alternate uniforms

2019 Nebraska Alternative Uniforms Reviewed

Nebraska and Adidas released the alternate uniform the Huskers will wear at some point in the 2019 season.  I can’t help but feel like I’ve seen it before – and no, I’m not talking about the photo* that leaked out from the hype video shoot a few weeks ago.

*How mad do you think the Adidas folks were about this image stealing their thunder?  The one time they shoot the hype video on location – instead of from the comfort of their ad agency’s studio – and the full uniform leaks out.  

How familiar are these uniforms?  Here is how I feel like the design process went for this year’s alts:

{Scene:  Adidas U.S. Headquarters, Portland, Oregon. A random Tuesday in June}

Account Rep:  Hey, Nebraska wants their alternate uniform to be black this year.  I don’t have a lot of requirements, other than they want to release it in time for their Fan Day in early August.

Lead Designer:  Um…It’s the middle of summer.  There is no way we can create a black alternate uniform in time.

Account Rep:  Don’t we have a single alternative uniform template that we use for colleges?  Usually the only thing you guys do is update the colors and logos, and send it off to the factory in Asia.

Lead Designer:  We’re trying to get away from that.  The guys on the Basketball Design Team were making us look bad.

Account Rep:  So what can we do?  Scott Frost has a history with Nike, and his A.D. has a policy to never tell Frost “no”.  Nebraska is our oldest, and one of our best clients.  Surely we can do something for them.

Design Team Intern (flipping through a book of previous Nebraska uniforms):  Look at these black uniforms they wore back in 2013.  What if we clean these up and pass them off as new?

Lead Designer:  Hmm…that could work.  There is definitely room for improvement on these.  Maybe incorporate some elements from their current practice jerseys.  What do you think?

Account Rep:  I really don’t care what they look like, as long as we can debut them before the season starts.

Lead Designer:  That’s what we do best!  We’ll have a sketch ready by the end of the day.

{scene}

How similar are the new set to 2013?  Here is a side by side comparison (image by @BrettSBaker)

sidebyside
As is the custom, we’ll go from the top down.

Helmet:

helmet side

The improvements from the 2013 set start at the top.  Adidas got rid of the weird gradient facemask that was black on the outsides and red in the middle, and replaced it with a basic black facemask that works much better.  Nebraska’s signature sans-serif “N” remains, but it is now black instead of red.  Both the 2013 and 2019 versions have a black helmet stripe that is noticeably thicker than normal.

Our video model has a red chinstrap, which I would suspect gets swapped out for black or white when the players get them.

I would have been okay with Adidas being a little more aggressive in their design on the helmet.  Possibly a black helmet with white “N”, or even the script Huskers in black instead of the helmet N.  That said, I have no issue with the lid.

Grade:  B

Jersey:

48572099382_f7ff061018_n

Yes, I am an unabashed old-school fuddy-duddy who thinks Nebraska’s uniforms are fine as they are, thank you very much.  But there is more to my dislike than me being averse to change.  My biggest objection is the black jersey, for two primary reasons*:

  1. Only the defense – Nebraska’s storied “Blackshirts” – should wear black jerseys.  Period.  Does it really make sense that some third string wide receiver gets to wear the same black jersey as Mohamed Barry and the rest of the defense?  What in the name of Charlie McBride is going on here?
  2. After the defense’s disastrous performance in 2018 (31.3 points per game allowed, 12th in the Big Ten) black is the last color Nebraska should be wearing against the majority of the teams on their schedule.

*Why yes, I did plagiarize and update my 2013 review of Nebraska’s uniforms for the preceding three paragraphs.  Hey, if Adidas gets to pass off old material as new, I can too.

The good news is my stance has softened a little bit since 2013.  While I still think only the first team defense should wear black, I really do like this version.  Adidas abandoned the “tire tread” motif, and they got rid of the numeral font that looked like it came from “The Longest Yard”.  I have my concerns about using red for the TV numbers on the shoulders and name on the back – but that is more about being able to read them from Row 47 instead of a stylistic concern.

