A close-up look at the alternate uniforms that Georgia Tech will wear Saturday, October 5, 2019, against North Carolina. (Georgia Tech Athletics)

How Georgia Tech’s alternate uniform for Saturday’s game came together

As has often been the case in coach Geoff Collins’ 10-month tenure, Georgia Tech will try something new Saturday. For their home game against North Carolina, the Yellow Jackets will be dressed in all-gray uniforms, in what is believed to be a first. As they take Grant Field, Tech’s four game captains will have gold superhero capes draped over their shoulders in what most definitely will be a first.

In an unlikely triangulation of objectives, Tech’s alternate uniforms will pay homage to team history, honor some of Atlanta’s bravest children and take a plunge into the river of swag. It will be the team’s most boundary-pushing ensemble since Tech’s partnership with Adidas began in July 2018.

“I think it’s pretty cool,” cornerback Zamari Walton said. “Coach Collins is bringing the swag to Georgia Tech.”

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Some may find it a trivial distraction with regrettable timing, as a look-at-me moment may not befit a team ranked last in FBS in scoring. To others, the onyx-gray duds, spangled with metallic gold hexagons on the sleeves and pants, are a boost for recruiting, a treat for players and an affirmation of the young patients at Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta. Tech’s alternate uniform is one of four designed by Adidas for this season that honors causes championed by the schools.

“Looking good is great, but the cause and meaning behind what we’re wearing, I think, is the most special,” Collins said.

Tech and Adidas began the process in 2017, a year before their partnership became official. Adidas wanted to do something different with its 2019 alternate uniforms and asked its partner schools if there were a cause that they wanted to honor. Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta was the first idea that came to mind, said Brad Malone, Tech’s director of brand and ideation. 

“That was one of the things that we thought would be a no-brainer that our fan base and the city of Atlanta would rally behind,” Malone said.

The athletic department and the healthcare system have shared a long relationship. From 1933-93, the Tech and Georgia junior varsity or freshman teams played on Thanksgiving in a fundraiser for Scottish Rite Hospital, which later became part of Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta. Tech and Georgia’s baseball teams have annually played in games at Turner Field and now SunTrust Park to benefit CHOA. Tech athletes routinely visit young patients at Children’s hospitals as part of community service.

Together, Tech and Children’s landed on the idea of making the alternate uniform part of Cape Day, a tradition begun in 2014 to celebrate CHOA patients as superheroes as they battle illness and injury. A close look at the back of the uniform above the name plate will reveal the logo for Cape Day, which this year is celebrated Friday in conjunction with Saturday’s game.

Beyond that, Adidas designers wanted to give the uniform a superhero look, studying superhero costumes as inspiration. The uniforms are solid onyx gray, including the socks, with gold cleats. The distinctive features are the gold hexagons on the sleeve caps, the sides of the pant legs and the jersey numbers.

The shape was no accident, as it is supposed to evoke the hexagonal cells of yellow jacket nests.

“But also the reason for putting it on the uniform is this idea of community and this hive mentality of working together as a community for the greater good,” said Cam Collins, the director of football at Adidas.

As for the color, gray was a logical choice for a color that wasn’t gold, navy or white, Tech school colors.

“We weren’t going to go with any neons or anything like that that would raise eyebrows,” Malone said.

And, it perhaps goes without saying, while red is a common color for superhero outfits, Tech officials made clear to Cam Collins that it would have no place in the uniform. Gray also connected to the Jackets’ football past, as Tech coaching great William Alexander called his scout team the “Grey Devils.” A September 1930 article in the Atlanta Constitution described the Grey Devils as “that gallant unit that serves through the football season as sparring partner for the Yellow Jacket varsity.”

Georgia Tech's Grey Devil squad from 1929. (Georgia Tech)

When Adidas offered up the design last year, Tech officials who were part of the project, including deputy athletic director Mark Rountree and assistant AD Simit Shah, were ecstatic.

“It’s relatively simple, but I think the features that are on it really make it pop,” Malone said.

Saturday will be the only game that Tech will wear this alternate look. Cam Collins said he wasn’t sure if the Jackets will have an alternate uniform in 2020.

“There’s a few things that we’re considering, and a few ideas, but we haven’t confirmed whether we will or not,” he said.

Proceeds from sales of Cape Day replica jerseys, hats and capes will benefit CHOA. The athletic department will also auction game-worn jerseys as a fundraiser. The team was to make a visit to Egleston Hospital on Friday to hand out capes to patients. Players will wear their own capes, handmade by Adidas staff, down Yellow Jacket Alley before the game.

“The Georgia Tech players are heroes to many of our patients,” Children’s CEO Donna Hyland said in a statement. “Giving kids the chance to see themselves reflected in the game is a very special moment.”

If the uniforms can help the Jackets get into the end zone a few times, all the better.

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