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Some Thoughts About Classic Uniforms vs. Newfangled Uniforms

Thousands of years ago, a caveman inserted an axle into a crude disc and thereby invented the wheel. Everyone could see that the wheel was a good thing — functional, useful, nifty-looking. Over time, a few refinements were made in terms of the materials and construction, but the wheel was still basically the wheel, and everyone liked it.

After a while, a group of ambitious cavemen came along. “This wheel thing is boring,” they said. “Today’s cave people don’t want the same old thing. They want energy, razzle-dazzle, excitement. Why settle for a round wheel when you can have a square wheel? Circles are old and dull. Squares are modern and cool!”

There was a murmuring of agreement from some of the cave dwellers. But there was also some resistance. “We have a perfectly good wheel here,” someone said. “Why do you feel the need to reinvent it?”

“Because we’re tired of looking at the same old wheel,” came the reply. “It’s time to change things up. It’s not enough for a wheel to be functional. It has to represent something. It has to tell a story. Especially if you expect to sell a lot of wheels.”

Some cave people were unmoved. “We like the wheel just fine the way it is,” they said.

“You just hate anything new,” they were told.

Some cave people were intrigued by this new vision. With great fanfare, they announced that they were switching to the square wheel. “We know it takes a bit of getting used to, but innovation takes courage,” they said. “It’s the start of a bold, new wheel era. You’ll see.”

A few years went by. After the initial excitement died down, people who’d adopted the square wheel noticed that it didn’t work so well. They tried to remain supportive of the new approach — “At least it’s something different,” they’d say — but eventually they admitted to themselves that the circular wheel had been better, so they switched back to the old style.

The ambitious group of wheel reformers remained upbeat, however. “We’ve just come up with something new,” they said. “Sit down and let us tell you about the triangle.”

Comments (116)

    My litmus test for whether a new uniform is good or stupid is, could someone from 50 years ago take one look at the uniform and instantly know who it is. Would they say, “Oh wow, they got new uniforms. They look good.” Or, would they say, “Who the hell are they? They look stupid.”

    50 YEARS? I watch college football and ask myself “could someone from ONE YEAR AGO take one look at the uniform and instantly know who it is and many times the answer is no.

    No, it’s not. Because new uniforms would still be a round wheel. They serve the purpose of representing the teams’ brand and displaying individuals by number (and sometimes name). They just have a different visual style. It would be like having purple wheels instead of grey, rather than circle vs square.

    Yeah I get the intent of the piece, but other than some of the specific gripes often brought up on this site (e.g. black on black numbers on a uniform can’t be read easily) it’s mostly just a conversation of aesthetic tastes.

    I could just as disingenuously make fun of cavemen rolling around on stone wheels while someone zips by with modern tires but that still distracts from conversations of taste (and who defines when/where something is the original “wheel” vs a reinvention).

    Feels overly defensive in posture, vs standing by thinking that an older set of visual codes just looks better in that viewer’s opinion.

    I think there is a happy medium of modern and classic. Take the Texans for example, I think the happy medium would be if the striping was limited to the sleeve, but still had the “horn” effect (similar to the Vikings) and go back to the NFL stripe all the way up the pants.

    For the Broncos, barring not making the throwbacks their primaries, then I would drop the helmet stripe completely. If you’re going to do mountains on the sleeve cap, then do mountains on the sleeve cap, because right now it just looks like a zig zag. And of course, NFL stripes on the pants. Their current two stripe that stops half way on one side is almost as bad as the helmet stripe.

    Reinventing the wheel is about practical (structural and functional design). Uniforms are visual design. One can be qualified as to whether or not it works and how well it works. One is entirely subjective. Or in the parlance of this site: YMMV. In terms of visual design, you could argue that, once you create something that people like, there is no good reason to mess with it. One could also argue that there is no good reason not to try something new.

    Actually, uniform design is also about function and practicality. For example: You need to be able to identify the team; the numbers need to be legible; you need to use colors that don’t vibrate; and so on.

    I agree, but I tend to think of it in a slightly different way. I tend to differentiate between art and design. Art may have technical components that can be objectively judged – an artist’s draftsmanship or a chef’s knife work express objectively verifiable levels of skill – but the end product of art is almost entirely subjective. In visual art, the ultimate question is “Does it look pretty?” and there’s no way to answer that question objectively. Design, conversely, is primarily driven by achieving functional objectives. A design that achieves its functional objectives is a good design, and can be judged by objective standards. Many a designed thing achieves its functional objectives quite well but doesn’t look pretty, and thus qualifies as objectively good design and subjectively bad art. Think of most modern automobiles: The typical car today is one of the most successfully designed machines in human history, but it’s also a largely soulless blob of ugliness. A lot of contemporary sports uniformery expresses the opposite dichotomy: As art, uniforms or their newfangled details are often quite pretty to lots of people, and are thus subjectively good art to those people. But as design, they often fall short of the objective standards of functional purpose, and are thus objectively bad design.

    Yeah. I see where Paul is coming from with this but the argument is a bit too glib for me. That the wheel is better at rolling than a triangle is fact according to physics, that classic uniform design tends to be better than newfangled is an aesthetic opinion like any other.

    With all due respect: Obviously, I’m aware of the difference between aesthetics and physics. I chose the wheel metaphor because “reinvent the wheel” is a common phrase that I believe applies to this situation. (Also, as noted upthread, uniform design does have practical and functional aspects.)

    Sure, and maybe I am thinking about it too literally, but it seems to me the metaphor implies something (the fact that the wheel literally cannot be improved upon in an objective sense) that is a bit too definitive to apply here.

    I think your comments are underscoring a pretty nasty conflation of the functionality of the uniform with your aesthetic opinions of them. Do the horns pointing a specific direction have anything to do with the practicality of the uniform? Does the shade of red used on the numbers or the font make the numbers illegible? These are points of practicality…

    Feel like you’re being lazy fighting people in the comments saying that your argument is based on practical aspects but the content people are disagreeing with has more to do with your opinions on the artistic choices. Would really appreciate it if you took these discussions more seriously instead of being glib and intolerant about the whole thing. We’re all here to express our opinions about a subject that all of us who care to view your website find interesting.

