Thursday, October 18, 2012


Before we dive straight into today's post, in which I channel my inner Paul Lukas, there are three things you must know before we start.

-- One. This post is about uniforms.  I am a huge get-off-my-lawner about uniforms.  I admit that part of this is because "my" UVA wears a blue helmet and looks a certain way.  Other people grew up with white helmets and some of you really older folks saw orange ones.  I like blue ones in part because that's what I'm used to.  But also because it's a brand.  Look, the way you look on a football field is a brand.  All it should take to know who's playing is a glance at the TV, without even having to look at the scorebug.  If it's blue and white you see, it's probably Penn State.  If it's maize and blue, it's Michigan.  Burnt orange and white, it's Texas.  If you went blind, Oregon.

Nobody in our conference uses a navy blue helmet like we do.  And surprisingly few teams in the country wear a blue-blue-white (note - this column is going to use a "color-color-color" nomenclature, which is helmet-jersey-pants) combination.  On the other hand, we have already cribbed two other ACC looks this season: orange-orange-white is Clemson's style and their primary look, and orange-blue-orange is Syracuse all the way.  (It's also Illinois.)  I know we are never going to have the cachet of a winged helmet like Michigan or a traditional, instantly recognizable look like Penn State, but guess what: as hard as we try, we will also never be Oregon.

So this column, which is going to evaluate the aesthetics of the various new uniform combinations of the London-era jerseys, isn't to be taken as an endorsement of any wild-ass "Oregon of the East" ideas people might have.  You want me to go full Walt Kowalski on you, I'll add that I think the desire to be constantly changing uniforms is a product of the annoyingly short and microwaveable attention span, and that, for many reasons, "the kids like it" is a thoroughly bogus and discreditable argument.  Essentially what I think is that the orange helmet should be chucked posthaste, and that I'm less ornery about the nine possible jersey-pants combos.  Seriously, if nine isn't good enough for you, you might need some Ritalin.

-- Two.  This is poor timing for this post, but whatever I've had this sucker planned for a while and it's time to get a move-on with it because very soon now basketball is going to demand the mid-week slots.  It's poor timing because the team is playing badly and it's my opinion the coaches should take the uniform decisions out of the hands of the captains until the team plays better.  Just a little extra thing to let them know they mean it.  Kind of like when growing up you could tell the difference between when you got yelled at but it was cool because Mom wasn't really mad, she just wanted you to stop what you were doing, and the times when you got yelled at and you knew you'd better just stay out of Mom's way the rest of the day cause she was on the warpath.  I've seen it suggested we should just go plain old blue-blue-white and blue-white-white for the rest of the season, but I decided I'd rather not because I don't want the team to associate the classic good looks with losing.

-- Three.  This post owes a major debt of gratitude to the excellent website, which tracks uni combinations and I mean back to the Lambeth Field days.  I have borrowed a few pictures from there without asking, when I couldn't find something elsewhere, and if the owner and proprietor asks me to, I'll take 'em down.  But you should definitely visit; it's an absolute treasure trove.

Alright, the extensive preliminaries out of the way, it's time to turn into fashion critics and talk uniforms.  This is my take on the good, the bad, and the ugly.  Pictures are provided for each combo, and pictures of other teams or some creative and very bad photoshopping if we've never worn it, to give you a rough idea of what it might look like.


-- Orange-orange-orange

Also known as "the most hideous shit imaginable."  Solid color combinations very, very rarely look good.  Certain colors are wose than others.  This would be as bad as it gets.  Mercifully, the Hoos have only worn orange jerseys over orange pants once, two years ago, and it looked horrible.  Pair an orange helmet with it and I'd want to stab out my eyes.  It'd be worse than you see above, because our pant stripes aren't as substantial and you can barely make out the V-sabres on the orange helmet, which by the way has no stripe, and basically we'd be walking traffic cones.  Yuck.  Do some crappy two-second photoshopping, and you get this:

Yeah, fuck that.  Talk about hideous.

-- Orange-blue-white

This has it's possibilities, and there's a part of me that'd be intrigued to see this.  It does have a problem: as we'll see later, the white pants don't work well with orange helmets.  But it also has one other problem:

It's not the best idea if the goal is to avoid other teams' patented looks.

-- Orange-blue-blue

I promised you bad photoshops and that's exactly what you're getting.  It doesn't matter here.  You take the lesser of two helmet options and you stick it on top of one of the worst jersey-pants combos we have, and you get the definition of a bad idea.  I hate this idea so much I almost used a VT helmet for the photoshop, just to drive home the point.

