The Long and Short of ER Uniform Changes

At the last Empire Runner’s club meeting held Thursday August 25th at Round Table Pizza in Montgomery Village, it was proposed that a graphic artist be secured to produce a new Empire Runner’s logo.

My first thought was “why?” and my next thought was “no”. I was a bit surprised that anyone would even think about doing such a thing.

I admit that I am a sports traditionalist. I don’t like rule changes. I don’t like the DH in baseball. I don’t like the Oregon football uniforms.

So, after a lengthy and spirited discussion at the club meeting regarding the logo, tradition, club identity etc. I went home and thought about writing something up about the issue.

On Saturday I pulled out all of my club singlets going back twenty-plus years. In my mind they had all been very similar and yet when I pulled them out of the drawer I saw that although there have been some constant themes, there have also been quite a few, not always subtle changes.

Looking at my collection here is what I found:

In the early to mid-nineties when I was first introduced to the sport of Cross-County the basic singlet was white with the blue logo and lettering over blue shorts. This featured the now classic sunrise, mountain, trees and male and female runners. This singlet was some sort of synthetic fabric though I can’t be certain exactly what as I cut the tag out years ago. There was also a cotton version of this singlet that I bought but that I never really raced in for obvious reasons.

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Bob Merritt working hard back in the 90’s

During this same era, many of the faster runners in the club were sporting a black version of this same design – intimidating but I imagine hot.

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Preston and  Gibbons – classics sporting classics

During my third or fourth season of Cross-County in the late nineties a new singlet was introduced. This design had bold black and white panels on either side of a pale blue front and back and very large, bold new Empire Runners logos including the “ER sunburst”. As I recall, this singlet was initially well received but then got low marks as the 100% nylon material tended to be hot and sticky. You don’t see this one often any longer as I imagine they are tucked deep into drawers that seldom see the light of day.

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Darryl Beardall running in ER colors

The next iteration of the Empire Runner’s singlet brought back the older logo, now in white on a simple but hard to mistake deep blue polyester body. The new uniform called for black shorts. This combination became the essential ER team uniform for about a decade. Though classic and easily identifiable, it was updated a few years back with script vs block letters and a more realistic graphic of trees and mountains along with the now traditional sunrise. The male and female runners disappeared. The “official” uniform was blue but I own a white version of this latter design that I purchased on special order with the intent of wearing it in hot-weather marathons.

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Megan Johnson and Val Sell in the blue

About the time that the latter version of the uniform described above became available, the decision was made by the ER Board to allow ER singlets and gear to be sold to the general public.

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Gil Moreno – back in black

The other interesting thing that occurred at this time was that you could now buy ER gear in pretty much any color of the rainbow. Don’t like deep blue and white? No problem, get a chartreuse ER singlet and pink cap… Argh. But to each his or her own I guess.

Just a couple of years ago… though it could be longer I suppose, the club racing singlets saw their arguably most radical change ever which included completely new and/or altered logos, lettering, colors, tones and fabric. The current racing singlet retains a brighter sunrise but only proclaims “Empire” on the front as opposed to Empire Runners and there is no longer any mention of Sonoma Co. The back has a simple ER graphic. The blue is muted. The lettering is outlined in yellow. There are white and gray “flames” or stripes or whatever they are blending in and out. I would describe the overall design as “contemporary”. The fabric is light and breathes well but it is a little course for my taste and I think it could result in chaffing issues in longer races such as the marathon.

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(Note that the third singlet from the left is actually hanging backwards.  For a front shot of this singlet, see the picture of Darryl Beardall earlier in this post)

So there is your unofficial, incomplete and totally biased history of the ER club uniform over the last twenty years.

All of this thinking about the club uniforms and logos combined with an actual inventory makes me realize that although we have had some constant themes – the sunrise and “blue” for instance – we have not really kept to a single long-term design.

With all of the above in mind, I would make just a few simple recommendations to the club – 1) adopt a classic logo design and stick with it. 2) If there is a way to tie into some of our earlier themes such as the sunrise motif, do it. 3) Have separate lines of official club racing apparel vs casual apparel. The former should meet strict guidelines and not be altered on a whim. The latter can be in any color, cut or design subject to the winds of fashion.

If you have a passion for what constitutes a strong club logo or uniform design, now might be a good time to get involved.

 

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