Nike talks MU “Beast Mode” uniforms

Posted on July 20, 2010

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The following was originally published on Nov. 25, 2009 at Examiner.com.

On Saturday versus rival Kansas, the Missouri Tigers will be decked out in Nike’s Pro Combat uniforms, designed to represent the very latest in cutting-edge football apparel technology, sophistication, and performance.

Yeah, big deal. We’ve all known this for weeks now.

But why Missouri?

In a press release disseminated earlier this month, Nike stated its criteria for selecting the limited number of programs that will have tested the innovative unis by month’s end, revealing that company designers “gave a nod to teams’ past national championships” and “drew upon the heritage of the universities’ traditions.”

Once again, why the Tigers? After all, not only has MU not won a national title, but we’re talking about a program that has won only two conference championships in the last half-century and has only recently begun to build a reputation as a consistent player on a national stage.

Apparently, Nike has its reasons.

“Nike believes Missouri is an up-and-coming program with a bright future — that’s why we created such a futuristic-looking uniform,” company spokesperson Cindy Hamilton said in a recent email interview. “We consider the school a great partner and we are honored to have Missouri as one of the 11 elite programs we are working with.”

Hamilton also spoke of the process through which Nike initiated talks with several members of the university and football program, including athletic director Mike Alden, director of equipment operations Don Barnes, and head coach Gary Pinkel.

During the discussions, which Hamilton said began last spring, Nike also consulted with other athletic department personnel and members of the Missouri team to receive input that ultimately influenced the overall scheme and aesthetics of the uniforms.

“Nike directed the process to fine-tune the innovations and technical aspects of the product, incorporating feedback from players to make adjustments as necessary,” Hamilton said. “In terms of the curation and design aspect, we worked very closely with coaches and players to receive their input.”

One the most crucial aspects of the design process, Hamilton added, was somehow incorporating colors symbolic of the B-2 stealth bomber, which is housed at Missouri’s Whiteman Air Force Base. In doing so, Nike and MU agreed upon temporarily diverting from the traditional look of the Tigers’ helmet.

Arguably the most radical of the uniform’s alterations, Missouri’s helmets on Saturday will feature the familiar “M,” only it will be emblazoned in black and accented by a color named anthracite (don’t you dare call it dark gray; you’ll sound like an idiot.)

Other than the helmet, the detail most tailored to fit the MU program is the phrase “Beast Mode,” which often appeared on the front of T-shirts worn by the coaching staff during preseason practices. It will appear on the inside collar of the jersey and on the front of Nike’s new Vapor Trail 2.0 glove, which also forms the MU logo when the palms come together.

Once the specifics had been completed, Nike and MU then collaborated to establish a date for the uniform’s debut. And it didn’t take long, as Hamilton said the decision to roll out the Pro Combat uniforms against Kansas was equally beneficial to both parties involved.

“Nike worked with the MU athletic and equipment staff to determine a date to debut the Pro Combat uniforms and arm the players with the lightest uniforms on the market today,” Hamilton said, also noting that the company’s innovative technology won’t sacrifice protection during the bitter rivalry game.

“Plus, Nike has a history of introducing innovations on a grand stage — from Michael Johnson’s lightweight gold track spikes at the Olympics to Roger Federer’s apparel at the U.S. Open — so it made sense to introduce this latest football uniform during an important, big moment for Missouri.”

For those of you cringing at the possibility of Missouri giving up on its current uniforms in favor of the Pro Combat series, don’t worry.

According to Hamilton, Nike will make available only the base layer (padded pants and sweat-wicking undershirt) to its affiliate schools in 2010. It will, however, continue to test-wear the uniforms with select universities as the technology evolves.

Below is a full gallery of Missouri’s “Beast Mode” uniforms from Nike. All photos courtesy of Nike.com:

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