My biggest gripe is the use of the Blackshirts logo on the sleeves.  In the press release, Adidas tries to spin it as “personifying the players’ relentless attitude, a skull-and-crossbones logo sits on the jersey’s sleeve caps”.  Filter out the b.s. and the takeaway is “we understand that this is a defensive logo, but it still looks cool, and we hope prospective recruits agree.”

Overall, I understand why black jerseys are popular.  And if Nebraska “needs” a black jersey, this is a pretty good version – even if it cheapens what “Blackshirts” once meant.   Allow me to plagiarize myself from 2013 one more time:  “Black will always be a cool color for young males, as it denotes toughness and strength.”  I guess that applies to third string wide receivers too.

Grade:  A

Pants:

pants

When it comes to the pants on their alternate uniforms, Adidas has really embraced a “less is more” approach.  I would have been okay with the 2013 version, with its black leg stripe and over-sized “N”.  Instead, it looks like Nebraska will wear their regular white pants.

At the risk of being alarmist, seeing the new jersey paired with the regular pants makes me a little concerned that this new ensemble will be used a more of a “third jersey” than a one time only alternate.

I really like Scott Frost, and I love how he is bringing the things he learned at his previous coaching stops back to Nebraska.  But I have no desire to see Nebraska getting into the mix and match “uniform system” that Central Florida has, let alone the weekly game of one upsmanship that Oregon plays.

Grade: B

Accessories:

In the hype video, we see three different Adidas accessories get some extended screen time.

  • The most notable item is a helmet visor that, when viewed from certain angles, shows a Blackshirts logo.  None of the pictures in the press release do it justice, so you’ll want to watch the hype video to see it in action.  Assuming such images on visors are game legal (and with the NCAA, one should never make assumptions) I would expect to see a lot of these throughout the year.
  • There are the (now) standard gloves that make a form a Blackshirts logo when the palms are placed just so.  It will be interesting to see if those gloves are reserved for defensive players, or if everybody gets a pair.
  • Finally, there is a pair a black cleats.  I’m no sneakerhead, but I think they look really sharp.

cleats

Grade:  A

Overall:

Put it all together, and this is what it looks like from head to toe.

head to toe

A big part of grading the alternates that Adidas produces for football is managing expectations.  With 2019 being the 150th anniversary of college football, and the 150th anniversary of the University of Nebraska, I had hoped for some sort of 1969 throwback uniform.  So from that aspect, I’m a little bummed at the missed opportunity – even if Nebraska wore a “fauxback” uniform last year.

When I first saw the leaked image, I was disappointed.  I’m not a fan of NU wearing black, and let’s be honest – the overall look is little more than tweaks to the 2013 alt.

But the more I look at it, the more comfortable I am with it.

Why?  Indulge me in one more flashback, this time to Nebraska’s last attempt at black – the horrifically bad 2015 set:

I could get on-board with an all-black get up similar to this.  Just simplify the look.  Lose the tire treads, the reflective numbers, the stripes that look like they survived an attack from Freddy Krueger, and you’d really have something nice.

It may not be as #HuskerBold as adidas would like, but I’d wager it would be better received.

Give Adidas credit. They checked all of the boxes and made an alternate uniform that should appeal to the coveted kids as well as the cranky traditionalists.  That is a win in my book.

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2018 Nebraska Alternative Uniforms Reviewed

On Saturday, Nebraska will wear special “Memorial Tribute”* uniforms, which draw strong design influence from the uniforms the 1923 Huskers wore.  Why 1923?  That was the first season NU played at Memorial Stadium.

*Let’s take a second to address Adidas’s ridiculous name for this uniform.  At best, “memorial tribute” sounds similarly synonymous and slightly redundant.  At worst, it describes an eulogy – possibly for the days when alternative uniforms didn’t need their own identity branding story.

Due to a chaotic and stressful October, I wasn’t able to give these a proper review when they came out.  So let’s fix that.

As is the custom, we’ll go from the top down.

Helmet:

2018 helmet

From the reaction I’ve seen, the helmet is the most controversial piece of the ensemble.  The intention was to make it look like a stitched leather helmet of the time.  This apparently has not clear to all who have seen it.  In looking for pictures and reaction, I came across comparisons to a jock strap and a sleep apnea CPAP mask.  One glass half full fan suggested that the Huskers “can use the protractors on their helmets to knock out some geometry homework on the sideline”.  I’m all for adding to the list of Academic All-Americans.

