The colors of Auburn: orange, navy and white.
When fans step into Jordan-Hare on Saturdays, they know what uniforms they expect to see. For home games, Auburn wears navy jerseys with white pants and some orange stripes on both. While away games feature the Tigers in an all-white getup. The uniform has seemingly always been that way, with just a few minor changes.
There’s one Auburn sport though, where fans never know what uniform will be featured and that’s gymnastics.
It’s a tradition for gymnasts to unveil their leotards just hours before a meet. In some cases, the gymnasts don’t know what to expect until the week of a meet.
Ashley Johnston is the assistant coach for Auburn gymnastics and has a hand in the creative process for these leotards. Johnston likes having the gymnasts involved during the design process.
“Designing leotards can be a very fun and creative process,” Johnston said. “I typically involve the gymnasts so they can have input in the design and overall fit of the leotard. A lot of them are very artsy and have great ideas.”
Johnston and Auburn's gymnasts are not alone when it comes to designing; they have outside help as well.
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Auburn works closely with Ozone Leotards, specifically with Morgan Dennis, a collegiate representative and a former teammate of Johnston’s at the University of Alabama. Ozone has been working with Auburn for the last four seasons designing and producing leotards.
Dennis and her team are given creative freedoms with their designs; inspiration is drawn from everything and anything while still playing on the themes of the school. When Johnston first began working with Ozone, she met them at their design headquarters in Dallas to work on over eight new concepts.
“Since then we use an interactive screen sharing platform,” Dennis said. “We get together and get on a call, similar to Zoom, where we are looking at the graphic designer’s screen and basically design in real-time. Typically there is a concept that’s already been built based on inspiration that [Johnston] has given us.”
The screen-sharing technology has saved both parties a lot of time as they can complete a concept on one phone call without going back and forth. Every detail down to the last stone has to be perfect and approved. The process is drawn out into the small details to make the leotards the best they can be.
The product also has to consider how manageable it is for the gymnast. Stitches, gems and other details have to be approved as not to compromise the functionality. The concepts are sampled and then put to the test by the gymnast. This allows Johnston and Dennis to see if the athletes feel comfortable and confident.
“Each girl is able to try it on to see how comfortable it may or may not be,” Dennis said. “Sometimes from the first sample it’s approved and we go ahead and put it into production. Sometimes it takes a few iterations of it before we get it right and it feels good to [the gymnasts].”
Even though Auburn produces a new leotard for every meet of the season, Dennis said it’s not hard to continue to come up with new concepts. There’s so much to draw from, and Auburn helps produce these concepts and helps keep everything fresh.
One design from this season that caused a little bit of an uproar was Auburn’s ruffle leotard. Dennis and even the team loved the idea, but others did not. The website College Gym News ranks NCAA leotards each week and for the particular week of the ruffle leotard debut, Auburn came in last.
“I think I wore something like it for my pool party birthday when I was 5 years old,” said Editor-in-Chief Elizabeth Grimsley. “I know most of the gymnasts liked this one, but it’s definitely not for me.”
Despite some disliking the leotard designs, Dennis thinks that the most important thing is that the gymnasts love the leotard and feel confident in it. That being said, many ideas have been completely axed because the gymnasts just didn’t like it.
While the ruffle leotard was probably her favorite from the 2020 season, there are others ready on deck for next season that she’s excited to see.
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