-- Orange-white-blue

I can't really find a suitable set of pictures to photoshop.  It was harder than I thought to find this one, but Florida wears it relatively often.  I'll get into it later but I really dig the blue-white-orange look, so flipping it has some real potential.  This is roughly what you'd get, only with a darker blue.

-- Orange-white-orange

It's a pretty sharp combo.  I'm sure we'd look good wearing it.  But are you picking up on a theme here?


-- Orange-orange-white

I said the orange helmet doesn't work with the white pants, and now I'll tell you why: the blue stripes.  The pants' blue stripes are there because Nike expected us to wear them with blue helmets.  It looks mismatched.  I don't care for this look, and other teams (ahemClemson) pull it off much better.

-- Orange-white-white

 This isn't quite the "standard" look; the gray facemasks screw it up a bit.  Somebody got the bright idea to take the throwback helmets from the previous game (which was a well-executed look, by the way) and slap the regular decals on them.  Gray facemasks are a cute thing teams do these days when they want their helmets to look old-timey, and it's really played out.  Unless your team colors allow it (Ohio State) or you've basically never stopped wearing them (Notre Dame) you shouldn't wear gray facemasks outside of throwback games.  This is just a bad deal overall; it suffers from the same orange-helmet-blue-pant-stripes problem as above, but at least with the orange jerseys, the numbers matched the helmet decals, with white outlined in blue.  Here you've got blue numbers outline in orange, a white decal outlined in blue, blue new-age stripes with no outline, and an old-school blue helmet strip with no outline.  It's a hodge-podgey mess.

-- Blue-orange-orange

Once was once too many.

-- Orange-orange-blue

The Peach Bowl look.  OK, I guess.  Honestly would look a million miles better without the bowl patch.  (Go ahead - cover it up with your finger.  It really is better.)  I don't have a very strong opinion one way or the other here, except that I was feeling thrown off all game long, as it was the first time I'd ever seen the team in orange lids.  There's nothing really wrong with the look, and admittedly it does stand out.  It's not the best, though, and it just feels off, though I could be transferring my thrown-off feeling from the game itself.


-- Orange-blue-orange

Of the orange-lidded looks we have worn, this is the best.  Other than possibly orange-white-blue, it might be the best of all nine orange-helmeted combos.  The blue stripes on orange pants match the blue sabres on orange helmets, and the white numbers match the V.  And besides that, unlike most of the other times we've seen orange helmets, it just looks natural on TV.  If I had my way except that I was told we'd have to have orange hats occasionally, this is the only combo they'd be worn with.

-- Blue-white-blue

It's too bad this has only been worn twice and they've both been losses, because it's a sharp look.  It's not flashy but it works.  Again, Nike gave us pant stripes the way they did because they were expecting blue helmets, and the orange stripes mirror the orange sabres.  (The blue helmet, by the way, is a better than the orange because you can see the damn sabres.)  Blue numbers outlined in oranger set off the rest of the look nicely.  It's classy.  And it's much better than the same look with the Groh-era uniforms, because those blue pants were ugly (although the striped socks that went with them were sharper than sharp.)

-- Blue-blue-white

George Welsh introduced the look and used it for the latter part of his tenure.  Al Groh continued it for the full length of his time.  And ever since Mike London took over, in his three years, we've worn this twice.  That is a crime.  It's classy, it's classic, it had become ours, it can't be improved upon, and it's been tossed by the wayside.  Booooooooooo.

-- Blue-blue-orange

I'll admit, I had some hopes for this one when the uniforms were first introduced.  They came out in blue-white, white-orange, and orange-blue back then, so this one wasn't shown, but I thought it could be a good one.  It's not.  It's kind of a dud.  There's nothing really egregiously wrong with it, but the top clashes with the bottom.  Would white stripes on the pants help?  Maybe, but probably not.

-- Blue-orange-white

This is another one that had tons of potential, but falls flat.  It's better than blue-blue-orange, but in the end it kind of looks like a practice getup.  It's too much of a mishmash to work as a regular, everyday uniform, but is probably fine for ESPN3 games against out-of-conference soup cans.  Like above.


-- Blue-blue-blue

I saved the worst for first.  All-one-color uniforms almost never look good.  All-white like Texas or Penn State makes you look like Casper the Friendly Ghost.  All-orange or red or something looks absolutely horrible.  All-dark, like this, is as good as it gets, but it still looks bad.  This has been worn three times, once each season of the London era.

