Behind the design of Syracuse’s new breast cancer awareness jerseys

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For Noah Hammerman, the “nitty gritty” details on the special Syracuse women’s basketball uniforms were crucial.

After playmaker Tiana Mangakahia was diagnosed with breast cancer, SU Athletics came up with the idea in the fall of 2019 to design pink uniforms. The goal was to create a uniform that raised awareness of breast cancer and symbolized Mangakahia’s journey, said Cedric Solice, director of management and program development for the team.

Hammerman, a Syracuse University Senior and major graphic designer, experimented with the “4T” patch on the shoulder, a reference to Mangakahia’s # 4 jersey and the “Tough4T” campaign that the team promoted during their fight. He adjusted the gradient on the pink jerseys. He changed the number of breast cancer logos on the sides of the shorts and shirt.

Syracuse debuted with the pink jerseys on Sunday, Mangakahia’s final match in the Carrier Dome. The SU game with No.2 NC State on Sunday marked the 15th year of the annual “Play4Kay” Atlantic Coast Conference game, held in honor of NC State head coach Kay Yow, died of breast cancer in 2009. It was Mangakahia’s. first Play4Kay game since being diagnosed with stage 2, grade 3 breast cancer in June 2019, which underwent chemotherapy and was declared cancer-free later that year.


Mangakahia and his teammates were unaware of the new jerseys – which came in two versions, pink and white – until a photoshoot last week, where Hammerman was also the photographer. Mangakahia praised him for the work and time he put in when the two met that day.

“I told him, ‘You’re the person I did this for,’” Hammerman said. “’You might not realize it, but really, it’s for you and everyone who’s been through something like this.’ ‘

The uniform design process started with about five different projects. Hammerman worked on Adobe Illustrator and Nike Teams, experimenting with different styles for the uniforms. He knew that the usual Syracuse uniforms are very clean and “blocky”, while the Kay Yow Fund designs look more like a “lick of paint.” He tried to find common ground.

A year and a half later, the final product is very similar to Hammerman’s original concepts, Solice said – he’s spent his time tweaking the details.

“What you saw on Sunday was the perfect version of what we created,” Hammerman said.

After working on the uniforms for over a year, the process made Hammerman feel closer to Mangakahia, even though he hasn’t spoken to her multiple times.

The project was especially important to Hammerman, who had several family members affected by breast cancer. Other aspects of the senior’s job include designing graphics for SU’s social media accounts, but this project meant “10 times more” to him based on his personal experience.

I told him, ‘You’re the person I did this for. You might not realize it, but really, it’s for you and everyone who’s been through something like this.

Noah Hammerman on what he said to Mangakahia

“I don’t care about my wallet, in all honesty. I don’t care if I find a job. It was about creating something really meaningful, and this project, above all else, did it for me, ”said Hammerman.

Hammerman, Solice and many others within SU Athletics, Nike and the university worked together on the project, which they initially hoped to have ready for the 2020 season. But there were complications during the production phase. which slowed down the process. When they got back on the bike, “it was really, really important to make this uniform” so Mangakahia could wear it while she was still in the SU, Solice said.

The breast cancer ribbons along the sides of the shorts and swimsuits were another ‘gritty nitty’ detail the group came and went. Initially, Hammerman started with just four – a reference to Mangakahia’s jersey number. But after long discussions, the group opted for 44 ribbons.

It was important to honor not only Mangakahia, but also Ernie Davis and Floyd Little, who both wore No.44 and died of cancer, Solice said. Little was diagnostic with cancer at the end of May 2020, and that’s when Solice said they realized they can honor the past 44 years with Mangakahia. Little deceased in January.

The new Syracuse jerseys have breast cancer ribbons.

The new Syracuse uniforms have 44 breast cancer ribbons on either side of the shirts and shorts. Courtesy of SU Athletics

There are 44 ribbons on each of the four different panels: both sides of the shorts and both sides of the jersey. Some are hidden by the design and the gradient, but the principle remains, Solice said. Nike insisted that if a team wants to create a custom jersey, there should be symbolic goals associated with the custom elements, he said. This is exactly what 44 meant.

“The conversation came out of ethos, almost to the point where it made sense,” Solice said. “Forty-four, Syracuse, and obviously Tiana wearing No. 4, but having had two 44s through the cancer process.”

Hammerman, Solice and the others worked on perfecting the “4T” patch that sits above the Nike logo on the upper left side of the jersey chest. They reworked it several times to make it simpler, more elegant, cleaner, Hammerman said. Mangakahia said she appreciates the amount of thought that goes into the little details, including the patch.

“The process, taking as long as it did, made the wait so much more worthwhile,” Hammerman said.

Hammerman and Solice worked with representatives from universities and Nike, among others, regarding the NCAA rules for uniforms. There are very specific guidelines and logistics factors because of the licensing and trademarks for the SU, ACC and NCAA, Solice said.

Originally, they wanted to fill the entire back of the jersey with a large breast cancer ribbon, which would go under the number. But guidelines didn’t allow it due to the particular shading, Solice said, so the group had to settle for a less visible version of the ribbon on the pink set of uniforms.

New Syracuse Breast Cancer Awareness Jerseys.

SU senior Noah Hammerman, who designed the jerseys, said he was focusing on perfecting the “nitty gritty” details. Courtesy of SU Athletics

Head coach Quentin Hillsman, known for his fashionable outfits aside, enjoyed how simplistic the uniforms were but still had a certain ‘flair for them’. They were the perfect balance, he said, because “you don’t want to be overrated, but you don’t want to be underrated either.”

When speaking to the uniforms team, Hillsman joked that if “you look good you play good,” senior Digna Strautmane said. Hammerman said the home and away versions were designed with the hope that they would be used for years to come, representing not only this team but many in the future.

“We gave (Hammerman) a few nuggets, and we said, ‘This is what we’d like to see, and here’s a model of the uniform’ and ‘Go play. Be creative, ”Solice said. “He hit a grand slam with this one.”

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