Friday, April 20, 2018

Where's the Stripes?

Special edition of FIELD NOTES today because I want to comment on the new Jaguars uniforms while they are still newsworthy. Jacksonville unveiled its new uniforms yesterday. The good news is that they are definitely better than the ones they replaced. The bad news is that's akin to saying I'd rather be kicked in the shin than in the groin. The Jags went from cartoonish monstrosities to uniforms devoid of any sort of character or identity. The ironic thing is they are touting these as a "return to tradition," but neither the Jaguars nor any other team in the NFL has traditionally sported uniforms this plain and characterless. In fact the Jaguars original uniform, the one they wore as an expansion team in 1995, was an excellent, traditional look. It's difficult to understand why they don't simply revert to a slightly updated version of that.

Like many young boys, I enjoyed drawing pictures of football players when I was 10 or 11. I would make up entire leagues of fictitious teams with names like Mobile SeaKings, Detroit Electras, Charlotte Chippers, Phoenix Scorpions and Lake Erie Barbs. (Some, clearly, were better than others.) Each team's identity was based on a color scheme/stripe pattern and a primary logo. That's the way uniforms were designed in the 70's. A couple of the teams broke that mold; the Electras, as you might imagine, used a lightning bolt pattern, but they were the exception.

If you showed me an NFL stripe pattern back then and asked me to identify the team, I could have easily done so. Those patterns were as much the team's identity as the logo. That's not to say NFL teams didn't change stripes from time to time. There was a period in the mid-70's -- the height of Steelers dominance -- when several teams, including the Packers and the Browns, briefly adopted the "Northwestern" sleeve stripes Pittsburgh wore. There were also teams that did not wear sleeve stripes, the Raiders and Cardinals come to mind, but all teams had a stripe of some sort on their pants. 

Now you might be saying, that's pretty bold talk for someone whose favorite team was one of the originators of the bad stripe trend in the NFL. Yes, the Panthers tapering pant stripes and weird helmet striping were some of the first aberrations, but if you straighten the pant stripes out and change the helmet to match, it's actually a pretty traditional uniform.

At the end of the day, if you are a consistently good team with a strong fan base, you don't need to monkey much with the unis. The Colts, Cowboys, Steelers, Giants, Packers, etc. wear pretty much the same uniforms I remember them in during my childhood. It's the teams that think they need to make a splash that tend toward the outlandish costumes. And there's nothing wrong with having a distinctive style. The Seahawks uniforms are certainly not traditional, and they're way too busy for my taste, but they do evoke the attitude of that city. The Saints and their black leotards, on the other hand, are hard to take seriously, despite the fact they've been far more successful on the field in them than in their more traditional striped pant look.

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