Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Isn't the Point of a Uniform to Be Umm…… Uniform?

By Bowen Hobbs

With the unveilings of the Indians' and Nationals' new uniforms in November, I started to think about the concept of matching. I've always been of the opinion that a team's brand should be as consistent as possible. And yet, three of the four major sports have examples of inconsistency. I do also enjoy alternates that differ from the norm, but I believe a team only needs one of those, if any, depending on the sport.

When I say matching, I'm referring to a team's primary home and away uniforms matching in their general templates. For example, the Cleveland Indians use a placket piping scheme on their "primary" home uniforms, but use sleeve trim and a line of neck trim on the road jerseys. Furthermore, the homes use a script with multiple outlines, while the roads use simple, single-outlined block letters. The Tribe's home alternate cream uniforms would work far better as the primary home option, despite the lack of matching v-neck and sleeve trim.

The Nationals went through great lengths to make their home uniform and two alternate jerseys consistent with two-color placket piping and sleeve trim, but the road uniforms use a three-stripe v-neck trim. I understand using the full Washington script, but if you are going to re-do the trim style of the other three jerseys, why not finish the job? Although other teams use two-color trim, only the Nationals use two-color placket piping.

But home and away uniforms not matching is nothing new in MLB. Just ask any pinstriped team not named the Rockies. (White Sox, Twins, Yankees, Cubs, Marlins, Astros, and Phillies) The Twins used to have pinstriped road greys, but traded them in for relative anonymity. And the Yankees are even nicknamed the "Pinstripes"! Wouldn't a pinstriped road uniform make sense? Maybe some of these teams should think about demoting their pinstriped uniforms to home alternate status.

The NHL has a few teams with inconsistency between the home and road sweaters. The Thrashers (home/away), Blackhawks (home/away), Oilers (home/away), Wild (home/away), Canadiens (home/away), and Rangers (home/away) all show significant differences between white and dark jerseys. The Thrashers are a menagerie of mismatched design elements, while the Wild and Oilers can't decide whether they want a modern or an old school look. The Blackhawks, Canadiens, and Rangers all ahve striping inconsistencies.

The NFL only has three teams with different templates. The Bears and Giants have different striping patterns while the Cowboys are a total mess. Some teams add a splash of color (Cardinals, Bengals, Bills), but the overall template of the uniform is the same. The NBA is amazingly consistent in this regard, as every team's home and away uniforms use the same template. However, the Cavs routinely wore various jerseys that were alternates, throwbacks, and fauxbacks when LeBron James played there.

The main reason that the home and away uniforms should be consistent is that it builds a brand. However, many of the teams I mentioned have a long tradition wearing the two different looks (Canadiens, Giants, Rangers), but why not adapt the team's more established looks to unify their sets.
In Other News… The Bucks wore the red fauxbacks in LA last night… The Ravens wore all black on Sunday, while the Cardinals opted for red pants on the road… The Vikings added to the throwback atmosphere of playing outdoors by wearing throwbacks… The Chargers wore their powder blue alternates last Thursday… The Dolphins wore white at home again, this time against the Bills… The Bengals went 1.5-o-chrome against the Browns… Virginia Tech is going with an orange helmet for the Orange Bowl… Turns out ugly sweaters aren't just for grandmas anymore. They're starting to become a holiday tradition in minor league hockey…

Designer's Corner
This week, I decided to work on a uniform concept for the University of Arizona Wildcats. Arizona has a very strong mark in its A. The existing wildcat logo needs a touch-up, and that is exactly what I did to it. I made the lines crisper and outlined the mark in red to unify it with the rest of the set. The Wildcats also have a wordmark based logo which was upgraded from this to this. While it is a good logo on its own, I felt it needed to be re-styled to match the rest of the identity package. With that in mind, I developed a new desert logo with typography consistent to the rest of the package, including the A logo. The numbers play on the Old West theme, a nod to Old Tuscon. For the uniforms, I wanted to keep a version of the Wildcats' signature helmet striping. The jerseys and pants feature striping that reinforces the helmet striping, as too many teams in college football have helmets that stylistically do not match the rest of the uniform. While the jerseys come in navy, white and red, the helmets and pants only have navy and white options. I could have added red, but I did not feel it added much value to the brand.

Feel free to comment on the uniformity (or lack thereof) of sports uniforms, the Wildcats design above, or anything sports branding related.

No comments:

Post a Comment