    I dislike all the new uniforms The Lions new Black uniforms are ugly with the dark blue pants terrible and The Jets don’t like at all I love the Last years Jets with the white stripe across the shoulder into the front love them And their All white legacy uniforms are the best Texans are awful also Especially New helmets the H Town is ugly The Broncos New are k I like The ones they been using for years especially the All white uniforms n Helmets the throwbk are great But I think All these teams getting black uniforms are really ugly pathetic especially when they wear dark pants it’s really ugly too dark I love light colors it looks great on TV Stands out professional clean Well I think the new uniforms are going to be a flop big-time.They are over doing it 3 uniforms is enough .

    I stick with the old mantra… can a kid draw it?
    I take it a step further… can a kid draw it from memory?
    If they can’t, then there is probably some unnecessary stuff going on.

    My biggest beef with these new fangled uniforms are the number fonts. For decades it seemed as though the Bears were the only NFL franchise with a unique font. It had a charm unto itself. FF years later and teams like the Eagles and Steelers ditched their classic look for a more modern appeal. Today it’s gone off the rails with the Titans & Falcons using barely legible numbers. Same to a lesser extent with the (new) Texans, Falcons, Rams, etc. Thankfully teams like the Giants, Packers, Raiders, Chiefs, Colts, etc. still rock the good old fashioned block number fonts.

    Is there going to be a follow up every time there is a substantial number of people in the comments that disagree with the Official Uni Watch Aesthetic Guidelines™ ?

    Uniforms aren’t like a wheel at all. It’s all just fashion, always has been.

    Actually, uniforms are not “fashion.” They are *design.*

    Fashion, by definition, is always changing, usually as an excuse to sell more goods; good design (or bad design, for that matter) is eternal. I’ve emphasized that difference for 25 years now.

    In fact, one of the big problems with modern uniforms is that they have become lifestyle fashion because of the retail factor.

    High schools have routinely alerted/changed uniform designs regularly for decades. Why? Well, because it’s fun, what’s popular with kids and coaches changes, what’s offered as option is driven by the popularity, etc. No one usually bats an eye because there isn’t a brand to protect. So in a lot of ways what people are so upset about is the brand changing- whether that be an individual team (the Texans) or a full league (MLB/City Connect) as much as the actual designs. This is like hating hair metal because it’s not classic Rock n Roll. In your initial analogy it’s despising modern tires because they’re not white walled.

    If you look at the world of high school uniform design, I’m not sure that’s the world you want to hang an aesthetic argument on.

    Design isn’t in a vacuum, every uniform ever has been influenced heavily by the fashions of the day.

    It’s like that scene in The Devil Wears Prada: Everything you do, everything you wear, everything you read, everything you watch all exists within the current trends which they influence and are influenced by. And fashion is the whatever the current trends are.

    Yankees Pinstripes – fashion.
    U Oregon unis – fashion.

    Just because some may appear to be a bit frozen in time doesn’t mean it’s not fashion, it’s just referencing older fashion. Trying to divorce design and fashion reminds me of calling a jersey template a chassis; I see what is trying to be done with the terminology, but it’s just cringy and tries to ignore that were talking about clothes.

    Oh, for sure, design is influenced by lots of things. But it’s still distinct from fashion.

    Also, most of the commenters here are overlooking a key point: That bit in the story where the cave people ditch the square wheels and go back to round wasn’t just a self-serving plot point that I put in there — it’s *based on what we actually see* in the uni-verse. The teams with the most radical redesigns often go back to what they had before. Think Bucs, Browns, Jets, Blue Jays, I could go on. And why do teams do this? Because change for the sake of change rarely works, and classics were usually classic for a reason.

    except that neither the Bucs nor the Jets went back to the round wheel. they changed to square, then they changed to triangle, then they changed to trapezoidal, then they changed back to square. if they had stuck with round all along they wouldn’t have the now-classic looks that they’re wearing now and all the fans love

    Actually, I have never done that, nor do I have the ability to do that.

    After a certain number of indents in the thread, the button disappears and you have to go back upthread to reply. It’s built into WordPress to prevent endless indents.

    Thank you! I didn’t know that. In any case, that’s all set up by my web developer. Again, I have never tinkered with the reply button, nor would I know how to until you just now showed me.

    Merely calling it fashion is a glib overstatement. It is true to a degree. But fashion
    1. Doesn’t need to clearly identify one team from another
    2. Doesn’t need to clearly and legibly identify individuals on each team
    3. Doesn’t need to be legible when people wearing it are moving at high speeds and often in crowded packs of tangled limbs
    4. Doesn’t have decades of legacy, tradition and investment, both financial and emotional, from the people enjoying it

    Hahaha that’s great Paul!
    The Texans reveal was too busy for me. Just show the darn uniforms, which were a bit disappointing to me btw.

    This is akin to hating Nirvana because they’re not the Beatles. My guess is a high % of UW readers would’ve railed against the 1970’s & 1980’s movement to pullover “softball” tops and sansabelt pants had they been middle aged then but love them because they’re what they grew up with. Not every new uniform (nor fad) is good but a lot of new design isn’t nearly has bad as you’d think if you simply consumed the UW echo chamber demanding block fonts and limited options (which as a Packers fanatic I can 100% appreciate at times).

    I’ve been a designer and illustrator for 30 years. If you talk to an experienced designer, they’ll tell you that the more you know about design, the less subjectivity there is in judging the design. Obviously, any creative endeavor has a certain amount of subjectivity, but not as much as you’d think. There are sooooo many elements in modern uniforms that simply don’t work as well as they should. I’ve scratched my head for years, wondering who the hell is designing some of these monstrosities. (Jaguars two-tone helmet, anyone?) Point being, Paul has been analyzing uniforms for a looooong time. And although I don’t agree with him on everything (it would be boring if I did), I do agree with him about the vast majority of uniforms because he knows what he’s talking about. Sure, there might be some nostalgia in his taste, but it’s mainly about solid design.

    One of the best quotes about creativity is from Charles Mingus, who said, “Making the simple complicated is commonplace; making the complicated simple, awesomely simple, THAT’S creativity.” The uniform designers in the ’60s and ’70s understood this. It seems to be lost on many (not all) of the uniform designers of today.

    My only pushback would be that we LOVE the tequilla sunrise Astros, powder blue Brewers, mix and match A’s, etc etc, etc of the 1970’s and 1980’s. There was nothing simple about the San Diego Chargers initial uniforms. The Lombardi era Packers uniforms as certainly busier that what preceded them. Do I think the uni-world jumps the shark from time to time? Sure. But not all streamlined, classic design is best. Unless of course you prefer an entirely mid-century modern world where everyone dresses like Steve Jobs.

