The throwback trend has become increasingly popular in sports in recent years. A team will wear the uniforms it wore in a bygone era, and will often incorporate musical and visual cues to evoke the time period in question. Fans often get into the spirit by wearing vintage clothes or team apparel. All in all, it’s a fun time for everybody.
But what if you’re the Dakota Jackalopes, and you decide to throw back to a time – the 1970s – when your team didn’t exist? What do you wear then?
For the Jackalopes, the answer is the “fauxback.” A fauxback uniform is designed to look like a uniform from a previous era, but it’s one that didn’t actually exist. The MLB’s Tampa Bay Rays pioneered the fauxback trend, creating 1979-style uniforms that have proven wildly popular with fans. The Jackalopes decided to follow in the Rays’ footsteps for their “’70s Night” promotion on Sunday against the Seattle Sailors.
According to Dakota GM Paul Mindegaard, the idea was born when the team changed its name from the Rapids to the Jackalopes during the offseason. When the team redesigned its uniforms to reflect the new name, they commissioned multiple different design concepts. Mindegaard said that the runner-up design was frequently referred to as “a ’70s kind of look.” Although the team ultimately chose a different design, “a lot of people on staff really liked the ’70s-looking one. So we thought, why not run with it?”
In order to maximize the ’70s-ness of it all, the team traded in their standard red-and-white color scheme for a brown-and-tan look. When the fauxback uniforms were unveiled to the players before the season, the initial reaction was a little skeptical. “Brown isn’t a color you usually associate with sports,” said LW “Flyin’ Ryan” Airston. “We thought it would look like we were driving for UPS.”
But as the throwback day drew closer, the team grew to embrace the new look. “We actually started thinking it was pretty cool,” said Airston. “It was something different that other teams don’t do. And the ’70s were kind of a cool time anyway.” The team started wearing the fauxbacks in practice, with a soundtrack of ’70s disco and funk to back it up.
For ’70s Night itself, the team went all out to evoke the era. In addition to the fauxback uniforms, coach Harold Engellund dressed in a glen plaid suit and a suitably wide tie. “I had to dig pretty far back in my closet,” joked the coach, “but I found it.” The team replaced the modern logo with the fauxback one throughout the arena, even going so far as to serve sodas and beers in cups with the “old” logo. The usual modern pop and rock musical selections were replaced with the disco and funk tunes the team had played in its practices. The Jumbotron even switched to a ’70s-style dot matrix display.
“We really wanted fans to feel like they’d stepped into a time machine,” said Mindegaard.
Between the second and third period, the team held a costume contest for fans dressed in vintage apparel. The winning fan – who was dressed like a student from “Welcome Back, Kotter” – received tickets to a future Jackalopes game. At the end of the game, the team raffled off the fauxback jerseys; judging by the number of fans who bought raffle tickets, the promotion was a hit.
Mindegaard said that the team was “really thrilled” with the success of the promotion. “I’ve been getting flooded with emails and calls asking when we’re going to do it again,” said the Dakota GM. “We’d only planned on doing it once, but given how popular it was, we might need to make this a recurring thing. It’s pretty groovy!”