Good Sunday Morning and to all the Mothers out there, Happy Birthday!
Yesterday, the Cincinnati Reds became the fourth team this season to unveil their “City Connect” (CC) uniforms (the Orioles and Pirates are still to come in 2023). Cincinnati is the 18th team to reveal its CC uniforms since the program was introduced in 2021, following Atlanta, the Rangers and Mariners this year.
The Reds are one of the oldest franchises in professional baseball, and were named for the color of their hosiery (Red Stockings). For most of their history, their uniforms have contained only red and white (occasionally adding dark blue or black as an accent). But for the most part, the Reds have been a … well, red team.
That all changed yesterday.
Before I get into any critiques, let’s take a look at the new CC unis. Because these are CCs, there is the obligatory “storytelling” aspect which must be considered — at least to explain the rationale for their existence.
Here’s how the Reds described their uniforms: “Just as Cincinnati, the birthplace of professional baseball, sparked the passion of America’s pastime, the Reds City Connect uniforms were developed to ignite the fire and pride in a NEW generation. Together, fueled by a collective energy, THIS city and THIS team are lighting the way to what comes NEXT.”
Let’s get started:
The cap is black with a stylized “C” (somewhat resembling the “wishbone” C the club wears) in red. It’s mostly comprised of five red lines, with a thin soutache around the base of the crown. According to the team, it’s one of the few harkbacks to previous uniforms, and this bears a passing resemblance to the Field of Dreams throwback caps worn last summer. The cap logo also appears on the sleeve (and of course placement on the sleeve depends upon a player’s handedness, since the opposite sleeve contains an ad). The five lines are “wavelength” lines. What are those?
According to the club and Nike, the wavelength lines signify “moving forward and lighting the way to what comes next.”
Here are some looks at the back:
The jerseys are solid black buttonfront, with those same five “wavelength” lines serving as sleeve striping. The word “CInCy” in black mixed case lettering adorns the chest, visible only due to a red and white blockshadowing effect — the upper-left shadow is rendered in white, while there is red shadowing on the lower-right portion of the “ghost” lettering. The rear of the jersey features numbers in the same style as the “CInCy” font, with NOB in solid red.
Up close, both the wordmark and the numbers are difficult to read. At any distance, it might be nigh-on impossible:
If you look at the NOBs on the jerseys pictured above, you’ll see they also contain upper/lower case lettering style. According to MLB, the jersey lettering is meant to mimic illuminated neon lights, with flashes of “infrared” red color.
Like the jerseys, the pants are solid black. The only color on the pants (other than the MLB logo on the belt loop and the maker’s mark) are the same five red stripes that appear in the “C” logo and the sleeve hems.
For those who choose to go high cuffed, the uniforms were shown with the red CC socks that were leaked earlier this year. Based on how black the rest of the uniform is, I’m actually surprised they don’t have a black sock option (perhaps they do or will?). For those who wear their pants in pajama style, well, you can see it’s a totally black uni. Let’s hope everyone goes high cuffed on the field.
If you’re curious about that middle item, that’s Cincinnati’s Latin motto, “Juncta Juvant,” which means “Strength in unity.” That is a “stylized buckeye leaf,” and visible to no one, as it’s on the inside of the collar.
And much like your average D-1 College Football team every week before a big game, the team released a hype video.
Here’s my first impression upon seeing the new CC unis:
All kidding aside, though. Those are some seriously black uniforms. With my usual caveat that I’ll need to see these on the field before rendering a final verdict, I’m not sure what there is to like about these. I mean, I want to like them … to find one redeeming feature … that I can say something good about these. I may enjoy monochrome baseball uniforms more than most, and that included black jerseys and pants, but at least that Pirates uniform broke up the black a little.
But it’s not even that this all-black uniform doesn’t have enough color (it doesn’t)…it’s that it’s really lacking in color. Sure the cap (which I don’t hate) has at least more than a hint of red, but going for ghost lettering and numbering is really bad design. When you can discern the maker’s mark (especially at distance) more than your primary wordmark, you need to rethink your basic concept of Design 101. Have we learned nothing from the Marlins? But, like those same Marlins, the team doubled-down and went with the same ghost numbering style. Oh, and then there were these things. At least they made the NOB in contrasting color.
Aside from the ghost numbering and lettering, the only other color on the uni besides the NOB are the five pencil-thin red stripes on the sleeve hems and down the pants leg. I actually like this design element, although those five red stripes will appear pretty much as a solid red color block from anything past six feet. That’s not a bad thing. We might be surprised how that little concentration of color on the sleeve and legs actually works with this uni. Fingers crossed.
As far as lower-leg stylings go…if there was ever a time for players to go high-cuffed, that time is NOW. I’m not in love with the red socks Stance has provided, but that chunk of red against an otherwise solid black uni will certainly make these better looking on the field. It should be noted that some players are shown wearing long red sleeves (or at least compression sleeves). Let’s hope the players do that during games (here’s hoping it’s never too warm in Cincinnati when the CCs are worn). Black sleeves? No! But the high-cuffery? A must.
I get that I’m not the target audience nor the demographic for these, and I’m sure those caps and jerseys will be big sellers (let’s face it — the whole CC program is basically a merch dump). Still, I think most of you will agree that if you take the storytelling out of it, this is just a poorly designed uniform. At the very least, it should communicate the team’s name (or nickname) as well as player number. I’ll wait till I see them on the field before I declare these worse than the Marlins black alternate jersey, but I’m not getting my hopes up.
You may disagree, but I thought the first three CC unis introduced this year were very good — at least as far as CC uniforms go. But this one may be the worst yet. I’m really hoping it isn’t. And I hope the good folks of the Queen City are at least OK with this as far as the “city celebration” thing goes.
The Reds will debut these new CC unis next Friday night, May 19th, against the New York Yankees.
How much more black could it be?