    Sure but good uniform design isn’t always simple. I think the early 1990’s Suns uniforms are brilliant as are the tequilla sunrise Astros. I also love the Packers and classic Notre Dame styling. The greatest Air Jordan sneakers vacillate between rather intricate and outlandish (for the time).. AJ 1 & 3. 13…and very simplistic.. 11 and 12. Uniform design, as with sneakers, is largely subjective and often can’t be fully judged until several years into the future. All this to say, there wasn’t anything totally absurd about the Texans new look even if some of it seems frivolous today.

    Whenever a team overhauls their uniforms, my litmus test as to whether they got it “right” or “wrong” has always been how quickly they overhaul them again.

    I prefer Pat Patriot to Elvis Patriot. But the Elvis Patriot uniforms have now been around for 30+ years. The Pats got it “right” back in 1993.

    Does anyone think these Houston uniforms are going to last past the five-year minimum?

    Did they though? Referencing the Gridiron Database, it looks like that first year they had Elvis on the sleeves, with red numbers, home and away. 1994, they switched to white numbers on the blue unis. 1995 they overhauled the jersey, with Elvis on the shoulders, drop shadow italic numbers, and the soccer-style vertical line whatever it is you call it. That lasted for…five seasons, before they overhauled things again, going with a darker blue, new number font, Elvis back to the sleeve, and the stripe/wedge thing on the shoulder. That I guess did more or less remain with tweaks here and there until 2019…after which came the UCLA stripes.

    So maybe it can be argued that they got the Elvis *logo* “right” but I’m not sold on the uniforms.

    If CJ Stroud turns into the next Tom Brady, then I expect the Texans would keep their current look for a very long time.

    Flying Elvis holds such cache with Patriots fans because the look coincides with the most successful period in franchise history. People like it because it is associated with a lot of good memories and happy feelings, not because of any sort of critical design analysis.

    Square or Triangle wheels? Stupid.
    Adding suspension, brakes and tires to a wheel? Good. (Usually)

    Are the truncated pants stripes really going to be noticeable? With most of the players wearing the baggy shirts extending from their skin tight jerseys, that part of the pants stripes would be covered up anyway.

    Paul, I do love the way you think most of the time, but I think this is *a tad* simplistic.

    To take your analogy further, sometimes, there is a better wheel: One paired with an axel and a second wheel. One made of rubber with treads for better grip. Bigger ones and smaller ones that serve different purposes. You might like the original stone wheel. I might like a plastic one. And so on.

    To apply this to uniforms, there’s a reason football uniforms are now as tight as they are and lack sleeves: Those were just another thing for defenders to grab. In a microcosm, uniforms are better because of that. Also, if we’re just looking for a wheel and nothing more than a wheel, we wouldn’t have a need for the stripes you love on said wheel.

    I do believe there’s a time and a place when change merely for change’s sake is warranted, especially with “Pepsi teams,” to use a different analogy of yours. Yes, a lot of the change we see now uniform-wise is for the wrong reasons. But I feel like we shouldn’t throw out occasional change for change’s sake for no good reason.

    I work for two college soccer programs that just severed ties with one head coach that was there for 18 years and another head coach who had a brief tenure after a long run as an assistant under a different head coach who was there for nearly 25 years. The coaches hired to replace them, for the most part, have no previous connection to the program whatsoever. If there’s any time for us to break with our traditions and try something new and different, this is it. And if that means new and different from what everyone else has done before, hey, worth a shot. Honestly, in this case, change seems like a good idea. Let’s wipe the slate and start some new traditions.

    I sometimes wonder, if we had the same tools to evaluate things in the 1970s that we do now, if some of the more unique designs we saw then would have made it: The Broncos’ brown & yellow stripes, the Astros’ tequila sunrise, the White Sox’ beach blanket jerseys, and so on. Those were far from “classic” at the time. And yet, now we consider them kinda classic. I even think about uniforms like the Phillies’ Saturday Night Special blood clots, which were even reviled at the time but there’s a certain fondness for now. I sometimes wonder if we’ll see the Diamondbacks’ sublimated uniforms actually lauded someday for just being something notably different and reminiscent of a time when we were younger the same way some of those “mistakes” were.

    Long story short: I think we kinda need to get over it. Yes, I’d like teams to be more consistent and set a limit at three uniforms, especially in the NFL, where there aren’t that many games in a season anyway. Yes, some of the lengths teams go to trying to “tell stories” are silly now, notably things like the 5280 text that can barely be seen on the uniforms. Still, though, I don’t think we should dump on change or modernity just because. They’re not turning a wheel into a square. They’re just painting the wheel a color some of us like better than others.

    “I think we kinda need to get over it” – bingo!
    It’s time to accept that we live in a commercialized world. Jersey and merch sales are a huge part of the growth and popularity of the leagues we adore.
    I’m a huge fan of this site and very grateful for the work Paul does, but I have a hard time believing this site would have a purpose if teams and leagues stuck to the “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” mantra.

    “Get over it” is never — like, literally *never* — a good argument. It’s just a cop-out, and it’s also disrespectful.

    Obviously, we all have to choose our battles, prioritize what we do and don’t want to advocate for, etc. And one person’s priorities may not match up with someone else’s. But that doesn’t mean either person should tell the other to “get over it.”

    A better solution, if the two people are at loggerheads, is to agree to disagree and move on.

    I find it odd that I was singled out when I was *literally* repeating what the comment I was replying to said.
    You’re well within your rights to harp on about things that are absolutely never going to change, just as we’re free to point out that it’s a losing battle. I don’t see how it’s disrespectful at all.
    As for the idea that a few examples of teams reverting to older styles proves your point – what about all the teams that moved on from older designs and haven’t looked back? It’s very easy for both sides of this argument to cherry pick examples that suit them, but how does that help at all?

    I find it odd that I was singled out when I was *literally* repeating what the comment I was replying to said.

    I was simply joining the thread.

    what about all the teams that moved on from older designs and haven’t looked back?

    Sure, but the micro- and macro-trends both feature a return to the the classic norm.

