fields multiple sports teams, but because I love their name so much, I’m willing to make an exception. The entire Clarkton athletic department, warmup jerseys, tiny little back reindeer and all, have made the list. Not in the top three, but hanging onto the 25th spot by their fingernails (or hooves, as it were) after several generous extra credit assignments to help offset those low exam scores from earlier in the semester. (Not to mention some bending of the rules in their favor that some of the other students might complain about as favoritism.) I had such high hopes for the Reindeer, but without better photographic evidence than the shoddy record currently available, there was no justifying putting them higher.
Nevertheless, Dasher, Dancer, Prancer, and all the rest of Santa’s team were counting on me, doggone it, and I wasn’t about to let them down! So, you’re welcome, Reindeer! Now we should probably take a break from one another for the rest of the list before this relationship becomes any more codependent than it already is. And can someone in Clarkton maybe splurge for a halfway decent camera and a copy of Photography for Dummies?
Stanford may not wear green on their uniforms, but their overall visual program has a few advantages working in their favor: red and white can still be a very Christmas-y color combination in the right contexts. Think Santa Claus, or candy canes, or Elf on a Shelf. (Sorry! I hope I didn’t trigger anybody with that last example!)
And since the Cardinal started embellishing the simple block S they’ve worn on their helmets for much of their history with their evergreen tree logo (a nod to “El Palo Alto,” a 110-foot Coastal Redwood that’s a local landmark and prominently featured on the university seal), they’ve added the best facsimile of a Christmas tree to their uniforms that you’ll find on this list. It’s too bad they don’t use the version of the logo with a green tree on it, or they might have found themselves ranked even higher. Nevertheless, when the team uses the decals with a metallic sheen, you could almost pluck one of the helmets off a player’s head and add it to a (very big, sturdy) tree as an ornament – like El Palo Alto, I guess! Add in Stanford’s infamous tree mascot and its sideline antics, and you’ve basically got yourself a ready-made Christmas party at every Cardinal home game. I just hope someone smuggled in a flask of egg nog! (Ahem! Non-alcoholic, of course..)
If red and white, by themselves, work well as a Christmas color combination, are there examples of green and white being equally appropriate for the season? I’ll submit snow-flocked trees, mistletoe, and poinsettias with white petals as evidence in the affirmative.
The Evergreens football team for Northwood and Solon Springs High Schools in Wisconsin provides a green-and-white counterpoint to our red-and-white team above. Their helmet logo can stand trunk-to-trunk with Stanford’s and hold its own. And the Evergreens’ uniform colors confirm their commitment to a northern, forest-y theme. Standing in the middle of the Evergreens’ huddle seems like it might be just like walking through a forest of Christmas trees right after the season’s first snow.
I feel an obligation to include the Skyhawks on this list because they were, indirectly, the inspiration for this series. It was while reading Phil Hecken’s excellent recap earlier this spring of this largely forgotten team from the short-lived World League of American Football that I was inspired to compile a list of the best Christmas-themed uniforms, which quickly expanded to include other major American holidays, too.
Besides the debt of gratitude I owe them, what makes the Skyhawks a good fit for this list? Well, they were one of the few North American pro sports teams to pair red and green in their color scheme. And while some might think they deserve some coal in their stockings for adding black to the mix, they limited it enough that the red and green remain the stars of the show.
Even their helmet logo, an abstract nod to North Carolina’s aviation history, works for a holiday-themed uniform. If you tilt your head and squint, it kind of looks like a snow-streaked Christmas tree. They may have only lasted one season, but the Skyhawks’ uniforms are a gift that keeps on giving.
Technically, this team doesn’t exist (kind of like the mythical dragon on their shirts). Wales is part of England’s national cricket program, and Welsh players who are good enough usually suit up for the English National Cricket Team for international competition. The one exception came during a three-year stretch from 2002-04, when Wales fielded a team to take on England in a series of one-day cricket matches.
Wearing uniforms inspired by their national flag, Wales upset England in that first contest in 2002 – a result about as unexpected as a Christmas dragon. I guess there is such a thing as a Christmas miracle!
A rarity among American college sports programs with their red and green school colors, the uniforms worn by the runners and field athletes at Wash U stand out for their classic simplicity and the timeless logo on the front of the jersey. They sometimes pair the green tank tops with red shorts, but more often, they wear green shorts to create a mono look that nonetheless makes the red wordmark pop.
And while “Bears” may not be quite as on-the-nose as a holiday-ready nickname as “Reindeer,” it’s hard to argue with the seasonal vibes given off by a teddy bear just waiting to be discovered by a child on Christmas morning. (Although, come to think of it, that color-blocked teddy bear might be a better fit for the next team on our list…)
Red and green may be an uncommon color combination among sports teams in the United States, but it’s not unusual in several other corners of the world. Indeed, a number of soccer clubs (especially in Europe) wear “Christmas colors” all year round. One such team is Apartuarte, a lower-level regional team in the Basque Country of northern Spain.
The hallmark of Apartuarte’s look over the last several years has been a quartered jersey featuring alternating color blocks of red and green. It’s like a large-scale version of checkerboard wrapping paper. And their striped hose are some of the best lower legwear you’ll see on this list. That’s one pair of socks I wouldn’t be disappointed to get for Christmas!
Is there anything you can wear at Christmastime that’s more festive than big, bold stripes of green, red, and white? (Or hoops, as horizontal stripes are known on sports uniforms in much of the world.) Hutt Old Boys Marist, a rugby union football club in suburban Wellington, New Zealand, are the first of several teams in these rankings who convey the spirit of the season through stripes in Christmas colors.
HOBM (as their fans call them – and with all the time I’ve put into researching the club, I’d say we’re on an acronym basis) fields senior men’s and women’s sides among its several teams. They complement their holiday-ready hoops with sensational socks – at least for those players who bother to keep them pulled up. I guess I’ll let those hosiery infractions go since I like the rest of their uniforms so well. And it is Christmas, after all.
Even with a logo and mascot better suited for Easter, the South Sydney Rabbitohs – the most successful rugby league squad in Australia – can claim a spot at our Christmas table. Their traditional red and green horizontally striped jerseys might top even those worn by HOBM. They may add in some black with the red and green on occasion, but you’ll also see plenty of uniform combinations from them that include white or even green shorts.
It’s too bad they aren’t quite as invested in the head-to-toe red-and-green guise as they were in the ‘70s and early ‘80s. (I love how the socks and shirts have matching hoops!) But if I were Down Under on a sweltering summer Christmas Day, I can’t think of a better way to celebrate the season than catching a Rabbitohs match.
I’ve always liked the darker shades of red and green on the holiday palette. For me, they evoke a more refined aesthetic for Christmas decorating.
That’s one of the reasons I like Fluminense, a top-tier Brazilian soccer club (with both men’s and women’s departments) from Rio de Janeiro. Known as O Tricolor, they adopted garnet, forest green, and white as their team colors in 1904, two years after their founding.
Unsurprisingly, their uniforms looked best before the arrival of jersey ads, when those splendid vertical stripes could travel from the top of the shirts to the bottom without interruption. That design would make for a handsome ugly sweater. (Wait, is that an oxymoron?)