“We knew that it would be an emotional reaction from everyone at first—and probably all the way through the event,” Brewer says. “But we wanted to really turn the page and look forward, and that’s what these colors do. People in the know are starting to influence the masses by saying these colors are awesome, these colors make me happy, these colors make me smile, these colors make me think of the sunshine and not a tragedy.”
After a $175 entry fee, months of training, and several hours of pounding the pavement from Hopkinton to Bean Town, participants in the 2014 Boston Marathon will receive (among other things) a shiny blue and yellow finishers medal. But though the unicorn-emblazoned award is the official commemorative keepsake of the world’s most prestigious marathon, let’s face it, runners aren’t going to wear it to the grocery store. Or to the movies. Or on a run. Or anywhere else.
Which is why Adidas’ Boston Collection has been so wildly popular among past and future Boston participants. The company first partnered with the Boston Athletic Association (BAA) back in 1988 to create a line of apparel—hats, jackets, tights, shirts, you name it—that runners can purchase online and at the marathon expo in the days leading up to the event.
The Celebration Jacket—this year a 10.8-ounce, polyester plain weave windbreaker—quickly emerged as the darling of the collection. With the Boston logo proudly embroidered on the chest, back, and/or collar, it has become the race’s unofficial badge of honor.
“The Boston Marathon is the Super Bowl of running, it’s the aspirational event that everyone wants to eventually run,” says Chris Brewer, running specialty category manager for Adidas America. “Go to the airport the morning after the race, and every person who’s run it has on that jacket.”
First manufactured in 1991 in "equipment green," the jacket has been rereleased annually in nearly every possible color combination—which means there are runners out there who have as many as 23 different jackets. “Every year Adidas has a color scheme that they promote,” says Marc Davis, communications manager for the BAA. “We support them in their color choices. It's awesome to see a certain color jacket in an airport or race somewhere, and know the year that jacket is from.”
In the wake of last year’s bombings—and in the emotional build up to this year’s race—Boston participants eagerly anticipated the release of the 2014 jackets in January. Would they be traditional blue and yellow BAA colors? Or patriotic red, white, and blue?
Neither, to the disappointment of many (although Adidas reportedly considered USA colors and decided—correctly—that Boston is not an exclusively American event). Nope, the BAA and Adidas took the running world by surprise when they announced the color of their 2014 Boston Collection Celebration Jacket would be … solar zest.
Yup, solar zest. A.k.a. neon, electric, glowing orange—but that doesn’t even begin to convey the brightness of this apparel. Incorporating solar blue accents, the line positively radiates.
“I hunt, and my hunters' orange gear is almost bleak in comparison,” one online reviewer wrote on the Adidas website. “It is so vivid you'll hurt your eyes straining to see past it to look at the detail in the embroidery.”
So, Adidas, why the change? “We wanted to have a looking-forward point of view without ever forgetting last year’s tragedy,” Brewer says. “But also we want to help turn the page as a brand and a partner to the BAA, and part of that was identifying these two colors put together—the solar orange and solar blue are truly colors of happiness and optimism.”
Adidas, however, wasn’t able to tell us how exactly they reached this determination, so we turned to George Milne, a professor of marketing at the University of Massachusetts-Amherst. “The color associations from the psychology and marketing literatures characterize orange as arousing, exciting, lively, happy, comforting, warm, secure, sensual, and fun,” he says. “While orange is a happy color, so is yellow—maybe more so. But orange is trendy.”
And trendy is good, especially if you’re the apparel supplier for one of the largest and most high-profile marathons on the planet. “You’d be amazed at how much gear we sell to runners,” says Brewer, noting that Boston Collection sales have increased more than 100 percent over last year. “The same individual will buy five or six or seven different items so that he or she can actually run in the stuff, or just wear the jacket around to show pride.”
Meaning that runners don’t just splurge on a jacket at the marathon expo (although many of them do wait till the day before the race to piece together entire outfits in person). They jump on the apparel in December or January, the second it’s available online, and train in Boston-logoed capris and ball caps. So far, the Celebration Jacket—which is accented by solar blue stripes down the arms—has been the collection’s bestseller, followed by the women’s three-quarter tight and short- and long-sleeve technical shirts.
Despite the horrified reaction by some (“All I could think about was Cheeto dust,” writes Paul from New Hampshire), high-viz apparel is a smart choice for runners training through the cold, dark months of January and February—one of many reasons, apparently, that folks seem to be coming 'round to the zesty attire.
“The colors are bright enough to be from the Mars rover,” writes another online reviewer. “The shoulder stripes seem ugly to begin with, but grow on you in a Stockholm Syndrome fashion. My only regret is that they don't make shorts that are short enough to complete the ’80s look properly.”
An Athens, Georgia-based runner writes that he was initially “distressed” about the color of the jacket. “I can't imagine the round table discussion that selected orange as the base color,” he says. “Regardless, we all earned a spot at the 2014 Boston Marathon and deserve to wear this traditional symbol of the race proudly. It will all seem less shocking when a few of these show up around town.”
Celebration Jacket: $110
Available online at adidas.com, select retailers, and at the John Hancock Sports & Fitness Expo April 18 through 20. A percentage of the proceeds will be donated to The One Fund Boston.