[Ed. Note: Got an E-mail from reader Caleb Borchers earlier in the week about a topic which has been getting some *airtime* on Uni Watch lately — ads on jerseys. He has a theory on why they’re more commonplace in areas not named the United States, and how a simple design element makes ads more palatable around the world. Interesting theory, and one worth reading. Enjoy! I’ll be back with a Mizzou uni rundown and the rest of the Sunday fun after the jump. — Phil]
By Caleb Borchers
Over the years I have been very appreciative of Paul’s discussion of advertisements on jerseys. I find most of his arguments about the civic role sports teams play to be convincing. If my teams were to add advertisements to their jerseys I would be greatly saddened. The argument against such ads is persuasive to me and I’m happy to leave USA professional sports jerseys ad free. There is one element of the discussion, however, that I think has been ignored. It may help explain why the issue is so alive in the States, but a no-brainer internationally.
The theory I’m about to lay out first hit me watching the USA Collegiate Rugby Sevens. This is a relatively new tournament that airs on NBC, giving rugby in the States some much needed publicity and TV presence. As I watched the tournament I noticed that the jerseys were off. I couldn’t quite put my finger on it, but something didn’t seem right. The weird thing is I liked the off-ness that I saw.
The two schools that I noticed most were Dartmouth and Arizona. They had something about them that just seemed so un-rugby like, but also so bold and exciting. Some of the other teams, however, were completely average. Utah was among those boring sides. And then I figured out what it was. The centered, large logo (or word-mark). The rugby fan in me found the look to be so obscure, and the American in me found it to be such a breath of fresh air.
This got my brain to turning. This look, i.e. the large centered logo or word-mark in the center of a jersey, a distinctly American thing? Are people in the USA hardwired to expect something different visually on a jersey? In order to further pursue the idea, I took a look at some various teams from various locations in various sports over the years.
Example 1: Manchester United. 1900. 1950. 1980. 1990. 2010. Manchester United wore a very plain jersey all the way until 1972/73, when a badge with the team crest was added. It did not take them long to move directly into jersey ads. Notice how much open space there is on those jerseys.
Example 2: India National Cricket Team. 1960s. 1980. 1992. 2010. Some of the difference here is from the all white of traditional test jerseys to the colorful ODI jerseys. Here is a more recent test look. Again, note how the jerseys were either blank, or largely limited to a crest on the upper left chest.
Example 3: Springboks. 1906. 1956. 1974. 1990s. Today. The South African national rugby team has changed little over the years. For decades they simply wore a green jersey with a Springbok logo. In the 90’s they added another patch for advertising, which then moved across the chest.
Example 4: Geelong Cats. 1900. 1951. 1985. Today. Geelong is an Australian Rules Football club. They wore plain hoops for a long time. As they have added advertisements they’ve added them to the corners, in the same place many sports have team logos or crests.
With these examples from four sports from four continents, we see that international sports tended for a long period of time to wear largely blank jerseys. They then tended to add crests to one corner of the jersey. Ads soon followed to the other corner or across the chest. Notice that it is uncommon to see a large logo splashed across the front. Now lets look at some North American teams.
Example 1: New York Yankees. 1904. 1916. 1936. Today. Most of these looks are very familiar to most American fans. Note how the large NY logos and “New York” takes up most the real estate on the top half of the shirts. This would be even more obvious in a team like the Dodgers with a classic word-mark across home and away jerseys.
Example 2: Green Bay Packers. 1929. 1963. 1996. Today. Like the Yankees there has been little change over the years. Football uses front jersey numbers, which are the most predominant feature on the jerseys.
So, taken as a whole, we see two general approaches to uniforms. The “international” sports tended toward plain jerseys, followed by a crest on the top left corner. The “North American” sports tended to put a number, logo, or word-mark across the chest of the jersey. (I use “international” and “North American” to refer mostly to origin, but also to popularity and center of professionalization. Obviously basketball and hockey are played elsewhere, and soccer and rugby are growing in the States.)
