March 27th, 2011
Dean Smith asked Alexander Julian to redesign the Tar Heel hoops uniforms prior to the 1991-92 season. At that time, Julian famously described the task as, “Like God calling asking you to make new halos for the archangels.” The famous designer’s changes included the argyle, a bolder trim, and an upgraded fabric. Before the final version was decided, he came up with several different sketches, including one drawing that looked suspiciously like a sweater vest. OK, maybe that was a little strange, but it’s still better than a unitard.
The next major change came before the 1999-2000 season, with the jerseys that featured the interlocking “NC” on the front. Fans hated those jerseys…until the team made the Final Four, and all of a sudden they didn’t seem so bad anymore.
All things considered, Carolina uniforms have remained remarkably consistent over the last two decades. There will always be subtle changes from year to year–a tweaked uniform means new product for Nike to sell–but nothing as dramatic as what the Tar Heels saw from Oregon in Maui. The Ducks had a crate full of Maui-specific team gear, including casual Hawaiian shirts, jerseys with a floral trim, and shoes that repeated that same trim. Oregon also wore the same Hawaiian themed warmup t-shirts worn by the Tar Heels. And no, those t-shirts aren’t for sale.
Susan Dickenson has the best article describing Alexander Julian’s design process for those uniforms. Here, Julian describes exactly the origination for the Argyle idea:
Some people think the argyle came from Dean Smith’s old four corners play because it looks kind of like that, but actually it came from the fact that my first Coty award was catylyzed by a 14-color argyle sweater. That was my ‘lucky’ argyle and so I put my ‘lucky’ argyle on these uniforms and we won the national championship the next year.