I recently got a note from a reader who’d prefer to remain anonymous. Here’s what he had to say:
I recently heard that each NFL team can only have one unique color. For instance, the Dolphins’ unique color is their aqua. Their navy and orange, therefore, have to be the same exact color as the Broncos’ navy and orange (unless one of those is designated as Denver’s unique color). This is done to save money at the league level — they can use the same navy for every team that uses it as a (non-unique) color.
I’d never heard that before, but I was looking closely at a couple and it seems to be right. I was surprised by this — we always talk so much about colors and logos being unique and emotionally tied in, and here we have the biggest league of them all meshing things together.
Intriguing. I could’ve pored over all my style guides and charted the assorted hues used by various teams over the years, but
there’s no fucking way I’m gonna waste a day doing that it seemed more efficient to ask ColorWerx honcho Donovan Moore, who’s my go-to guy for color-related questions. He responded almost immediately:
That sounds right. The NBA is even more in that camp. For example, the Bulls, Clippers and Trail Blazers all use different reds as far as printing colors go, but they’re all the same when it comes to fabrics/textiles. Very few unique colors out there. Todd Radom, Tom O’Grady, and I refer to this as the “homogenizing” of the color palettes. It’s obvious that it’s a cost-saving measure.
The Seahawks, incidentally, have TWO unique colors: the “Seahawks Blue,” which is actually a custom Reebok color, not a Pantone color, and the “Bright Green.” No one else in the NFL uses either one of those colors (although the Charlotte Bobcats use that same blue in the NBA). However, the dark navy they use is also used by the Bears, Texans, and Bills — or at least that was the case through 2010.
There’s a bit more diversity in MLB, although I’m not sure why.
Since Donovan tracks this kind of stuff, I asked him if he could identify roughly when this homogenization effect kicked in. His response:
There seem to have been two specific seasons when there were wholesale changes in the NFL: 1997 and 2002. In 1997, for example, almost all of the teams who wore yellow/gold/athletic gold (there’s a whole issue right there) went from Pantone 116C to 1235C. The one exception was the Cardinals, who continued to use 116 for the beak in their logo. In 2002, the teams that wore navy went from 282C to 289C; most of the teams wearing orange went from 172C to 1665C; and so on.
More recently, Reebok has used more custom colors. The 49ers use a custom red, and the Buccaneers use a custom pewter. I suspect that this will change with Nike coming in. I would think that there would be some color changes.
All very interesting. But wait a minute — if teams were all changing from X to Y, that’s not really homogenization, is it? Like, if they were all wearing X to begin with, they were already homogenized no? I put those questions to Donovan, who responded thusly:
You are correct that a lot of them just shifted from one to another, but there were also examples of color shifts for a purpose. One example was when the Jets unveiled their new “throwback” color scheme in ’97, they went with a specific color (Pantone 626C). At the same time, the Packers moved from 553C to 626C. I assume it was to save on stocking two different shades of dark green. Both the Packers and Jets then moved to 5535C in 2002.
Another example is with the Colts and the Cowboys. The Colts had been using Reflex Blue C up until 2001, and the Cowboys had been using 281C. Both changed to 280C in 2002. Also in 2002, some teams using silver went from 877C to 8001C. And surprisingly, all NFL teams that used black in 2001 shifted from black 6C to Process Black C in 2002 — except for the Carolina Panthers, who still use Black 6 to this day. (You following me, camera guy?)
The NBA provides one set of colors as the official “spot” colors, and then another, sometimes different, set of Pantone colors for “production.” For example, the Pistons’ official Pantone colors are Royal Blue 293C, Red 199C, and Navy 282C — those are for logos. But their production colors are Royal Blue 661C, Red 186C and Navy 289C. And those colors match the textile/fabric colors that many other NBA teams use. The Bulls, for example, use Red 200C for logos, but in production colors it gets translated to 186C. And so on, and so on.
Faaascinating. Big thanks to Donovan for sharing his expertise with us.
And as long as we’re talking about color, what do you think Weekend in the Country, Dead Salmon, and Tornado Watch are? No, they’re not indie-rock bands — they’re paint colors. Jeez. That color article, incidentally, includes a link to an interesting site called ColourLovers, which has a section where people can create their own color palettes, many of which are intriguing. Imagine if a team went with these colors, for example. Good site.
