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:
|Bears||Yes||Yes||TV numbers moved from the sleeves to the shoulders, so the stripes have more room to breathe and the George Halas perma-memorial is bigger. I'm fine with this.|
|Bengals||Yes||Yes||The two-tone collar actually works for this team, because it plays into the uniform's overall stripey-ness. ... Pants striping now wraps around more toward the front, which I think is actually an improvement.|
|Bills||Yes||Yes||New two-tone collar makes it look like everyone's wearing a neck roll. … Note that the sleeve swooshes are positioned above the sleeve stripes, instead of below -- a big improvement over the old set-up, because now the sleeve stripes can come down to where they belong and be more horizontal, instead of diagonal. ... Hip logo appears to be lower than before.|
|Broncos||Yes||Yes||Really hate the way to the points of the new two-tone collar nearly touch the points of the collarbone horns.|
|Browns||Yes||Yes||Essentially unchanged. ... Somewhere in the Nike offices, there's probably an exec whose sole job is to convince the Browns to adopt a helmet logo.|
|Buccaneers||Yes||Yes||Shame about the new two-tone collar. ... Nike press notes say the Bucs are sticking with the old pants technology, because "they like their old pant had nave chosen to keep it." But it looks like they're going with the new mesh striping, so either the press notes are wrong or the mannequin was wearing a prototype that won't actually be worn by the players. Hmmm.|
|Cardinals||Yes||Yes||Black outlining that used to completely encircle collar now just wraps around part of collar, which is addition by subtraction. ... Has to annoy Nike that they're manufacturing this Reebok-template design.|
|Chargers||Yes||Yes||Another two-tone collar will make the whole team look like they're wearing neck rolls.|
|Chiefs||Yes||No||TV numbers have been moved from the sleeves to the shoulders. In theory, I'm fine with this; in practice, the sleeve striping they're now going with is way too thin. Needs more oomph.|
|Colts||Yes||Yes||Essentially unchanged, but couldn't someone have fixed those shoulder stripes? ... Hmmm, striped socks or solid-top socks? I'm trying to find out which version is correct.|
|Cowboys||Yes||Yes||Press notes say, "Color consolidation in the pant (3 blues to 1 consistent blue)." Aside from that, essentially unchanged. ... Pants still look metallic. ... Note that Dallas is one of the few teams whose pants striping is not interrupted by the padded belt tunnels. Not sure if this will be a team-wide thing or a player-by-player thing.|
|Dolphins||Yes||Yes||Home uni essentially unchanged; road jersey has two-tone collar -- ugh.|
|Eagles||No||No||Essentially unchanged, even in the tailoring, construction, and fabrication. ... From the press notes: "No innovation taken. Color matching issues." Who knew midnight green would prove to be such a challenge to reproduce in high-tech fabrics?|
|Falcons||No||No||Essentially unchanged, even in the tailoring, construction, and fabrication. Bit of a shocker for such a newfangled-looking team, no?|
|49ers||Yes||Yes||Press notes say, "Sleeve stripes are now horizontal to the field of play." Maybe so, but they're still a disaster. ... Gold pants are now more of a matte mustard.|
|Giants||Yes||Yes||Gray pants with red-blue-red striping, previously worn only on the road, will now be worn for all games -- I heartily approve. ... Joe Skiba video posted on Giants.com yesterday provides a glimpse of a red alternate. ... Helmet on mannequin didn't have a front uni number, but I'm assuming this was just an oversight, not a design change.|
|Jaguars||Yes||Yes||I'll never forgive them for ditching their original design, which was a thing of beauty, but at least this version is better than Reebok's super-stretchy rendition. ... Hip logo looks bigger. ... Black alternate supposedly in the works.|
|Jets||Yes||Yes||Essentially unchanged. ... First wardrobe malfunction of the Nike era: Shonn Greene's TV numbers were falling off at Tuesday's unveiling.|
|Lions||Yes||Yes||Press notes: "Different version of stretch woven fabric on pant to accommodate color." Not sure what that means, but the pants look much less metallic than before -- more of a matte gray. ... Introduction of the Nikelace means no more collar piping.|
|Packers||No||No||Essentially unchanged, even in the tailoring, construction, and fabrication.|
|Panthers||No||No||Essentially unchanged, even in tailoring and construction, except for the new helmet logo that was unveiled a few months ago. ... Silver pants still look silver. ... Press notes make a big fuss of saying that the new logo "came from NFL design (not Nike)." Guess that's Nike's way of saying, "If you don't like it, don't blame us." ... Hip logo appears to be lower than before. ... Jersey apparently has some slogan on the inner collar, but that's just a retailing gimmick, which is of no interest to me. ... Road and alt jerseys, also unchanged, are shown here. ... Hip logo looks lower than before. Also kinda looks like the logo cat is snarling at the swoosh.|
|Patriots||Yes||No||Silver pants are now more of a matte gray. ... Otherwise, essentially unchanged.|
|Raiders||No||No||Essentially unchanged, even in tailoring, construction, and fabrication.|
|Rams||Yes||Yes||New two-tone collar ruins an otherwise fine jersey. … According to Jim Thomas of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, no more gold pants. If so, that's a tragedy -- the Rams' white jersey with gold pants was one of the best looks in the league.|
|Ravens||Yes||Yes||New two-tone collar looks like shite. ... Hip logo appears to be lower than before.|
|Redskins||Yes||Yes||Essentially unchanged. ... New alternate reportedly in the works.|
|Saints||Yes||Yes||New two-tone collar should have a bounty put out on it. ... Really wish they'd put the gold pants on the mannequin, just so we could see how metallic they are.|
|Seahawks||Yes||Yes||Complete overhaul. Too much to deal with here. I'll provide a full assessment of it in a few days.|
|Steelers||Yes||No||Essentially unchanged. ... 80th-anniversary logo, unveiled earlier this week, does not appear as a jersey patch. Maybe it'll be added later..? ... Helmet on mannequin did not have a front uni number, à la the team's preseason look. I assume this was just an oversight, not design change.|
|Texans||Yes||No||Is that collar on steroids or what? Didn't look so thick before.|
|Vikings||Yes||Yes||Didn't think they could make this design any worse, but I hadn't figured on the two-tone collar. Woof!|
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.