“Back in Black,” that is. Anyone even remotely interested in Stanford football knows that the Cardinal–the team named after a shade of red–wore black uniforms on Saturday night against Wake Forest, a school that actually wears black as part of its traditional color scheme. Stanford wore black uniforms for the first time in school history, and to put it bluntly, they were hideous. Perhaps they could have worked with black helmets, but the nauseating clash of white, cardinal, and black made for a more or less disgusting aesthetic ensemble. We thought the unsuccessful flirtation with black had ended when Stanford football did away with black trim following the 2008 season. Apparently, team personnel needed to go back to black in a very obvious manner.
Mercifully, Stanford will not wear the black get-ups again this football season. Stanford sports journalist Dave Fowkes from Examiner.com reports that Cardinal head coach Jim Harbaugh does not plan to dress his team in black again until at least the non-conference portion of the 2011 football campaign. Unsurprisingly, the idea for the black uniforms came directly from Nike, a company that seems intent on destroying any and all uniform traditions, pageantry, and subtle elegance in college sports (and a company whose founder and chairman, Phil Knight, attended the Stanford Graduate School of Business). Harbaugh claims that Stanford did not receive any payments from Nike in exchange for using the alternate shirts, and the uniforms were supposedly not part of any “marketing campaign or a profit-driven thing.” Well, one thing is for sure: Nike has no interest in providing new uniforms just for the sake of new uniforms. The unorthodox look provoked thousands of eyes to glare at the black shirts throughout the game, and such attention helps Nike tremendously (the white Nike Swoosh pops better on black than it does on cardinal). Black replica jerseys are now sold at 2 campus locations, so there is certainly some profit being driven.
Nike could have gone crazier and made a total mockery of Stanford’s athletic tradition, so the black attire is not the end of the world. The black uniforms are not, as New York Post writer Phil Mushnick observed, a tribute to gang culture. They also are not nearly as bad as many of the redesigns that Nike gives to other schools in the interest in increasing revenue. As we mentioned in the first episode of The Daily Axe Podcast, Virginia Tech and Boise State each received hideous alternate uniforms from the Oregon-based sports clothing manufacturer, and Virginia Tech’s outfits featured the all-black approach. But regardless of what the Stanford players think of the black uniforms, Stanford fans should be thrilled that these history-subverting garments are heading back to Nike headquarters. Now the Cardinal are free to wear cardinal again.