    Micro: Bucs, Browns, Jets, Lions, Jags, Rams (relegating bone to alternate status), etc.

    Macro: NHL and NBA go gonzo with sublimated designs in the 1990s, then return to more classic styles.

    Over and over, the pendulum swings one way, and then comes back.

    The main difference between now and 30 years ago, as I’ve written again and again, is that the current on-field design is driven by off-field retailing.

    “It’s time to accept that we live in a commercialized world. Jersey and merch sales are a huge part of the growth and popularity of the leagues we adore.”

    Why? Why is it time to accept rampant commercialization and merchandising?

    Why is it not time instead to say “F*ck this. I don’t accept that multi-billion dollar corporations will squeeze an ad in to every possible space they can find. I don’t accept that prepubescent kids drive aesthetic sensibilities in sports and entertainment. I don’t accept that anybody with a smart phone and a TikTok account is regarded as an ‘influencer’ despite how soulless and insipid their output is. I don’t accept that people have stopped being individuals and started being ‘brands.’ I don’t accept that our kids and our kids’ kids will never know a moment in their lives when somebody isn’t targeting them not just to buy one overpriced baseball hat supporting their favorite team, but to buy 10, 15, 20 different hats per year – and targeting kids with substandard materials and uninspired designs. I don’t accept having some corporate marking team force a ‘story’ on Armed Forces Day or Mothers Day or City Connect hats and jerseys that not only look like crap but have nothing at all to do with the causes they claim to support and everything to do with making players rich and owners richer.”

    When’s it going to be time for that?

    (and that concludes the “Damn kids GET OFF MY LAWN” portion of today’s post.

    Charlie, if think you were repeating what I said, but I’m afraid you misinterpreted me.

    I wasn’t letting the commercial aspect off the hook. When I said, “Yes, a lot of the change we see now uniform-wise is for the wrong reasons,” the first of the wrong reasons I was implying was the idea of change for pushing merch’s sake.

    Thing is, though, while much of this may or may not be merch driven, we the consumers do not have to buy the merch if we don’t want to. It’s our dollars and if we don’t want to spend them, we don’t have to. What we do want to do is watch the games, if we can find them/afford to do so with the cost of cable and/or the many streaming services they’re being splayed across. And, as we do as Uni Watchers, we pass judgement on the uniforms.

    No matter the motivation for the change, I just sometimes tire of the idea “new is bad,” “old is good” and “change is bad.” Sometimes, new for the sake of new, honestly, is fine.

    Yes, there are those that argue the classic designs aren’t broken. Fine. But, to be honest, except in the case of the baseball uniforms that have functional issues, like being see-through, ripping or staining (though that’s actually a throwback — part of the reason St. Louis’ Gashouse Gang got its name was because its road uniforms were often unwashed, unkempt and smelly), ultimately, us observers are exactly that: Observers. And all we’re basically doing is complaining that, as observers, we don’t like what we’re observing merely on our style preferences alone. Some prefer the classics. Others prefer new things. It tends to correlate with a person’s age, notably.

    But our preferences are just that: Preferences. Opinions. There’s an idiom about opinions.

    Accordingly, with regards to those opinions, it’s fine to have them, but we probably take them a tad too seriously sometimes. Sports are for the young. If young folks like these types of uniforms and enjoy sharing reveal videos on TikTok, then that’s why they’re there. They’re not meant for folks 40-plus like me. We should probably just accept that and let it go.

    “Sports are for the young.”

    What does that actually mean? And..well..since when? I always thought sports were one of those things that unifies across generations. This weekend I watched NBA playoffs with my boomer brother and my millennial nephew. I fall in between the two. I didn’t realize as we were watching that it was only supposed to be for my nephew. Or maybe he’s too old for sports also?

    Because you are young and there might be a lot of younger people who think like you does not mean that you are right and that we should all accept the world as it is right now. Taste in uniform style will always be a (hopefully healthy) debate, that is why this site exists. Saying: this is how it works, deal with it is not a healthy way of discussing taste, it is evading a conversation. Taste is not a democracy as in: most counts decide what is nice and what is not. It is a democracy as in: every taste is equally important.

    I don’t really see how age has anything to do with it. In fact, I would expect older people to be more accepting of the way things are since they’ve grown with the world and seen how things like merchandise sales drive just about everything.
    I simply don’t understand the point of playing this game repeatedly every time new uniforms are released. And I will stress the point again – this site literally would not exist if it weren’t for the constant updates and new releases we see across the world of sports.

    ” there’s a reason football uniforms are now as tight as they are and lack sleeves: Those were just another thing for defenders to grab.”

    If that’s the case, then why do so so many players were untucked shirts?

    You’ve now defeated the function (tighter fits) with fashion (untucked shirts).

    If I’ve said it once, I’ve said it 1,000 times. Kids don’t want to wear what their fathers wore. I get that and I’m fine with it. But (and this is an argument for another day), their fathers wore BFBS. Why are kids STILL so infatuated with it? IF there is/was one uni trend of the past 100 years I thought would surely go away, this would have been it. Yet BFBS is worse than ever.

    Triangle or square-shaped wheels would literally be unusable. I don’t think it’s a fair analogy at all.

    I think the comparison of uniforms to wheel shape is missing the mark. There hasn’t been a uniform that has fundamentally changed the way their uniform works in each team’s individual goals. They are identifiable as that team, the numbers are still legible, there is a uniformity to the design, etc.

    I mention “individual goals” because each teams uniform will have some different goals. The Jets, for example, are bringing back a old design because it has shown to be a fan favorite and has gotten the fan base excited (at least in the uniform part). The Packers’ goal for their uniforms may be to maintain their brand identity, which involves their uniforms WAY MORE than other teams. The Texans goal seems like to refresh their brand and grow it while the on field team is playing well.

    Teams also share a similar goal with uniform designs: to make more money. Whether it’s through selling new uniforms or getting fans excited for how the team will look with the new unis. I’d argue this is the “shape” of the wheel.

    Now, if you compared modern uniforms to materials that wheels are made out of, you can really line up the metaphor. Some teams will keep their uniforms the same no matter the supplier because it has always worked for them, like keeping a stone wheel for something like a grinder. You wouldn’t change that wheel to rubber because it doesn’t work for the task. Some teams capitalize on trends and modern manufacturing to make their uniform, and that I’d argue is like racing tires for a sports car – it’s really made for one thing but you could drive your Camry on them. But they’re all round wheels.