So what does this have to do with ads? Generally, people accept or reject aesthetic decisions based largely on the eye test. Does it feel right? Ads rarely feel right to North American fans because they intrude on space where we expect other elements. My theory is this: American fans don’t like uni ads largely because there is no space for them! International teams had more visual space for an ad than we did, so it was easier to accept them. Had the Springboks, for example, always looked like this they would have been far slower to add a big old corporate sponsor to the front.
Distaste for uni ads is heavily influenced, in my opinion, by the design of the jersey pre-ads. To add advertisements to the NBA, for example, one would have to remove a traditional element, or cram the new element into some corner like those NBA championship patches. Many international teams, however, had to move nothing. They already had a huge patch of real estate waiting right across the front.
The takeaway for me is that aesthetics really do matter. I’d love to think that most of my fellow citizens have the philosophical objections I do, but I doubt that. Maybe the number one reason we don’t have uni ads in the NFL is because it “just doesn’t look right.” Had our uni-history not been so obsessed with front and center logos or numbers, we might have accepted ads like our friends in Europe and elsewhere.
Thanks Caleb. Very interesting theory, and one which does make a lot of sense. What say you readers?
Let’s take football first: Three uniforms, with an all black, a white top with matte black yoke, and an alternate gold top. The black pants feature two stripes (which appear to be Tiger claw marks), and both a shiny black and matte black helmet are options, with the two helmets bearing different logos.
You can view the entire photo gallery here.
The Nikespeak describes the football unis thusly:
“The fully integrated Nike Pro Combat system of dress provides enhanced durability and innovation from the inside out where the baselayer and padding work in concert with the jersey and pant. The uniform system design emphasizes improved thermoregulation and is constructed with fabric selected for its ability to help keep the body cool and wick away sweat – making the uniform, and player, lighter and dryer. The jerseys are made of four-way stretch woven twill that sheds moisture. A Flywire collar eliminates two layers of fabric for improved breathability, providing a more stable anchor to keep the jersey in place.”
and the basketball like so:
“This fully integrated system of dress is designed and developed so that the jersey and short work in concert with the padded Nike Pro Combat Hyperstrong baselayer for optimal protection. The jersey features a fully sublimated flat-back ‘Aerographic’ mesh panel that delivers the ultimate in lightweight performance. The lightweight game short features seamless contrast side panel construction that reduces irritation and bulk.”
Yada yada yada.
But what Mizzou has done is to update their ‘brand identity’ by standardizing uniform colors and fonts across multi-sports (as other programs have recently done). As far as the unis themselves? I actually like them. Sure, they’re packed with all the Nike bells and whistles and the basketball jerseys have the sweatback treatment, but all in all, not too bad. One can’t even accuse swooshie of BFBS since it’s a school color. I could do without the tiger swipe on the pants, but it’s not too over the top, and I dig the matte helmet. I also think the standardized colors (but why does Nike have to call “black” anthracite — it’s friggin black), and wordmarks. Actually, I stand corrected — Nike, because they couldn’t add black, decided to add anthracite to the color scheme, even though it’s almost indiscernible from the black. Gray is the new black, evidently.
But all in all, not too bad, and better than what they’d been wearing for the past several seasons. Reader Clint Richardson noticed something about the football unis:
I just saw the new Mizzou football uniforms. Something struck me as odd- the SEC patch. In the past, all teams wore the SEC pennant patch, different colors for each team. But Mizzou was wearing the circular SEC logo. Curious to see if that was a choice by Mizzou, or if all SEC teams will wear that new patch this year.
Nice catch, Clint!
Or just watch a video of the screen grabs:
And now for some way-back historical perspective on Missouri’s uniforms, here’s Larry Bodnovich:
With the release of the Tigers new uniforms, I looked back years ago. I have said my favorite era for football uniforms was late 20’s to late 1930’s. I have always wondered wht team first used color on leather helmets. Not brown or black. The Tiger used gold in mid 20’s. I liked how the one picture and write up talks about the new airplane cloth uniforms.
