Saturday, June 6, 2009

Think Green. Really Green.

When Marquette University alum (and former Chicago Bear) Gene Ronzani took over as Head Coach on February 7, 1950, he tossed out Curly Lambeau's famous blue and gold uniforms in favor of his own series of rotating designs, proclaiming at a press conference "We are the Green Bay Packers."

Ronzani sure wasn't kidding. Starting that year, and intermittently over the next few seasons, the Pack took to the field wearing what might charitably be called "Astroturf camouflage":

Yikes. Shiny green pants and all.

I understand the second coach in team history wanting a cutting-edge look to make people forget the other guy's thirty years in charge. Lambeau undoutbedly cast a very large shadow over his successor. But really, "Merry Men" was the best Ronzani could do?  The Packers have several uniforms in their history which would qualify as classics. These aren't among them.  

It's almost painful to see a Hall of Famer like Tony Canadeo wearing this clown suit, even if he is scoring a touchdown at the time:

Ronzani's designs were as short-lived as his tenure, as successful as his 14-31-1 record (he resigned with two games remaining in the 1953 season). Ronzani's successor Lisle Blackbourn brought to the club his own prodigious slate of uniforms, each of which featured contrasting jerseys and pants as the monochrome look faded into history. 

The NFL's design æsthetic was by then swinging firmly towards pants either matching the helmets (if light, such as the Packers, Lions, 49ers, Colts et al.), or neutral white/light team color (Bears, Giants, Eagles). This general design rule, solidified as the "professional look" by the increased television exposure of the 1960s, defined the sport for decades.

Of course, everything old is new again, and in 2002 the Seahawks kicked off a new matching fad with their overcast-blue overhaul. This type of mono-madness has become quite common in the NFL since then:

Every time I see the Ravens in their all-black ensemble, I get Gap commercial déjà vu:

Not surprising, given their long history, that the Packers dabbled in the all-green monochrome look. But if the Packers weren't immune to this fad, at least they had the good sense to quickly abandon it.

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