The purple passion of Ravens wear Fashion: The crowd roars as Baltimore's NFL team unveils its new look.

June 06, 1996|By Arthur Hirsch | Arthur Hirsch,SUN STAFF

The future of Baltimore football fashion arrived yesterday, strutting for the lunch hour crowd at The Gallery with overtones of badness and dark power. Say au revoir, sports fans, to the airy naivete of the blue and white Colts/Stallions palette that served so well before Charm City lost its innocence in the bare-knuckles tangle for a new town team. Color this Ravens gang black and purple with hints of gold and white. Not aubergine, not lavender or mauve, but purple. Purple like a bad bruise.

When the mock-up black leather Starter jacket with the spread-wing Ravens logo and the multiple zippers came bumping down the escalator you had to think Harley Davidsons and guys in trailer parks drinking Jack D. from jack boots. Forget Emmanuel Ungaro's light touch with a leather vest that showed so nicely in the fall Solo Donna collection. The boys and girls at NFL Properties, if they ever do get around to actually launching this particular rocket, are thinking high price points for that low-down look and feel.

Of course, the leather monster is not going to be available in stores anytime soon. It was just there to titillate the hundreds who showed up yesterday and perched all over the Gallery railings like so many gulls in a Hitchcock classic.

"It's actually scary that all these people came down here to see a football uniform," said Michael Franco, a paralegal from Hampstead who showed up on his day off with his 5-year-old daughter, Jennifer.

Au contraire, Michael. This was more so than just football uniforms. Once the ersatz Edgar Allan Poe flapped his black Raven wings and did his "Get Crazy" shtick (you want subtlety, try the PGA) it was vamp, vamp, vamp until quarterback Vinny Testaverde showed up to model the goods. Seems the big guy's plane was late getting in. That meant the crowd saw a parade of models wearing every piece of mock-up Raven-theme merchandise the designers from NFL Properties could dream up.

We're talking a full line, low price points to high End Zone: golf shirts, jerseys, sweat shirts, micro-skirts and halter tops with Ravens patches. There was a black windbreaker with red zipper placket. There was a black and white slinky of a skirt that made you think of a Serina Iglia rayon hologram stamped high on the thigh by some ILGWU terrorist with a giant union bug. Only it was a Ravens logo.

This stuff, said NFL Properties vice president and creative director Bruce Burke, was "just for PR."

Do tell, Bruce. PR was like a gust of wind blowing from every corner of The Gallery. Gerry Sandusky, a sports anchor for WBAL-TV, served as master of ceremonies wearing a Ravens jacket -- verboten in the stadium press box, no? -- and emitting appropriately happy chatter. It was no time for hard-hitting journalism.

David Modell, son of the team's owner, Art Modell, was striding quickly down Calvert Street yesterday morning in a snit about reports that NFL regalia was not the hot item of yore. Modell, puffing a premium Macanudo and tastefully attired in the standard Pro Sports Front Office Look -- navy blazer, charcoal gray slacks -- said this naysaying was way off target.

Look at this Ravens logo, he said. The gold accent "pops, it pops."

Besides, said Burke with a straight face, when asked about the marketing aspect of designing a Baltimore Ravens uniform and fashion line: "product sales had very little significance in this assignment. We were looking for something that was appropriate and unique to Baltimore."

All right, so candor is not top priority at NFL Properties. Give them mucho credit for speed. The 1996 NFL season is months off but go ahead, hand the rushing prize to the design team for squeezing what is usually a seven-month job into two. They didn't have the Ravens theme until March and had to complete the job by June to get the uniforms ready in time for pre-season play in August.

"I've never suited a team up this quickly," said Burke, "never."

First down the escalator in full home uniform -- purple jersey with white and gold numbers, black pants with wide-wall white stripes -- was Michael Jackson, the 6-foot-4, 195-pound wide receiver. Then came defensive end Rob Burnett, all 6-foot-4, 280 pounds of him swathed in the Ravens' visiting uniform -- white jersey with purple numbers, black pants. Both held their purple helmets with black spread-wing Raven logos.

Finally, down the escalator came 6-foot-5, 227-pound Testaverde in home uniform, the music booming all around. With him standing up there alongside Jackson and Burnett you could just imagine what the Ravens offensive line will look like in the home ensemble. Maybe the logo's a bit busy with the wings and the flags and the crests and the letter B. But that front four will give such a nice pulled-together feel on an autumn afternoon. So much purple and black, a very of-the-moment look for a grunting, sweating gang of guys gunning for fresh quarterback meat. Ooo-la-la.

"You have to look good, feel good, then you play good," said Testaverde. "I can't wait to play."

The crowd loved it. Forget about finding someone in this place who was not absolutely ga-ga over the new fall line.

"Awesome," said Cliff Berger, a 16-year-old Delaney High School junior, member of that all-important youth demographic group.

"The colors are good," said Ronnie Oyedokun, of Baltimore, who does accounting for a downtown law firm. She said the colors, the look, "can go for either sex."

Howard Smith, of Baltimore, who works for a downtown insurance firm, said he's ready to line up for T-shirts, golf shirts, whatever. Bring on the purple, the black, the wings, the crests, the whole subliminal sado-masochistic NFL scene.

"I don't see how they can miss," said Smith.

Pub Date: 6/06/96

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