HBCU – A Flare for Fashion

Photo courtesy of the Southern University-Baton Rouge Office of Publications

Recently, Fashion News 100 recognized Southern University’s Human Jukebox in Baton Rouge, La., as the best dressed college band. And according to Lawrence Jackson, director of bands, that’s not a coincidence. “The uniform is designed for flash,” he says.

Southern University’s dark-blue uniform features a sky blue chest plate and a double-sided gold/white cape. Finishing touches include white gloves, white spats and black boots.

“Those are flash points, so when we raise our leg up, they see the white spats,” Jackson says. “When our legs come down in a unit, it shows action.”

In fact, nearly all HBCU band uniforms feature double-sided capes, which can be used in a “matador-like” fashion. The uniforms are more ornate in a general sense, with exaggerated embroidery, braiding and often a large leg stripe.

Southern University also wears a large “mop plume” with shiny streamers that flash with changing light. “When we do whip turns, it has nothing but action,” Jackson says.

The athletic marching displays of HBCU bands take toll on their uniforms.

“Their performance on the field, the drill or the show, is entirely different than a regular corps,” says Kenny Fruhauf. His company produces uniforms for some top HBCU bands, including Florida A&M, Grambling State and Prairie View A&M.

“They do a lot of dancing, splits, a lot of jazz steps,” Fruhauf says. “Therefore, the uniform itself can’t be just a thin, lightweight polyester lightly sewn together.”

Durability is achieved with double stitching, spandex components and enlarged arm holes.

Overall, all that wear and tear must be worthwhile. “Most HBCU schools design uniforms for flash; they want flash points because there’s so much movement going on that you want that excitement,” Jackson says.

About the author

Christine Ngeo Katzman

Christine Ngeo Katzman is founder and chief executive officer of Muse Media, LLC, creator of books, magazines, and additional content highlighting performing arts and youth activities. Magazine assets include Halftime Magazine for marching arts participants and fans as well as Yamaha SupportED Magazine for K through 12 music educators. Previously, she was a writer and editor at Crain Communications and Imagination Publishing and a marketing manager at Chatsworth Products, Inc. Christine also worked for Yamaha Band and Orchestral Division. As a child, Christine learned five instruments, with flute being primary. She marched in the Northwestern University Marching Band, including the 1996 Rose Bowl and 1997 Citrus Bowl. Christine graduated cum laude from Northwestern University with a bachelor’s degree in journalism in 1997 and earned an MBA with honors from the University of Southern California in 2007.

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