ESPN reminder: In case you missed it yesterday, my latest ESPN column, which includes my point-by-point assessment of the new Bills uniform set, is available here.
Uni Watch News Ticker: New football uniforms for Kentucky. I kinda like the contrasting checkboard sleeves on the road jersey. I fact, I like it so much that I wish they’d used contrasting white-based checkerboard sleeves on the home jersey. … Jamie Ramsey, who works in the Reds’ PR office, reported last night that this year’s MLB all-stars will wear “star patches” on their caps and jerseys for the week leading up to the game. I’m trying to find out of “star patches” simply means this year’s ASG patch or something else. Will advise. … Update: Here’s the full info on those all-star patches. … Here’s According to Interesting Japanese baseball situation explained by Jeremy Brahm: “The Chiba Lotte Marines and Yomiuri Giants made a trade this week. One of the players involved Saburoh Ohmura, whose NOB, written in katakana, was Saburo. But at the press conference announcing the trade, the NOB on his new jersey was Ohmura. This goes back to when Ichiro became a star, as teams started having their rookies change their names to katakana to make them look cool. Sadly, most didn’t make it. Ohmura did, so it is odd to see him change back. Maybe he respects the Giants or something.” … If you go back to that first photo of Saburoh Ohmura, it looks like the catcher is wearing, for lack of a better term, “slanty” eye-black patches, mimicking the look of Asian eyes. I asked Jeremy if this was common in Japan. His response: “I think that most Japanese players don’t wear eye black. Six pro teams play in domed stadiums, so they would not need it. Also, day games are only played on weekends or holidays, so there aren’t many pro games where eye black would be called for.” … Good piece on Nike’s marketing practices here (with thanks to Robin Griffiths). … New Rugby World Cup kit for Wales. “Holy cow, can the Under Armour logo get any bigger?” asks Scott Sidor, I presume rhetorically. … In more rugby news, the All Blacks will reveal a new jersey on July 30 (with thanks to Chris Bisbee). … Tour de France news from Jeff Mayer, who writes: “Garmin dropped their traditional argyle look in favor of Cervelo’s black design when the two teams merged at the beginning of this season. Thankfully, Garmin has kept up with Cervelo’s tradition of wearing a special white kit for the Tour de France, and they’re bringing back the argyle — beautiful!” … Did everyone notice that I actually praised Kentucky’s Nike-produced uniforms? Just checkin’. … Whoa, check out the uniforms that were worn the other day for the Double Duty Classic, a high school all-star game in Chicago. Lots more photos here and here (big thanks to Mike Braam and Eriq Jaffe). … The U.S. Army has banned toe shoes (with thanks to Chad Todd). … The AHL’s newest franchise may be called the St. John’s Ice Caps (thanks, Phil). … Chris Flinn notes that Tigers first case coach Tom Brookens wasn’t wearing a helmet yesterday. … Good spot by Tim Burke, who noticed that someone was a little sloppy with Marcos Mateo’s NOB. … The Rays and Cards will be playing a throwback game tomorrow. The Rays, as you know, will dress as the Smokers, and the Cards will dress as the early-’50s version of themselves. Cardinals Hall of Fame Museum manager Brian Finch sent along some photos showing Stan the Man’s 1952 gamer and the resulting throwback based on it. As you can see, no zipper, and Brian says players can wear their pants as long as they want. “I know that some purists won’t like that, but we have to keep the players’ comfort in mind,” he says. Then again, a lot of the Cards have been going high-cuffed lately anyway, so here’s hoping they do so tomorrow as well. … More throwback action on tap this Sunday in Anaheim, as the Angels take on the Dodgers. Details — including the Halos’ halo cap! — here (with thanks to Michael Smith). … New soccer kits for AC Milan, Fulham FC, and Portsmouth (all courtesy of Kenny Loo). … New away strip for Celtic, too (gold star to Anthony Bruno). … Ryan Dowgin has discovered that BU football had an unusual uni number system back in 1947. … Odd look yesterday for Rockies reliever Clayton Mortensen, who wore his black vest with a black compression undershirt and a black short-sleeve tee (as noted by Dan Perkey).
Holiday schedule: Phil will handle the weekend, as usual. I’ll check in on Monday, and the site will be open for comments that day. Everyone have a safe and happy holiday weekend.