Monday, February 1, 2010

Another Modest Proposal

The UniWatch blog is currently running a contest in which entrants re-design one NFL club's jersey. As those who follow my Borchert Field blog know, I'm a sucker for uniform concepts, so naturally I submitted an entry this morning: my proposal to re-design the Packers' jerseys.

Entrants were limited to a 50-word description of their concept. Mine read:
Green Bay’s design is beautiful, but the jerseys, with the bold sleeve striping, are relics of a day when jerseys had sleeves (which is why the Packers truncated them in 1997). My solution - drop the striping altogether. The distinctive element is now a stencil font befitting the team’s name.
Certainly not my best PhotoShop work, but hopefully the design stands on its own.

I didn't want to just create some wild concept for its own sake. I wanted a new uniform that I could actually see Aaron Rodgers wearing as he drops back to pass before a packed house at Lambeau Field. So what works, stays. No changes to the pants or socks. The iconic helmet is also virtually untouchable in any realistic Packers concept (not even Ron Wolf could get away with that one), although I took the opportunity to bring back the gray face mask. There's something about the gray which just screams "pro football" to me, and I like the idea of a single uniform element, in this case the helmet, creating as stable a visual link as possible to Lombardi's era.

So, to the jersey. First things first: the sleeve stripes. We've talked about this before - sleeve stripes became hopelessly anachronistic the day players stopped wearing sleeves. This has been a problem for over a decade; the five-stripe pattern was being chopped down by players even before Nike reduced it to three stripes, as seen in this photo from Super Bowl XXXI the previous season:

On the new template with its cap sleeves, the vestigal sleeve stripes look even sillier:

So why not bow to reality, make it official and remove the sleeve stripes entirely?

At the same time, I also removed Forrest Gregg's neck striping - it didn't seem to fit without the sleeve stripes to balance it, and like the sleeve stripes it has fallen victim to player customization for years.

If players customize their jerseys to crop off a uniform feature, that feature doesn't have any place in my concept. With an eye towards something the Packers would actually wear, I'm using as a ground rule the new single-template-for-all-positions design the NFL is implementing next season. All players in all positions will be wearing the same uniform cut, and the design ought to reflect that. So out you go, last echo of Gregg's coaching tenure.

I also wanted to create something new while staying within the Packers' uniform tradition (which is why I didn't want to overhaul the helmets, pants or socks - they work marvelously in this new template, and we'll have no change for change's sake). I'm not a fan of the intricate piping and overdone paneling that has become fashionable in the NFL's design studio. Not to mention the wavy striping that doesn't quite make sense. Those just don't belong on the most storied of franchises.

So no sleeve stripes, no crazy piping. But I wasn't terribly interested in just putting out a blank green jersey. I thought about adding a "G" patch to the chest as the Jets and Steelers have done, but that seemed a little too easy a solution. Not to mention that once you add a commemorative or memorial patch, the jersey can get cluttered very quickly.

I decided instead to create a custom number font. Those can also get pretty dicey, but can work. The stencil seemed like a natural, fitting in with the wordmark the Packers have used since the 1970s:

The Packers also used to stencil player numbers on the backs of helmets in the 1960s, as in this Paul Hornung gamer:

The number font itself is based on the classic block font worn by the Packers in the 1940s:

A small logo on the back collar, one final Packers identifier, finishes off the concept. My one little concession to modernity.

I'm pretty pleased with the result. I'm a fairly tradition-minded Packer fan (okay, make that extremely tradition-minded), and I would be happy to see the Packers adopt this look.

I think the final result strikes the right balance to create a jersey worthy of the Packers' history. Deeply traditional and yet strikingly modern, the jersey is instantly recognizable wherever it is worn, from the football field to the grocery store.

Feedback is, as always, welcome.


I'm honored to report that my design was selected by the judges as one of the eleven finalists, but fell short in the popular vote. Thanks for everyone who voted, and the fine folks at Uni Watch for a great contest. And congrats to Brad McPelican and his very cool Seahawks update.


Anonymous said...

Overall fantastic concept Chance! I really think Paul and Phil will love it. The only thing I am not crazy about it the "G" on the back collar. The Badgers did it with their football team this year, and while it is not terrible, I just don't think it belongs.

Love your blogs. Keep up the good work!

- Johnny O

Chance Michaels said...

Thanks - I completely forgot that the Badgers moved the "Motion W" from the chest (where the Jets and Steelers have their logo) to the back collar.

Oh, well. I guess we could call it a Wisconsin tradition now? ;)

Jesse Zakshesky said...

I absolutely love the number stenciling. I'm honestly torn about the facemask...I honestly like Green.

2 things I would propose however:
-On the back, above the player's name, instead of the "G" logo, how about the iconic retro logo seen on this sweatshirt?

-Also, I absolutely love the striped socks worn in the Lombardi Era.

Other than that, I'm absolutely in love with that number stenciling.

Chance Michaels said...

I do love that retro logo, but it might be a little too vertical to put on the collar (that works best with more horizontal logos like the "G").

I agree that the Packers ought to bring it back, although they may need to update the player just a little bit - the logo's a bit rough. Make him more like the players in either the Lambeau Field logo or the "Titletown" logo and we could have a winner.

Josh dirkse said...

I'd love to see a more simple jersey design- I think today's uniform aesthetics gets to hunkered down in details and random piping. I'd be an advocate for a single color pipe along the leg, or at least a slimming of that pipe. Also- I'd love to see an all white road jersey (

Michael said...

Like the numbering and the grey facemask. Never liked the green facemask. I still wish thay would change the color of the pant on the road, or change the gold to a Notre Dame style of gold.

Mark in Shiga said...

I love those stencil numbers too but I have to agree with the other posters who hate the little logo on the collar. It really throws off the balance -- if it were *under* the number, the number would be framed by the name and that logo, and it would look a lot better.

Or you could move the name to the bottom and put that logo in, but I think people are already used to seeing names above numbers rather than below.

In any case, the number is the main focus when you look at a player's back, and with a bunch of clutter above it, the number starts to look like it's shifted downward. Dump the little logo and it's perfect!