uniforms

Grading the Threads

Nebraska’s new uniforms have already made an impression. Here’s a top-to-bottom review.

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.

And into that brave new world, Nebraska’s new alternate uniform was born. The fuzzy reasoning is that it helps with recruiting. The kids like it, as they say. It’s the raison d’etre for these or any other alternate design and nobody really knows if it’s even true. Will one game with this new uniform land one more recruit? How many games would it take to land three five-star recruits? What’s the shelf life on the excitement over the new black helmet?

It’s unquantifiable and inconsequential because this is how college football works today. It’s how college football has always worked, actually. We just see it now, clearly and unforgettably, every Saturday on some field somewhere in America.

So let’s take a closer look – literally from top-to-bottom – at what it takes to stay “on trend”:

Helmets

I didn’t love the black helmet as much as I thought I would back when it was jokingly “leaked” by the Huskers’ equipment staff last year on Twitter. I still don’t think it’s quite as awesome as we all thought it would be, but I certainly don’t dislike it. The totally red ‘N’ gets lost a little bit on the black but I would rather have this than some crazy all-over design like Maryland’s state flag or Army’s digital camo. They are still football helmets after all.

When Nebraska breaks these out for “The Quick and the Red” game – speaking of absurdity – it will be the first time the Huskers haven’t worn a white helmet since 1961.

[highlight color=red]Grade: B+[/highlight]

Jerseys

Standard operating procedure for tradition-bound programs looking to get into the alternate uniform game is for the school – and, really, the uniform supplier – to tout some tie to the past. Oklahoma, Ohio State, Texas, Michigan and Notre Dame have all softened the blow of change for their fans by wrapping the new uniform in some new-vintage, faux-back rhetoric. Both versions of Ohio State’s Nike Pro Combat uniforms have been “inspired” by teams from the past and Nebraska/adidas could have done that here.

The Huskers wore a big, sans serif N on their chests back in the 1930s and I was sure adidas would tout this fact in their official release. Surprisingly, they didn’t and it’s somewhat refreshing. This is just new, no quarter given.

I’m of the opinion that the sans serif N, as opposed to the block-N used everywhere else in the athletic department, is underutilized. It’s plain but iconic, simple but sophisticated and it screams football. It’s inclusion as the focal point of the entire uniform drives that point home.

And, yes, it looks a lot like Michigan’s special design from last year. That’s okay. I liked their uniforms too. (Bonus points for keeping the same sleeve stripes from Nebraska’s regular uniforms.)

[highlight color=red]Grade: A[/highlight]

Pants

Are these pants truly not going to have belts? I assume that’s just a prototype omission. A belt, black presumably, is needed here to break-up the monochrome red. That could potentially eliminate some of the Union Suit comparisons. (And, presumably, start some Santa Claus comparisons. Pick your poison.)

Again, keeping the same stripes from the regular uniforms is a nice touch. It also creates the possibility that Nebraska could wear these pants on the road paired with their white jerseys and the black helmets.

[highlight color=red]Grade: B-[/highlight]

Socks

College football is defined by its lack of socks. In the NFL you get fined if you don’t wear them. In college, you’re an outlier if your calves are covered. Adidas gave Nebraska some matching black socks to go with this uniform but who knows how many players will actually wear them? That said, I’m already excited to see what Kenny Bell, Nebraska’s reigning sock stylist, will do.

[highlight color=red]Grade: Indifferent[/highlight]

Shoes

Much like the socks, there’s no guarantee that every player will wear a version of whatever special shoe is designed to go with this uniform. I’m sure they’ll all be some combination of black, white and red.

[highlight color=red]Grade: Are they functional? Yes? Good.[/highlight]

Overall

I’ve often wondered if there was any value in being the team that didn’t change their uniforms. Were there recruits out there – hard working, tough as nails, don’t like change much types of course – who actually liked the fact that Nebraska never bothered with the fashion shows and new uniform rollouts? If there are, they must feel lost in this modern age of college football. Even the service academies have gone alt recently.

And now Nebraska’s part of the parade. What will the program gain? It’s tough to say but figuring out what they’ve lost is no easier.

[highlight color=red]Overall Grade: B+[/highlight]


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