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Singlets are OK for wrestling -- not so much for basketball.


Basketball uniforms haven't undergone a great deal of innovation since they were first invented -- shorts and some form of a shirt* are really all you need -- but there have been occasional efforts to tweak that successful formula. You probably don't think of Iowa as being on the cutting edge of uniform development and maybe there's a good reason for that because one of the few times they were trying something new the results were... not good.

Yes, that's a one-piece unitard design for an Iowa basketball uniform. If you don't remember Iowa ever wearing something like that -- and trust me, if they had worn it and you saw it, I doubt you would have forgotten it -- there's a good reason: it was (thankfully) never actually worn during a game. Paul Lukas, the mastermind behind UniWatch, dug into the story and found out what happened. The unitards were planned to be worn against UNLV as part of the "Duel in the Desert" series of games in Nevada.  So why didn't the Iowa players wear the one-piece get-up for the game?  Lukas talked to two players on that Iowa team, Brigg Tubbs and Wade Lookingbill, who explained:

  • The players didn't like the fit of the unitards, and also didn't like how the form-fitting fabric didn't leave much to the imagination in the crotch area. Many or perhaps all players ended up wearing shorts over the unitards.
  • The players decided they couldn't wear the unitards in a game, and coach Tom Davis (who apparently never liked the unitards to begin with) gladly backed them up. So these uniforms were only worn in practice, never in a game.

And thus a fashion disaster for Iowa was averted. Whew. You should definitely click over to UniWatch to read the whole story -- and see a few more pictures of the unitards in action (so to speak).

Iowa wasn't only team to experiment with unitards, as seen by this video featuring North Carolina State:

Per Lukas, the uniforms were only "worn for two games in 1989 before being quietly abandoned."  Like the Iowa players, the NC State players cited a lack of comfort as the reason for wanting to ditch the uniforms. As for why the uniforms were devised in the first place, apparently they were an attempt to combat the epidemic of... untucked shirts.  No, really. According to NC State coach Jim Valvano, they got a "shock[ing] number of letters" complaining about Wolfpack jerseys coming untucked.  I can only imagine the deluge of angry letters the NC State athletic department had to field a few years later when the baggy short craze began.

*And even a shirt isn't really necessary, as anyone who has played shirts-vs-skins can attest.

H/T to commenter Gerry Dincher for bringing this to our attention.