Since the sport was founded in 1892 by James Naismith at Springfield College in Springfield, Massachusetts, basketball uniforms have changed more than any other sport in history. In fact, a review of the history of basketball uniforms shows that players have worn everything from trousers to
turtlenecks to the satin shorts that are familiar today.
Although players began landing a ball in an upside-down peach basket in 1891, official rules for the sport were not devised until 1892. For the first eight years the sport was played, baggy trousers and wool undershirts were what the players commonly wore, mostly because that was their attire each day. In the early 1920s, as the game grew more popular on college campuses, league officials decided to coordinate what players wore to avoid the ball being passed to a player of the opposing team.
The history of basketball uniforms shows more coordination among players between 1920 and 1940 as they began wearing mid-length shorts and jerseys made of wool. The shirts were fastened like a current-day body suit to keep them from becoming untucked. Spalding created some of the first padded shorts worn by basketball players during this era. Women and children were required to wear kneepads during basketball games.
With the advent of synthetic materials, the history of basketball uniforms took another turn as the hot, difficult-to-launder wool uniforms were replaced by thinner polyester and nylon versions. The pants grew shorter, becoming brief-style by the mid 1960s, while the shirts became track-style jerseys. During the 1950s, players wore belts with their satin shorts. The belts were eliminated in the 1960s, and elastic waistbands added.
As the freestyle era of the 1960s began, basketball uniforms took on another look, becoming tighter and more form fitting. Players wore longer, striped tube socks during games, and headbands became common in order to keep longer hairstyles out of the eyes of players. MacGregor Sand-Knit became the official NBA outfitter in 1982, providing a cotton/polyester blend uniform that was more comfortable. It was during this era that jerseys grew more colorful as well. By the mid 1970s, satin shorts were replaced by pinhole mesh material and jerseys became looser to allow for better player movement.
In 1987, Michael Jordan requested that the sports manufacturer Champion, who made all NBA uniforms at the time, make his shorts in a longer version. He wanted something to hold onto when he bent over on the court, out of breath from playing. The following year, Champion created the uniform version that is used today. Adidas became the official NBA uniform provider in the mid 2000s, and in 2013, the Warriors became the first NBA team to wear jerseys with sleeves.
A little before or after the 2000’s, the evolution of basketball uniforms switched to customization methods. Screen printing became a less popular choice due to the popularity of sublimated basketball uniforms- the process by which ink is directly transferred in the fabric instead of over it. It is hard to pin point exactly when sublimated basketball uniforms started penetrating AAU courts all over the US. While sublimation technology started way back in the 20s for commercial printing of plastics and acrylics, it was not until the 50’s that was used for polyester fabrics. By the mid-70s, NASA developed the first computer based sublimation system and around the year 2000, it started penetrating the sports apparel industry. Initially more expensive to produce than traditional tackle twill uniforms, advances in technology and mass production has now allowed it to be the product of choice for a typical AAU or youth basketball team looking to customize their own look without breaking the bank. Sublimation allowed a team to use colors not available in standard fabric dye lots such as cardinal red, vegas gold, Texas orange, neon pink and all the shades in between.
With the onset of software and manufacturing technology, competitive companies like Allen Sportswear have empowered coaches and players to come up with their unique look for their basketball uniforms by choosing current trends or throw back options like slim fit basketball jerseys and customizable basketball shorts inseams. It’s wide selection of basketball uniform designs include v-neck or self material cut, traditional sleeveless basketball jerseys or old school short sleeved basketball jerseys, racerback or womens cut for girls basketball uniforms, and lightweight reversible basketball uniforms. It’s real time online builder allows the basketball coach or player to choose from standard and custom colors, pick any lettering or numbering font, choose from stock mascots or upload their own team logos, add sublimated patterns, adjust opacity and gradient and upgrade to a neck notch with initials. The power of personalization has exploded the growth of the consumer industry from cars to key chains, and basketball uniforms are not exempt.
The “loose” basketball jerseys and longer basketball shorts trend pretty muck stuck on and off the court with current basketball uniform designs showing the NBA, colleges and high schools still prefering the traditional tackle twill uniforms and the cut and sew patterns versus the more cost effective sublimated basketball uniforms, but with fully custom manufacturers such as Allen Sportswear, customers now have the ability to pick from both application methods or combine them to come up with the best of both worlds for their teams.