Kit Man 3000
Suits, Uniforms, and Technology…not your old man’s Equipment Manager
“It’s gotta be the shoes”
Sure, for anybody that grew up in the 90s, believing that a pair of Nike’s could make you jump higher, or that air bubble was going to add leaps and bounds to your vertical leap was commonplace…but we all grew up.
The recently concluded Winter Olympics had an interesting story develop (outside of #SochiProblems) Under Armour was Under Attack by the US speedskating team.
This was supposed to be “the fastest speedskating suit in the world” but due to disappointing results, the US team asked permission to revert to an older Under Armour suit that they used during the fall season. It’s important to note that the US speedskating team was split on the decision and not everybody on Team USA believed the suits were to blame for the underwhelming performances; which echoed a lot of the public sentiment — was Under Armour being used as a convenient scapegoat? Weren’t we already duped by the marketing campaigns in the 90s? Performance Enhancing Drugs — Yes, credible, legit — we’ve seen McGwire/Sosa, Lance Armstrong, Ben Johnson, Marion Jones, etc, but Performance Enhancing Equipment? Gimmick right? Can a piece of clothing really help out your athletic performance?
Beijing 2008 might be the definitive answer, we witnessed world records getting shattered at an alarming pace. The LZR Racer might be the HGH of sports equipment, the piece of technological clothing that directly contributed to “artificially inflated” numbers.
The debates on whether the records should be asterisked, or whether the suits should be allowed, is a different argument — what we DO KNOW is that equipment matters, what we don’t know is in which sports are they more of a factor than others and how much can they evolve? In Sochi, was the Under Armour excuse valid or are they not as much a factor in speedskating as they are in swimming and is the difference between the fall version and the winter olympic edition Under Armour suit that much to affect the athletes performance? Again, this is something that will eventually be delved into further, but we do have precedent for equipment playing a MAJOR PART in athletes’ performances.
Pivoting to the NBA, its a completely different situation — instead of the uniforms evolving to complement the player, some of the new uniforms being introduced restrict the players natural movement and comfort levels; its a marketing move rather than a competitive/sporting one. It is a somewhat drastic move, the NBA needs jersey sales and they always banked on player trades, throwbacks, number changes, rookies, etc. to get their vast target audience to buy more and more jerseys. But the Air Jordan generation is in their 30s and 40s, and the younger generation are fatigued by the constant gimmicks of throwback/holiday jerseys and they are following an NBA that doesn’t dress like they do, due to the dress code ushered in during the latter years of the Stern era. There’s no longer an Iverson character that can relate with the youth — LeBron, Carmelo, and Wade are in suits. The only thing the youth can emulate as far as style is the Beats headphones. Did the NBA think that the change to sleeves would curtail the trend of their precious demo not wearing jerseys anymore?
And I don’t wear jerseys, i’m 30-plus Give me a crisp pair of jeans, nigga, button-up What More Can I Say - Jay-Z
Suits and Uniforms are changing for drastically different reasons across the different leagues and sports…we might even see the NBA adopt the European Football model and have sponsors featured prominently on the jersey, yet another reason for the evolution shift in sports attire, not for competitive advantage or style but for the old fashioned reason — $.