campus news

True Blue spirit shows in the clothes

Styles may change, but True Blue spirit endures, as shown in these photos from 1961 and 2021 taken outside of Abbott Hall. Photo composition: Douglas Levere


Published March 27, 2024

“What made this purchase so special was the fact it was the closest I had ever been to being a part of the UB community. ”
Alika Turton, junior political science major

Alika Turton remembers the first moment that she felt truly True Blue.

It was during her senior year of high school in April 2021 — still prime pandemic time — when she logged on to her online AP English class decked out in the UB clothing that had just arrived that day.

“I had seen all those pictures on social media of students sharing where they were going to university with big parties and beds full of university merch, and I always wanted to participate in that unofficial tradition,” says Turton, now a junior political science major. But with limited funds and COVID lockdowns, she knew it wasn’t going to happen. So she asked her mom for just the basics: a UB hoodie, shirt and sweatpants.

“What made this purchase so special was the fact it was the closest I had ever been to being a part of the UB community,” says Turton, who because of restrictions had not yet actually been to campus, even for a tour. But the clothing made her feel like she belonged. “And after posting my own picture on Instagram, I met other UB students, some I still talk to today.”

Never underestimate the power of a UB hoodie to bring people together. It’s not the garment itself that matters, but what it represents. Think of blue and white gear as a wearable form of school spirit.

Tyler Bauer, an organizational change management specialist with the Office of Organizational Development and Effectiveness in Human Resources, took that sentiment to new heights when he attended UB as a student a decade ago.

“My freshman year, I went to Campus Tees in the Student Union looking for something to wear to show my UB pride,” he recalls. Bauer came away with what he saw as the perfect piece: a fluffy blue and white wig. “From that day to my graduation, I wore the wig to all UB True Blue club events. It became part of my identity.”

Alika Turton’s sweats and Tyler Bauer’s wig hold special places in their UB memories.

And while not everyone may be willing to don UB blue hair, True Blue options are many, from ball caps to crop tops to backpacks.

Cynthia Todd, University Communications’ director of trademarks and licensing, has seen both the popularity and the variety of UB-branded merchandise grow.

“You can get the brand on almost anything now,” Todd says. In addition to standard garb, items like UB baby bibs and onesies — no diapers, however, she notes with a laugh — and branded pet accessories are a more recent trend.

Fleece apparel reigns as the all-time most popular, Todd says. “Sweatshirts with a fleecy inside, or jackets with a fleecy outside — anything that’s warmer because, of course, this is Buffalo.”

It also may be the oldest offering.

View a slideshow of the UB sweatshirt’s journey from athletic staple to everyday go-to.

UB students have been proudly sporting the Buffalo name or initials for well over a century. In 1899, The Iris yearbook references a group of medical students wearing thick woolen shirts — something the prior generation was apt to think of as “undershirts” — with a big letter B on the front.

Student-athletes of that era also wore heavy wool jerseys out on the playing field until the modern fleece sweatshirt became popular around the 1930s as a more comfortable option.

Around that same time, Champion Products — then based in nearby Rochester — reportedly came up with the idea of imprinting collegiate names and mascots on things that weren’t strictly meant as athletic uniforms, starting with branded merchandise for the UCLA Students’ Store, and it took off from there.

As a genuine expression of pride by the campus community, branded gear is just too much fun not to wear — or to share. UB gear can be seen everywhere on campus and all around the world. Showing off the interlocking UB or the spirit mark on a piece of clothing can create an instant kind of “IYKYK” connection.

Bauer, who still has his blue and white wig but now opts to wear more conventional gear while working on campus, appreciates that unifying effect.

“Taking part in True Blue Fridays reminds me why I am doing the work that I do,” he says. “Seeing myself and others representing the university makes me feel like we are part of the same community.”

And Turton, as the UB Council student representative, says she makes a point of wearing her gear to university events.

“I’ll sometimes get the comment, ‘I’ve never seen that design before — where did you buy it?’” she says. “And from that simple conversation starter, I end up meeting someone new.”