Mike Lawson • Archives • May 1, 2003

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Since the first military marching bands stepped off centuries ago, uniforms have been part of the marching tradition. Today, high school marching bands carry on that tradition while playing in parade formation or performing a field show at halftime. After all, acting as a “uniform” group is what marching band is all about: marching in step, playing together, executing field show maneuvers in unison, traveling as a parade unit. During a field show routine, any marching band member who does not fit into the band’s uniform appearance will certainly stand out. At marching band competitions, the slightest deviation from uniformity will typically yield point deductions.

Uniforms are worn to give a band a professional, “together” look. While many band members wear their uniforms proudly as a member of a “team,” there is a minority group of students who voice concern regarding the school uniform. John New, band director at Dennis-Yarmouth High School in South Dennis, Mass., for instance, stated that a handful of his students felt they would be viewed as “nerds” by their peers for wearing uniforms.

With this thought in mind, SBO polled a sampling of the uniform and footwear companies that serve the marching band market. All expressed their belief that contemporary styles and fabrics combined to create a “uniform” look that instilled a sense of pride and accomplishment among band members.

To Be Worn With Pride

The uniform and footwear companies surveyed for this article all expressed their intentions to create attire that band students will be proud to wear.

In fact, Steve Roberts at Stanbury Uniforms rejected the notion that students are anything but proud to wear a marching band uniform.

Fred J. Miller Inc.“To be honest, we have never heard that students were uncomfortable about wearing a uniform in front of their friends. I think band students have a tremendous amount of pride and are proud to wear a band uniform,” he said. “Uniforms have certainly become more comfortable over the years through innovations and pattern development. In addition, new fabrics, textures, colors along with spicy new designs have made uniforms more glamorous than ever.”

Fred J. Miller Inc. turned to Broadway designer and marching band clinician Michael J. Cesario to create uniforms that would appeal to today’s high school marching bands, according to vice president Mark Miller.

“We partnered with Cesario to create new, fresh looks with an athletic fit,” he explained. “We’ve found that our lightweight, flexible performance wear is a favorite because of the trademark fit, a tapered ‘T’ shape with maximum flexibility for modern movement and our famous ‘Comfort Collar.’ The great strong looks that Cesario invents have made today’s FJM uniforms bold, dramatic statements with contemporary appeal.”

Keeping pace with new trends in the marching band world keeps DeMoulin on the cutting edge of uniform design, according to Steven G. Trull, vice president of sales and marketing.

“We continue to offer a more stylish, updated fit and design for the band uniform. Today’s student wants to look sleek and distinguished in the uniform. I think the long tail coats and strict military styles of the past have faded over the years, and kids don’t feel they look especially sharp unless they are dressed in more up-to-date-looking uniforms,” he pointed out. “The whole uniform project should be a boost to the music program, so it is important to pay attention to what is going on out there in the marching business. We continually search for new fabrics and constantly examine our patterns to stay on the cutting edge.”

Up-Front Footwear introduced its Dinkles model as a step in a new direction for marching shoes, according to Jeff Savoca, president.

Up-Front Footwear” When Dinkles shoes were first introduced, we saw the need for a more widely accepted footwear,” he recalled. “That is why we were the first company to manufacture a flat-soled, all-leather shoe. This toned down the negative image on marching shoes. To change the negative image even more, we came out with the first sneaker specifically designed for marching – the Dinkles Edge.”

Gateway Shoes has stepped up its efforts to make marching shoes look more like the styles students choose to wear every day.

“We promote our Performer shoe with a heavier outside appearance. These shoes closely resemble the utility-style footwear in many high schools around the country. They look like the street shoes,” explained Larry Opinsky, vice president of Gateway Shoes.

Drillmasters claims that its marching shoes have become so popular with students that they must ask them to limit wearing the shoes for marching activities only.

“Drillmasters’ stylish look that features a sleek profile, complex upper patterns and a dressy, visual impact are key elements in our design strategy that ensures the students must be asked to surrender their shoes after marching and requested they not wear them all the time,” said Jon Farbman, president of Drillmasters.

To develop comfortable and stylish marching shoes, Director’s Showcase relies on the participation of the people who wear them, according to Tom Herald, president of Director’s Showcase.

“We are constantly in contact with dealers, band directors and top drum and bugle corps to seek input from each of them. Since they are the ones wearing our products, their expertise in these areas has been invaluable to us in our development of Director’s Showcase footwear,” he said. “Through these avenues, we have been able to develop the most stylish and comfortable shoes that perform far above the expectations of our customers.”

StylePlus lets the students get involved in choosing their marching shoes, according to manager Sarah Mangee.