• Tigers use gold helmets back in 1925. The gold helmets are mentioned here.
• Dazzling new Airplane cloth uniforms and shiny gold helmets in 1928.
• Stripes and stripes in 1931.
• Game action 1930 Tigers in black.
• I love this artwork from 1937.
• 1928 unis Airplane cloth.
• Stripes and gold helmets in 1931.
A very special day…
today. It’s “Jackie Robinson Day” throughout Major League Baseball, and that means that all teams will be outfitting their players in uniforms with “42” (and NNOB). Unlike other stupid, crass promotions, this is one that MLB actually gets right. Most of us were never alive to watch Jackie play or to know of the true impact he had not just on the game of baseball (he changed it forever), but on civil rights, race relations, and a whole host of other issues in the United States.
My pop, who was a huge Brooklyn Dodgers fan (but not necessarily the most ‘progressive’ chap), would regale me with stories about Jackie — one he always loved to tell was how JRR would get to third base and fake stealing home plate on virtually every pitch — just to rattle the pitchers. Frequently this would cause a balk or otherwise distract the pitcher such that good things would happen for the Dodgers. And of course, Jackie successfully swiped the dish many times, including one of the most famous steals of home of all time:
— you can see the in the previous pitch how he was feigning for home and then rushed back. I guess his thought was “if I do this enough times, eventually they’ll not be expecting me to actually go.” Anything to get an edge. Pop told me he loved watching Jackie play.
Shortly after he grew up with the Dodgers, my dad got a job as a traveling salesman, selling (of all things) farm equipment — and in those days, race relations weren’t what they are today. One story he told me, and which has stuck with me to this day, was this — he was on a sales call (in Tennessee, I believe, but don’t quote me on that) and after receiving particularly good service from an African American waiter, my pop simply said, “Thank you.” The man he was with, who was a local, shook his head and said, “I can tell you’re not from here,” to which my dad replied, somewhat incredulously, “how do you know that?” The guy’s response floored both my old man and me, (when he recounted the story to me years later): “You never thank a nigger for serving you.”
That’s the sort of thing Jackie Robinson had to deal with for most of his life, and certainly during his early days as a player.
Anyway, today MLB celebrates Jackie Robinson Day. There are some tremendous resources to be found in there, and if you don’t know about Jackie or the JRR Foundation, take a few minutes (or hours) and bring yourself up to speed. If you do know (or remember) him, it’s a great refresher course.
by Rick Pearson
Not exactly stand-ins; more like designated sitters…
Click to enlarge
We have another new set of tweaks, er…concepts today. After discussion with a number of readers, it’s probably more apropos to call most of the reader submissions “concepts” rather than tweaks. So that’s that.
So if you’ve concept for any sport, or just a tweak or wholesale revision, send them my way.
Please do try to keep your descriptions to ~50 words (give or take) per image — if you have three uniform concepts in one image, then obviously, you can go a little over, but no novels, OK? OK!. You guys have usually been good with keeping the descriptions pretty short, and I thank you for that.
And so, lets begin:
We start with Tommy M. (no last name given). Hmmmm:
I’ve always thought the Thunder have had horrible unis.. I think they need a more modern look.
– Tommy M
Next up is Christian (who does have a last name…but you’ll see why it’s omitted):
I was strolling on sportslogos.net and I found the Seattle Sonics old basketball logo with Seattle’s skyline. I went to the Warriors logos and found “The City” logo. I then thought to combine both “The City” logo and San Francisco’s skyline into a logo for all of the SF teams to use as an alternate logo kinda like the two Baltimore teams, from left to right:
Giants: Orange background, black skyline, black “The City”. Would be used as a sleeve patch.
(Soon to be San Francisco Warriors): yellow background, blue skyline and script. Only used as half court logo
If the Sharks ever want to locate to SF (highly unlikely), here’s the logo: Teal background, black skyline, orange script. Center Ice logo
49ers: I’m conflicted on the two. 1: Red background, gold skyline, white script. 2: gold background, red skyline and script.Endzone side logos
I hope you guys like the logos!
