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A Rebuttal to My Thoughts About Big Uni’s Use of ‘Chassis’

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Back on Monday, I wrote about the irksome trend of Big Uni referring to a new jersey template as a “chassis” in order to make the uniform sound more like an engineered product of industrial technology instead of, you know, a few pieces of cloth. The piece generated a fair amount of discussion, and I was frankly surprised by how many people agreed with my take.

On Wednesday I received an email from a reader who works as part of Big Uni and prefers to remain anonymous. The email, which I’m reproducing in full, is a rebuttal to Monday’s post. Here it is:


I understand your annoyance over the use of “chassis,” but I can assure you it isn’t marketing jargon. It is actually product design jargon and is in common everyday use where these jerseys are being made.

The chassis is a combination of the silhouette, fit, and technical details that are shared between multiple sizes, teams, shapes, and product lines.

You may think that other words could be swapped in. But:

  • You can’t use pattern, as garment patterns are unique to size, cut, and trim styles. Different sleeve styles will still be the same chassis but have different patterns depending on the size and fit.
  • You can’t use template, as that term is used for the layout of names and numbers and other details.
  • You can’t use design, as it is too generic. The development of a chassis can also go through many designs.

The different details all need to be transferable from the old chassis to the new chassis with team-specific variations. It is valuable to have language to be able to say, “The team’s home name/number template won’t fit on the new chassis after the pattern was reduced to accommodate the sublimated design.”

Things are further complicated because the replica and fanwear versions are still considered obliquely by the chassis, even though they may have different materials and non-technical fits. For example, the art for a player name/number screen-printed T-shirt will change with the release of the new chassis, even though the same T-shirt blank is used. So there are multiple product lines related to the new chassis.

As far as I know, this use of chassis originated with Nike. I don’t know why that term was chosen, but I believe it makes a lot of sense for jerseys, which are unique in the garment industry for having a standardized but varied structure that a wide variety of fabrics, names, numbers, patches, logos, and trim are then attached to.

The term’s use in marketing is a whole different issue. I don’t believe it is really part of the “storytelling” nonsense; I just think the marketing people are likely steeped in the product development jargon.

I always appreciate your insight. Your site is one of the few highlights of the promise of the free and open internet. Thanks.


Faaaascinating. I love these insights and greatly appreciate this thoughtful note from our anonymous correspondent.

But while “chassis” may not have been intended as marketing douche-speak, as I originally thought, it certainly functions as marketing douche-speak. It may be be helpful for product designers juggling all the different aspects of the production process, but there’s no need for us to parrot it.

So what term should we use instead, especially if template and pattern are off the table? As I mentioned in the Monday post, the use of chassis in Big Uni’s marketing dates back at least to 2017, so I asked my anonymous correspondent what term was used by product development people before chassis came into vogue. He said he didn’t know because he wasn’t working for Big Uni back then.

Here are some possibilities:

  • Undercarriage, fuselage, armature, architecture: These are no better than chassis — too industrial-sounding, too tech-y.
  • Frame or framework: Better, but they seem awkward in an apparel setting.
  • System: Reebok used this term when they took over the NHL’s uniform contract in 2007 — the “Reebok Edge system,” they called it. Eh, feels too much like an integrated high-tech thingamajig.
  • Foundation: Not terrible. A little more construction-y than I’d like, but I could probably live with it.

After thinking about it, I’ve decided to stick with template. Unlike my anonymous correspondent, none of us will ever have occasion to use chassis, template, pattern, and design all in the same sentence, so I think template works fine for the purposes of our discussions, even if it isn’t what a Big Uni product designer would say.

But wait, there’s more! On Friday morning, just as I was getting ready to publish this post, I looked at last night’s comments on the site and saw that reader Joe Foglietti had posted this:

Late comment, but I had a very different reaction to “chassis,” having spent my career in fashion.

One of the first things I learned with brands is the power of leveraging new language to shift how people think about a problem. Brands and individuals in fashion (Nike included, when I was briefly there before moving out of sports) all have different synonyms and metaphors they like to instill with teams in order to promote a certain mindset, and once you use it internally with its specific contextual definition, it just becomes part of your everyday language.

Each time I shift brands, I have to learn where certain words have been given new meaning, and it’s often a valuable tool. Yes, from a consumer-facing side it can be read as pure jargon BS, but I think that comes with a really nice impact on the work internally. Viewing what I’d call a block/pattern (what people here may call a template) as a “chassis” innately pushes you to think more about structure and performance than simply how puzzle pieces of fabric are stitched together (what is connoted by template or pattern, or block coming closer to signifying fit).