    Weak. I could draw a similar allegory, but replace the wheel with cars. Some guy invented cars, they worked fine and everyone liked them. Then another guy came along and though “Hey! Let’s make the car look nicer and sportier, with bigger wheels, lower suspension and awesome quadruple tailpipes!”

    Some people liked the new cars and some liked the old ones. Everyone died happy.

    You can’t compare football uniforms with wheels. Modern uniforms still have the same basic purpose as traditional ones. They highlight the identity of the team, and differentiate the team from their opponents, with different colors and designs. It serves the exact same purpose.

    Some people like Chippendale furniture, some like Bauhaus. It’s solely about aesthetics. Traditional and modern uniforms are both functional. Like them or not, they all do what they have to do.

    Your wheel allegory cannot apply here, it only shows that you hate uniforms that don’t meet your aesthetic tastes.

    Like most of the commenters here, you’re overlooking a key point: So many teams that have tried to reinvent the uni wheel have gone back to where they started (or somewhere close to it). It’s not just about my taste; it’s about what’s actually happened, empirically, in the uni-verse.

    I’m not sure that’s quite as true as you think it is. Sure the Browns went back to a classic look but most teams end up with something comparable to what they wore during the run of success they’ve had on the field/court. For the Bucs, that’s not Bucco Bruce it’s the Warren Sapp era look. The Patriots have clung to the Flying Elvis. Denver is sticking with a similar helmet and color scheme to the Shanahan era. Teams that have had legendary, decades long succesful runs generally don’t deviate much from the norm- 49ers, Cowboys, Packers, Steelers- and teams that are generally poor often can’t help but change too often- Jets, Cardinals, Falcons. etc. It’s not as cut and dried as everty team/school should look to what the Yankees, Crimson Tide and Chiefs hold sacred.

    Paul, correct me if I’m misunderstanding you here, but it seems like with this point you are arguing something along the lines of “when teams come out with newfangled uniform designs it’s to sell merch, but when they return to classic designs it’s because they realize those designs are better and they’re realizing that they never should have changed in the first place.” But 1, going back to a classic design can absolutely also be about selling merch. And 2, this ignores other possible reasons other than superior design that fans and others might prefer or otherwise feel positively about classic designs, namely nostalgia and familiarity.

    You act as if every single one of those instances was because of the new designs being “bad” or “inferior” to the original designs. Yes, there are certain times where teams have gone from old to new and back to old designs. But there are other redesigns that have stuck, like the Buccaneers, the Hornets, the Patriots, the Capitals, etc. And some of us actually like the things you complain about, like alternates that aren’t in the regular colors, vibrant colors, nonstandard uniform numbers, and so on. Are we just idiots for liking those designs? Because you act like enjoying those things is like enjoying square wheels.

    Round wheels, square wheels, triangle wheels. I just like the red helmets. I don’t know nothing about no wheels.

    That’s a silly argument. What you think of as “classic” were once the new-fangled uniform fads of their day. Why couldn’t they have stuck with the tried-and-true vertical stripes of the Bears and Steelers or the helmets without decals of yesteryear?

    As a metaphor for whether or not there should ever be change, I agree this is a little off. BUT that’s not what this is.

    This is a metaphor which strikes perfectly in capturing the argument repeatedly being made against anyone offering criticism of the changes: “you just don’t like change.” That is really how these arguments come across: a straw-man dismissal of criticism with no recognition that there are valid reason for disliking the change. If you think I’m wrong in not liking clashing colors or pointless triangles or zigzags that seem to mimic another team’s logo, then disagree with me on those points, don’t dismiss me as “not liking change.” I love change… but not poorly done change.

    Bravo Paul

    While everyone is free to prefer more classic uniforms, comparing uniforms to a tool like a wheel is asinine. While there are parts of a uniform that are functional and utilitarian, many parts of the uniform are essentially less related to a tool like a wheel and more related to essentially fashion. Fashion is a field that often changes frequently and follows trends. If you want to be like Alabama and have a classic look, great, if you want to be like Oregon and have a new uniform every game, fine. Changing fashion is not the same as using a square wheel.

    The purpose of a wheel is to roll. A square wheel cannot roll as well as a round wheel, and is therefore an objectively inferior wheel.

    The primary purpose of a uniform, the reason it was invented, is to identify the team and players wearing the uniform and distinguish them from the other team(s) they are playing against. In many ways, modern uniform trends make it harder to identify the team and players wearing the uniform. Alternate uniforms in non-team colors (like many of the MLB “City Connect” uniforms or NBA “City Edition” uniforms) make it harder to identify the team wearing that uniform, and are therefore objectively inferior uniforms. Typefaces that are too small (like the NOBs on the new Nike MLB jerseys) and fonts that are too wonky and lettering that lacks contrast from its background all make the words and numbers on a uniform harder to read, which makes the player wearing that uniform harder to identify, which makes for an objectively inferior uniform.

    As much as I am not a fan of some of the specific design choices they made, the Broncos and Texans new uniforms are still readily identifiable as belonging to the Broncos and the Texans (except for the “H-Town Blue” alternate). The uniforms serve their purpose. They are not reinventing the wheel as a square instead of a circle, they are just making the circle look different.

    Thank you, Paul! I was not expecting this content today when I clicked on the headline, it was good laugh.
    I think the simplest argument is how many of the newfangled designs have staying power? How often do fanbases clamor for and then happily receive a revision back to a classic look?
    The thing is very rarely does a new design element click and have staying power, let alone a uniform that features multiple new design elements/bells and whistles. It is almost as if the approach is “if we try 10 silly gimmicks on this new design, maybe one will stick” and then that approach happens for multiple teams each year, creating a slog of design nonsense that goes against classical principles just for the sake of being different.
    And even if you do find something that resonates or has a degree of staying power, it is almost always still too much to be a full-time thing. Something like the Astros’ sunrise design is remembered fondly and works great as an occasionally used throwback, but people would quickly tire of it if brought back full time.
    My take is that most people who do like the new stuff like it because it is new, it is different. And that is absolutely acceptable, they appreciate seeing new things. But that essentially means you are constantly creating new designs so they always stay fresh and innovative, because the classicalist still wont like them, and now the “new and innovative” crowd wont like them because they’ve worn out their welcome. If a design has to be redone every few years because its best quality is that it is “innovative” then it isn’t a good design.

