Jeez, what a fuss over nothing.
Okay, it wasn’t completely nothing, since the Seahawks revealed a significant redesign. So let’s just call yesterday’s Nike/NFL event the most overblown single-team uniform unveiling ever.
For the other 31 teams, it was mostly the emperor’s new clothes. Not only do most of them look the same — which is what I’ve been predicting for more than a year now — but things that could have been fixed (the 49ers’ sleeve stripes, the Colts’ shoulder stripes, the Bengals’ everything, etc.) were left untouched, which feels like a major missed opportunity. As for the few small but genuine changes that took place, which I’ll get to in a second, they could have been handled in a press release. Someone needs to tell these people that playing a lot of dramatic music and renting a smoke machine don’t add up to noteworthiness all by themselves.
After seeing and photographing the new uniforms, I banged out a quick ESPN piece (I wrote it while still there at the event), which you can see here. It summarizes my initial reactions to yesterday’s developments. If you haven’t already read it, start there.
As I noted in that column, most of the changes involve the uniforms’ physical design (tailoring, construction, etc.), not their graphic design. In particular, most teams have embraced two elements that Nike has utilized for several years at the college level: the mesh abdomen panel, which we here at Uni Watch refer to as the sweatbox (because it often changes color at a different rate that the rest of the jersey when the player starts sweating) and the Flywire collar, which we here at Uni Watch refer to as….
Hmmm. We’ve never come up with a nickname for that. But there’s no way I’m gonna parrot a gimmicky marketing term like “Flywire” for the next five years.
I was thinking about this yesterday, and it occurred to me that one reason I’ve never liked the name “Flywire collar” is that I don’t like thinking about wire near my throat. And the collar design actually looks a bit sharp, like barbed wire — again, not something I want near my throat. So I’ve decided that from now on, this collar design will be known as the Colombian Necktie. (And if you don’t know what a Colombian Necktie is, look here.) Nobody liked the name I came up with, so we’ll call it a Nikelace.
Now that I’ve had a bit of time to comb through all the small details, here’s a comprehensive team-by-team breakdown:
[table id=11 /]
There are also lots of league-wide details worth noting. Por ejemplo:
• First, here’s something I mentioned in yesterday’s ESPN column but didn’t illustrate with a photo: In the past, pants piping has been added in the form of stretch insert panels. But now they’re going with mesh inserts, for better ventilation. Not sure how visible this will be on TV. I initially spotted only one exception to this new format: the Packers, who appear to be using the traditional stretch panel (that’s particularly interesting because last year several Green Bay players said they really liked the team’s throwback pants because they didn’t have striping and were therefore more comfortable). After going back over my photos, it now appears that the Raiders, Panthers, and Eagles may be sticking with the old striping panels as well.
• The NFL Equipment shield, which had appeared on jersey collars and pant thighs, is gone. Now it’s just the NFL logo. And as you can see in that shot, the logo is now a little plastic chip, not a woven patch like they’d used in the past.
• For teams that have chest logos or wordmarks, those marks appear to be riding lower than ever.
• Get ready for a lot of glove silliness.
• When Nike outfitted several NFL teams back in the ’90s, the swoosh on the right sleeve always faced to the left. This is because the Nike style guide has always specified that the swoosh must be left-facing except when used on the right side of a shoe. But that guideline has apparently been rewritten, because the right-sleeve swooshes on the new uniforms are facing rightward.
Some readers have compared this to American flag protocol, which states that the blue field should always be facing forward, and a few have even said, “Great, now Nike is comparing the swoosh to the American flag.” I don’t see it that way. I think they just decided that they want the swoosh to be facing forward, just as it does on the right side of every sneaker they’ve ever sold.
• Nike has come up with a new line of padded socks. NFL hosiery protocol has become a total mish-mash (tights, leg-warmers, etc.), with players wearing pretty much whatever they choose, so it remains to be seen if these new padded socks will be worn on a widespread basis. I hope not — the padding looks like warts. On the other hand, one of my biggest fears yesterday was that the NFL’s socks would suddenly become swoosh-emblazoned, so I’m relieved that didn’t happen.
• The mannequins at the unveiling were all wearing two-tone shoes in team
At first I thought these were just for display. But Giants equipment manager Joe Skiba tells me that all players can now wear team-colored shoes, although they have the option of sticking with white or black. So the longstanding rule mandating predominantly black or white footwear has apparently been scrapped (I’m trying to get league confirmation on this). This is basically the same thing the NBA has done. Of course, many players have shoe contracts with companies other than Nike, so it’s it’s gonna be a real crazy quilt out there on the footwear front.
• As you’ve probably noticed, only home jerseys were on display. Not sure why. I have no reason to think there’s anything secretive going on regarding the road jerseys, however.
• I’m told that several teams have alternate jerseys that will be unveiled later on. (Specifically, I overheard Brian Orakpo of the Redskins saying that the ’Skins have an alternate in the works. He said he hadn’t seen it yet, but his comments suggested that it might be black. We shall see.)
“The jerseys come in three different price points and I can’t decide which one to get and they won’t be in stock until April 15 and my local store may not have them so I’ll to go to the mall and the parking at my mall sucks but I do like the food court there so maybe it isn’t so bad and do you know if the middle-priced jersey has the stretch-twill numbers and how come they’re not selling practice jerseys yet and do you think the new jerseys will be easier or harder for the Chinese to counterfeit and…” I honestly couldn’t care less about any of this. Has zero bearing on Uni Watch.
Lighter, faster, drier, cooler, blahblahblah Nobody cares. At one point a Nike exec even bragged that the D-rings in the belts were made of “airplane-grade aluminum.” I guess that means the players can now fly. Or the belts can fly. Or something.
• Possibly the best thing about the entire Nike contract: The uniform template they’re using for the NFL is called the Elite 51. There’s nothing particularly remarkable about that name, except it means we won’t have to keep hearing “Pro Combat” every five minutes. A huge relief.
I’ll say this much for Nike and the NFL: They move the needle. As of Sunday night, I had 12,500 followers on Twitter; now I have over 44,000 (hi, new Twitter followers!). Our site traffic and comments exploded, ditto for the ESPN piece I wrote, and you don’t want to know how many e-mails I got (the most amusing of which said it was “pitiful” that I stopped Twittering in the midst of yesterday’s event and then added, “What, did you stop for lunch?”). I generally value quality over quantity, but the sheer numbers are still impressive. Quite a day.
I’m pooped, so that’s it for today — sorry, no Ticker. I’ll try to get back to some semblance of normalcy tomorrow.
Want more? You can find more photos and info on each team’s new uni package by scrolling down to the bottom of this page.
Membership update: Membership orders have slowed to a crawl over the past month. Since we produce the cards in batches of eight, that means some of you have been waiting a long time for your cards — my apologies to those of you who’ve been waiting. The good news is that I sent our latest batch to the printer this morning (it included Neville A. Louison’s card, shown at right, which is based on the old Brooklyn Horsemen) and should be able to mail out the finished cards by the end of the week.
Kicking the Habit, Day 2: The Nike people set up a little eats/drinks nook at yesterday’s NFL unveiling event, and of course the offerings included Diet Coke. Those evil Swooshkateers, always messing with me! But I stayed strong — “Orange juice, please.” Then I had some water later on. Reallyreallyreally wanted some of the carbonated stuff once I eventually got home but managed to resist the urge. Everyone’s telling me I’ll probably go through some sort of withdrawal (headaches, the shakes, etc.), but that hasn’t happened so far. Two days down, five to go.
Tomorrow: There’s this other sport, maybe you’ve heard of it. Its season is about to start.