It probably sounds goofy as hell, but I’ve had great success with designers coming up with new lingo we want to use in describing product because it will shift how we and others think about the product and what problem we’re solving for the wearer.

So that pretty much confirms that chassis originated as internal jargon, not as marketing douche-speak. But again, there’s no reason for us to parrot it. I’m sticking with template. 

I’m open to other suggestions, though. Anyone..?



Substack Reminder

In case you missed it on Thursday: With the Titans getting set to unveil their Oilers throwbacks, I’ve done a deep dive on the Oilers’ uniforms for this week’s Uni Watch Premium article on Substack. Just like my previous deep dives on the other uniforms that are being revived for this season’s new NFL throwbacks — the Bucs’ creamsicles, the Eagles’ Kelly greens, and the Seahawks’ blue/silver set — this Oilers article is full of historical fun facts and loads of great visuals.

You can read the first part of the article here. In order to read the entire thing, you’ll need to become a paying subscriber to my Substack (which will also get you full access to my Substack/Bulletin archives). My thanks, as always, for your consideration!



Hosiery Hijinks

The photo shown above is from the Eagles’ uniform unveiling in 1996. There are two uni-notable things about the socks: First, the socks with the green jersey are green-topped; according to the Gridiron Uniform Database, those were never worn on the field. And second, the socks included a team wordmark! That never made it on-field either, but it’s fascinating to see that the Eagles were contemplating it.

At least one NFL team did have wordmarked socks around that same time, however — the Chargers:

(My thanks to Twitter-er @R5Ryder for bringing the Eagles photo to my attention.)



Too Good for the Ticker

The team shown above is the 1935 Tonawanda (N.Y.) High School varsity football team. Imagine lining up against those guys — stripe-o-rama!

(Big thanks to Mike Raymer for this one.)



Can of the Day

Wow, that’s gorgeous. And the product name reminds me of this:

• • • • •

I’m heading out to Long Island this morning to visit my mom. Play nice while I’m away, enjoy today’s Ticker and Phil’s weekend content, and I’ll see you back here on Monday morning. Peace. — Paul


Comments (56)

    Didn’t the Bengals also have a small word mark on the orange parts of their socks?

    I kinda remember the Jets having word mark socks too in the Gang Green era…but I could be mistaken.

    The Dolphins had it as well during the late 80’s and early 90’s. The first time i recall where they didn’t have the team script logo on the socks was in ‘93 (The year Marino tore his achillies).

    I’m glad anonymous shared that email. Knowing a word is just jargon takes some of the abrasive feeling from corporate story telling crap.

    Agreed. Thanks for sharing the response, it was insightful. I guess it makes it a degree or two less ridiculous, since it is used in the industry. But it is definitely an in-house term that does not need to be used before the masses.

    Now, we just need Paul to stop his campaign against “sponsor”. It’s the same issue.

    Marketers won’t call something advetising if it’s just a logo without a message or call to action. The difference between advertising and jersey sponsorship is simple to understand, but it can’t overcome Paul’s desire to use a term with negative connotation.

    No fucking way.

    I’d push back on the use of “Chassis,” but there’s no way in hell we’re going to call ANYTHING that involves the selling of space on a jersey ANYTHING but an ad(vertisement). Pure and simple, that’s what it is.

    You might be able to argue that a Little League team wearing a local business on its jersey has them as a “sponsor” (as they might not be able to exist without the support), but pro leagues? Nope. Those greedy rich bastards absolutely do not need to defile the uniform to pocket even more bank.

    I spent many years working in production in the media field and I’d see plenty of marketing people that would hear someone on the production side talk about the systems and process to do something and a term, like chassis, would just hit the person and then they’d build something for marketing off of that.

    The best were when the language ended up not even describing what we were doing in our process but the marketing folks just liked the word and thought it would hit the consumer.

    Having worked in tech and marketing, the quotes above just confirm that a lot of people will go to great lengths to justify their own BS.

    I’m all for the use of “template”.

    TBH, when writing articles describing jerseys (or uniforms, helmets, etc.), I try not to repeat a single word too many times, which I why I will often use terms that are similar (though perhaps not exact). Example: I’ll use the words “hat”, “lid,” “dome,” etc. when speaking of a helmet, simply because I don’t want to use helmet all the time. When I (a few times) used “chassis” instead of “template” or “jersey pattern” (or even “shirt”), it wasn’t to give credence to “Template” as an industry term, but rather simply to keep from repeating “jersey”.


