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 has played the flute since the age of 8. She marched in the Northwestern University Marching Band, including the 1996 Rose Bowl and 1997 Citrus Bowl. She graduated cum laude from Northwestern with a bachelor’s degree in journalism in 1997. Since then, she has worked in the publishing industry as a writer and editor and helped launch Play Music, a magazine for recreational musicians, sponsored by American Music Group (now Music and Arts Center). In the summer of 2006, Christine worked at Yamaha where she interacted with staff and students in various marching bands and drum corps. Christine earned her MBA with honors from the University of Southern California in May 2007.

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