“We feel that it’s important for kids to have options. However, kids are often not given the opportunity to make footwear decisions and end up feeling awkward in uniforms and marching shoes that someone else has chosen for them,” she noted. “Last year, StylePlus offered band directors and drum majors a free sample of any shoe from our Trilogy Collection. This year we are making that same offer so that band members and directors can make an informed footwear decision together.”

Design Is In the Details

When designing new uniforms and footwear, these companies try to tailor their styles to the unique needs of the marching bands they serve.

“We try to create attractive, up-to-date designs that reflect the very personality of every performing group,” Trull at DeMoulin said. “Everybody deserves some creativity and originality in the design. We allow the customer to participate in the process via a custom laptop computer program that allows the band director or guard instructor to choose from hundreds of pattern options.”

Trull added that DeMoulin has created three different types of uniform construction – machine-washable, lightly constructed and traditional – to suit a variety of budgets.
Stanbury Uniforms also offers three product lines geared to cover every band’s needs – Celebrity (contemporary and traditional), Synergy (machine-washable) and Harmony (customer’s choice of fabrics and design).

DeMoulin Brothers & Co.

“Our first step is to find out about the band that will be wearing the uniforms. What style of marching will they be doing? Are they a contest band? Do they want multiple looks? We want the uniforms to be functional, comfortable, adjustable, and most of all, durable,” said Roberts.

Fred J. Miller Inc.As part of its efforts to meet marching bands’ needs, Fred J. Miller Inc. has developed a new lightweight method of building durable garments that are rugged enough to withstand repeated deep cleaning, according to Miller.

“At FJM, we try to realize a design that can express the personality of the group, its traditions, its identity, its goals,” Miller said. “Our FJM Collection, which contains traditional, avant-garde, theatrical and thematic looks, is augmented by the new Greg Lagola and Scott Chandler Collections. From classic to contemporary, we have a design for every band and every theme.”

In the shoe department, style and comfort must be a match.

“Any time we design a new product, we are constantly wondering, how can we make this better? Is this shoe comfortable? Will it last? The main objective of StylePlus has been to provide the best quality marching footwear and accessories at reasonable prices,” Mangee said.

Director’s Showcase spent two years building its new MTX marching shoe, collecting input from experts in the marching band industry, according to Herald.

“Before we started, we consulted with the top drum corps and designers in the industry,” he said. “Through our relationship with Michael Cesario and his association with the top drum corps and marching bands, we were able to acquire an enormous amount of knowledge as to the style, comfort and performance level each group wanted from a marching shoe.”

At Up-Front Footwear, offering a quality shoe backed by quality-control assurance is a main consideration in the design and manufacturing process.

“Our main considerations are performance, quality materials, comfort and safety. All Dinkles shoes are tested not only on the field but in laboratory conditions. We test for sole failure, material wear, slip resistance and heel shock,” Savoca explained.

Drillmasters has kept the focus on its patented rolled-heel design.

“We’ve brought only one shoe to the market with one key feature so unique that it was awarded U.S. patent protection. The Rolled-Heel feature makes it easier for music educators to teach marching and also makes it easier for students to perform better,” Farbman pointed out.

At Gateway Shoes, the design focuses on fit and durability so that students can focus on their marching.

“The shoes must fit properly in order to be comfortable. Then students can perform with all of their attention focused. If the shoes do not last, it’s like wasting money,” Opinsky said.
Stanbury Uniforms
Popular Styles

Stanbury Uniforms: “Our number one design was a Stanbury creation, which is a multi-layered, scalloped front with six pairs of buttons, which accentuates the front of the coat. The back of the coat has a contrasting color that creates multiple visual effects from the field.”

Fred J. Miller Inc.: “The West Seneca West design was a popular look for 2002. The Blue Devil look is always a popular design also.”

DeMoulin: “Wide Canopy Coats and Bib Trousers continue to dominate the designs that most directors prefer. The emphasis has been on attempting to create a taller, broad shoulder, slim waistline appearance. Average high school students come in all shapes and sizes, so we have to recognize that fact during the design process. We try to use geometric patterns in the design of the coat and are using mostly dark colors for the trousers to help create a more slimming look. New patterns offer a more tapered trouser pattern when requested, and we often crop the coat length to allow more bib trousers to show underneath.”

Up-Front Footwear: “Our most popular design is our original Dinkles Vanguard. The Vanguard is a full leather, rubber-soled performance marching band shoe. The leather is designed for indoor/outdoor use, and the sole is a special blended TPR rubber sole, laboratory-tested for slip resistance and shock when marching. The heel is our own designed Triad heel that allows stable roll steps with no heel wobble. Inside features include a forepart flex, runner’s ortho-cup and Dri-lex

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