    Waiting on the “I Still Call It A Template” tee ;-)

    As your correspondent acknowledges but doesn’t quite state, jargon is useful to practitioners within a specific field. Outside of the setting of practitioners engaging in work within the field, jargon often obscures more than it illuminates. For example, it may be true that for a uniform design professional, “template” can’t be used in its plain-English sense because it’s been assigned a different meaning within the professional setting. Which is fine. But outside of that professional setting, “template” retains its plain-English meaning.

    In this particular jargon, “chassis” does seem to make sense, especially if one recalls how car makers used to build different models of car using the same chassis. Like, if you ever saw a Ford car that resembled a Mercury or a Mercur, you were looking at the same chassis with slightly different drive trains and sheet-metal exteriors. That seems analogous here. But still, in plain English as spoken and understood by essentially all English-speaking human beings, that’s a “template.”

    “Marketing-douche speak”! Ha haaaa, I love it!

    The general public could not care less about all the esoteric minutiae, so just call it a design and move on.

    Remember — KISS.

    Re: “The general public could not care less about all the esoteric minutiae, so just call it a design and move on.”

    The Uni-Watch audience is here for the esoteric minutiae. It’s right in the About page here on Uni-Watch:

    “Uni Watch is a media project that deconstructs the finer points of sports uniforms, logos, related topics in obsessive and excruciating detail. It’s not about fashion — it’s about documenting and assessing the visual history of sports design (or as we like to call it, athletics aesthetics), and about minutiae fetishism as its own reward.”

    Words like “obsessive and excruciating detail” and “minutiae fetishism” make me think that an insider term like “chassis” fits that bill to a t. The word may sound clunky right now, but language shifts and changes over time. Given a year it may fade away or become ingrained. I’m fine with Paul using template, but now a part of my brain will think of chassis as a synonym.

    Yes, Tom, I am well aware of the purpose of UniWatch. I said the general public doesn’t care. I didn’t say we didn’t care.

    MLB’s original press release was not aimed at only UniWatchers. It was released to the general public.

    Those mid-90’s Chargers pants bothered the heck out of me! The lightning bolt was so different from the jersey, the helmet and the team logo.

    Even worse, the barbs on the top of the helmet bolt point backwards, the barbs on the pants face forwards, and the barbs on the shoulders change directions in the middle. For a team that has never had a really bad look, they really messed up the details a lot.

    I honestly had no idea the Eagles wore sleeve stripes on their road jerseys for 1 year in ’96. Very cool!

    I seriously don’t think that particular feature ever saw the field. I could be wrong, but I don’t think I am…

    According to the GUD (which is generally exactingly correct in their research), in 1996 he wore the 2 stripes (black/green) on their white tops, and also wore green socks with white pants.


    It’s very subtle, but it’s there. I used MS Paint with the “eyedropper” function to copy the sock color used with the green pants (decidedly black) and then with the white pants, which shows a dark green sock color. Unless my eyes are deceiving me (entirely possible!) it looks like the GUD gave them green socks:


    I see the green on GUD too, for what it’s worth. Getty Images for the 96 Eagles 100% shows a) green socks with white pants at all times, b) black socks with green pants, c) a solid black stripe down the green pants, and d) the two stripes on the sleeves. From what I can tell, the green stripe is screen-printed on, and the black is an optional fabric cuff sewn onto the edge of the sleeve. It may look like a short-sleeved undershirt on a lot of pictures, but there’s enough photographic evidence of enough players wearing it with the exact same length that I feel I can safely assume it’s part of the jersey.






    I saw the socks with the white pants on the GUD as green as well. Of note, the GUD colored them slightly darker than the shade used elsewhere on the uniforms, but I can see it distinctly. However, I have a 2-monitor setup at my desk, and when I dragged the window with the image over to the other monitor, the colors were almost totally indistinguishable. The monitors are different sizes from different manufacturers, and have different settings (I’ve found it really difficult to get exact image quality matches from such mismatched monitors). So it may just be Paul’s monitor in this case that makes the green socks on the GUD look black.

    On a side note, the GUD also shows the green socks last being worn in the 2002 season, as they switched to black socks full-time in 2003; this also corresponds to both the change in the pants stripes to their current configuration, and their move from the Vet to the Linc.

    This 1996 Eagles highlight video is giving me mixed signals. At the 1:56 point, I see one player with one green sleeve stripe and another player with none…


    Looks like most players had the two stripes, but the black (lower) stripe was truncated on most jerseys. But it is there:


    I’m looking at the photo and thinking the green is a lot greener than what the Eagles actually wear. I even thought they might be prototypes for a future season in which green makes a comeback, but then I saw the sleeves, which are decidedly pre-2000s. Is the bright green just a trick of the light?

