October 7, 2011 — EVANSTON, ILL. — For the first time in sixteen years and in time for the band's centennial, the Northwestern University “Wildcat” Marching Band will debut new uniforms under the lights at Ryan Field tomorrow evening. The investment was funded by the Northwestern Athletic Department and marks the first uniform upgrade since the 1995-1996 season.
"The current uniforms first worn at the Rose Bowl," says Daniel J. Farris, director of athletic bands at Northwestern University. "They were done in a hurry for the game, in less than a month," he says. "If you look closely, there are some variations in those uniforms" due to the accelarated manufacturing schedule, says the director.
This week, band members have been working hard to prepare not only performances for Saturday, but the new uniforms have been a long time coming and have been planned for months since the Northwestern Athletic Department took over funding responsibilites for the Wildcat band.
"One of the first issues that we addressed with Dan Farris was purchasing new uniforms," says Mike Polisky, Northwestern University senior associate athletic director for external affairs.
"We went through a number of design concepts from different companies before arriving on this version," says Farris. The Athletic Department, NUMBALUMS, and the band were all involved in the decision process, he says.
Several weeks ago, Farris sent an e-mail to band members which included a sneak peek of the workmanship on the new uniforms. With a crisp purple-and-black design, and still featuring Northwestern's trademark sculpted N on the front, the new uniforms finally arrived in Evanston last Friday. They were unloaded by excited band members.
"Everyone is fitted," says Farris. NUMBALUM and band photographer Tom McGrath photographed details of the new uniforms.
New uniforms will still feature shako-style headgear, and are "meant to make members appear taller," says NUMBALUM Anthony Levin, a recent article published in The Growl. "It will also feature a taller, bushier white plume," he says.
With broader shoulders in the jacket, and a thinner cut to the black trousers, uniform manufacturer Fruhauf Uniforms, Inc. sought to help the band appear always at attention. The oft-traditional cape has been replaced by a non-reversable triangular drape which matches the jacket's modern styling. The drum major uniforms have also been revised, but are still white, as they have been in recent iterations. Fruhauf also made the 1996 version of the uniform currently worn by the band.
Practical changes were also implemented, to the delight of band staffers. "The pants also feature snaps so that pant heights can be adjusted in seconds," says Levin.
"We are pleased that we could share a special preview of the uniforms with our alumni," says Daniel M. Reck, web director of the Wildcat Marching Band. A special sneek peek e-mail was sent yesterday to the NUMBALUMS.
"As NUMB marches into the future with these new uniforms, we are reminded of a century of NUMB history, and the NUMBALUMS who still support us years and decades after they last mached in Ryan Field," says Reck.
The NUMBALUMS recently published a full history of the NUMB uniform, in the 2011 issue of The Growl [PDF].
Wildcat fans at Ryan Field will get their first view of the new uniforms when the band steps off before tomorrow's Northwestern football game against the University of Michigan. The game will be broadcast on Big Ten Network, on ESPN (1000 AM in Chicago), and on Northwestern's student radio station, WNUR (89.3 in Evantson and worldwide on sports.wnur.org).
"Halftime for Saturday is Led Zeppelin," says Farris. "Look for some new stands tunes including 'Tonight, Tonight' among others."
—Daniel M. Reck (GSESP08) with reporting from Brittany Peterson (J09)
Photos courtesy Northwestern University Athletics and by Tom McGrath.