Saturday, February 25, 2012

Concepts: "B Inspired"

The folks over at Minneapolis-based design firm BAKER have been experimenting with concept uniforms for NFL clubs, anticipating the switchover to Nike.

Here's their Packer concept, created by Steve Wåhlin:

Steve Wåhlin @SteveWahlin
I took two different approaches with this exercise: one forward-looking and one looking back to the past, but both firmly rooted in tradition. With the first design, I modernized the classic navy blue and gold color scheme that was a hallmark of the Packers first 40 years. On the jersey, the shoulder yoke pays homage to the classic Packer uniform of the 1940s. Overall, the yellow has been replaced with a true metallic gold. For a more contemporary typographic look, I turned to Champion bold; which is very readable and masculine, yet has some pleasing subtleties in the numerals. And finally, the G helmet logo—originally intended to mimic a football before it morphed into its current oval shape—has been streamlined back into a more meaningful, aggressive shape.
The NFL now advocates the use of a “third jersey” for special matchups or holiday games. Here, I’ve proposed a scheme where the navy blue in the entire uniform is replaced with the traditional Packer green. It’s no mistake that this is very much like the color palette of Notre Dame; Packers founder Curly Lambeau intentionally based his team’s color scheme on that of his alma mater, including using green and gold intermittently during his tenure as coach.
This last design has a throwback feel, but it does not specifically mimic any Packer uniform of the past. There are elements from a number of designs: the brown pants of the 1920s, clean yellow stripes from the 1950s; the white lettering and vintage Running Packer logo from the 1960s. But a lot of things have been simplified and rationalized. The helmet stripes have been reduced to one simple green line. The arm stripes have moved to the undershirt and simplified into 4 equal lines to represent the Packers’ four Superbowl wins. The 2 yellow stripes on each of the socks symbolizes the Packers’s wins in the first two Superbowls; and the total number of uniform stripes is 13—the Packers’ total number of NFL championships. The classic yellow color is still present but it is given a metallic sheen on the helmet, gloves and shoes. Go Pack Go!

I'd like to look at each of his concepts individually, beginning with his blue and gold primary uniform.

Obviously, I love the shout-out to all of the Packers' glorious past; one of the problems with the team wearing Lombardi's uniform today is that it reinforces the notion that the NFL started with the Super Bowl.

I'm also a huge fan of the shoulder yoke, a classic Lambeau-era look that still works today in this era of disappearing sleeves. A classic look that fits with modern uniform construction, and that's a rarity. The jersey numbers are a bit too close to the Rams; I'd rather see a right-angle block in an additional shout-out to Lambeau's uniform.

Putting the TV numbers on the compression sleeves is a nice touch. For 3½ years I've been advocating moving the Packers' distinctive stripes there, but never the TV numbers.

I will admit a partiality to Lambeau's color scheme over Lombardi's. I do recognize that I am in the minority here, and understand that the chromatic uniqueness of the Green and Gold is worth preserving. With that in mind, his alternate uniform, featuring a variant on the Packers' current color scheme, would work well today.

The modified helmet logo doesn't quite work for me. I appreciate the idea behind it, and I like the more elongated version worn by the Packers in the early 1960s. But this is a bit too aggressive, trying too hard.

So I like the primary concept a lot. The alternate uniform also shows a lot of promise.

Always interesting to see the "Holstein Heisman" logo in action. It has never been a regular part of the Packers' uniform, but has seen an uptick in modern use.

I'd hate for the Packers to drop their famous Braisher stripes, but a pair of simple gold stripes on green is a fantastic look, hearkening back not only to 1940s look above but also the socks worn by the team during the Lindy Infante era.

Not sure about the reasoning behind the number of stripes:
the total number of uniform stripes is 13—the Packers’ total number of NFL championships.
That's fine, Steve, but what are you going to do when they win their 14th next year?

There is one element that I think the Packers should adopt immediately; the metallic-flake gold helmet.

