Viking band gets new look

Suzette Lowe

Eric Staats, director of the Ripley High School Viking band, has been designing uniforms since the mid-1990s.

With the current uniforms being 13-years-old and unable to be repaired or altered, Staats and the Ripley High School Band Boosters set their sights on updating and modernizing the design for the “Pride of Jackson County.”

The design chosen has generated a tremendous amount of response on social media.

According to Staats, each element has a purpose or meaning.

“The gold accents are a nod to past versions of the Ripley High School band uniform,” he said. “They also add a metallic flash which gives more presence to the band’s performance on the field. If you notice, that flash on the shoulder is in the shape of a ‘V’ and also resembles the horn on a Viking’s helmet.”

Even the most controversial portion of the pattern, the gray fade and gray pants, serve a practical objective.

“Using that darker color provides a visual contrast that makes the blue and white stand out,” Staats said. “That fade is a sublimation technique that draws the eye gradually to the vibrant blue of the jacket.”

Both current and past band members see the advantage of the darker pants.

“Changing to gray pants is a really good idea,” said Austin Tolley, a 2019 graduate. “The white pants were so difficult to keep clean. The band needs to look good visually for the judges.”

Carter and Cameron Critchfield agreed, saying the design impresses them as being “well thought out.”

“I think we’ll look very professional,” Cameron said. “I’m not a huge fan of the gray, but I do see what Mr. Staats is saying about bringing attention to the blue.”

Carter agreed, saying that the look is a professional one.

“It feels great to be getting these new uniforms,” he said. “We need to look as good as we sound.”

Staats, who has judged the visual aspect at many band festivals, knows the importance of design in competition. He has served as a visual adjudicator for the Central States Judges Association in Ohio and Indiana, as well as throughout West Virginia.

Any visual advantage that can be given to his marching band is one that Staats favors.

“A visual judge looks for a variety of color and movement effects,” he said. “Uniformity of the look is very important. The general rule is if you can’t see it at fifty feet, then you can’t see it. With this design, the band will definitely be seen.”

With the new uniforms, conceived by Staats, assistant band director Scott Greathouse, Elaine Kerr, and Rob Depp, a professional design consultant hired by the company, he said there are some definite benefits.

“The darker colors tend to flatter all body types,” the band director said. “The leg drape, along with the white plume, will make the band members look taller. Again, this brings uniformity.”

The biggest criticism being shared is that the uniforms are not totally blue and white, the school colors.

Trey Jones, former Viking field commander, said he looks at things differently.

“I think these are a great depiction of a modern band uniform,” he said. “This switch is very beneficial and looks to the future. I know how even a smudge on the white could take points away in a competition. It was almost impossible to keep them pristine.”

The Ripley High School Band Boosters will be focusing fundraising for the next several years on paying the balance due to the Board of Education for outfitting the band. The board issued a purchase order for the uniforms for $100,697.85. Funds raised through prior events and donations will be applied to the amount.

Band Booster President Renna Thompson said that she knows how hard both students and parents have worked to provide this much needed change.

“I think our band will look amazing on the field with this new look,” she said. “Blending the old with the new will help us start a new chapter.”

For her son, Gavin, who will be a senior when the band will be featured in the new design, the timing is just right.

“I’m excited that my senior year will see us taking the field in this uniform,” he said. “We’ve had a hard year, but next year we’ll come out strong and looking sharp.”