Monday, March 15, 2010

Further Review - the Throwback Alts

Okay, we've had all weekend to digest the new 1929-style throwbacks.

Here's my take, a few days on. The first thing we need to do is recognize the constraints of creating a 1920s football uniform in the 2010 National Football League. There are two kinds of retro uniforms - throwback, and fauxback.

A throwback uniform tries to give the impression of actually being "back in the day." It replicates the styling and construction of the original, sometimes even using the original materials. This is more common in baseball, as in this 2007 Washington Nationals game (note the baggy 1940s uniform fit):

A fauxback uniform is essentially "what the team would wear now if they never changed their uniform style". It allows for innovation in manufacture, cut and construction, everything except the uniform's style.

This is what we see in the NFL, where the uniforms are old style but perfectly modern right down to the League's shield at the neck. It's not disparaging—all modern NFL throwbacks are actually fauxbacks, and have been for years. We're not likely to see Reebok forgo its logo off just because Johnny Blood didn't wear one.

So we're not going to pretend that Rodgers & Company will take the field in leather and wool. This is the Packers' interpretation would be if the 1929 look had taken hold like the Yankees' pinstripes, or like Lombardi's late 1960s uniforms.

My initial reaction when we saw the jersey was that the number circle is huge.

In context, on the players, it looks more reasonable. It's still larger than I would have liked, but not as overwhelming.

If this is the best the Packers could do within the constraints of the NFL's uniform regulations, then I'm all for it.

I can't have been the first to note a resemblance to Marquette's racing-stripe basketball uniforms from the late 1960s and early 1970s (right). A friend mentioned that it reminded him of an old Porsche or Vette. A classic Le Mans sort of vibe.

The circle's really grown on me, especially since it's the only gold visible on the front of the uniform. It's sporty, distinctive. And gives Rodgers a nice target to hit.

On the back, we have the standard names and numbers.

Obviously, names weren't there on the originals. I'm not sure about the numbers. We know that the Packers were using thin numbers, possibly gold, on the backs of their jerseys in 1932. It's certainly possible that the '29 Packers had gold block numbers on the back.

Pants and socks
The pants are simple tan, a visual echo of the canvas pants worn by the original club. Socks are navy, apparently worn without any whites at all. Not much to say about either of these, except that I approve wholeheartedly. A clean, classic look.

Here's where the limitations of a fauxback design start to show themselves. Helmets of today bear no resemblance to the leather helmets of yore.

In 1929, helmets were strictly optional—the NFL didn't mandate helmet use for all players until 1943—and there was no standard team design. The construction of the leather panels provided its own design, completely lost on the modern helmets.

The old helmets didn't need a logo or stripes to have visual appeal - the construction gives it texture. Blank modern shells just don't look right - too much unbroken material. For the record, this was a problem I had with the 1994 throwbacks as well:

The originals look great, but the modern interpretations look unfinished and awkward.

While I appreciate what the Packers are trying to do with the brown helmet, I can't help but think that there's a better approach than blank brown shells with gray facemasks.

Perhaps if they added some subtle shading, a slightly darker shade of brown, it might hint at the old leather strips (excuse the rushed Photoshop job):

This would be similar to what the Michigan Wolverines (and less famously, the Delaware Blue Hens and Princeton Tigers) do with their helmets. Although these schools abandoned the winged leather helmets half a century ago, they retained the old layout. The pattern, once painted onto alternating strips of leather, gives a visual echo of old construction on the contemporary shells.

The Packers could do something similar by layering browns, giving the helmet more visual interest than a blank shell. I think it would be a huge improvement, and it would patch the only real problem I have with the throwback uniforms.

So there you have it. Although not without minor problems, on the whole it's a great look. I'm glad that the Packers are reaching back into their long storied history, and taking a pretty big risk in doing so. They could have "thrown back" to the 2001 Thanksgiving Day whites, or to the 1994 classics, either of which would be easier to translate to the modern uniform template. Instead, they went out on a limb with a classic needing a great deal of interpretation. I give Mark Murphy a lot of credit for this move.

So in the end, I'm with Nick Collins:


All The Way Ray said...

Very true that they went out on a limb and came away with a good look. Circle on the front is a little large for me.

setlasmon said...

came by to check out the new packer unis. very cool! I like your idea for the helmets alot...

Id never really seen too many pictures of people with the painted wing leather helmets. looks awesome, very luchadore!


The Daily Hat Trick said...

That '29 throwback might be the ugliest thing I have ever seen. Great blog, though.