The weirdest thing about the 49ers’ new uni set, which was unveiled on Saturday, is how little media coverage it’s gotten. Newspaper photos have been scarce, and even the team’s web site had only one small photo and a really low-quality video report — frustrating for me, since the Niners are my favorite NFL team. So we’ll have to make due with a bit less visual support than we’re used to seeing around here. With that in mind, here we go:
• The new colors: For those keeping score at home, the team’s red has changed from Pantone 194 to Pantone 187C, and the gold has changed from 874 to 872. The new tones are more throwback-y/classic/Montana-ish/etc., but I don’t care for them as much. This feels like tradition simply for tradition’s sake. Is it good or is it stupid? Stupid (but my TV is probably too old for me to be able to tell the difference anyway).
• The new helmet: Basically, they’ve restored the red-white-red stripe and the gray facemask (both of which were used from 1964-1995, plus recent throwback games) but kept the revised “SF” oval that was introduced in 1996. Here’s how the new helmet looks compared to last year’s main helmet, and compared to the throwback helmet the team has worn in recent years. I think they got it right in terms of the stripe and the facemask (I know some of you hate gray masks, but I always hated the red mask) and I’m agnostic about the two logos — they’re both fine by me. Good or stupid? Good.
• The new jerseys: First the good news: Ditching the drop shadows and going back to one-color numbers is addition by subtraction. Ditto for removing the “SF” logo from the sleeves. Now the bad news: (1) That chest wordmark is a disaster. For starters, it’s an awkward design — always has been. In addition, putting a logo with a number right above the uni number looks idiotic. If they had to have a chest logo (which they didn’t), why not use the “SF” mark, or come up with a new “Niners” mark? This is the worst possible choice they could have made. (2) What is the freaking deal with the truncated sleeve stripes? It’s not just the tailoring on that one jersey — the stripes are actually shown that way on the team’s official style guide sheet and in Madden (the helmet striping and facemask in that shot are wrong, so don’t be thrown by them). Look, if you can’t fit real stripes on your
sleeves armholes, just don’t bother with them. This half-assed compromise just doesn’t cut it. So while I’m glad to see the drop shadows being scrapped, the overall effect still leans toward stupid.
• The new pants: The worst thing about the Montana-era uniform was that the pants piping was ridiculously wide. The team has stayed true to that look in recent throwback games, but the new pants piping appears to be much more reasonable. No more “SF” logo on the hips, either. A major improvement. Very, very good.
I’d been hoping they’d be going back to striped socks, but no such luck — same red-topped hose as before. Dang.
So, upgrade or downgrade? Bit of a mixed bag, sez I. I can live with it. But it’s veeeeery tempting to sneak in the locker room with an Xacto knife to cut the chest wordmark out of every jersey in the joint.
Meanwhile, here’s a question: Is there a name for the type of color-white-color striping that the Niners are restoring to their uniforms? When I was a kid, this stripe pattern was practically synonymous with the NFL, at least to me, so for now let’s call it NFL striping. (If this stripe design has its own name in the uni biz, or if you’d like to propose a better name, I’m listenin’.)
In 1975, when I was in sixth grade, 10 of the league’s 26 teams used NFL striping on their helmets and/or pants (that’s not including the Jets and Colts, because their striping was — and still is — on a white background, which somehow feels like a different thing to me). Twenty years later, in 1995, the count was 10 out of 28 teams. But then several teams, including the Niners, started moving away from NFL striping. As of last year, the count was seven out of the league’s 32 teams (the Browns, Texans, Titans, Lions, Cowboys, Packers, and Saints; we could also include the Bears for their dark pants, but I don’t think they wore them at all last year).
Now the Lions have moved away from NFL striping as well, but the Niners have reclaimed it. Interesting to see them moving against the grain on this particular stripe pattern.
