At the end of a night of celebration, on the 14th floor of an event venue overlooking the city of Atlanta, Synjyn Days enumerated all the things he liked about his alma mater’s new football uniform.
Days, the former Yellow Jackets running back, liked the detail on the jersey numbers – stylized block numbers filled in with a pattern that’s supposed to evoke the body of a yellow jacket (the insect, not the mascot). He liked the stripes on the pants – an element that called back Tech uniforms of the past.
“I love the white helmet,” said Days, then a star of Tech’s 2014 Orange Bowl champion team and now a financial planner. “I love the stripe down the middle. It’s kind of subtle but kind of bold in the same instance.”
That was the reaction that Adidas, Tech’s new apparel provider and the designer of the uniform, and the athletic department might have hoped for Friday night. At this gathering, younger season-ticket holders, several members of that hallowed 2014 team, Tech officials and others gathered for the long-awaited unveiling of the Jackets’ new look and the athletic department’s continued efforts to approach the realm of cool.
The uniform design is not radically different from those designed by Russell Athletic, Tech’s previous apparel provider. It contains elements of many of the Jackets’ past uniforms, as it was supposed to do. But it also has stylish details that will appeal to a younger generation, notably recruits.
“What we didn’t want to do was abandon the tradition,” said Cam Collins, Adidas’ senior production manager for football apparel, who oversaw the design of the uniform. “We wanted to pay homage to it.”
Friday’s launch was the end of a year-long process to get coach Paul Johnson’s team a uniform that it could proudly call its own in time for the start of the 2018 season. It began with Tech staff sharing with Adidas what it wanted and didn’t want in a uniform. Adidas designers did their part by reviewing countless Tech uniforms from the past (including the jerseys that featured some honeycomb looks). They then put together a handful of concepts to present to athletic department staff, including Johnson. After feedback, the final design was reached by the end of last season.
“I like what we’ve done,” former Tech captain Joe Anoa’i said. “We’ve taken the new school and we’ve met in the middle of the old school.”
Athletic director Todd Stansbury was more succinct: “I think it’s awesome.”
Anoa’i attended Friday’s proceedings as the main attraction, befitting his status as a WWE star, better known as Roman Reigns. A surprise participant – he was hustled in through a service entrance so guests would not see him – Anoa’i ascended to the room’s stage to model the uniform, soaking in cheers as his WWE entrance music blared. Besides the look, he praised the uniform’s fit and comfort.
“Obviously, our team is going to look far better in this stuff,” he said. “But for a 33-year-old man to get into a 21-year-old’s uniform and be comfortable, I think it just speaks for the brand and what Adidas is doing and the technology behind the fabrics and the gear.”
It is Adidas’ new Primeknit A1 uniform, made with cutting-edge technology and intricate elements designed for comfort and fit. The uniform is seamless – “literally knitted out of yarns in a tube,” Collins said. “And it seems very tight, but it stretches and it’s super flexible, so it fits our players’ bodies like a glove.” The Primeknit A1 uniform will be worn by only 13 of Adidas’ schools this season.
Tech unveiled two uniforms, a white jersey with gold numbers and gold pants that will serve as the home uniform, and a road uniform made up of a white jersey with navy numbers and white pants.
The jerseys and pants include striping that on the collar, sleeve and hip that tapers into a point, an element meant to bring to mind a yellow jacket’s stinger. The same design is on the stripe down the center of the white helmet – a design that Tech staff produced. While worn by the mannequin sporting the road outfit, it will be up to the team how helmets and jerseys/pants match.
While some fans will undoubtedly beg to differ, the gold on the home jersey numbers and pants are supposed to match the gold that Tech selected as its official gold.
“You have a hard surface on the helmet vs. a knit structure, so it’s hard to get those to match one for one, but they complement,” Collins said.
Tech will have these uniforms for the next three seasons, Collins said. He also said that “we’re working on some things” for a third, alternate uniform, which might debut later this season or possibly not until 2019.
Collins will continue to oversee Tech’s football uniforms, which undoubtedly delights Stansbury. Collins played football at Oregon State 2007 to 2011, when Stansbury was executive associate AD at the school. Stansbury helped Collins land an internship during his playing career, sending him on a career path that ultimately brought the two back together again.
Across the event space Friday, other reunions were taking place. Several members of the 2014 team, including Freddie Burden, Tim Byerly, Deon Hill, Charles Perkins, Zach Laskey and Days caught up with one another. Anoa’i, a captain of the 2006 team, reveled in reconnecting with the team. As he makes use of the Tech weight room when in town, he has taken note of the investment in the team, notably the new $4.5 million locker-room renovation. And, now, uniforms that are at once high tech and traditional.
“If there was ever any doubt about Georgia Tech, I think that’s all gone now,” he said. “Now, we have everything to back it up now. It’s just about getting that on the field and putting W’s on the board.”