    I’m not anti new uniforms. Some if Oregon’s uniforms are quite good. I’m not a fan of a zillion choices, do it would be nice if they paired them down. I also think it’s good to be able to identify a team when you see them. But I am more of a traditionalist, loving the consistency of my school, USC. However, they have a great uniform. If it was just OK, I might be more open to new options. But when it comes to newfangled uniforms being bad, I’ll quote Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart to describe his threshold test for obscenity…”I know it when I see it”.

    Paul is right. It’s odd to me so many people are disagreeing. We clearly have a plethora of people who just don’t “get it”. And that’s fine and certainly you’re right, but those of us who understand basic design and contrast, shouldn’t be chastised by people who just want fashion. A white logo on a white helmet, while many of you whippersnappers may think is “fire”, is extremely poor design.

    Is Alabama or Penn State “good” design? I think the Packers have a stellar uniform set but think the Orange Crush era Broncos helmet logo is far too busy even if I like the jerseys. What do you think the initial reaction was to the Rams adding horns to their helmets 60 years ago? This is largely coming up because of the Texans redesign. Is there anything wrong with the font that Paul and co despise so much? It’s functional with a bit of flair. The idea that uniform design should never be pushed or deviate too far outside the established norm is maddeningly silly. Phoenix has a wonderful new set of uniforms that is based on an incredibly wild and loud design of the early 90’s.

    As someone who was born in 1954, the Rams’ helmets were the reason I started rooting for the Rams. I don’t remember the helmets before they had horns on them.

    A white logo on a white helmet is difficult to see, which makes the team wearing it harder to identify, which makes for an objectively bad design choice.

    Something like the zig-zag design on the new Broncos jersey sleeves is in a different category of error. It is not objectively bad, it’s just something that doesn’t happen to align with some people’s aesthetic preferences.

    I think the wheel analogy here muddies this distinction.

    The wheel analogy verges on being insulting to folks who enjoy new/radical uniforms. Outside of a few really bad number fonts, none of these new uniforms (many of which I personally don’t like) are as objectively dysfunctional as a square or triangle shaped wheel. Uniform design, by my admittedly unscientific measure, is about 90% subjective. It’s more akin to when they rolled out New Coke. Whether or not it tasted better was subjective, but it was 100% unnecessary, a good chunk of Coke fans were mad, so they went back. Pretty great that everyone is so passionate about uniforms, but there isn’t a right answer here other than to be respectful.

    I am surprised no one has mention the evolution and radical changes seen in women’s Uniforms over the last century.

    Everything from basketball, to baseball, to figure skating has been reinvented to benefit the athletes and that has moved far beyond what their original “wheel” was.

    Sigh…I am going to miss this…

    I think a more fair analogy would be the cave people – I don’t know – decorating the wheels with colorful stones or maybe wrapping it in rope to make it look more fancy.

    There’s a ton of great discussion trying to understand what makes a uniform great. I’ll try to take a stab at it as simply as possible. For me, it’s cohesion. I feel like modern nfl uniforms suffer from way too many differing forms of input while trying to achieve identity. The differing forms of input results in lack of cohesion. Cohesion was probably easier to achieve when there was less input. Classic nfl uniforms typically have some stripes and block numbers (which are essentially a bunch of solid stripes contorted to form a number if you think about it). That repeating theme, along with some unique colors and a logo have cohesion and identity.

    I don’t think the Texans uniform works well because there isn’t cohesion. Alternate uniform aside, the home and away lack cohesion since one has horns and the other doesn’t. The numbers are cool but the “2” feels chopped off at the end, while other numbers look complete. Again, no cohesion. I think the texans going for identity and failed on cohesion. The previous uniform had cohesion but lacked identity.

    Asymmetry can work though. The steelers put a logo on one side of their helmet and added a small dash of red and blue. They don’t use block numbers, but use a wide, non-block number font. This “wide” theme is repeated using wide stripes on the shoulders and pants. I think the texans owner was trying to appeal to go for an identity and appeal to everyone….they were putting colorful stones on one side of the wagon, and wrapping fancy rope on the other.

    After a significant amount of blowback yesterday, a possible response would be reexamining one’s thoughts and concluding that maybe *some* points were a little harsh.
    And then there’s this response.

    Paul, you have been blunt with me in the past and said “you’re better than this.” It’s time to return the favor.
    The Texans uni seems like an odd choice to plant your flag and double down on your review. The numbers are very readable, even on the H-Town jersey. And for the most part, this team will be easily recognizable, so this uniform set is not a square wheel. Maybe the H-Town uni is a bit of a decagonal wheel but it still rolls.
    Would I call it a design marvel? Not really. I also wouldn’t totally roast it and go on to roast those who don’t agree.

    Thanks for the frank comment, Jim. One thing at a time:

    1) If people disagree with my assessment of the Texans’ uniforms (or any other uniform), that’s absolutely fine. My own assessment is also absolutely fine, and I stick by every word of it. As always, we can agree to disagree. (And just for the record, it’s not like my assessment was an outlier — a lot of readers agreed with me. That doesn’t make me “right,” but it does mean my position wasn’t outlandish.)

    2) I never said the Texans’ numbers weren’t readable. I simply think the font is ugly and overdesigned.

    3) The “reinventing the wheel” analogy is about the general tendency to go away from basic design approaches that have been shown to work over time — both functionally and aesthetically. As we’ve seen, many teams try to do this and then come back to their old looks.

    4) This piece is not “roasting” any fans or readers. Rather, it is describing a dynamic and a process that we see over and over again: Something ain’t broke, but they try to fix it anyway and end up with something worse. We’re all familiar with the term “reinventing the wheel” — that’s what I feel so many of these uniforms are trying to do. Hence this piece.

    I appreciate all the good discussion, but I respectfully disagree with your assessment here. Again, we can agree to disagree.

    The intent may not have been to roast anyone, yet it came across as such,
    I agree they’re tweaking at the design wheel, but unlike Players Weekend jerseys or Bellotti Bold numbers, I don’t see a tweaking of the functionality wheel. So we sort of agree.
    I do think these might last longer than the usual 5-year period, so there we disagree. And as you said, that’s perfectly fine. I guess I was just surprised that this piece was written for this particular uniform, when there have been so many that were way worse…functionally and aesthetically.
    I definitely agree these were overdesigned, though.

