What constitutes a “classic” sports uniform?
I started to consider this topic after watching a Serie A (Italian football) match where one of the teams (Palermo) had pink jerseys.
Yes, you read that right. Pink. Jerseys. Here, look.
Can you imagine Dick Butkus or Jim Otto playing in a pink jersey? How about Gordie Howe? No F’ing way.
I could go off in another direction here, about how some conventions and assumptions in American professional sports just, by definition, prohibit the use of certain teams names and/or uniform colors that occur in other countries. In fact, I will for a moment.
Unlike college sports, where unusual team mascots may have emerged and survived, professional sports teams’ names in this country tend to have a very narrow range of acceptability. Typically, they are aggressive names. Lions, Tigers, Bears, Vikings, Jaguars, Panthers, and so on. I don’t pay attention to the minor sports, like “Ultimate Arena Fighting Football Gladiators”, or whatever, but it wouldn’t surprise me if there were teams like the Punishers, Maimers, BoneCrushers, WhackJobs, and the like.
Even our bird teams are aggressive: Eagles, Hawks, Ravens, Seahawks, Falcons. Even Blue Jays are nasty, aggressive birds. The only relatively benign birds I can think of are both baseball teams, e.g., Orioles, Cardinals (yes there are football Cardinals but only because they used to be from St. Louis and they were too lazy or cheap to change it). Oh, wait, there’s the Anaheim Ducks, but that was basically a promo for a bad movie. I can’t believe a team called the Ducks won the Stanley Cup – but that’s part of an anti-NHL rant that I’m not prepared to get into right now.
In any case, can you imagine a domesticated housepet-type-bird as the mascot for a real (i.e., not baseball) sports team?
Well in English football they have the Norwich Canaries. Yes, you read that correctly. Canaries.
As it turns out, it’s a particular species of bird with a long history in the region. But still, as a sports mascot, it’s kind of…well… lame, isn’t it?
Does that strike fear deep in the heart of the competition? Ooohh…watch out for those Canaries. You might get peeped at, or get a nasty scratch. Somehow it doesn’t conjure up images of raptor-like violence or destruction. Even in Hitchcock’s The Birds, the canaries didn’t peck anyone’s eyes out, although they likely did cheer the perpetrators on.
Similarly, there are certain colors that are, or are not, acceptable for a sports team’s uniform.
There’s been a trend over the last ten years or so to adding BLACK to a team’s uniform – I guess to make it look meaner. Perhaps there’s a socioeconomic implication there but I don’t know and I don’t want to go there. Anyway, this guy did a post along these lines about NFL uniform redesigns which is pretty good and quite comprehensive. Another fellow did a nice listing of his top 50 classic soccer jerseys. I owe him the link to the Palermo jersey – thanks dude!
My point was, after viewing the travesty that was this Italian team’s pink jerseys, that it could NEVER happen here in the states. I mean, we’ve had some ridiculous professional sports team uniforms, typically during the decade of horrendous design also known as the 70s, but eventually these mistakes have been rectified. They’ve even undid the 70s logo change at NASA, for goodness sake.
So, what then constitutes a classic uniform?
For me, it comes down to a few key variables:
A certain consistency or longevity of use
Non-fugly throughout time
Non-fugly logo & clean number font
Tendency to be associated with great teams
I don’t have a comprehensive list thus far, but I know there are a few that I have tended to like over the years:
New York Yankees/Detroit Tigers
Los Angeles (Brooklyn) Dodgers
Indianapolis (Baltimore) Colts
Many teams have had so many uniform and logo changes over the years that they can’t be considered. Many of those tend to blend into a sort of sameness that prevents a casual fan from knowing immediately which team is which. Others have redesigned their logos in a most noxious fashion. That’s why this tends to be a fairly short list.
You could see a picture of Jean Béliveau or Rocket Richard (or here, Yvan Cournoyer) and that Canadiens jersey looks the same as it does today. Looks distinctive in black and white, looks terrific in color with its blue stripe surrounded by white over a red jersey (OK, it’s hockey, call it a sweater).
The Yankees white with pinstripes, with the NY crossed letters logo over the left chest is timeless and classic. Even if you hate the Yankees now, it’s still the same uniform that Gehrig, DiMaggio and Ruth wore (though Ruth stretched it out a bit). The classic “D” on the Detroit Tigers uniform seems the same to me as well.
The Chicago Bears black with three arm stripes is a great, ‘down and dirty’ classic that looks the same as it did in the 40s without being excessively dated. Similarly, the Celtics simple classicism has remained appealing without being dated.
I always liked the scripted “Dodgers” logo, which to me is sort of an “All-American” icon. When you go abroad, and people wear weird “American-style” jackets that tend to say ridiculous non-English phrases on them, they still have some kind of scripted logo like the Dodgers logo. It’s just sort of classic to the eye and stays fresh even when it’s treated as a retro styling cue.
Finally, the Blackhawks and Colts have kept a consistent look throughout the ages even with some minor styling tweaks. The Blackhawks Indian Head logo is really cool, even in this PC age, and the Colts uniform is a model of simplicity and consistency.
Well, that’s my list. What are your choices?