Click photos to enlarge
The two images shown above, both of which are from last night’s Steelers/Niners game, really capture today’s NFL in a nutshell, at least from a lower-leg perspective. Depending on the player, the Niners’ sock color is definitely red. Or black. Or mostly white. Or mostly red. Or whatever.
The one player who appears in both shots is safety Donte Whitner (No. 31), whose black socks mark him as the roguest of the rogue elements here. It’s one thing tinker with your socks’ white-to-red ratio; it’s another to eschew your team colors altogether.
This is the second time in three days that we’ve seen this happen. As I noted yesterday, Aqib Talib and Mike Williams of the Bucs wore red socks instead of black on Saturday (maybe they traded their black socks to Whitner in exchange for his red ones):
These are just the most blatant examples of NFL players going way off the hosiery reservation. A week ago, Marshawn Lynch found a way to incorporate neon green into his hose, and Reggie Bush created a white calf stripe:
And then there’s the increasing number of players who have abandoned all sense of color and are going with solid white (or, as I like to call it, the mummified look):
Bush was fined $5000 for his antics, and most of the others probably were as well (the league doesn’t announce sock fines; we only know about Bush’s fine because he mentioned it to a reporter). But really, what’s five grand to an NFL player? The players are clearly treating these fines as the cost of doing business, at least insofar as “business” means dressing the way they choose. And the NFL doesn’t have much incentive to threaten players with higher fines or other measures (suspension?), because socks aren’t a licensed product like shoes or jerseys.
Sock shenanigans are nothing new in the NFL, of course (remember Sean Taylor?), but these latest developments feel different. In a way, they’re showing just how irrelevant socks have become as a uniform element. In short: The sock is no longer part of the uniform; it’s just a piece of equipment, an accessory to be customized, like an arm sleeve or a facemask or a mouthguard or a chinstrap.
This mirrors the lower-leg trends we’ve seen in other sports. In baseball, the area from the kneecap to the ankle is completely unpoliced, and most players have opted for a style that renders socks moot. Ditto for basketball, where most players now wear low socks or no-shows. In both sports, socks used to be an essential uniform component; now they’ve been reduced to the level of novelties. (Thankfully, socks are still indispensable in hockey.)
I think that’s where the NFL is heading, especially since most players aren’t even wearing socks anymore — they’re wearing some combination of tights, leg warmers, white crew socks, white tape, calf sleeves sewn into their pant cuffs, etc. And they’re pairing them, increasingly, with biker shorts instead of standard football pants. That isn’t just fashion or style — it’s form following function, as players try to find a combination of comfort and performance.
In other words, the standard pant/sock combo, which has served us well for about a century, is becoming obsolete. At some point, there will have to be a reckoning — maybe in the form of a Cooperalls-style pant design, maybe something else — because the old model simply doesn’t reflect the way the game is played anymore.
Meanwhile, there were two other uni-notable aspects to last night’s game, both involving footwear: Michael Crabtree wore gold shoes and Ben Roethlisberger’s ankle injury led to him wearing two different shoe colors. But hey, at least he wore his socks the proper way. He may soon become a dying breed in that regard.
(My thanks to Rob Holecko, Chris Jowdy, and Robert Wheeler for their screen shots.)
Devil is in the details: After the Devils retired Scott Niedermayer’s number the other day, several readers pointed out that the numerals on his banner didn’t match the team’s jersey number font. According to reader Steven Wojtowicz, this is just the latest manifestation of a trope that’s been driving him bonkers for years (and will probably start driving the rest of us bonkers now that he’s pointed it out): The 7 that the Devils use for retail purposes is different than the 7 that the players wear on the ice.
Odd, right? I’ll make some inquiries and see what I can find out.
By Brinke Guthrie
Last chance for holiday shopping! Unfortunately, the best eBay auction of the week doesn’t end until the 22nd, so there probably isn’t enough time to get this 1960s you-assemble-it NFL mini-helmet kit under the tree in time for Sunday. But hey, I hear there are 12 days of Christmas — you can take it from there.
In other eBay finds:
• I like the cover art logo on this 1970s Hockey Night in Canada album.
• Here’s a great 1967 NFL All-Pro board game from Ideal.
• Ah, I wish the SF Giants would go back to this 1980s orange design as an alternate.
