The reaction was decidedly mixed, with most airing on the side of negativity. Yet Under Armour has maintained at least some measure of normalcy with most of its team uniforms.
So when Northwestern revealed its Under Armour threads nearly two weeks ago at Big Ten media days, the shock factor didn't come close to matching the uproar over the Terrapins' "Pride" uniforms.
There were changes, some more noteworthy than others. Under Armour focused its design on "reclaiming the stripe", a tribute to NU's dramatic uniform change in 1909 when it became one of the first teams to implement a striped uniform pattern.
Taking that tradition and incorporating it into cutting-edge material, the new uniforms provide a more modern look while using tradition as its principal stylized aesthetic. Unlike UM's polarizing game day attire, the feedback on NU's sleek new look has been overwhelmingly positive.
In a recruiting world where prospects are swayed by uniform color, brand and overall attractiveness, it stands to reason that NU's new kits will play over well with coveted high school players. The early returns are decidedly positive.
"I love them, they're awesome," said Allen (TX) OG Brad North, who on June 8 became the fourth verbal commit of NU's 2013 class. "A little throw back mixed with a new taste."
Much of the talk about the new uniforms centered on the stripe. While most appreciated the horizontal streak for its historical significance, there was some backlash in response to the old-school sartorial flair. North, however, is a fan of the traditional flavor.
"I really like the stripe," he said. "It goes back to the tradition. Its something that nobody else has."
The biggest debate in the wake of the jersey reveal involved a simple question: home or away? The home uniforms feature a purple base with black stripe and black pants while the away version is almost entirely white, save for chest-level purple stripe. Outside of color scheme, the two kits are basically the same, but there seems to be an overriding preference for the purple-oriented home garb. Purple is, after all, NU's trademark color, shared only by a few other FBS programs.
"It's close but I definitely like the purple with the black," said Brett Walsh, an outside linebacker from Monrovia (CA) who in late July gave his verbal commitment. "It reminds me more of Northwestern."
Said Warren Long, a 2013 RB pledge from Union City (CA), "The purple and black is a better look, in my opinion."
Just last week, while watching a replay on the Big Ten Network of the Wildcats game against Indiana last season, Long looked on in distaste at NU's old uniforms. He made a mental note of their antiquated quality. Long acknowledged that the uniform change didn't impact his decision to commit to NU, but he welcomes Under Armour's state-of-the-art design techniques and the overall appeal of the new threads. In his mind, they're a huge upgrade.
"What Under Armour did with NU was appropriate," Long said. "I think Under Armour has a nice balance between innovativeness and tradition."
The immediate benefit of Under Armour's uniform takeover is the obvious aesthetic appeal: fans, coaches and players within the program will appreciate looking better in their respective realms of competition, not to mention a comprehensive new set of Under Armour gear to wear around campus and off the playing fields. Yet it remains to be seen whether the change will have a discernible affect on recruiting. It's a reasonably safe assumption that the new uniforms won't negatively impact NU's stature in the minds of prospective high school players, but can the new and improved team apparel be the deciding factor for prospective recruits?
"A lot of kids look for the cool uniforms," said Walsh. "That's half of the reason why all of my friends want to go to Oregon. Northwestern keeping up with nice uniforms will definitely appeal to the recruit."
Schools like Oregon and Maryland are identified with their unique brands of uniform wackiness—a constantly rotating array of color schemes and designs. NU, while embracing a distinctly modern style, hardly reaches the same level uniform eccentricity. The Wildcats likely won't ever enter the conversation of avante-garde uniform pizzazz, but the change certainly won't hurt its reputation in the eyes of prospective recruits.
"I was pretty relieved when I saw pictures," Walsh said. "After what Under Armour did to Maryland, I was scared at first. But these are pretty cool. I definitely like what I've seen."