Thursday, October 31, 2013

Remembering the Charlotte Hornets 25 years later: Fashion, Basketball, and Barbecue

As we continue to lead up to the 25th Anniversary of the Charlotte Hornets first game this upcoming Monday, we are doing a look back at the early days of the Hornets franchise, from George Shinn assembling a "Band of Renegades" to bring Charlotte an NBA franchise, to the day when David Stern told Shinn that it wasn't a joke on April Fool's Day, 1987 that Charlotte made the cut, and in part 3 of this series, we talked about how Shinn wanted to give the fans what they want in a team name, with "Hornets" being the winning favorite in the "Name-the-Team" contest.

In this chapter of our series, we'll talk about how a famed clothing designer, with ties to our state, played a role in designing a uniform that would become one of the most recognizable looks in NBA history, and the little perk that he would get in return for designing the team's uniforms.

Fashion, Basketball and Barbecue?

There's a certain old saying that goes "Clothes make the man", and for the young Charlotte Hornets franchise, they need some colors and a jersey to make the team look great, so George Shinn enlisted famed clothing designer Alexander Julian to come up with some color combinations for the team's jerseys and colors.

Alexander Julian, who grew up in Chapel Hill and attended the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, is best known for creating the Colours by Alexander Julian fashion collection in 1981, and he was also known for the redesign of the University of North Carolina men's basketball team uniforms with the signature argyle pattern on the side of the jerseys upon the request of legendary head coach Dean Smith during the 1991-92 season. Julian also designed the jerseys and seating layout for the Charlotte Knights, a team that Shinn also owned at the time in 1990, the year that the Knights, who were affiliated with the Chicago Cubs and played in the Southern League at the time, began play at Knights Castle(later renamed Knights Stadium) in Fort Mill, South Carolina.

At one point in time during the uniform design process, Julian suggested that pink would one of the colors that the team would use, which did not please Shinn during a press conference when he announced that Julian would design the uniforms, and he was trying to decide if he would or would not use pink as one of the uniform colors.  He would go to the drawing board, and do a lot of brainstorming on some color combinations for the Hornets to use for their team colors and uniform design.  In the end, he decided that he would go with Teal, which was one of the newer colors at the time, saying that "Teal was idea to use because it was fresh and new and exciting and looked good on every color of skin tone."  said Julian. He also decided that Purple would be one of the Hornets colors to go along in the uniform design process.  He would also add in Kelly Green and Carolina Blue to the mix on the pinstripes and he would do some multi-color trims to round out the uniform design process.

And what would Alexander Julian get in return for the Hornets uniforms? Barbecue.  Why barbecue?  Because we all know that Barbecue is a way of life here in our state, and Alex would later go on to say that Shinn would send him 5 pounds of North Carolina Barbecue to his home in Connecticut, and the rest as they say, was history as Julilan's Hornets jerseys would mean a lot of historic significance, as he was the first fashion designer to design an NBA team's uniforms, while the Hornets would become the first team in history to wear Teal uniforms on the road.

In Part 5 of our series coming up, we'll put the spotlight on Cheryl Henson, the daughter of famed Muppets creator Jim Henson, as she would have the task of building a mascot from scratch.

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