Homecoming week at UL Lafayette is a tradition, unlike any other.
One of the most unique baseball uniforms of all time is the Houston Astros rainbow uniform. With its horizontal stripes and off-centered star, the jersey serves as an iconic symbol for the franchise's history. However, this uniform would not have existed if it weren't for University of Louisiana at Lafayette alumnus Jack Amuny.
Before he was designing baseball uniforms, Amuny '62 grew up in Sulphur, Louisiana. He originally started his collegiate career at McNeese State University studying architecture and fine arts. Once he started getting more involved with the architecture curriculum, he realized that it was not the career path for him and decided to make a shift to graphic design. One of his professors recommended the graphic design program at then Southwestern Louisiana Institute. So, he packed his things and moved to Lafayette to start his new journey at the University.
As an undergraduate student, Amuny focused mainly on his course work. His graphic design professors pushed him and his classmates so that they would be prepared for the working world once they graduated. "It was one of the few universities that taught you how to work at an art studio," said Amuny. This hard work paid off for him after graduation. Following a short stint in the U.S. Army, Amuny moved to New York City to work professionally in graphic design. His experience ranged from working at a small studio to working in an agency setting. After years in New York, Amuny decided to relocate to the Houston area. Little did he know that this move would position him for one of the most significant opportunities of his career.
After moving to Houston, Amuny started a studio while working freelance for agencies on the side. Initially, he remembers the request for the Astros' uniform as just a usual freelance gig. "It was just another job," said Amuny. During the mid-1970s, the Astros were not doing very well. The team required a new look, and Amuny was called in by an agency to help design a brand-new uniform. He had never worked on a sports design project before, but he was up for the challenge.
Since the Astros franchise already had established colors, Amuny came up with the idea to have them displayed as stripes on the uniform. He physically cut out strips of colored paper and laid them out to showcase an example of his vision. The only main change that executives made to his initial design was to move the star from the center of the jersey to the side. Besides that, Amuny's original idea pushed the envelope and has stood the test of time, even being called an iconic jersey in baseball.
Initially, though, Amuny wanted to keep his design a secret. His professional peers were not on board with his unique take on a beloved tradition. "Lots of people did not like it," said Amuny. They thought that it was extremely different from the aesthetic traditionally used.
The full rainbow uniform debuted in 1975 and lasted 12 seasons before being discontinued in 1986. The Houston Astros still revive the jersey today as a throwback and the current Sunday uniforms pay homage to the original rainbow design. The jersey is an Astros classic, printed on everything from hats to sandals and even a sweater famously worn by the model, Kate Upton.
Now later in his career, Amuny still enjoys doing freelance work when he can while frequently attending Astros games with his wife, Heather. Even though many don't know that he is the creator of this famous uniform, he is filled with pride every time he sees someone sporting his design.
For future graphic designers, Amuny encourages them to network as much as possible. "Seek expert counsel from professors and professionals in the business as you pursue this course of study," said Amuny. He credits his time at UL Lafayette for providing a strong foundation for his successful career. Without it, the world may have never known of the famous Houston Astros rainbow uniform.
Photo: Jack Amuny and wife, Heather, attend a Houston Astros game with the jersey.