Uni Watch News Ticker: Last week I mentioned that Texas Tech had recently worn throwbacks. Turns out their video department made a throwback-style highlight reel of the game, and it is hands down the best sports-related video I’ve seen this year. Stop what you’re doing and check it out here (major thanks to Kirk Heard). … Kevin Wright was watching the 1996 NHL All-Star Game and noticed that the Great One was wearing a CCM helmet instead of his usual Jofa model. … Gerry Dincher asks, not unreasonably: If MIT’s teams are called the Engineers, why is their mascot a sinister beaver? … Dave Battafarano coaches this high school team in Wilmington, Delaware. “All players and coaches are required to wear pants at the knee and must show three stripes when we are in our grays,” he says. “We are the only HS team in Delaware to wear stirrups and sanitaries, and naturally the only to have stripes. We get a ton of comments, mostly compliments. People are amazed when they see the half-moon sanitary showing and many have no clue what they are.” Well done, Dave, but now teach those kids how to blouse their pant cuffs properly. … The Red Sox wore five different uniforms in their first 15 games (Jesse Pugh broke out his abacus to tally that one). … Uni typos aren’t a new phenomenon as you can see in these Spokane Indians photos from 1908. Over three decades later, Spokane’s baseball community was still a bit spelling-challenged. Love those uniforms, though (big thanks to Pacific Northwest baseball guru Dave Eskenazi, who’ll be throwing out the first pitch for for the A’s/Mariners throwback game on May 2nd, when the teams will be dressing up as the Oakland Oaks and Seattle Rainiers). … I gotta get me one of these (with thanks to Nolan Brett). … This has gotta be a joke, right? Apparently not (with thanks to John Muir). … Classy. … Small piece on bank logos here. … Here’s what Terence Kearns wore to Friday’s Mets/Nats game. … According to this page, the Red Sox may live up to their name on the road before the season is out. Key quote, from Bosox chief operating officer Mike Dee: “Socks are not usually a prime consideration when you design uniforms, because two years ago we had 25 guys who wore their pants down to their shoes.” Okay: (1) Asshole. (2) Two years ago you had Mike Timlin, Jason Varitek, and Coco Crisp. (3) Are you aware of your team’s name? (4) See #1 (with thanks to Mark Sullivan). … Lots of cool old football screen shots from helmet historian Jim Parker. In no particular order: a backwards helmet numeral, inverted lightning bolts, inconsistent helmet number fonts, the Packers still wearing their old navy accessories in their forest green era, and — here’s the doozy — Amos Marsh wearing totally “WTF?” TV numbers, not just once, but twice! Plus it looks like the TV number didn’t color-match the sleeve stripes. … Bob Wilson posted the following on the SABR listserv the other day: ” The A’s 1953 uniforms were very similar to those of 1952, except for having much smaller numerals on the back. For those who remember the Phillies uniforms of those days, with their extra-large numerals, the 1952 A’s had ones about as big as that, whereas with the 1953 A’s they were sized more like those of most other teams. Anyway, that’s the way it was for their 1953 home opener, but some of the [’52] variety began to appear as the months rolled by. This circumstance was an early indicator of the team’s deepening poverty — they couldn’t afford to replace torn shirt but fortunately had some left around from 1952. … Then things got worse next year, according to two books where it’s claimed that the A’s never paid for their 1954 uniforms.” Never heard any of that before. … Also from SABR-L, this time from David Vincent: “The owner of the Carolina League champion Potomac Nationals wears a uniform for Saturday home games and ‘coaches’ first base. He grew up in Brooklyn at the time that [Jackie] Robinson made his debut. His name is Art Silber, a retired banker, and wears No. 42 for the Potomac team. His goal, as he has told me multiple times, is to be the last No. 42 in pro ball. He only has to wait out Mariano Rivera for that dubious honor.” … Major tavern crisis on the horizon in Europe, as the leading beer coaster purveyor has gone bankrupt (with thanks to the world’s greatest cat-sitter, Laura Forde). … Good article here about minor league equipment managers (with thanks to Brett Crane). … Here’s another view of the Jags’ original jersey concept, which was later scrapped (with thanks to Jared Pike). … Completely hilarious uni-centric video about “baseball