As for me, I get – and like – the concept.  If you’re going to throwback to 1923, it wouldn’t look right with the regular “N” helmet.  You go big to complete the look, and that is what Adidas has tried to do.  I’m hopeful that, in person, the helmets look a little better than the handful of promotional pictures indicate.

As it is, this is one of the few times in Nebraska’s alternate uniform history that the helmet is not the star of the show.

Grade:  C+

Jersey:

Nebraska+x+adidas_Memorial_Jersey_006

If you’ve read any of my previous reviews of the Husker alts, you’ll likely know three things: 1) I am an unabashed traditionalist, 2) I dislike unnecessarily gaudy uniforms that choose to promote Adidas’s innovations instead of Nebraska’s history, and 3) any alternate jersey where you can’t see/read the numbers from the stands is a failure.

In other words, I typically use most of this space to tell you everything Adidas got wrong.  Today, it is my great pleasure to tell you everything that Adidas did right.

  • Adidas mercifully retired their sublimated “Primeknit” that looked like lightning bolts or tire treads.  Their new miracle fabric – which looks somewhat like corduroy in the pictures – is perfect for a throwback look.
  • The panels on the front are a great nod to 1923, and offer some nice visual interest without being over the top.
  • I love, love, love the numeral font which was influenced by the old Memorial Stadium clock – and not the 2018 Adidas Alternate Uniform Master Template.
  • As an added bonus, I feel confident that I will be able to read these numbers from row 47.

The only thing I would change would be to put the player names on the back – in the same retro font as the numbers.  That said, I have no issue with using the “In the deed the glory” inscription back there, as it helps tie the “Memorial Stadium” theme together.

This, my friends, is easily the best alternative uniform Adidas has produced for Nebraska Football.

Grade:  A+

Pants:

Nebraska+x+adidas_Memorial_Jersey_000

What color are these pants?  The Adidas marketing materials describe them as “buff,” which is “designed to resemble the first facade of Memorial Stadium.”  I take that to mean “buff” is a grayish limestone color.  Personally, I hope they are a shade of cream to really accent the gorgeous scarlet jerseys.

The pants do not have appear to have any stripes, bells, and/or whistles, which is great for staying out of the way and completing the throwback look.  Unfortunately, it’s really tough to give a fair grade to the sartorial equivalent of a neutral interior house paint.  Points are given for not stealing focus from the star of the show.

Grade: B

Accessories:

In a sharp departure from the last few alternate uniforms, the accompanying accessories are notably absent from the teaser images.  The apparently beauty of sporting a 1923 throwback is players 95 years ago didn’t bother with things like “base layers” or gloves that form a picture when put together just so) are not pictured.  The flexing uniform model has on a pair of plain red socks, and relatively plain black Adidas cleats.  I have no problems with this.

I’d be curious to see what the overall uniform would have looked like with red socks with a cream (or “buff”) stripe.  It may not have been what Nebraska wore in 1923, but it would have been accurate for the era.  As an example of what I’m talking about, check out the socks Iowa State wore with their Jack Trice inspired throwbacks.  That said, I’m on-board with the “less is more” vibe of these uniforms, so all red socks are fine by me.

Grade:  B

Overall:

If I have not been clear enough so far, I love this uniform.

This is the sixth Nebraska alternate I’ve reviewed, and every time before I’ve wanting something more, something better.  For example:

  • 2012:  “I expected to hate the alternative uniforms, to find them too futuristic, and too detached from the tradition-rich history of Nebraska Football.”
  • 2013:  “I continue to find it offensive that Nebraska’s athletic apparel partner…thinks so little of one of their flagship schools that they cannot create something unique for them; something that no other school wears.”
  • 2014:  “I didn’t expect Nebraska’s alt to be a true throwback, but I was hoping it would at least draw some inspiration from an old Nebraska jersey.  A faux-retro Bugeaters jersey would have been beyond amazing, which is clearly too much to ask….  I should expect adidas to provide Nebraska something that is on the line separating flashy and gaudy.  Something that looks like it came off a generic corporate template, instead of being inspired by Nebraska’s rich history.  I should expect a mediocre alternate from adidas, because that is all they have ever given us.”
  • 2015:  “One of my biggest criticisms of adidas is how they put all of their schools through a generic template and fail to do anything unique – even for a once-a-year special jersey.”
  • 2016:  “Finally, adidas seems to get that gaudy designs won’t play here. Superhero costumes that barely resemble Nebraska Football don’t work here. Numbers that are impossible to read are a failure to the 90,000 passionate fans that show up here.”

