Redskins players welcome the return of uniform's golden age

Dan Steinberg
Tuesday, September 14, 2010

In March 1979, the Redskins announced they were doing away with their traditional gold pants. The Post covered this momentous news in a story headlined "Redskins Sack Their Gold Pants." A story written by the paper's fashion editor, I might add. Ah, how times do change.

Anyhow, the team was going through a bit of a rough patch in the post-George Allen years, and General Manager Bobby Beathard - "who tilts to bell-bottom jeans, running shoes and occasional Calvin Klein sweaters," according to the story - thought it was time for a change.

"I thought the uniforms were pretty drab, that they could be improved," Beathard said at the time. "When you've been in the same thing for so long and you bring in something new, sometimes it perks people up."

The change cost $11,400, and the perking up soon followed, in the form of four Super Bowl appearances in 11 seasons. Washington had worn gold pants at home for 18 straight seasons; after Beathard's War on Drab, gold was passe for most of three decades. But maybe it was time to perk people up again. And thus, Sunday night came the worst-kept secret of the offseason: the Restoration of Gold.

"Well, in talking to the alumni . . . and to the fans, they wanted to see the gold pants," new GM Bruce Allen said on ESPN 980's pregame show. "And I think our players are really excited to be wearing 'em."

Indeed. The 1979 Redskins seemed to have mixed feelings about their new white pants - "they may get awfully dirty," Dan Nugent observed - but the current team was just about unified, with the possible exception of Stephon Heyer.

"He's an O-lineman, though," Lorenzo Alexander pointed out. "He doesn't know anything about fashion."

Even Nugent's concerns about cleanliness were apparently reversed in one golden stroke.

"You look good, you play good," Brian Orakpo told me. "We looked clean out there, man; we looked real nice."

I wasn't totally sure what "clean" meant in this context - "the opposite of dirty," Casey Rabach suggested - but either way, the reviews were shining. Paul Lukas of Uni Watch, the universe's prime source for such coverage, wrote that "all of a sudden the [Redskins] have one of the best home looks in the league," and the players seemed to agree.

"I like it better than I do those Good Humor outfits that they wear, all white and stuff," said Sonny Jurgensen, who helped define the previous Gold Pants Era.

"Yeah, what the heck," Rabach said. "I'm not big into wardrobes or fashion or anything like that - obviously, I've got a pair of slippers on and some jeans - but it was cool, and a lot of guys were fired up about it."

"A new, fresh look," Alexander proclaimed.

"I thought the pants were awesome," Chris Cooley said. "I'm a huge fan of anything different."

See, that's the key. In fashion, one day you're in, and the next day you're out. "It's like when a government changes, you have to have a whole clean sweep," linebacker Brad Dusek told The Post back in '79. Beathard helped usher in his new era, but Jim Zorn's Maroon and Black Era was marked by the faux pas, not the avant garde. The team changed everything this offseason, and gold pants gave them the whole clean sweep.

(Of course, Washington could have worn sequined polyester leopard-print pant suits under lambskin parkas, and the fans would have been satisfied as long as Alex Barron still grabbed Orakpo by the neck.

"The uniform doesn't matter, man," Landry said, making fashion editors everywhere cringe. "Let's go out there and put 'em on and let's play.")

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