When I learned that Nike picked up the NFL uniform contract from Reebok, I was both eager and horrified. That’s the nice thing about sports: you can look forward to something that’s likely to be a disaster, like Tim Tebow being traded to the Jets, or find failure just as interesting as success, like Adam Dunn’s 2011 season, because of its abstraction from real life. On one hand, it could be a trainwreck. On the other, hey, trainwreck.
Nike has cut an unfortunate swath through sports uniform design in recent years. They’re adept with kitsch, as they proved with the “aerographic” uniforms that adapted the principle of collectible spoons to storied uniform designs:
On the other end of the spectrum, their ever-changing line for the company’s hometown team, the University of Oregon, makes the Ducks look like Disney stormtroopers:
So then came word that they’d take on the Bears and their NFL bretheren, which was worrisome. And then:
Oh, hey, that’s fine. They’re actually more traditional than the Reebok uniforms they’ll subtly replace—if you have a sharp eye, you’ll notice that there are three symmetrical horizontal lines on the arms, looking more like the Bears of old than Reebok’s inexplicably asymmetrical stripes; the only new thing is moving the arm numbers to the top of the shoulder, the inevitable result of NFL uniform sleeves growing shorter:
Given the horrifying possibilities I imagined—bear claws, fake fur, or something out of the XFL or Starship Troopers—it’s a “meh” of relief. But as Paul Lukas points out, while all the big changes are to materials instead of looks, no alternate uniforms have been revealed, so there’s still hope, if you want to call it that.
Photograph: Chicago Tribune