After 18 years and more than 350 performances, Whitehall-Yearling High School's marching-band uniforms soon will retire.

After 18 years and more than 350 performances, Whitehall-Yearling High School's marching-band uniforms soon will retire.

The hundreds of "band mothers" who have bleached collars, patched holes and cleaned plumes to keep the uniforms in tip-top shape finally will get a reprieve, said Chris Herrmann, the high school's band director.

"We feel like (the old uniforms) have done great for us, but we want to go in a new direction," Herrmann told school board members earlier this month. "And our inspiration came from the original Whitehall-Yearling High School band uniforms."

The district and the Whitehall Instrumental Music Booster Association have partnered in the project to purchase the new uniforms and overcoats, which cost about $72,000. The district will pay for half the cost, while the boosters, via fundraisers, will pay for the other half in three installments to the district by 2016.

Herrmann said the new uniforms will come at a bargain. The band's current collection would cost around $71,000 at today's prices -- and that does not include overcoats to protect the uniforms, he said. The new uniforms will cost $63,750, with an added $8,600 for new, breathable overcoats.

The style of the new uniform will be a dramatic change.

The new military-style uniform presented to board members earlier this month features a policeman-style coat and trousers, similar to Ohio State University's marching-band uniforms. The high-waisted coat, cross belt and spats are similar to the uniforms Whitehall-Yearling's original marching band wore, but feature a wool blend for comfort in warm weather, Herrmann said.

"We also wanted to follow the way of our athletic uniforms in that we're going back to our traditional school colors of black and white, and adding just an accent of red," he said.

Herrmann said most schools replace their marching-band uniforms every 10 to 12 years, so the current uniforms -- purchased in 1996 and 1997 -- have long outlived their expected usefulness. Herrmann estimated 100 volunteer hours are spent each year on adjustments and alterations, with an additional 50 hours on repairs.

The new uniforms will be easier to clean as well. Students will provide their own white shirts to go under the coats, protecting the uniforms.

In order to help pay for their half of the uniform cost, the boosters plan either a donation project or uniform sponsorship, said Herrmann. He also said he hopes to launch a "reuse" project with the old uniforms by making pillows out of them and selling them as sentimental souvenirs.

The boosters also raise funds at the school's concession stand during football games, track meets and other school sporting events.

Board members unanimously approved the expenditure at their regular board meeting April 10.

Originally, Herrmann and the boosters proposed purchasing the overcoats at a later date to lower the cost. But board Vice President Blythe Wood suggested adding the protective overcoats into the current purchase, along with an added payment from the boosters, in order to receive the entire ensemble at once.