This manages to combine the classic athletic gold color with a metallic finish. Modern, but similar enough that the Packers could adopt this helmet with the same ease they went to "pearlized" shells in 2001. Perhaps this is something Hydro Graphics Inc. could provide, if they expand their NFL offerings. It would be a perfect opportunity for the Packers to branch out into a metallic helmet without losing their visual legacy.

All in all, very well done. A very fun concept, something from which the Packers could learn. I'd love to see that helmet under a clear November Wisconsin sky.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

A White-Hot Starr

In this undated photo, Packer legend Bart Starr runs with the ball as he tries to elude two Baltimore Colt defenders.

This is a very unusual Packer uniform in that it doesn't contain any gold. White from head to toe, with single blue stripes on the helmet and pants and blue Northwestern stripes on the sleeves and socks.

The all-white uniform was introduced by head coach Lisle Blackbourn, and replaced when Vince Lombardi took over the team in 1959. Starr came to Green Bay in 1956, so that helps us. According to the Packers' media guide, the white uniforms became commonplace in 1957, so that narrows it down to two possible seasons.

Friday, February 17, 2012

Mystery - 1921 Game Photo?

This astounding 1921 photo was sold at auction by Mears two months ago.

This is the catalog description:
1921 Curly Lambeau Green Bay Packers 14"x19" Rookie Action Mounted Original Studio Photo - First Glimpse at the Birth of a Franchise (Buff Wagner Estate) MEARS LOA

Simply put, the most historic Green Bay Packer image ever offered.

Buff Wagner stood 5'9" tall and weighed 165 pounds and hailed from Marinette, Wi. He also had the distinction of playing for the 1920 & 1921 Green Bay Packers. A young football player from Green Bay named Curly Lambeau joined the team in 1921, Wagner’s final season in the NFL.

In a freak-like premonition, a local photographer named F. Thomas captured a Sunday’s game of early NFL football. Similar to the feat Charles Conlon accomplished twelve years prior when he captured the image of Cobb with spikes flying high, lens man F. Thomas immortalized early Green Bay Packers history and the rise of Curly Lambeau with this early pigskin image.

The image itself is masterful, with 11 Packers facing an unidentified opponent in an attempt at a goal line score. The Green Bay Packers are seen moving left to right, wearing simple canvas pants, long sleeved solid colored jerseys with simple shoulder pads with light colored uniform numbers on reverse. Floppy eared leather football helmets barely protect the heads of the combatants. Wooden cleats can be seen fighting with turf in an attempt to maintain a hard fought position. The Packers offensive surge seems to be working, as the defenders, wearing dark, long sleeved jerseys with stripes appear to be on their heels. Both teams wear striped socks. A light dusting of freshly fallen snow covers the frozen tundra of a battlefield of unknown future epic proportions.

A local business, the "Allouez Water and Beverage" company painted advertising sign is prominently displayed just a few feet behind the end zone. Keeping with the simplicity of the times, the goal post is constructed with (3) pieces of 2x4's, just big enough to serve its purpose. By my count, 35+ spectators neatly dressed with long coats and derby hats are there to support the newly born team, a far cry from the 72,900+ found at today’s Packers game. The detail is simp(ly) amazing.

Whether by pure luck or a desire to chronicle his football career, Buff Wagner commissioned this image from the photographer, and it remained in the possession of his family until about the year 2000. The photo is dated by the intersection of Buff Wagner & Curly Lambeau's career, 1921.

About the image itself, it is from the Packers second professional season, and Curly Lambeau's first. Fittingly, Curly Lambeau is running the ball, making it the earliest action image of Lambeau known. This is also the earliest known action photo of the Green Bay Packers franchise. A first generation (Type 1) studio photo, this image boasts phenomenal content, clarity, and contrast. The image (10"x16") itself is near mint, with only a small ¾" diameter spot on the border of the left edge. The photographer mounted the image on a 13.5" x 19" basic cardboard mount, which has some wear. A 2" tear is found on the upper border of the mount, and a small piece is missing on the bottom left corner. A final small piece of the mount is peeled back from the bottom right border. None of the mount conditions affect the actual image. In oxidized period fountain pen, "F. Thomas, Green Bay, Wis." is neatly penned in the bottom right corner.

