True Colors

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Any local hoops fan worth his salt realizes that labeling Cleveland’s 2010-11 squad the “new-look Cavaliers” is a vast understatement.

Many of the recognizable players, coaches and front office personnel from the franchise’s recent run of unprecedented success have taken their talents elsewhere. And in their place, a new cadre of Cavaliers will emerge – led into an up-tempo and uncertain future by Coach Byron Scott and the new Cavs brass.

But while Coach Scott patrols the sidelines at the height of sartorial splendor, his charges on the floor will be donning a fresh design and a new expression of the wine and gold.

Actually, calling the new threads and team colors a “new expression” isn’t entirely accurate. More precisely, it’s an “original expression” of the Cavaliers’ archetypal colors. The wine will be deeper and the gold, brighter – reflecting the Cavaliers’ traditional tincture from their first few seasons of existence.

Over the years, the club’s colors – “wine and gold” – have become almost analogous to the team’s actual name. The Cavaliers are the “Wine and Gold” in the same way that Ohio State is the “Scarlet and Grey,” the University of Michigan is the “Maize and Blue” or the Oakland Raiders are the “Silver and Black.”

“The response from our fans related to our classic uniforms and merchandise has been tremendous over the last several seasons, especially our original wine and gold color mix items,” said Tracy Marek, the Cavaliers senior vice president of marketing. “As a result, we’re very excited to bring the spirit of the original expression of wine and gold into our brand full-time for the future.”

Cleveland’s new old-school uniforms have a classic appeal – with “CAVALIERS” emblazoned in wine across the chest on the home whites; “CLEVELAND” in gold on the road wines. Instead of a thick piping along the outer-thigh of the shorts, there is a “C-sword” on both sides.

The tops are crew-neck, with alternate striping on the neck and arms of the jersey as well as the waistband and legs of the shorts.

But perhaps the most unique feature of the Cavs new finery is something fans will never see.

Along the back of the jersey’s inner-collar – facing the back of the player’s neck – lies the Cavaliers credo: “All for one. One for all.”

Cleveland’s new uniforms are as much a throwback to their original 1970 threads as they’ve had in four decades since. In between, the franchise has experimented with burnt orange, royal blue, bright orange, black, purple and pastel blue. And throughout the club’s history, there have been three notable uniform changes – not all good.

The first uniforms featured the feathered underscore of “Cavaliers” on both home and road jerseys. Those years also featured the birth of the Cavs iconic logo – a silhouetted figure of a jousting Cavalier, encircled by the words “Cleveland Cavaliers.” The symbol is every bit as recognizable as the infamous “Chief Wahoo” and, thankfully, has survived through four decades of change.

Cleveland’s second uniform style – made famous by the “Miracle of Richfield” team – featured gold home duds and “Marquette”-style horizontal white, wine and gold stacked piping along the sides. Those uniforms – and that era – were celebrated again by the 2004-05 team.

In 1981, as the final remnants of the Miracle squad faded into the sunset, the Mike Mitchell-era team went with a metallic gold with a pair of horizontal stripes with the word “Cleveland” written above it in block letters.

But in 1983 – with the purchase of the team by Gordon Gund and the organization on the verge of big changes – the Cavaliers made a radical departure from its original colors and identity. This came in the form of the burnt orange and royal blue uni’s with the word “CAVS” written across the chest. The “V” was designed like a hoop with a ball entering it, which also served as Cleveland’s new logo.

The Cavaliers retained the colors – and slight variations on the look – throughout their final, and highly successful, years at the Richfield Coliseum. The burnt orange as the primary road color was replaced by the royal blue road uniforms in 1987 and the “CAVS” logo was replaced with the block “Cleveland” before the 1989 season.

This attire will forever be linked to the Lenny Wilkens era of excellence that featured the likes of Mark Price, Brad Daugherty, Larry Nance and Hot Rod Williams.

When the Cavaliers began play at Gund Arena in the 1994-95 season, there was once again a sea change from the previous look.

From the wine and gold of the 70s to the burnt orange and royal blue of the 80s, the Cavaliers went with pastel blue and black. Home uniforms were white, road black, with a jagged blue splash across the torso and double-lined lettering that said “CAVS” at home and “Cleveland” on the road, both outlined in orange.

The Cavaliers (thankfully) modified this look in 1997, sticking with the color scheme, but losing the incongruous torso splash. Instead, the uniforms featured a more streamlined blue and orange piping along the right side of the shirts and shorts. The futuristic lined letters remained.

But in October of 2002, Gund decided to bring Cavaliers fans back to the future. The new colors were announced on October 9, 2003 – the “new expression of wine and gold” – a crimson-hued wine color and a metallic, almost copper, gold. Dark blue, the secondary color, was a tribute to the Cavalier teams of the 1990s.

Now, eight years later, the franchise returns to their original colors, and the Cavaliers continue to move forward. With an eye on the future and a nod to the past, the wine and gold rolls on.