Today was a day that I have been anticipating and dreading. Nebraska’s alternate uniform, to be worn a 2012 home game, was revealed today*.
*Funny story – It sounds like Nebraska and adidas wanted to unveil the jerseys next Friday at Nebraska’s annual Fan Day (which makes perfect sense – get a thousand rabid fans on campus, show them something new and shiny, and casually mention that it is for sale at the Huskers Authentic shop across from the stadium. Brilliant).
One problem: the fancy YouTube video adidas created showing off the new duds went online one Friday early. Somewhere at adidas HQ, an intern is packing up his things.
My reaction: The uniforms could have been better. But they could have been much worse.
As you may recall, I’m on record as understanding why Nebraska (poked and prodded by adidas) would sign on for an alternate uniform, while hoping the new design didn’t turn out to be “stupid, ugly – or both”.
If you are one of the 14 Nebraska residents yet to see what the uniforms look like, you can check out pictures and the aforementioned video here: http://www.huskermax.com/games/2012/vid/00/z24.html
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Allow me to put on my Fashion Policeman’s badge and give these things a head to toe critique:
Helmet – I figured the helmet would be black, but I think simply replacing the white for black is taking the easy way out. I’m a little surprised that my traditionalist fingers are going to type this, but I wish they would have done more here, possibly making the “N” larger or utilizing helmet numbers on the sides. But as long as they didn’t put a bunch of glitter on the helmet, I’m happy. Grade: C
Jersey – I like the big “N” on the front, as it looks like a football sweater from the 1930′s. I’d like to have seen the “N” in white with a black border (instead of black with white border), but I guess I should be happy that the whole team will not be wearing Blackshirts. The teeny-tiny numeral on the chest is interesting. From a stylistic perspective, I like it. As a fan in the 47th row of the end zone, it will likely be a real pain in the ass to know who’s who off of that tiny number when NU is on the opposite 20 yard line coming my direction. I’m assuming the actual jerseys will have the players’ names on the back instead of “Huskers”. If not, knock this grade down by a minus. Grade: B
Pants – Red on red? Surely somebody at NU told adidas about the 1986 OU game and the resulting fan paranoia over all-red. As much as black is NOT a Nebraska school color, black pants would have looked better with the jersey and helmet. Depending on your frame of reference, the lack of a belt makes the whole thing look like a singlet (wrestler), leotard (ballet dancer), 70′s jump suit (Three’s Company fan), or a onesie (parent of a small child). Grade: C
Accessories – The video makes a big deal out of the gloves which show the Nebraska sans-serif “N” on each palm. Given the challenges many NU receivers have had with catching passes in recent years, I think the palms should have a “Y” on them as a subliminal reinforcement to catch the ball. I know that putting neat-o designs on gloves is all the rage, but these things are a 15 yard unsportsmanlike penalty waiting to happen. Also, the video shows some thinly striped red and black socks, which are…um…interesting. I’m guessing they’ll look decent on a receiver or defensive back and absolutely ridiculous on an offensive lineman (“Daddy, why is that 300 pound tackle wearing dress socks?”). Grade: C-
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Before I give the uniforms an overall grade, I’d like to share some of the feedback I’ve seen from different local and national voices:
- Paul Lukas of ESPN.com and the Uni-Watch blog says adidas borrowed the large “N” on the chest idea from the Domino’s Pizza Noid character from their old ads.
- On Twitter, “Fake Dan Beebe” (@DanBeebe) thinks the “N” on the chest was inspired by a different source.
- Omaha World-Herald columnist Tom Shatel (@TomShatelOWH) tweeted: “Looking forward to the Big 10 opener in Lincoln, when Texas Tech will play Wisconsin.”
- Finally, Nebraska’s senior I-Back Rex Burkhead said he loved them and wishes NU could wear them more than once (per the OWH’s Sam McKeown). Burkhead said the uniforms were “Really cool”.
The Burkhead reaction is a big part of why NU is doing this. Nebraska fans (even the stodgy traditionalists like me) understand that we need more Burkheads to compete in the Big Ten. If tolerating an alternate jersey for a game helps Nebraska land some talented recruits, then so be it.
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Overall – For me, this is a good reminder of why expectation setting is important. I expected to hate the alternative uniforms, to find them too futuristic, and too detatched from the tradition-rich history of Nebraska Football. Instead, we got a modern-looking uniform that both resembles the current look and has a throwback feel with the large “N” on the chest. I reserve final judgement* until I see them in person, but for now let’s pencil in an overall grade of B-.
*Who am I kidding? I, and every other Husker fan, will ultimately judge these uniforms on how well Nebraska plays against Wisconsin on September 29. If NU wins, the opinion will go way up. In 2002 Nebraska wore some hideously ugly uniforms with a big red side panel. But had NU won the conference (instead of finishing 7-7) we’d probably still have those uniforms today. If NU loses to Wisconsin (or repeats their dud of a performance in last year’s game), these uniforms will be an ridiculued footnote in Nebraska lore.
(Update: 8/7/2012 – Adidas has released the Wisconsin version, which has inspired some new hatred from me: http://feitcanwrite.wordpress.com/2012/08/07/even-more-about-nebraskas-alternate-uniform/)