    Agreed. There have been times where Paul has also been rude to readers (recent example that comes to mind was calling someone out for not Googling something before asking a question), and that boggles my mind. It’s often how it comes across vs what he’s saying, as you mention here. Writing of course misses tone, but I miss the days when the tone of this site was less negative and more eager/excited/curious on average. As Paul himself said (paraphrasing) he’s tired of the negativity and not liking what’s going on in the world of uniforms and it’s a good time to move on. A good sign was the need for “positivity week” in the first place. I like Paul’s writing and look forward to when he returns to form with his eager, unique/curiosity-minded outlook with the new stuff.

    As a writer myself I know that the written word has more and direct impact than the spoken word. People are upset with your analogy because they read it so it comes across as having more authority on the subject or as a stronger statement than if you would have said exactly the same thing to all of us in a social gathering with a nice glass of anything in our hands. Than the reaction to your statement would have been: Ah, nooo Paul, I see it differently or Yes! You are sooooo right! All in good humor and in better spirit than what I have been reading so far. It is the curse of the written word.
    By the way, I do like the analogy although I do not agree completely but I would never condemn you for it. Long live democracy and its plethora of opinions.

    This would be true if we weren’t comparing the wheel to afterburning jet engines

    I don’t believe this is a good defense of traditional vs. modern. This response is trying to use the wheel as a metaphor, but doesn’t directly address that the argument is about taste. To apply the uniform debate to the wheel, this is more like arguing over designer rims vs. hubcaps.

    There’s a misconception that all us Uniwatchers just unilaterally agree with Paul’s opinion and clearly from all the responses that has never been true. Paul states his opinions in a clear and concise manner, we can then state our opinions on the comments. That’s why he opens up the comments to begin with. All are welcome to let us know what they think, I actually enjoy reading what everyone thinks. What I’ve never enjoyed was the constant attempts to “get” Paul, it’s old and tired. There shouldn’t be a need for him to even post some like this today, but here we are.

    Is what a lot of people think as they are being instructed by online influencers to do so.

    I really do not think anyone is “anti-change”. There have ben many changes which have been wonderful and there are so many fantastic examples listed today in the chain. I also feel that there have been many changes that have been welcomed in either style or uniform function.

    I think the issue is change for the sake of change. You can change the tire by putting a tread on it. That has reason for the change. If you change the shape of the tire, the question is WHY? If the answer is, “well, it kind looks cool”, or “it’s different”, then you probably did not have a good change. If a change has no reason, and the general public sees that and agrees with it, the tire will often change its shape back to what was working.

    Yes, I am an old hat, but I love many new uniforms. The latest Chargers uniforms are some of the greatest NFL sets ever! (Thank you to the Michael Irwin Company for that design!) But the Buccaneers with the alarm clock numbers and the marketing story of the lines being sword strokes…please. The Chargers are the tire tread, the Bucs were square tires.

    All the best,

    Our newly-fangled square wheel, or “four-bump traveler” represents the four states of Hellenistic philosophy that all Houston Texans experience in their quest for victory! Earth, Wind, Fire, and Water are individually ascribed to each of the sides of the “Vanquishing Wheel”, while also incorporating Proclus’s Neoplatonic philosophy of Hot, Cold, Wet, and Dry, as our new wheel clunks satisfyingly down the road of Champions! Etc., etc.

    Honestly, this all about preference, and what you grew up with. While we want to really yell at Nike trying to conjure some sort of history and artistic idea into these lame, corporate derived uniforms, the fact is they have always been corporate derived uniforms.

    Lets take the Eagles and the Jaguars, as an example. With the Jags announcing the 98 unit coming back, we all praise it because THESE are the correct uni for this team. They are what we expect, and comfortable.

    Yet when it comes to the Eagles, which have jerseys that are about the same design as the 98 Jag jerseys, we actually want the 80s Kelly Green (not trademarked) throwbacks they wore. Well, Im guessing most of you, as I am content with the current unit (sans bFBS ones).

    Everyone is gushing over the throwback Bronco jerseys. Well guess what? They are lame and generic, its just they are 70s-80s generic and lame, and not 2000s generic and lame like the new ones (I cringe calling them new, as they are not contemporary in the slightest)

    There is not one thing, jersey-wise, that is unique for the throwback Bronco jersey. Generic lines on the sleeve, generic block numbers. It is cookie cutter, and the only thing it reminds me of is a decade of futility.

    Which brings me to the most beloved new jersey, that of the Detroit Lions. Detroit, they can wear the block numbers, because they had it in their history, but this is Barry Sanders era, and again, futility. While I was not a fan of their previous set, it only needed a few tweaks to be good. This new set is a Nike cut-and-paste look, with some relishes to giving me something to recall.

    I wish they would have found a new number font, and not went with the block. I wish they eschewed the white bordering with everything. I too, wish they would not have the nameplate on the front.

    I am a fan of the Green Bay Packers, and as a fan I remember many changes made to these beloved unis, which were scoffed at when they happened, but because it didn’t screw up the set too much, are now loved. I remember when Nike took over the jersey contract, and changed the beloved sleeve stripes, and how people came out of the woodwork about that, before it passed. Now for many, the old stripe seems to large.

    I remember in the 1980s when the G was added to the stripe barely, and how that is simply a reminder of a bad team era.

    Or take a look at how the 5 has changed over the years, now kind of sorta like the 60s era, but for decades was just a generic set.

    What about the Steelers? I remember when they switched to the slant numbers. I loved it because I love Futura Condensed, and no one seems to have issue.

    If we want to talk about design has gone downhill, I am willing pile on. I went past a dealership the other day, and I saw a Chevy Colorado truck where they have the nameplates all messed up – despite there being a perfect spot on the lower front of the door, they place the side nameplate way too high on the door for me. And don’t get me started about all the trucks placing their names right in the center of the tailgate, in a font size that is too big for the space.

    Then again, maybe I just want the design I grew up with, and these are lame to me alone.

    I will say I like the new Broncos jerseys. I would have done a different stripe on the helmet, and maybe had an orange helmet as well. I think Nike’s reason to explain every detail to have some contrived back story, is the equivalent of Disney having to explain everything in Star Wars, right down to Han’s dice.