While I know that Adidas doesn’t give a damn about what some two-bit blogger has to say, the “Memorial Tribute” uniform is not only visually satisfying, but personally gratifying.

And with the final keystroke of the previous sentence, I’ve already started lowering my expectations for next year, because the only place to go from here is back down.  I’ll make my peace with this on one condition:  we bring these uniforms back out in 2023 for the true 100th anniversary of Memorial Stadium

Grade:  A

 

2016 Nebraska Alternate Uniforms Reviewed

Once again, we’ve reached a day full of equal parts anticipation and dread:  alternate uniform reveal day.  In a twist, Nebraska will wear their new duds on the road:  September 24th at Northwestern.*

*I’m not sure why Northwestern is becoming the NU Uniform Bowl, with Nebraska wearing all black in 2015, and Northwestern wearing all black in 2014.  The good news is, the team in white tends to win the game.

As is our custom, let’s break it down piece by piece.

Helmet:

sideheaddown

As heavily (and rightfully) criticized as adidas has been for their previous attempts at alternate uniforms for NU, they usually do their best design work on the helmet.  Adidas has found a good groove with maintaining Nebraska’s signature sans-serif “N”, but surrounding it with some trendy elements.  The lone dud was the 2013 version with the thick black stripe and facemask that went from black to red.

This year is no different.  At first glance, it reminds you of the late 1970’s when Nebraska wore grey facemasks – the only thing missing is the traditional red stripe down the middle.  But on closer inspection, you see the “keeping up with the Joneses” touches:  a matte helmet, a chrome facemask, and the “N” rendered in a metallic red instead of the standard red helmet tape.  With a list like that, you might think they overdid it, but it works.  Oh boy, do these work.  I guarantee there will be calls from Husker fans to make this the permanent helmet.

I have a couple of minor nit-picks:  For the numbers on the back of the helmet, I much prefer the current font over the block numerals.  I’m okay with the idea of putting Herbie Husker on the front helmet bumper, but I don’t care for this version of him.  I’d propose giving the defensive players a Blackshirts logo instead.  But any quibbles I have are easily erased by the state decal on the back of the helmet.  That is a keeper.

helmet

Grade:  A

Jersey:

headdown

Last year, I took issue with how the uniforms seemed to be more of a showcase for adidas and their “high performance” gear than a unique expression of Nebraska Football.  I closed by saying “Just simplify the look.  Lose the tire treads, the reflective numbers, the stripes that look like they survived an attack from Freddy Krueger, and you’d really have something nice.”

And for the most part, adidas listened.  Yes, the sublimated tire treads are still there, but they are much less pronounced than past years.  The shoulder stripes still have diagonal slits, but it works here.  I’ll get to the numbers in a second, but overall, this is a nice jersey.  It combines classic and modern better than any alternate Nebraska has ever worn.  That is a giant step forward for adidas.

However…

I have two complaints about the jerseys:

1. The shiny, reflective numbers. We’ve progressed away from the duct tape numbers, but take a look at the picture below.  Even in the studio, there is rather significant glare on the top part of the jersey.  Maybe it’s my aging eyes, but on a quick glance, that 16 looks a lot like an 18.  Frankly, this won’t be as big of an issue for me as it has been in the past – only because I’m unable to make the trip to Evanston.  I’m hopeful that the numbers will be moderately legible on TV, but if past history is any indication, my sympathies for anybody in the stadium.

reflective

2. Take another look at the picture above.  Pretend you aren’t reading this on a Nebraska site, and tell me what team this uniform belongs to.  Maybe you base your guess off of the red numbers and multiple adidas logos (Louisville? NC State? Northern Illinois? Mississippi State?  Troy?) or the B1G logo (Ohio State, Wisconsin, and Rutgers all wear red).  If you happen to know which Big Ten schools currently wear adidas, you could narrow it down to Nebraska or Indiana (Wisconsin is now with Under Armour).  But from there, you’d either need to zoom in to the Herbie on the helmet bumper or flip a coin.  Would it have ruined the look to add the “A Winning Tradition” patch?  Personally, I don’t think so.

