Best Dressed: Indiana HoosiersPosted by rtmsf on June 6th, 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 firstname.lastname@example.org. This week, we honor the timeless classics of our friends from Bloomington, Indiana. To see the entire list to date, click here.
We wanted to profile the Indiana Hoosiers uniforms for duochromatic simplicity, but we couldn’t pick out specific years to highlight because Indiana’s threads never change. Indiana basketball exists in an alternate realm adrift from time and space. They are college basketball’s iconic lone wolf.
Existing in a powerhouse football conference known as the Big Ten, Indiana is the only card-carrying member that can be safely categorized as a “basketball school.” In fact, Indiana University is so basketball-centric that the entire state seems to have followed suit. The Pacers, Purdue, Larry Bird, “Hoosiers,” and Butler – none of these would be possible without the popularity, success and tradition of IU hoops. The orange orb is as much a part of the state’s lore as the maize and wheat-soaked fields. You envision rogue, undiscovered kids playing one-on-one on farm parcels, like young little basketball Roy Hobbses, with John Cougar Mellencamp’s heartland anthems blaring from a boombox in the background.
Indiana’s uniforms rock crimson and cream, a design uncluttered by the mess of third-jerseys, Nike redesigns, logo changes or additional colors rolled in to make a quick buck at the merch counter. When you buy an Indiana jersey, you’re either from Indiana, or you’re buying into the aesthetic of classic, old-time fundamentalism — a puritan work ethic mixed with corn-fed talent, unfiltered and unrefined.
Indeed, it is no accident that Indiana’s interlocking I and U form the shape of a “Sai” (pronounced the same as Greek letter “Psi”, which is also a doppelganger for Indiana’s logo), an old Asian martial arts weapon. The utility of the “Sai” stems from not just the lengthy skull-piercing center blade, but the two sharp protruding side-guards. With skill, a fighter would be able to trap, capture or fracture the blade of the far flashier, longer katana, in much the same way Coach Knight’s squads often cut down the glamour schools of Duke, Carolina and Kentucky. The “Sai” can be leveraged as both an offensive and defensive weapon, which is fitting, since those who’ve rocked the Indiana cloak in war have traditionally been quite gifted at both.
The Sai is still used as a weapon today in many Asian cultures, and wielders of the instrument require intense, extensive practice to become master craftsmen. Tom Crean now roams the sidelines demanding the same from his players. The Indiana design still looks the same as always, and the “Assembly Hall” moniker is as austere as the players’ threads and the pick-n-roll. Mastery is success built upon fundamentals. When you master something repeatedly, that’s called tradition… and you don’t go dressing up tradition in fancy clothes. You let the craft speak for itself.