P.S. please don’t put my last name.
And our final concepter does have both a last name, and doesn’t mind my using it. Here’s my buddy, Ed(die Atari) Westfield:
I’ve been sitting on this on for a while, but I was wondering if you could run it as a tweak Item…
Since the Islanders are playing a pre-season game at Barclays Center this fall and potentially considering a move there, I though up this alternate orange jersey & sock using elements of the logo’s ‘Y’ to help spell out their new location.
Note: Even though it says ‘Brooklyn’ across the front, I would not suggest changing the official name, keeping them the ‘New York Islanders’… Also, the four blue stripes are for the four Cups, and this would be worn with blue pants and helmet.
ED WESTFIELD JR.
Brooklyn, New York
Thanks concepters! Back with more next time.
We dip into the E-mail bag for a quick parting shots:
• First up is Paul Quirk, with this about the Packers:
Hello Paul and Phil,
Here’s a story I saw this morning on Facebook from Packers.com highlighting the use of the Packers’ “G” logo on board the USS Green Bay, a San Antonio Class landing platform dock ship. The ship also uses Packer greats like Lombardi, Starr, Favre and White to name passageways on the ship. And there is Packers memorabilia all over the ship. The first link is to the story and the second is for the slideshow.
Keep up the great work,
• And two quickies about yesterday’s post on the “Best Dressed” guy in baseball
Up first is Alex Bernhard who writes
While I agree that Granderson and Wright are very well dressed, I think you flat out missed this one. Mike Leake, by far, is the best dressed player in the league, with his stirrups and 3/4 sleeves. The bill covered with rosin is a nice effect too.
Thanks, Alex Bernhard
and next from Matt DeHaan:
Loved your article today about the best dressed MLB players and as much as I hate to admit (as a die-hard Phillies fan) the Mets new unis are amazing without all the black bs. The picture of RA Dickey and Jim Thome got me thinking…what team has the most players who go with the high-pants look? My Phillies has 4 that I can think of off the top of my head (Thome, Pierre, Galvis and Pence). Could be one or two more but I haven’t seen any games this year due to being deployed to Afghanistan (on my way home now though so I didn’t miss too much of the season). Anyway thanks for taking the time to read this.
SPC, US Army
• Today the ChiSox will be wearing their throwback unis (on JRR day, no less) — which looked like this (and who doesn’t love Richie Allen?). We’ve seen a teaser of the throwbacks — on Bill Melton & Rockin’ Robin Ventura, and while they seem to have nailed it, the repros won’t have the zipper front they wore back in the day. We’ll see how many other fuckups Majestic regales us with when they hit the field. Those bastids better break out the sox-on-stirrups or I’ll really be pissed. Even though a lot of the guys tried to hide them, they were a part of that uni. Here’s hoping they look like this today.
• Yesterday, the Cardinals broke out their WFC Uniforms and I have to say, they looked might-tee-fine. While I’d imagine they are difficult to read at a distance, up close the gold on the unis and the cap logo looked good (they also wore these Friday, my bad for not showing them yesterday). More photos here.
• Also yesterday, the Braves wore their alternate cream unis. At first glance, they look a lot like the current homes, but there are differences, including a lack of tomahawk across the rubicon, navy
headspoon placket piping, front uni number, and politically incorrect patch on the left sleeve. With the exception of the sleeve patch, this was essentially the uniform the Milwaukee to Atlanta Braves wore when they moved to Fulton County Stadium. Those patches in color, on the roads and on the homes graphically depicted first peoples of the U.S. More photos from yesterday’s game here.
And that will do it for this fine Sunday. Everyone have a great day and make sure you take advantage of the final day of the MLB preview on your cable or satellite provider — because you’ll be seeing (hopefully) the best looking uni matchups of the season (NNOBs).
It is all about the hands, is Jason Kendall still playing? Tarred scarred hands is where it is at. Get some high cuff (right proper or not) and you gots the ball player of my wet ones. —