• Never seen this before: the 1967 Cowboys/Packers Ice Bowl program. Just a buck!
• Reader Bob Andrews submitted this Baltimore Colts helmet radio.
• Got 7K sitting around? You’ll look great in this game-worn Fran Tarkenton Vikes jersey.
• Here’s a cool 1968 NFL Autograph Yearbook. [Never seen this before. What a great cover painting! — PL]
• Simple but satisfying: this vintage 1969 Chicago Bears coffee mug from Chase & Sanborn coffee.
• Speaking of vintage beverage vessels, here’s a Cincinnati Reds glass sold at Tresler-Comet, which was an early-’70s Cincinnati-area gas dealer.
Seen something on eBay that you think would make good Collector’s Corner fodder? Send your submissions here.
Raffle reminder: This year’s Uni Watch Reader Appreciation Raffle is now underway. Full details here.
Uni Watch News Ticker: Wisconsin will be wearing a “modified uniform,” whatever that means, for the Rose Bowl (from R.J. Brachman). … Here’s everything you need to know about the new Minnesota football helmet. … Henrik Lundqvist had said that his Winter Classic mask would look like it had been sitting in a closet for 30 years or something like that, but it isn’t really that throwback-y. It just looks nicotine-stained, big deal. Doesn’t really fit with the team’s Winter Classic jersey. … Pretty cool new leg pad design for Chris Mason. I heard from a bunch of NHL fans about this yesterday, and most of them like it. So do I. … Temple’s football team goes NNOB, so they chose to wear their Sweatshop Bowl patches on the back. “Made a much cleaner look on the front of the uni,” says Andrew Hoenig). … Here’s a peek at some of the football uniforms that will be appearing in the new Batman movie. “That’s Hines Ward on the right,” says Cork Gaines. “Not sure if the guy on the left is an actor or a player.” … Holy moly, I wish I’d know about these amazing baseball-themed cards a few weeks ago. They’ll definitely appear in my holiday gift guide next year (big thanks to my pal Amy Fritch). … James Passannanti has put together a good college bowl game schedule. Here it is as a PDF and as a spreadsheet. … Yesterday’s mention of those new South Dakota high school football uni regulations promoted the following note from David Trett: “The new rules reminded me of South Dakota’s biggest rivalry, pitting Sioux Falls O’Gorman vs. Sioux Falls Washington. Every time these two teams play, O’Gorman always wears their green uniforms (their normal school colors are blue and gold), even if Washington is the home team. This has caused quite a controversy over the years. A playoff game played in the fog around 2000, during which Washington threw five interceptions, only intensified this argument.” … Tom Griffith was in Dublin over the weekend and thought I’d like the look of this butcher shop. He was right. … Jeez, ya think Ohio’s NOBs are big enough? “I was at the game on Saturday and you could tell which Bobcats were on the court from the nosebleed seats,” says Grant Pepper. Well, that is the idea, right? … Grant also noticed a bunch of alternates on the court in recent days: Florida in orange, Arizona in red, and Akron in — of course — gray. … Yesterday I mentioned that Ahmad Bradshaw had suffered a broken helmet decal, but I didn’t have a visual. Now Brendan Slattery has provided a screen shot. … Soccer note from Timothy O’Malley, who writes: “Everton wore special charity shirts on Saturday with the logo for ‘Power of Thai,’ a charity spearheaded by their usual sponsor, Chang Beer, to help raise money to rebuild Thialand after flooding.” … Interesting article about how those new front helmet numbers in the NHL were added mainly to help TV crews (from Jerry Wolper). … Several Rams fans wrote to me yesterday because of a passage buried within this St. Louis Post-Dispatch column: “Rumor has it that the Rams may go back to their classic blue-and-white look from the olden days.” Um, rumor that you heard where? And from whom? The columnist in question, Bernie Miklasz, is a longtime pro (been with the paper for over 20 years), so I’d like to think that he wouldn’t report something unless he had solid reason to do so, but that’s some really weak wording there. And for the record, I have not heard this rumor myself, although that may say more about me than it does about the rumor. … Happy Hanukkah to all who’ll be observing tonight (and thanks to Phil for reminding me, because I’d actually forgotten — don’t tell my Mom).