The Uniqueness of Uniforms
Halftime Magazine|September/October 2019
Groups competing in Drum Corps International have spent the past few years tailoring their uniforms to each season’s show while still working to maintain elements of their corps’ signature look.
By Savy Leiser. Fotos by Martinson/Marching.com

For the past two seasons, the Bluecoats have taken the uniformity out of their uniforms; instead of having the corps members perform in identical outfits, as is tradition, almost all of the performers wore a unique costume. “Each performer [is] an individual while looking like a unified whole,” says Mike Scott, Bluecoats CEO.

The Bluecoats experimented with individual uniforms in its 2018 show, “Session 44,” which celebrated the artist within every individual, and in its 2019 Beatles-inspired show, titled “The Bluecoats.” In both years, some members wore checkered pants, some wore patterned pants, and some wore solid-colored pants. The same could be said for their tops. Performers wore each piece in a mix-and-match arrangement.

Though the Bluecoats wore mostly gray in 2018, all of the coats were blue in 2019. “Ever since 2016 when we stopped wearing a blue jacket, there’s been this meme on the internet about how the Bluecoats don’t wear blue coats,” Scott says. “We decided if we’re going to call the [2019] show ‘The Bluecoats,’ we have to play off that.”

Thus, the Bluecoats’ signature blue uniform jackets returned.

The need to maintain a solid corps identity while experimenting with creative uniform ideas is not unique to the Bluecoats. During the past few years, drum corps uniforms have been evolving to fit each year’s show rather than remaining stagnant like traditional marching uniforms.

SHOCK VALUE

For years, Carolina Crown was known for its full-body cream-colored uniforms until 2013 when the staff decided to shake things up. “We were looking for an identity of something different yet fresh,” says executive director/ CEO Jim Coates. That “something different” ended up being bright purple stretch pants, a garment never before seen by Drum Corps International (DCI) fans.

That shock value was exactly what Coates wanted. “We wanted to be noticed for the change that would also happen musically and percussively, the boldness of it all,” he says.

Thus, Carolina Crown became a pioneer in the new DCI tradition of annual costume changes.

The Bluecoats went through a similar process in 2016 when it traded in its police inspired uniform for a stretchy white costume with blue accents but without its signature blue coat. In 1972, the Bluecoats began as a tribute to the Canton Police Boys’ Club in North Canton, Ohio. As a result, the corps wore blue jackets to represent its police heritage.

The Bluecoats 2016 show, titled “Down Side Up,” challenged drum corps traditions and included complex dance choreography in the drill. As a result, the stretchy uniforms were both a necessity and a signifier of a new tradition.

THEATRICAL ELEMENTS

In addition to surprising audiences, corps uniform changes have begun to emphasize the story or theme of each individual show.

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