LOA Troy R. Kinunen / MEARS
It's truly spectacular.

If this is truly from 1921, then the setting would likely be Hagemeister Park.

But wait - is that really the Packers? I'm not convinced. Let's take a look.

That could be Curly Lambeau, but I can't be entirely sure.

The uniforms are the much bigger problem for me. 1921 was, of course, the first season that the Packers were sponsored by the Acme Packing Company, and the players wore "ACME PACKERS" on their jerseys.

I don't see any evidence of that in the auction photo. I also don't recognize those socks. They don't look like anything I've seen the Packers wear in the few photos we have of that time.

Compare these two uniforms:

I've never seen those distinctive striped socks. All the early Packer photos I've seen have solid navy socks, light at the bottom:

The light color is usually presumed to be white sanitary socks, although at least one source has suggested that they may have been gold. Either way, no stripes.

Also calling the authenticity into question are the numbers on the "Packers" backs.

The earliest I can confirm the Packers were wearing numbers is 1925, from the Packers themselves. Of course, the team hasn't always been the best steward of its own history, but this would be a big deal if we could confirm jersey numbers as early as 1921.

Finally, the description of Hagemeister Park as having goal posts "constructed with (3) pieces of 2x4's, just big enough to serve its purpose" seems wrong to me. So far as I know, it had iron posts (and in fact, the Packers Hall of Fame has been selling mounted slices of those posts for the past several years). That would make this a road game, possibly?

The auction description itself is odd - "A young football player from Green Bay named Curly Lambeau joined the team in 1921"? Come on, that's Packers 101. They seem to have authenticated this photo entirely on the years Buff Wagner played for the Packers, but then they make an amateur goof on the team's founder. Plus, what's to say that even if this is a photo of Wagner that didn't play semi-pro ball at any time?

Problem after problem. Nothing adds up here. 

I'm extremely reluctant to find fault with a MEARS authentication, but this sure doesn't look like the Packers to me, 1921 or otherwise.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

That's My Motto

More details about Nike's impending takeover of the league-wide uniform contract are leaking out. On the Chris Creamer Sports Logos board, Redskins fan DeFrank posted this tidbit:
At a "chalk talk" tonight with Redskins GM Bruce Allen, the Redskins 80th Anniversary was brought up. It was briefly mentioned by the GM that the Redskins will have the words "Team Effort Tradition" on the inside collar of each jersey in coordination with Nike taking over. He said all teams will have their own motto. So, there we go. Thought I'd share...

Nike has been doing this for years with their soccer shirts. Take for example this beautiful kit, designed by Nike for Arsenal's 125th Anniversary this season.

Inside the shirt, on the back of the crest, is the club motto.

This is fairly common in world soccer these days, and Nike has a major presence there. I don't know if Nike originated the practice, but looks like they're bringing it to the NFL.

I like it. I've never been fond of the overly-detailed uniforms Reebok designed for the Vikings, Cardinals and Falcons, with all their extraneous piping and paneling. This, however, is different. A nice little detail that can be appreciated by the players (but let's be honest, far more by the fans who'll buy these things) that doesn't impact the team's classic design.

So what do you think the Packers' motto should be? Personally, I'm rather partial to "Go! You Packers Go!", although I could see a Lombardi quote working there. Just please, not "Winning isn't everything; it's the only thing."

How about these, from's quote page?
"Winning is not a sometime thing…it’s an all the time thing."
"If you don’t think you’re a winner, you don’t belong here."
"If we chase perfection, we can catch excellence."
Or maybe something from this sign, erected in New City Stadium's tunnel by Coach Lombardi early in his tenure:
What would you suggest?

