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JCSU alum joins Alexander Julian as NBA uniform designer

September 17, 2004

By Herbert L. White

Cary Mitchell and Alexander Julian share a common thread. Both are fashion designers. And each built uniforms for Charlotte's NBA teams.

For Mitchell, a Johnson C. Smith University graduate who lives in Charlotte, the outfit he designed for the expansion Bobcats are as cutting-edge as Julian's in 1987.

Photo by Paul Williams III
Cary Mitchell (L) and Bobcats forward Gerald Wallace strike a pose at the unveiling of Charlotte's new uniforms. The Bobcats connection to HBCUs also includes Black College products as assistant coaches as well as front office personnel.

The Bobcats' uniforms are the first in pro basketball that uses orange prominently, as well as a V-neckline in the jersey's back. Julian's original Hornets outfit was the first to use teal and purple as primary colors as well as pleated shorts. Both broke traditional sports fashion rules.

"It's probably for the timing, it's identical" in terms of setting new standards, Mitchell said. "When the Hornets came in, it was OK for men to wear pastels. Fast forward to now and orange is a hot color. I kind of look at it as the same."

Mitchell said the Bobcats design was constructed with an eye on the NBA's multi-billion dollar marketing machine. The outfit was built to be worn by young fans as a versatile mix of color and fit.

"The influence of the young hip hop urban audience, this fits into their wardrobe scheme," Mitchell said. "It comes across as cool."

Although orange has never been used as a dominant color in pro basketball, Mitchell sold it as a daring choice that gives the Bobcats instant identity.

"Our first meeting I brought an orange and gray Nike sweatshirt," he said. "I really pushed orange - it's a really hot color right now on and off the court. Orange is a good fashion statement."

"If you look at the Miami Heat's orange, it's a little lighter than their trim," Mitchell said. "One of the deciding factors was that no team had orange as a primary color."

Adding blue, silver and black along the sides also opens up extra marketing options for the league and its suppliers by selling product in multiple colors.

"It creates a lot of retail opportunities," Mitchell said. "You can have four jerseys, and that doesn't even include white."

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