Maybe an era of minimalism finally is returning to college football. I’ve long wanted it back, but in the Rise of the Alternate era it has seemed like maximized flamboyance (or absurdity) was the only way to get noticed.
Nebraska tried that out for a couple of years, but the release of the Huskers’ latest alternate today is perhaps another sign that simple is making a comeback. Last year, Nebraska unveiled a “chrome” look that, while a little glitzy, was pretty clean overall. I gave it an A.
This year the Huskers are throwing it back to the 1997 national championship squad and unveiled a uniform that is a shockingly good reproduction of what Nebraska wore that year.
Let’s grade it out.
Not much to see here because the helmet, thankfully, hasn’t changed much over the past 50 years, really. Couple of small tweaks here and there, and the technology keeps improving and slightly altering things, but what you saw is still mostly what you see today.
If you really want to push things to next level here, how about bringing back the round and beautifully simple ‘BLACKSHIRT’ helmet sticker for the defense? That’s really all I have to add here.
Slick move, Adidas. Printing big-hole mesh into the numbers made this new uniform instantly identifiable as an old-school nod to the powerful Nebraska teams of the mid-1990s. It’s pegged to 1997, but that’s just a way to sell it. It could just as well be ’94 or ’95 and all of those would make Nebraska fans happy, too.
And for that reason, I suspect you’ll hear plenty of Husker fans say this should just be Nebraska’s permanent uniform. I wouldn’t quite go that far, but it’s sort of stunning to me just how well Adidas replicated the look of a uniform made of different materials in a totally different cut using today’s technology.
Let’s look at how that happened. One, the numbers. The “designers were able to recreate the visual aesthetic and texture of the traditional numbers by utilizing a new framis screen-printing technique.” I don’t know what any of that means, but it worked.
Two, the sleeves. In 1997, football jerseys had sleeves. Today they basically don’t and that presents a design challenge. The originals featured two white stripes plus TV numbers. There’s not enough real estate for that on today’s jerseys so I was somewhat worried that the TV numbers would be moved to the shoulder, as seen on the replicas that hit the Adidas website this morning.
But Adidas solved that problem on the game jerseys by keeping the TV numbers on the sleeve — which always looks great in my opinion — and moving the white stripes to the base layer. Wear the whole system together, and it works pretty darn well.
Now, if you really want to get picky, the ’97 uniforms included an Adidas wordmark on the left shoulder, but no three-stripe logo as is included on the new version. Going back to that old mark really would’ve been the cherry on top, but this still gets the highest marks.
I know a lot of Husker fans love the no-stripe pants from this era. It’s not my favorite as I think simple stripes add a lot to the look — particularly the white pants — but the Huskers didn’t have them in 1997 so they’re not here now.
Same goes for the ’N’ that Nebraska has worn on its hip at times over the years — but not in 1997. That’s an ‘A’ for authenticity.
As mentioned above, the base layer here — which also includes the script-Huskers wordmark — is a key part of completing the look, so you gain a few points there.
The gloves feature an old-school helmet patch. Points for that.
And, per the release from Adidas, “to complete the homage, the team will don all black Adidas adizero and FREAK cleats.” Points for that, too.
On its face, replicating the simple design from 1997 might seem like a pretty easy way to come up with a fail-safe alternate. It’s not that easy. The numbers have to look right. The details need to be right, lest dorks like me nitpick it to death. Adidas calls this a “one-to-one recreation” of the uniforms of that era, and it really is.
I guess I’ll be a little interested to see if there are fans out there who are disappointed that a throwback is Nebraska’s alternate this year rather than something that, as in past years and as is most common with these things, is a total reimagining of the Husker aesthetic. To put it another way: Are there people out there who would rather just see something crazy?
Probably a few, but for the majority of the Husker fan base this will likely be viewed as a home run.
And it is.
Brandon is the Managing Editor for Hail Varsity and has covered Nebraska athletics for the magazine and web since 2012, Hail Varsity’s first season on the scene. His sports writing has also been featured by Fox Sports, The Guardian and CBS Sports.