Monday, February 6, 2012

So Close... The NFL's "Evolution" Commercial

The NFL's highly-touted safety commercial made its debut in the during the Super Bowl, backed with a very cool website.

It encapsulates the history of the NFL, and its safety innovations, by following a punt return that runs forward through the decades from the sport's early days to the modern era.

If you haven't seen it, YouTube can oblige:

The Packers make two appearances in the commercial, once on offense and once on defense.

The first appearance spans the 1940s:

That's an actor playing Hall of Famer and Packer legend Tony Canadeo with the ball. Nicknamed the "Gray Ghost" for his prematurely graying hair, Canedeo joined the Packers in 1941, and played through 1952, making him a perfect pick to run with the ball through this decade.

He's wearing Curly Lambeau's classic blue and gold uniform, with the shoulder yoke.

The camera tracks "Canadeo" and booms up, giving us a great look at his uniform.

Anybody notice the problem yet? The shoulder yoke is a bit pointy at the end, but that's forgivable. The inaccuracy I'm looking at is much larger. Think about it. and we'll come back to it in a few minutes.

As he runs towards the end of the decade, the leather helmet falls away to reveal a plastic shell (adopted by the Packers in 1950).

It sprouts a chinstrap, and away we go into the dawn of the 1950s. CUT TO: a ground-level shot of the Gray Ghost as he runs into, and over, a Philadelphia defender.

Note the green stripe on his gold helmet. Our runner puts his hand to the dirt to steady himself, and when he takes his next step, it's a new era and a new player, as Canadeo is replaced with a Los Angeles Ram.

And there we have it, the latest appearance of the Lambeau-era Green Bay Packers on the screen.

It's a clever commercial, but how accurate is it in terms of the Blue and Gold? The answer is: fairly, but not completely. Did you notice the historical error in Canadeo's uniform?

If not, I'll give you a clue: stripes.

Lambeau's 1940s uniform never included stripes on the gold pants.

Note also the rounded end on the shoulder yoke.

Now let's look at the second uniform, the plastic-helmeted 1950s-era blue, gold and green.

I don't know that the Packers ever wore these pants in the post-Lambeau era, but I'm not quite so comfortable saying "never" as the 1950s were such a back and forth, mix-and-match era in Green Bay's history.

I am pretty confident that they wore the green-striped gold lid with their blue uniform tops (but perhaps not those tops; Curly's solid-blue alternate (introduced in 1949) definitely saw occasional use in the following seasons, but I'm not sure about the gold yokes.

So there you have it. Two Packer uniforms, one from the 1940s and one from the 1950s, each with a generally decent sense of authenticity that misses a few details. Really, guys, you could have just called me.

Next up, we'll take a look at the second Packer appearance in this commercial, featuring defense, green jerseys and a very frustrated Coach Lombardi.

The Future's So Bright, Part II

Before the Super Bowl, we learned that the Giants' regular metallic-sheen helmets were going to be replaced by a custom paint job from Oregon-based Hydro Graphics Inc., Nike's go-to subcontractor for custom helmet finishes.

The move was reportedly motivated by problems maintaining the metallic-blue finish over the course of a game:
The Giants staff has been actively seeking out ways of improving the performance and durability of their helmet coatings for quite some time and were interested in how the HGI HydroSkin® technology might be able to help them.
If that was the intention, HGI fumbled.

The finishes looked great at the beginning of the game. I've been a fan of the Giants' helmet since it was unveiled in 2000, and in the beginning it appeared as though HGI got it just right.

Deep royal blue with metallic flake. Perfect.

As the game went on, the repeated impacts started to show.

On many players, particularly Manning and his receivers, the helmets continued to shine:

Linemen and other players who sustained repeated impacts throughout the game, however, were another matter. HGI's vaunted finsh showed every scrape and chip:

Whatever problems the Giants were having with their helmets before, surely they weren't this bad.

I guess this means we won't be seeing new metallic Packer helmets anytime soon. Back to the drawing board.