of the future” here — not to be missed (with thanks to my ESPN editor, Dave Schoenfield). … New York State and surrounding environs logo mash-up by Jeremiah McElwain. … Jeff Demerly reports that he wore gold sanitaries — and gold shoelaces! — back in his Little League days, circa 1974. “Our coach worked at a sporting goods store and always liked color,” he says. “My last year, we switched to red, white, and blue. That team picture was taken after a practice, so you can’t see the total package, which included numbers on our pants like the Astros. We were certainly the most ‘original’ team in our city league.” … Last week’s issue of Time Out New York included this photo. Never seen that Mets skirt before. … The Washington Huskies have unveiled their new football uniforms. More pics here. … Stirrups and uni-numbered shower shoes! That’s Roger Maris, natch (with thanks to Jesse Spector). … Footwear note from Brian Erni: “On Saturday SNY did a report on which players wear plastic cleats as opposed to players who wear metals (for example, Jose Reyes always wears plastics, Luis Castillo wears metals). Jeremy Reed — who wears metals so he can dig in better in the box — said that when he played with Adrian Beltre in Seattle, Beltre would actually wear flat turf shoes in the field when they would play in Minnesota, Tampa or Toronto and would actually switch cleats to metal spikes before he hit so he could dig in better. Would be great to find photographic evidence of this!” … The Padres wore 1969 throwbacks on Saturday, and holy shit did those striped hose look totally sexy. Broadcaster Mark Grant was dressed for the occasion, too. Too bad about the badly inaccurate rear view, though (Grant screen shot courtesy of Mike Hersh). … Ladies and gentlemen, only three words are appropriate here: Oh. My. God. … Anyone know why Mike Richards had “PP” printed on his teeth the other day? (Screen shot courtesy of Ryan Connelly.) … The Denver Post ran a big series of articles about Denver-area uniforms yesterday. Start here for the mainbar, and then check out the side articles about the Nuggets, Broncos, CU Buffs, and local athletes’ opinions. … Here’s next season’s AHL All-Star Game logo. … The New York Mets, lamest, dumbest, most embarrassing franchise on the planet. Can’t we just send the Wilpons on an all-expenses-paid excursion the Chechnya or something? … Reprinted from Sunday’s comments: Usain Bolt wore this jersey while throwing out the first pitch at Fenway on Saturday. The uni number, of course, refers to the average number of runs given up by the Yankees’ bullpen each game. … Recently acquired this old uni catalog. Nothing momentous, but a few interesting tidbits: (1) Check out the padded facebar at 10 o’clock — never seen that before. (2) Note that the ventilation grommets on two of these sneakers are on the rubber strip, not on the canvas. Sloppy illustration, or did Chucks used to be designed that way? (3) The football footwear page included a listing for little press-on uni-number tabs. Hey, Terry Proctor, were those common back in the day? And (4) Dig item G914, described as the “Ted Sowle Model” of eyeglass protection. Who’s Ted Sowle? Beats me. Anyone..? … Now I’ve seen everything (with thanks to Brinke Guthrie). … Was out having a few beers at O’Connor’s on Friday and found myself sitting next to a gent named Ryan McManus. As you can see, he had an extremely nifty T-shirt, plus he had this cap, which I’d never seen before. He said it was from a now-defunct Massachusetts bar called the b-Side. Awesome MLB logo treatment on the back, too. … We’ve previously noted that the Pirates’ collar piping extends down the jersey’s inner flap. But it turns out that it doesn’t extend all the way down (good spot by Tim Collins). … “I went to the NFL draft over the weekend,” says Will Slade. “They had an AFL 50th Anniversary Booth and handed out brochures that detailed the ‘Legacy Games.’ In addition, some of the NFL employees had AFL logo lapel pins. Here’s a photo of the officials’ uniforms and the Broncos’ uniform.” … Stan Olechowski was visiting his galpal as Delware Valley College and snapped pics of some cool items, including this button and this jersey, which has a cool rounded insignia and a beautiful, fascinating label. Anyone know more about who S&C might be? … Two AFL find by Tom Park: First, this is from a Chargers/Titans preseason game in August of 1960. Odd that the official was wearing a plain white jersey, no? Even odder: Joe Namath wearing what appears to be a practice jersey (NNOB, no green trim on the sleeves) on 12/6/69.