Best Dressed: 1980s Syracuse Orangemen

Posted by rtmsf on May 23rd, 2011

John Gorman is an RTC contributor.  Every week throughout the long, hot summer, he will highlight one of the iconic uniforms from the great history of the game.  We plan on rolling out 24 of these babies, so tweet your favorites at us @rushthecourt or email us directly at This week, we tip things off with the Syracuse threads from the 1980s.  For the complete list to date, click here.

You young whipper-snappers may not remember, but there was a time long before the “men” and “women” were unceremoniously axed from the school nickname in a move to eliminate perceived gender and religious biases, when the Orange men really were Orangemen.  In fact, until 2004, the school was never really named after the color; but rather derived its moniker from the Irish and Scottish protestant fraternal organization. That orange you see on the Irish flag? That’s Syracuse Orange.  And flags aside, the colorful cast that rocked those threads could make citrus jealous.

Orange Meant Something Special in the 1980s (SU Athletic Communications)

The bold Valencia hue made the players instantly visible to each other, to opponents and to fans. Amazingly, it hasn’t always been the school color. Prior to 1890, the school swatch, despite being the “Orangemen,” was rose pink and pea green. But, the switch was made and by the time the newly-formed Big East Conference took shape in the 1980s, the Syracuse duds were among the most widely marketed and broadcasted in the USA.

Aided by a heaping helping of media members pimping their school whenever possible (many prominent broadcasters, journalists and media execs graduated from their prestigious S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications), you had to really strain to avoid the Orange crush. The cursive Syracuse draped over luminaries like Derrick Coleman, Dwayne “Pearl” Washington, Sherman Douglas, Lawrence Moten, John Wallace, Billy Owens, Danny Schayes and Rony Seikaly.  Steeped in basketball tradition, and set inside an iconic, imposing Carrier Dome, Syracuse basketball was equal parts hip and classicist, loud yet refined, and the threads did justice.

The Orange and Blue stood out then much like a patented plaid Boeheim blazer, and the color scheme was the perfect competitive differentiator throughout the golden age of Standard Definition TVs, during which the Big East lorded atop college basketball, built a mountain of endless grays, blues and reds.  Stylish. Loud. Unique. Syracuse was (and still is) Orange, and still the college basketball standard by which other teams who dare to wear orange are measured. Like it or not, if you ever say, “I’m for the Orange”, nobody anywhere will ever think you mean Clemson.

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