On Feb. 28, Adidas announced the new “camo” uniforms KU would be wearing this postseason along with six other teams, and KU alumni and fans immediately took to Twitter to air their feelings. For a tradition-rich program like Kansas, change doesn’t come easy. History shows that KU uniforms favor a classic look that’s always in season. And while men’s basketball uniforms have evolved over time—with shorts getting longer and tops ever tighter—KU has avoided the gimmicky trends lesser teams try (we could highlight Baylor as an example). Yet every now and then, the Jayhawks have debuted some short-lived looks that are worth remembering. Cue the runway music.
1983-84 Crimson and (Navy) Blue
Most fans know that KU basketball teams wore predominantly crimson before the traditional blue became more popular in the 1960’s. In the early 1980’s, however, KU wore dark navy blue uniforms, similar to Team USA Basketball colors worn at the Olympics that decade. The look didn’t last long, as Coach Larry Brown brought back royal blue jerseys just in time for a KU basketball resurgence.
1985-86 Red Scare
With Danny Manning on board in 1986, the Jayhawks looked better than ever, fielding what many fans consider one of the best KU teams in history. A trip to the Final Four in Dallas was made even more memorable when KU chose to go “old school” by bringing back crimson jerseys. The look was jarring to fans, and perhaps to the Jayhawks, who lost to Duke in a heartbreaker. The red jerseys remained unpopular with superstitious fans until “alternate” jerseys became a trend in 2003.
1987-88 Solid Gold
For one game in KU history—and only one—the Jayhawks took the court in yellow uniforms. Yellow, of course, is the color of the Jayhawk’s beak, so it seemed only fitting, right? Well, the game was a victory for Coach Larry Brown, but the look was a loss, with angry alumni and fans crying foul over the uniforms that many thought resembled something arch-rival Missouri might wear. Brown got the message, and the togs were retired permanently. And the “gold game” opponent became the answer to a favorite trivia question among fans (A: Western Carolina).
1989 Kansas University
For Coach Roy Williams’ first season, the Jayhawks took to the court with a new look that ruffled a few feathers. Reminiscent of North Carolina’s double-arching type surrounding the numbers, KU donned jerseys that read “Kansas University” for the first (and only) time. Probation meant KU was unable to defend its national title in the NCAA tournament, so the season—and the jersey—was quickly forgotten. But at least one iconic image endures. Who remembers the shot of senior Milt Newton dunking a gift-wrapped ball for the BMA Holiday Classic poster?
1996 Font Circus
A new Nike contract brought a new, stylized font that was well received by fans. Called “Circus” by those in the know, the typeface came to symbolize Kansas basketball during an era that featured stars like Paul and Raef, Kirk and Nick, and Drew and Wayne. When KU leaders established new visual identity standards for KU logos, colors and type in 2005, featuring a new jersey font called “Trajan,” a vocal minority pushed to preserve the circus font, wearing decidedly anti-Trajan t-shirts.
2008 Back to the Future
With KANSAS emblazoned on their chests in brand new “Trajan” type, the Jayhawks won their fifth NCAA National Championship in 2008. Mario’s miracle ensured the new look would be cherished by KU fans for years to come, and uniform outfitter Adidas got the message loud and clear, keeping the uniform scheme relatively consistent with few changes over the years that followed. At least until this season. The all-blue uniforms worn by KU against West Virginia definitely got the attention of fans and color commentators.
Given KU’s tendency toward traditional uniforms, don’t expect the new Adidas “camo” uniforms to, well, blend in.