    The triangles are there because a designer wanted to add a flourish, thats all. In an era that we can create detail anywhere, they aded some fun details. I don’t need to hear they made up some backstory that this represents a mountain in western Colorado or some crud like that.

    A designer came up with the New York Yankees logo, and it was because they were cleaning up the older Highlanders logo. The San Franscisco Giants SF logo is simply an interpretation of the NY Giants logo. There is no elaborate backstory on these….nor does there need to be.

    The Milwaukee Brewers had a contest and got the Ball and Glove. They cleaned it up, and ruined it, in my mind, because when they centered the ball, it doesn’t look like its as realistic in the glove. Other diehard fans are happy they modernized it. Its subjective…..

    Just tell me what era we perfected the jersey…….we haven’t and we never will. The Chicago White Sox have had multiple ‘Sox’ logos – I think many of them are beautiful in their own way. I cannot judge which is better, and the one they have now, which is great, seems more generic than other versions. But it looks nice, and its good design, so we don’t complain.

    I’ve had my popcorn out and been thoroughly enjoying reading thess comments on both sides! It feels as though this is cathartic for Paul and a hill to die on before he leaves!

    For the record, I love unique, distinctive unis but do it “simple”. I loved the Tequila sunrise etc.

    There have been some terrible looks over the last few years: the Browns on the pants, the Jags 2 tone helmets the Falcons gradient, the Jets shoulder things – but nothing in the recent wave of unis is as bad as any of those, so I think we have been learning where the line is and we’re in a better place now because of those experiments.

    Re: The Texans: I love the red uni – helmet horns are always great, and the uni has an overall look (albeit horns the wrong way), but set is disjointed: home is too safe, but I’d rather these and the Broncos trying things than the boring Cardinals. (AZ flag on sleeve is a tap in for a distinctive look).

    So count me in the camp of loving classic designs and hating some of the recent crap, but thinking this analagy is too black and white and taking it a bit far!

    Did the square wheel cavemen have their unfrozen caveman lawyer present? All jokes aside, I agree, these Texans unis are not good. Ignoring all the Nike speak and technical jargon, the Jets and the Lions, aside for the BFBS, are good representations of adapting a classic design in the modern era. However, the use of the classic team looks such as the Broncos Orange Crush and the Jaguars 1998s shows franchises can make classic looks, they just have chosen the flashy replacements.

    The ‘Orange Crush’ look is not classic or unique, its just old. The old Bronco D logo is cool, but the jerseys are generic and symbolmatic of the era.

    Are these wheels white at home and gray when I drive on the road? Can I paint them black just because?

    Every year, I look forward to seeing new uniform designs for teams in need. I rarely find that I like the new bad design much better than the old bad design. This year, I think the Lions are a big upgrade (still not perfect), but so far that’s about it.

    One pet peeve: when teams have design elements that are different for home and road versions. Being different is not by itself bad (although my OCD usually says otherwise). No, it usually reflects an inability to decide; i.e., when in doubt, do one thing on one and the other thing on the other. Ugh.

    I don’t like these new Houston jerseys but this critique is bad.
    There is no “reinvention” of the wheel. The new jerseys are just as functional as the old ones. Same template, same material.

    As much as I enjoy uni-watch, the one thing I’ve never enjoyed is the kneejerk “old = good new = bad” critiques.

    Instead of “Is it new?” perhaps we should be asking a different question: “Will it age well?” The Broncos’ ‘97 set broke new ground for uni design that was either copied (or elements of it were) by countless college, high school, and even other NFL teams, all of whom since abandoned the look. However, the design’s staying power ultimately turned it into a modern classic the team could have kept for many more years, perhaps with some minor changes a la the Steelers’ number font change. I would venture a guess that if the team’s on field performance had been better recently there wouldn’t have been a change at all.

    Scrolling through the mountains of comments here I just can’t help escape the feeling that, regardless of who said this or that or what someone meant by this analogy or that one, this has ceased to become fun. In a way, I guess it was inevitable because let’s face it, uniforms have largely ceased to become fun because they’re really nothing more than merch drops at this point. So I guess this is sort of following the mood of what was at one time a fun niche to talk/debate about. Sad, but I guess this was going to happen at some point.

    Some high schools (and individual programs) do uniforms well. Many do not. Some high schools do a great job of changing while keeping an identity while others have no concept of this. When you see them, do you know who they are? That’s always my first question.

    People who read this site only like the old designs of each team, anything new is immediately thought of as a bad design. Not all new designs are good, but about 80% of the people on here only enjoy the “classic” looks of each team. I don’t disagree with that sentiment and I personally enjoy a nice clean look to anything that is too busy – but I also don’t think because it wasn’t what the team wore in the 1970’s its automatically a bad look. But what do I know.

    A few decades from now people will be rhapsodizing about the H-Town uniforms of 2024 and why can’t the Texans just return to that classic look of yesteryear. It’s how the Jets wound up wearing unis this upcoming season that I don’t recall too many people liking when they came out in the ’80s. Now, suddenly, they’re “classics.” None of this makes any sense and is why this site really isn’t so much about uniform aesthetics as it is about the transformative power of memory and nostalgia. Which isn’t a bad thing, BTW. I find that really interesting and, anyway, I like looking at the uniforms. But the uniform discussions mostly are simply vehicles by which we’re really discussing something quite different.

    Yep – people now think the mid 90s Hawks gradient jerseys are classic. The white Sox Beach blanket jerseys -which were an absolute joke at the time – are also now classic (although I love those jerseys myself).

    Personally, I like when designers push into the future instead of endlessly recycling the past. We recognize this so easily in Hollywood – we’re tired of the infinite sequels – but this is not true in the design world.

    Uniforms in sports are usually changed when a new owner or new management comes in. They might want to put their stamp on the franchise in that way. Also when a team moves into a new venue or when sales of jerseys of a team decline. The newfangled stuff may sell well initially but if the team doesn’t perform or when fans demand change then the classic designs reappear. The Jets went from a modern design in 1998 to a classic design with the 1960’s white helmet, Then in 2019 went to something more modern that was supposed look like a modern version of the 1978-1997 uniform. This didn’t look nearly as bad as some of the later newfangled uniforms. It was still decent. The new ones they just released are even better.

    I think, at the end of the story, the ambitious group went back to the old-style wheel and sold it as a “modernized classic” to push more sells.

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