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Grading the Huskers ’13 alternate uniform

Last year, shortly after Nebraska revealed its first ever true alternate uniform, I wrote the following:

It used to be that when we talked about the college football “arms race” we were talking about things like locker rooms, practice facilities, training tables and player’s lounges. That’s where you needed to keep up with the Joneses to remain competitive and Nebraska was always considered a leader.

Now the arms race includes uniforms. Near the turn of the century, Oregon made the equipment players wore a valuable piece of the recruiting process and, predictably, things have only gotten crazier over the past decade. Nobody does unabashed one-upmanship and absurdity better than college football.

Thus it was appropriate that at the same time Twitter was exploding — at least locally — over the Huskers’ new 2013 alternate uniforms, new lime green Oregon helmets also leaked. There are no 2013 Nebraska alternates without Oregon, so there it was all in a few tweets — the reason and the result.

In truth, I live for these sorts of discussions. I’ll go as geeky as you want on uniforms and I’m probably already too far in for some readers, but I can’t help myself. Like we did with the 2012 alternates, we’re going to grade this thing out piece by piece (all images courtesy of adidas):

HELMETS

Is there anything less exciting than matte white? It’s literally white, but duller. Matte helmets are all the rage these days, so it’s no surprise to see them pop up here, but, in the case of white in particular, it’s just matte-for-matte’s sake. That’s only the beginning of the problems I have with this helmet.

Say what you will about the 2012 alt-helmets, but at least they had a clear idea. The elevator pitch was “Nebraska’s helmet, but black.” The same pitch for this year’s lid is “Nebraska’s helmet but matte white with a thicker black stripe down the middle that doesn’t extend the full length of the helmet because we’re using the new uniform number font there, oh, and there’s a two-tone face mask because we can and everybody else is.” Doesn’t really roll off the tongue and it reveals the overall problem: There are a lot of design elements competing with one another here but is there a cohesive idea? How does this helmet mesh with the rest of the uniform other than it contains a lot of black accessories?

Grade: D+

JERSEYS

This jersey is quite close to what I have long considered to be the platonic ideal of Husker alternates. With it’s stencil-like number font, it hints at Nebraska’s Blackshirts logo, which the Huskers should use as the basis for an alternate uniform right now and keep it forever. There are many advantages to this idea:

1) While the logo itself is looking a little dated, it’s still the “swaggiest” thing the Huskers have. Kids, I’m told, like swag.

2) Use as much black as you want. In fact, it’s essential to a Blackshirts uniform. Kids, I think, still like black.

3) For anyone who is still on the fence about alternate uniforms at Nebraska, it pays tribute to what might be Husker fans favorite tradition. Uniform suppliers love paying tribute to the past while also creating new product to sell.

This jersey isn’t quite that, but it does just fine on its own. I have no complaints, but one request: Let’s hope that by agreeing to the, for lack of a better term, “quilting” all over this jersey that the Huskers will keep it off their standard uniforms because UCLA — the team that Nebraska will wear these uniforms against on September 14– is apparently going all-quilted all the time in 2013. That’s no good.

Grade: A

PANTS

Perfect execution. They’re just Nebraska’s standard pants, but swap out the double red stripe for a double black stripe to complement the rest of the uniform. Nebraska maintained the double stripe on the alternates last year too which is a nice way of keeping at least one thing standard but doing it in a different color. It freshens things up without doing something dumb like using a curved or truncated pant stripe.

Grade: A+

SOCKS

There’s little uniformity in college football when it comes to socks. Players sort of go their own way here, but I love the “official” socks included with this uniform because sock stripes always have been and always will be awesome. I like these quite a bit. If the stripes went all the way around, you’d end up with something like this so that’s a good bit of restraint on adidas’ part. The only thing keeping this from getting my highest grade is the fact that every adidas team will likely have these available.

Grade: A

SHOES

There was a time in my life (1994-97) where I cared a great deal about football shoes. This was the era where we were just leaving behind the bland ubiquity of Nike Sharks for more colorful options. (Note: I snapped those up the moment they showed up in the Eastbay catalog and it felt like getting a color tv after years of only black-and-white.)

That time is not now. There are so many colors and options available that it’s hard to make any impression. So I’ll give these shoes the same grade as last year’s photo-activated kicks

Grade: Are they functional? Yes? Good.

OVERALL

If not for the hodgepodge helmet, the 2013 alternate would be a home run. But it’s still pretty good.

I gave last year’s alternates a B+ which, after seeing them on the field, was probably too high. Retroactively, I’d give it a B-. This year’s version is clearly better. It’s cleaner and actually resembles a football uniform, which should be the expectation but, given some other experiments, actually feels like a bonus.

Still, I can’t go too high when my all-Blackshirts alternate is still on the table. (At least in my mind it is.)

Overall Grade: A-

Not enough uniform talk for you? You can still check out our Nebraska Uniform History here and, if you like this sort of thing at all, you’ll want to also think about getting your hands on the magazine version of that retrospective.



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