-- Blue-white-orange

This too has been worn three times, and I wish it were more.  I realize it violates everything I've said before about pant stripes and matching things to other things and I don't care.  Something about this just pops.  The team looks damn good in this, and I wouldn't be that upset if they never wore anything else on the road.

-- Blue-white-white

The team chose this look for every road game last year but one (the first one.)  And while I appreciate the nod to the old school, this was much better during the Groh years when the pants had a big thick stripe to offset all that white.  Part of the reason Texas looks so crappy in all-white is because they have no stripe on the pants.  We barely have any.  A dark-colored helmet saves the combo, and there's nothing offensive about it, but it's just too much white.

-- Blue-orange-blue

The team chose this look so often I thought it was gonna end up being the default home jersey.  You could do worse.  A lot worse, actually; this is a solid set.  Again, you've got the pants matching the helmet and the jersey numbers matching the logo, mostly.  Orange accents on the helmet and pants let the jersey go to work on the eyes. I like it.


The verdicts in, this is the final tally:


-- Orange-orange-orange
-- Orange-white-white
-- Orange-blue-blue
-- Blue-orange-orange

These are in no particular order, because ugly is ugly.  Anyone suggesting we wear these combos should be slapped.


-- Orange-blue-white (a)
-- Orange-white-blue (a)
-- Orange-white-orange (a)
-- Orange-orange-blue (b)
-- Blue-orange-white (b)
-- Blue-white-white (b)
-- Blue-blue-orange (b)
-- Blue-blue-blue (c)
-- Orange-orange-white (c)

These range from those we've never worn and don't need to bother with except for maybe once to satisfy curiosity (a) to those that don't really look bad but don't look that great either and are therefore extraneous (b) to those that actually do look kind of bad (c).


-- Blue-blue-white
-- Blue-white-orange
-- Blue-white-blue
-- Blue-orange-blue
-- Orange-blue-orange

And if it were up to me, this is how we'd roll.  Blue, blue, and white for your basic, everyday, ACC Saturday.  White-over-blue and, especially, white-over-orange, on the road.  (The white pants would be fine too, if I'm being perfectly honest.)  Orange helmets with blue jerseys and orange pants for ESPN3 soup-can games against the Idahos and Eastern Michigans and Richmonds.  And blue-orange-blue for night-game specials.  (If on the road, those would be good games to break out the white shirts and orange pants.)  Nobody ever consults me on these things, and some people think that's a good thing.  I'll even admit to checking for the combo-of-the-week announcement, even when I think they ought to be cutting that shit out.  But you have to admit there's something to be said for a system.


Deane said...

I'm basically with you on this, but I'd limit it to 2 combinations: blue-white-blue or blue-blue-white. Orange is an excellent accent but a borderline obnoxious base color. It's great for the V-sabres and as a trim for the uniform numbers. I even liked the orange stripe down the side of the pants - I don't know why we had to get rid of that.

And frankly, we only need to have 2 different uniforms - one for home and one for the road. It's absolutely ridiculous and borderline obscene that FBS college football teams have so many uniforms, ESPECIALLY in this economy but even in better times. What a COMPLETE WASTE of my donation. And if they're going to cry "recruiting disadvantage" then the NCAA should step in and mandate a 2-uniform rule (not counting ocassioinal throwback unis).

Adam said...

Brenden, when you first started writing about this I thought you were coming off fogey-ish, but now I must admit I agree on pretty much all counts. I wholeheartedly agree that the captains should have their choices revoked when losses rack up. When it comes to college football tradition is a valuable commodity, the look of the team on the field is a large part of that commodity. I also agree that it is important to keep a claim on color combos that are "ours" alone, if nothing else so they remain that way.

Anonymous said...

Maryland is the Oregon of the East. You need a clothing manufacturer on your hip, they have that, case closed.

Let's not try to compete with uniforms, it looks crappy to lose at that too, and the looks that compete look crappy. Boo pumpkin heads. Let's look like us.


Anonymous said...

I like the Groh era jerseys a lot better. Don't think the team should wear orange hardly ever. London should go back to the number being on top on the shoulder and the V being on the arm. I also liked the orange stripes on the front of the helmet. For the most part though I agree with this post and definitely about the identity and tradition of the colors.

Anonymous said...

I was going to make a comment here but Deane beat me to it -- on both points!

But I'll pile on. No orange (except stripes, etc.) And quit screwing around with it: pick 2 and be done with it already.