Wednesday, October 18, 2006

A Uniform Look

No secret I'm a sports fan, especially football. One of the more interesting aspects of sports to me, however, is the uniforms. Think of the design, the attention to detail, then layer on the appeal to the crowd, and finally the creativity of the players. It's remarkable, when you think of it.

For instance, look at that picture to the right. Yes, it's LaDanian Tomlinson of the Chargers, one of the better running backs in the game. He's wearing the Chargers' "throwback" uniform, which is, to me, one of the best sports uniforms in football. The color? Powder blue, that just screams Southern California. The player's number is on the helmet, in a sleek retro font, again echoing the Chargers culture as a team that came of age in the late 60's/early '70's. Just perfect, compared to the Chargers' dramatic lighting bolt on a dark blue outfit that scream late 1980's with no pizzaz.

In baseball, think of how drab the uniforms were until the 1990's, when the teams started playing with bold colors they normally kept for spring training. Before that, there was just the Yankees' pinstripes...and everything else. I grew up watching the Boston Celtics, whose uniforms have never been the cutting edge of fashion, but in the decades they dominated (60's, 70's, 80's) they completely reflected the solid, team play and personality of the team. Contrast with the purple and gold of the Lakers and their "Showtime" style, and you had a great match.

Hockey, in the 90's, actually had some of the nicest innovations. The Washington Capitals, for instance, or the New York Rangers (with the Statue of Liberty head) were bold and innovative. And who outside of the fashion world even heard the word "teal" before the expansion teams of the 80's and 90's broke out with it? The Charlotte Hornets, the San Jose Sharks, and more.

Yes, this can also go horribly, horribly wrong. The Denver Nuggets in the 1980's, along with the Houston Astros, all made television viewers get up to adjust the color on their sets to see what was wrong. The San Diego Padres of the 80's were just WRONG. The Golden State Warriors and Sacramento Kings only recently realized their uniforms went out of style in the 1950's and made changes in the last few years; the Los Angeles Clippers must have lost that memo. Hell, the dominant football team of the decade, the New England Patriots, went from Pat The Patriot to "jacquard" to their current version all within 10 years.

But look at what the right changes to a uniform can do for a team. The Arizona Cardinals, albeit losing a heartbreaker this week, look like a meaner team now; so do the Cincinatti Bengals. It worked for the Denver Broncos: they hadn't won a Superbowl in 4 tries until they changed to their current uniforms; they then won 2 straight. The Seattle Seahawks? A joke in the NFL, until they went to the Superbowl last year...with their new uniforms whose design and colors reflected both the Seattle area and their coach's personality. And is there any better example of change for a difference then the Tampa Bay Buccaneers? Before (shown left)...YIKES. After...Superbowl win.

The Miami Heat have about 5 different uniforms: sleeves, tanks, colors, and more. The Pistons and Spurs? One. All depends on your team. Can you imagine the Green Bay Packers changing? Sacrilege. Even the politically incorrect teams try to distract with uniform changes: the Washington Redskins tried going back to their old uniforms for home games to hide the Indian head on the side; the Cleveland Indians lost Chief Wahoo in favor of a more stylized approach.

Think I think about this a lot? I'm nothing, compared to this fellow, who's running blog is about all of the changes to uniforms, in all sports.

Point is, change for change's sake will never make a difference (see this year's Buffalo Bills or any of the Tampa Bay Devil Rays editions). But thinking it through can make a big difference to a team. And fans like me who like to watch the spectacle of the game. Hey, it is a show, after all!

No comments: