UW Athletics

Both the men’s and women’s basketball teams at the University of Wisconsin will wear a new shooting shirt this February as a tribute to the late designer Virgil Abloh.

The collaboration was announced earlier this month as part of UW Athletics’ celebration of Black History Month and the impact Black alumni have had on the university. Abloh, who died in November 2021, was a 2003 graduate of UW and had gone on to revolutionize the fashion industry with his Off-White line of clothing, among other art and fashion achievements. Abloh was also a DJ who worked with pop music icons such as Kanye West, Lil Uzi Vert, Pop Smoke and others throughout his career.

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Previously used for the 2015 edition of “The RED Shirt,” Abloh’s design features the word “Wisconsin” in bold white letters across the chest, which is broken up by two crossing black lines. The design is displayed on a solid red background and above a small portion of text explaining that Abloh had dubbed the collaboration “Off-Wisconsin.”

The back of the shirt features a solid white rectangle positioned above a striped red and white square. The rear collar of the shirt also reads “BHM” in a red oval, signifying the shirt’s coincidence with Black History Month.

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The resulting design is one that seemingly embodies everything it means to be a Badger — boldness, pride and intensity. Abloh, a civil engineering major, had been known for describing UW as “the perfect place to go to school,” and his Badger spirit clearly shows in the design of the shirt.

UW Athletics

As UW Athletics Director of Brand Strategy Patrick Herb explained, the shirt is a tribute to the spectacular work done by Abloh in his exemplary fashion career.

As our student-athletes wrote, ‘Virgil was an aspirational figure to the young Black community and an entire generation,'” Herb said. “His impact on our campus and community is vast and we are excited to continue exploring future partnerships to carry on the legacy of Virgil Abloh and other inspiring Black alumni.”

Head Women’s Basketball coach Marisa Moseley told Madison 365 that student athletes were excited to hear the news that they would be wearing samples of Abloh’s work.

“Virgil’s estate was gracious enough to allow us and the men’s team to wear these shirts that he designed prior to his passing,” Moseley said. “Any kid right now who has any kind of inkling of pop culture and design are fans of Off-White. So, so many of our kids are Virgil Abloh fans.”

“Obviously his passing was tragic, but he had such an affinity for the University of Wisconsin, and students here wanted to make sure that they were able to continue his legacy,” Moseley continued. “And I think it’s a great way during Black History Month to not only honor him as a designer, but him as a person, and him as a fellow alum.”

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Though the shirt will not be available for sale, that did not deter commenters on social media from praising the design and vying for a sale later this year as many hope to get their hands on the exclusive Off-White re-release.

“This is fire,” one commenter said on Twitter. “Please sell!!!!” said Inside Wisconsin, a UW sports news outlet.

Despite the overwhelming public attention for the shirts, UW Athletics confirmed they don’t have plans to move forward with an official commercial sale anytime soon.

“We were excited to see the tremendous response to the Virgil Abloh-designed shirts and our student-athletes are very proud to help carry on his legacy,” Herb said. “In our discussions with the Abloh estate and with a limited time window, we made the decision for this re-issue to be exclusive to the Wisconsin basketball programs.”

Herb said with a limited window between Virgil’s death and the month of February, UW did “not want to rush into any public sale or charitable component.”

We were thrilled and grateful to the Abloh family for helping us get this project to the finish line as part of our celebration of Black History Month,” Herb added. 

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In addition to Abloh’s shirt, UW Athletics is making other tributes to campus’ relationship to its Black community throughout the month of February as campus continues to observe Black History Month. Future events include an upcoming soul food and music week and a livestreamed summit focused on the experience of Black student athletes at Wisconsin. A number of other events to celebrate Black History Month are taking place as well, including discussions, games and presentations.