In thinking about questions I wanted to answer during jersey week, first in my mind was why Orange County SC switched to wearing orange jerseys midseason last year.
Of course, the USL Championship side have “orange” right there in the name, and it isn’t a leap to see orange being the primary color, but since they rebranded in 2017, orange was used as an accent color on their black or white kits.
Still, what was striking to me was why they seemingly changed kits in the middle of the season. In this day and age, it’s unusual to make a big change suddenly.
So I asked OCSC president of business operations Jeff Garner this week, and the answer was that it was down to the team itself.
“It was white and black to start last year, and orange actually came in as an alternate jersey,” Garner explained. “It was actually sort of related to the United Way Corporate Cup that we did in June last year. It was our first attempt at a ‘different’ jersey. We did the orange jerseys. Players loved them, I think we got off to a good start, we played really well in the second half of the year. And all of a sudden orange, which when we originally set out, we were going to wear one time, and we ended up wearing it almost exclusively at home the rest of the year.”
That’s right, the players wore them once, got a good result, and asked to keep wearing the orange jerseys, and kept getting good results.
“Hey, everybody’s a little superstitious in sports, and the players enjoyed them and they were generally the same kind of weight and feel as the white and black kits,” Garner explained. “It wasn’t necessarily the material was different, or there was anything incredibly different. It was momentum, it started out as a sponsor-driven promotion, as an alternate jersey and we thought ‘We’ll do it this one time, maybe we’ll throw it in once in a while.’ And the fans were great, [they] reacted to it and loved it. But probably the biggest driving force was the team. The team just wanted to keep wearing it as long as they were winning, so we did.”
Orange County SC have only played one game in the 2020 season, before the coronavirus pandemic shut down the USL, but the team wore orange jerseys, something Garner says is the plan moving forward.
He said this year’s primary orange jersey has been updated a bit.
“We did have a redesign and it was fairly subtle, there was some redesign in the style of the jersey, the sleeves are a little bit different. The lettering and numbers stayed the same, and of course our badge stayed the same but we worked with Adidas on a refreshed design. And now orange is our home jersey, white on the road and now black has become an alternate.”
While again, a team with orange right in their name probably has a superior claim on orange jerseys than any opponent, the USL Championship has surprisingly had quite a few teams wear the color in recent years. I asked if that had been a consideration for OCSC, either before or after the switch to the orange primary jerseys last year.
“We didn’t look too closely at who else was wearing it, certainly since then. Particularly San Diego has caught our eye with some similar colors and orange being one of them. But we honestly felt like for our home kit, we were going to do what we wanted to, and what the team wanted, and what the fans wanted, and what we thought was best for the team, regardless of whether other teams were wearing it,” Garner said.
“Honestly, we didn’t care what other teams were doing. We wanted to do what we thought would work.”
As for the future, while Garner says the team is sticking with orange, he did tease more one-time alternate jerseys are coming for themed occasions, and after soccer is played again those will be released when the time is right. Will those one-time designs bring Orange County SC new mojo? Time will tell, but the story of the orange jerseys giving OCSC the push to perform last year makes for a pretty good story.
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