March 01, 2017
March 1, 2017

“You want them to feel proud of what they’re wearing, like it’s time to put on their Superman suits.””

Where others see a 100-yard football field, Michael Cesario sees a 100-yard stage.

“What will look great from the stands?” asks Cesario, the designer behind the Marching Blazers’ new band uniforms. “It’s not about what one uniform looks like. It’s what do 200 look like?”

Cesario designs uniforms for bands, drum corps, and color guards through FJM Inc., an Ohio-based band and color guard uniform company. He serves as Artistic Director of Drum Corps International, was named to the Drum Corps International Hall of Fame, and is known for his costume design work on Broadway and in theaters across the nation.

When UAB Football returns on September 2, the Marching Blazers – 200 strong and growing – will take the field in brand-new uniforms designed by Cesario. A fundraising effort is underway to top off the goal of $75,000 to cover the cost of the new uniforms; to contribute, click here.

“I’m not just running to my computer and saying ‘Oh, a sash, boop!’” Cesario says of his design process, which can take three weeks to a month. “I don’t consider a uniform a collection of pieces. How does the uniform as a whole reveal the character, the heart of the band, and the beliefs of the band? It’s all about identity.”

Cesario’s design begins with a series of questions: What does the band mean to the school and its alumni? What does the band mean to its members? What does the band mean to the community at large?

The answers lead Cesario toward the final design. “If the band has big alumni support, I might include something from past uniforms, something that links the current band to the past,” he says.

For UAB, Cesario looked to Blaze, the UAB mascot, for inspiration. “We have a very strong visual logo, this wild, flame-breathing dragon,” he says. “I asked myself how to get the intimidation and energy of that flame-breathing dragon on the uniform without just plopping the logo on the front.”

The designer translated the lines of Blaze on the logo for parts of the uniform, such as the bold lapel.

“I took the flame and, with a little twisting and tweaking, it pops right out against a green and black background,” he says. “The flame detail is the same size on every person so that way they look consistent on the field. The flame acts as a focus for the suit and as a source of energy.”

The back of the uniforms are black so that “when they turn around and play away from the crowd, it’s a soft moment, something that changes the stage. And then they turn around and hit you again. You want the fire again.”

Cesario designed UAB’s previous Marching Blazers uniform 15 years ago. “Believe it or not, that was controversial when we did it, as hard as that is to believe,” he says. “It was a difficult sell, the gold and red and orange. Now I can put flames on them and people are going, ‘Yeah!’”

For Cesario, every design begins with the goal of making the band members feel like heroes on the field.

“You want them to feel proud of what they’re wearing, like it’s time to put on their Superman suits,” he says. “These uniforms celebrate a new era. You can’t ease into that. You’ve got to kick it off.”

To help fund new uniforms for the Marching Blazers: