When spectators attend a Permian High School football game, they’ll see a band with more modern and lighter uniforms.

Funds for the uniforms came from the Florence Marie Hall Foundation, the Education Foundation and other contributors. Along with marching band, Director Jeff Whitaker said the uniforms have evolved.

“There are some dramatic changes from what we’ve had in the past, along with some things that are completely reflecting or mirror what we’ve had so it’s kind of a balance between tradition and modernization,” Whitaker said.

Whitaker said Permian’s uniforms are modular and came with two different looks.

“We’ve got a hip drop that we’ve never had before that hangs down from here; just adds a little more color; a little more variety; a little more movement; a little more sleekness,” Whitaker said.

The previous uniform had white shoulders, hats and plumes, so everything from the shoulders up was white.

Permian High School marching band students march around Ratliff Stadium before the start of the football game between Permian High and Amarillo Tascosa Friday, Sept. 10, 2021, at Ratliff Stadium. (Eli Hartman|Odessa American)

This time they went with a little less white vs. black.

“… The front has a shield-type look and this top part here is actually an overlay, so they will wear a shirt underneath like this thing where the color pops out. That is a separate piece, so that can change, and … if we wanted to, we could put any kind of color underneath that,” Whitaker said.

One of the advantages is that they have a game uniform and a competition uniform. This helps because they don’t have to do laundry quite as often. They are also washable. In the past, they have had to dry clean the uniforms.

“The game uniform is made of a light, Under Armour type of material …, so they can even push the sleeves up and so when you know for us, it’s hot. Like Friday’s (Sept. 10) game supposed to be high of 97 and so it’s gonna be super hot so when these kids are in their uniforms, it’s going to be a lot cooler than it was in the past because they’re not wearing a coat in the middle of the heat, so they’ve got just this Under Armour spandex with a shell on top. It’s more like a vest on the top. So those are some of the advantages we’ve had with it, the ability to change the ability to have a game uniform that’s lighter for the hot games. Another big change is the hats. We used to have hat boxes and those were a pain just to carry around in a move, but the hats now are actually hollow like a visor.

There’s Velcro around the side, so they put on what’s called a hat wrap. From the stands, it looks like the band members are wearing hats, but if you look straight down at a student’s head, you can tell it’s hollow.

They have the option of using a white plume.

“… We actually just distribute those at the game before halftime. Normally, we were having to carry hot boxes around set them down in places we’d march around the track and we’d have to get back up in the stands and pick up our hat box and go back in. Now we don’t have to worry about the hat boxes,” Whitaker said.

He noted that the new uniforms are more a comfortable uniform than they’ve had before and it provides options for the look.

“There’s two things in particular that we kept almost identical from the past uniform. Right now, over the student’s heart is the word Mojo. … That’s something that was in our last uniform. We’ve been able to keep this in place, whereas before it was just a vertical line now it’s sort of at an angle and we have this shield look. …,” Whitaker added.

A Permian High School marching band student waits for the signal to begin marching around Ratliff Stadium before the start of the football game between Permian High and Amarillo Tascosa Friday, Sept. 10, 2021, at Ratliff Stadium. (Eli Hartman|Odessa American)

He said the word Mojo is on a red ribbon over the students’ hearts.

“A lot of folks don’t understand why Permian would have red on their uniform. That is one of the big historical parts of our uniform tradition and that comes out of the very first Permian band that ever existed,” he said.

He said many of the students that joined the Permian band were from Odessa High School, whose colors are red and white. The late J.R. McEntyre, the director who created the Permian band, kept a little bit of tradition for them.

Whitaker said he put a red stripe down the pants, as well. “… That tradition has been kept up since then. I think one version of the uniform didn’t have red, but … every version before and since has had a significant portion of red on the uniform so we’ve been able to keep that tradition as well. It just so happens that right over our hearts, and with the word Mojo on top, and so it’s neat that we get to modernize and progress and adapt and at the same time remember the history of how it started from the very beginning. And we make sure that the students understand that, that they are aware of why that exists, because it is important. And for us, you know, on Friday nights we may be rivals, but for the rest of the here … it’s like hey we’re all in this together. We’re all band members, we’re all working on the same type of thing even though we go to different schools so there’s support and reflection and history and tradition all mixed together, and what makes it special,” Whitaker said.

There are enough uniforms, but not enough of certain sizes, so a local seamstress is making adjustments.

“… That’s always a big deal, that new look because it’s our look for eight years minimum, at least an eight-year cycle is how long these uniforms are designed to last. Sometimes you can get a little more life out of them. You don’t get as much life out of them as you had intended and it all depends on the season that you go through. As we know, playoffs are a big deal (at) Permian, so you expect to have more football games than the average high school,” Whitaker added.

Permian High School marching band students wait for the signal to begin marching around Ratliff Stadium before the start of the football game between Permian High and Amarillo Tascosa Friday, Sept. 10, 2021, at Ratliff Stadium. (Eli Hartman|Odessa American)

Being a band member at Permian High School includes a lot of games happening and a lot of competitions. The University Interscholastic League has added an area competition to an every year cycle now.

“So there’s a lot more opportunities for kids to wear the uniform and perform in them, but along with that comes a little bit more wear and tear,” he said.

The new uniforms, which are completely custom made, have 10 pieces. Band members buy their own shoes. Each one costs just under $600 and Whitaker has about 309 members.

“There are a few uniform companies in the United States that do this stuff. We chose to go with Fred J. Miller, who is one of the more progressive companies. And honestly, they do it for a great price. But even with all that, everything you see here, the hat wrap, this overlay here and hip drop, are all printed material now. No one will have anything that looks close to this, because this is a custom printed thing. I’m not sure how they print it, but it’s actually printed on the material and then sewn together in their factory. …,” he said.

Whitaker said OHS recently received funding from the F. Marie Hall Foundation for uniforms, as well, and they received theirs last year.

“It took a team of about 30 people to assign these uniforms over a course of a week’s time. It was kind of a moonshot moment for us trying to get that many parents and kids, trying to do it safely with COVID and get everyone into their uniform and have it custom fit. Then you always run into a hey we need a different size and just the logistics of that takes a long time. Fortunately, we had a wonderful group of staff members and parents that came to the rescue so that we were able to do that for our first football game,” he said.

He noted that the only time a student gets a uniform is before a performance. There is a checkout process.

“There are an army of folks that come up here and help distribute those uniforms …,” Whitaker said.

“… We teach them how to hang the uniform on the hanger. They have three hangers and three pieces that they have to hang. They have to take that, get in line and there are a team of parents that check each and every single uniform after every game. As complicated as that sounds, we get it done, typically by about the middle of season, we can have that entire process down, every uniform checked to make sure it’s hung up properly, the hangers go in the correct direction on the uniform rack, and the order that they’re supposed to be in, in about 30 minutes,” he added.

Executive Director of Fine Arts Aaron Hawley said the grant they received for the uniforms also allowed them to redo the sound and part of the lighting in the Permian auditorium.

“This same foundation also provided the money for the Odessa High School marching band uniforms. It’s been remarkable to have the support,” Hawley said.

“When you get a new uniform, you get upgraded into what’s current. And what’s current is that, if you’ll pay close attention, that they’re kind of interchangeable parts. That not only helps with upkeep of the uniform themselves, but also gives them some variety, based upon the temperature outside, but also how formal they want to be. There’s kind of a little bit more of an informal look and there’s a very formal look. But it’s the same uniform, it’s just customizable and that’s kind of a new trend.”