    I was a fan of the sleeve stripes and going with a non-mirror image between the white and green jerseys. I guess I was one of the few given they only wore them for a year. No silly five year rule then!

    Easy to see why the term chassis will likely stick around. The design folks can be very technical using it and for marketing, it harkens us to the support structure of exciting sports and race cars. Personally, I don’t mind using it in a uni context. Seems like a more precise word…like calling the decoration atop Yankee Stadium a frieze instead of a facade.

    “One of the first things I learned with brands is the power of leveraging new language to shift how people think about a problem. Brands and individuals in fashion (Nike included, when I was briefly there before moving out of sports) all have different synonyms and metaphors they like to instill with teams in order to promote a certain mindset, and once you use it internally with its specific contextual definition, it just becomes part of your everyday language.”
    This comment is packed full of things to pick part. But I’m stuck on leveraging new language to shift how people think about a problem. Does this insinuate that there was some sort of problem in how they discussed a jersey template, or if we aren’t using that term, perhaps the jersey “cut”. I mean in reality it is all just Nike and the like trying to find solutions to problems that don’t exist just so they can market new products that claim to fix the problem that doesn’t really exist.

    The last part of this post just feels like Paul trying to reason why not to just bite the bullet, take the L and be fine using the word. Feels like it’s perfectly justifiable why it’s called a chassis and no reason to further debate it. And if it gets referred to as a template from time to time, so be it. But this just came off as someone finding a reason to not admit they’re stance was incorrect – it’s not marketing speak, it’s a technical term and should be respected as such.

    Exactly! “It may be be helpful for product designers juggling all the different aspects of the production process, but there’s no need for us to parrot it” is cringier than marketing douche-speak.

    In the spirit of rethinking approaches, I would like to reformulate my response to the MLB ASG uniform discussion.

    While I’m not going to change my opinion, and I think the response to my comments (which were explicitly invited by Paul) were harsh and unfair, I have to admit I underestimated just how many people prefer the traditional ASG uniform protocol.

    Since this week’s events occurred, I have seen countless people voice their support for the traditional approach. I’m talking thousands of people commenting on dozens of posts across Facebook and Twitter. The real cherry on top for me was when Chris Rose and former MLBer Trevor Plouffe of Baseball Today said they would like to revert back to the old system. When people connected to the game feel so adamantly about a topic, I can no longer chalk it up to UW groupthink.

    Apologies to anyone I may have riled the wrong way!

    No apology needed!

    I simply think you were conflating most commenters’ disdain for the uniforms with a dislike of the game itself. Now, I’m sure there are some (many?) UWers who were so turned off by the unis that it “ruined” the game (some said they didn’t even watch, simply because of the uniforms). You seemed to be defending the game itself (which I watched and enjoyed); but we’re a uni discussion board, so naturally our first concern is with what’s worn on the field.

    Have you ever noticed when uniforms are debuted and reviewed, we (almost) never announce a score or even the winner? That’s because we’re here to discuss how the uniforms looked on the field, not the game. Personally, I don’t usually even care who won the game (unless one of my teams was playing). We leave game discussions to others. We concentrate on the unis.

    Again, no need to apologize. Just realize the thoughts posted here are probably not even considered by 99.8% of the viewing public. But when the stage is as big as the ASG, one can’t hope but notice the unis. We all fondly remember the home league wearing white and the road league wearing gray (or beige or tan or powder blue) with all the different unis and looks represented. To us, that’s how ASG’s should look. The winner is of no concern, at least not uni-wise.

    I appreciate the response Phil.

    I think you have a point in that I was defending the game as a whole, but that was more in response to those who said the new jerseys rendered the game unwatchable. I love uniforms – that’s why I’m here everyday – but I also love the sport first and foremost.

    My overall point was that one bad uniform is not proof that the ASG uniforms as a whole are bad. However, I accept that I was unaware just how many people are attached to the old system and that it truly means something to them.

    I feel an apology is required simply for the fact that my comments seemed to be so ludicrous to some people that they bordered on being offensive. I mean, someone even accused me of being a Nike/MLB plant LOL.

    No, no,no, please respect your own opinion at all times! Power by numbers does not apply here. I disagreed with your opininon of the ASG uniforms and having lots of different (baseball) uniforms in general, but that is just my opinion, nothing more or less. It is different when facts and scientific proof tell you (or me or anyone else) otherwise, but stand up for your own opinion if you want to express it. Always!

