Big Blue United

Looking at the New Nike Uniforms

By Nick Shepard – Big Blue United 4/4/12

After months without much big football news (yes, Manning to the Broncos counts, no Tebow to the Jets does not), Nike’s event unveiling its new NFL uniforms was a nice little pre-draft treat for football fans. This is all happening because Nike is set to take over the exclusive NFL jersey and apparel contract from Reebok on April 15.

Taking a look through the official and unofficial images, I’m mostly struck by how little there is to latch on to.  New collars for some, but not others. The Patriots still have the same horrible uniforms (squandering what could be the start of something very classy).   I still don’t understand why the Saints (and Ravens) insist on wearing black unitards. Oddly, the thigh pads in these photos seem especially large. I wonder if Nike is trying to push its own padding system, because NFLers tend to wear bike shorts rather than pants these days.

After all, the Seahawks are the only team that has made significant uniform changes. The Oregon Ducks are the obvious comparison here. Now I for one don’t think that every wild design Nike (or Adidas/Reebok) has developed has been a success–in fact, I think many of them are utterly ridiculous, but I do appreciate the fact that they are doing something different. Not every team can be Penn State or the Packers. So with that said, I like what they’ve done here. And, dare I say it, these uniforms are remarkably restrained.

For better or worse, neon green has become a thing for the Seahawks, and though it mostly shows up as an accent color, it is well represented in these new unis. It’s funny how the little areas of neon green seem to pop out much more than those Slimer jerseys. More importantly (as you can see from their site) they’ve incorporated a new pattern on the legs and inside the numbers. I can’t help but laugh when I read: “The new look, guided by the forms of Northwest Native American art, visualizes our passion.” This is gibberish of course, but it turns out the pattern is pretty cool, and also fairly unique for the league. I also think that with all the Mad Men hubbub these days, it’s a smart move to incorporate something that looks kind of like houndstooth. It also looks as if they are using a variety of materials on the unis, which is one of the areas I think Nike does a particularly good job implementing. The usual disclaimers about everything in moderation apply though, and on that note, I am not so pleased with those gloves, which are just absurd. For college players, sure, they can be a recruiting tool, they can be a way for the kids to show that they love their school, or they can just be a keepsake once their career is over, but in the pros? I’m sure they sell like hotcakes, but I just don’t get the appeal. As usual, I’ll hold off final judgment until I see what it looks like on the various landmasses known as the offensive line.

In other news, the Giants will look pretty much exactly the same as they did last year. I’m ok with that.

Though I’m tempted to say that this is a minor story, in fact it’s one of the most significant NFL stories we’ll hear all year. Though the NFL has much stricter uniform guidelines than the NCAA, if Nike’s experiments with collegiate uniforms are any indication, we’ll see quite a bit more creativity in the pro ranks soon. With this contract, Nike has established a new primary ad buy–the bodies of our favorite players. Let’s face it: every time we watch the Giants for the next five years they will be wearing Nike. Don’t think Nike will waste any time making back its $1.1 billion investment. It hasn’t. Reebok’s replicas were $85, Nike’s will be $100. Now also think about all the cleats, gloves, sweatbands, and sideline jackets that will only be appealing to millions (and they will appeal to millions) if they come with swooshes and the NFL shield. With that in mind, I really hope these don’t make it to the NFL store any time soon.

For more eye candy and analysis, Mike Chiari at Bleacher Report has a rundown of all the new unis. I disagree with most of his evaluations, but he is thorough. As ever, Paul Lukas has you covered in just about any way you could want over at Uni-Watch. Nike invited him to the media event and, also as ever, he has some nitpicky comments up at ESPN.