    Thanks for the support! I just wanted to clarify that I was wrong to think the opinion shared by most commenters was unique to the UW community, when in reality it seems to be prevalent throughout baseball.

    Instead of chassis I prefer the term model: a model is available in different patterns, colors, sizes and finishes but the basic model is the same. Template will do but has a more robotic feel to it (but I am not a native speaker of English). Love the can and the high school team in stripes. They are known as the Warriors I just learned from wikipedia and play in maroon, silver and white. Maroon and white stripes!

    My wife works at Mattel, specifically on vehicles (Hot Wheels! Cool, right?), and sits on the DEI committee. The committee, this is the vehicles dept committee, is called Chassis because of the underlying meanings of the word…

    My suggestion to replace “chassis” is to frankenstein a word together, like “garmenture” (garment + armature).

    It’s literally a template. I don’t really see how this is up for dispute. Also, they all have no issue saying template when it comes to European soccer where teams negotiate uniform suppliers individually, so you end up with teams across different leagues having more similar uniforms than within their own league. They even have different templates based on how much they care about the team wearing them. Like, PSG, Chelsea etc will get a certain Nike template, then a less known team in the Danish league will get a different Nike template. Nike literally has like tier 1 team template, tier 2 team template etc. Point is they’re all openly referred to as templates so I feel like this is driven more by our leagues themselves rather than the manufacturers.

    Man, I don’t recall ever seeing the Iggles’ road jersey stripes whatsoever. Would have sworn they were all white with the bird on the sleeve, like the green version. Wow. That look is decidedly Jets-like (late 70s and 80s). Full disclosure as a long time Jets fan: I hate the late 70s Jets “sack exchange era” Jerseys, particularly because of what I always thought were stupidly huge sleeve stripes.

    “One of the first things I learned with brands is the power of leveraging new language to shift how people think about a problem.”

    I know we’ve touched on this many times, but generally speaking, I do think a lot of the opinions of Uni-Watchers, particularly denizens of this site, tend to generically fall into “new equals bad” as well as “things that were popular when I was in the prime of my youth were perfect.” Now yes, part of that has to do with the fact most of the uni-related decisions of the last 20 years or so have been to try and leverage fans’ purchasing power, which does suck generally. But I also see it happen so often out of kind, even when a change does make sense or doesn’t strike me as all that bad objectively, that I can’t help but think there’s a correlation. “Go back to [whatever it was my favorite team was wearing when I was about 16] and never change.”

    I do think that can apply for language, too. I really don’t think we have a tendency to acknowledge and fight our own nostalgia and tendency to just dismiss all change out of course after a certain age enough sometimes in our conversations.

    I mean, God bless this blog and how deeply it thinks about uniforms and all. But here, we’re being explicitly told, in the industry, template means one thing, and we’re using it completely differently because we don’t like a new term. Part of me thinks we should listen to that and be willing to just adopt the new term if it works.

    I refuse to think too deeply what they call it.

    But the Eagles’ unveiling throwback did make me think: Every time a football team (mostly, but to a lesser extent, all teams) does a uni reveal and they use actual players, it looks kind of goofy and out of place (especially if they are wearing pads, as the Eagles’ guys are, but even the Bucs’ players this week who were in full uni but no pads in the reveal video) just because it’s usually on a stage or something. To me it just looks odd.

    I have known teams that have had models or celebrities wear the unis at a reveal event, and that was odd, but aesthetically more pleasing for a reveal (though it doesn’t give you a sense how it will look on the field). I even worked for a minor league hockey team that once had celebrity impersonators wear their new jerseys for a reveal event.

    I don’t know what the best way is. I just thought the photo of the Eagles’ guys above looked weird. YMMV.

    Any post that starts with “I refuse to think too deeply” automatically triggers me.

    We need more deep thought. About everything. From everyone. It’s a goal of mine to not use that phrase. Some things are overthought, yes, but it’s so much rarer than things that are underthought that I’ll always be far less critical of overthinking than underthinking.

    Think too deeply. About everything. It’s healthy.

    I feel like most should be able to agree that

    “the replica and fanwear versions are still considered obliquely by the chassis”

    is a pretty ridiculous sentence, regardless of whether it proves to be the sticking term for this

    “Product design jargon” and “marketing jargon” are, most of the time, the same thing. One thing becomes the other. If I had made that statement I wouldn’t have wanted to attach my name to it either.

    Template is so obviously correct, and the Big Uni guy’s excuse for not using it is laughable.

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