Even with those two beefs, this is easily adidas’s best work to date.

 

Grade:  B

Pants

N on pants

As much as I crack on adidas, I really should give them credit for simplifying my job here.  Why?  Because for the third straight year, I can recycle the same comment on the major design element on the pants:  “Putting an “N” in the stripe is interesting.  I don’t hate it, but I don’t love it either.”  The way I see it, if they don’t have to come up with something original, neither should I.

Snark aside, I think the “N” works here.  The diagonal slashes through the “N” and the stripes are unnecessary, but I can deal with them.

This is a good place to address the monochromatic white look.  As a traditionalist, I love the road white jerseys matched up with the red pants.  It is a beautiful look.  As a moderately superstitious fan, I get the angst over Nebraska wearing “surrender whites” on the road.  I don’t have the numbers in front of me, but I believe NU has a losing record in all white.  Yes, those numbers are tainted by the 2002 and 2015 teams who probably would have lost no matter what color pants they wore, but some folks out there still don’t care for the all-white look.

To those people, let me say this:  I hear you.  I am one of you.  I believe the Unicameral should pass a law requiring red pants on the road – even though said law would be impossible to enforce due to every infraction occurring outside of their jurisdiction.  But this look, when taken as a whole works.  Red pants with this ensemble wouldn’t work as well.

Grade:  B+

Accessories

kneeling

Compared to other years, the reveal video and Glamour Shots of the flexing model are rather light on images of the accessories.  But what I see I really like.  Instead of socks with a weird print or pattern – the ones that look cool on a receiver or defensive back, but ridiculous on a lineman – our model has opted for a basic pair of white socks.  The cleats are equally clean and simple.

As part of their ongoing efforts to reduce, reuse, and recycle, adidas once again has the undershirt with a gigantic “N” on it.  If you’d like to read snarky comments about that, feel free to go back to any of my other reviews.  I do find it interesting that I have never seen one of those shirts of sale in any of the Husker shops around Lincoln.

The fact that I only needed to allocate a couple of sentences to accessories is another win.

Grade:  A

Overall

squatting

 

 

Let’s start this final section by indulging me in one more quote from last year:  “In my opinion, this helmet represents what a Nebraska alternate uniform should strive to be:  different, yet recognizable.  Trendy, yet classic.”  For the first four years of the alternate uniform era, adidas has failed to take that idea past the helmet.  The result has been a cookie cutter template that is more about adidas and their latest ‘innovation’ than it is about Nebraska.  For a school of Nebraska’s stature, getting the same treatment as every other adidas school should be taken as an insult.

With that in mind, let’s take a minute and address the thematic inspiration for the “Husker Chrome” alts.  According to the press release / marketing materials, these uniforms are “inspired by the city of Lincoln, Nebraska, also know as the ‘Star City'”.  Remember that picture of the back of the helmet?  I hope you noticed how the “player numbers featured in metallic red and metallic chrome outlining on the back of the helmet, showcas(es) the Star City’s ability to shine.”

No?  You didn’t get that?  Me neither.

Despite that underdeveloped – if not complete reach – of a theme, adidas has done good work here.  Unlike the last few years, I was cautiously optimistic about what we would see this year.  Adidas has produced a number of alternate uniforms for the Nebraska Basketball team that are absolutely beautiful.*  It’s clear that they’ve brought that same talent over to the football side of the house.

*With the obvious exception of the annual train wreck that is the adidas postseason templates.  Yikes.

But most importantly is this line in the press release:  “the new Husker Chrome alternate uniform blends crisp, modernized design with a tribute to Nebraska’s clean, classic signature look.”  Finally, adidas seems to get that gaudy designs won’t play here. Superhero costumes that barely resemble Nebraska Football don’t work here. Numbers that are impossible to read are a failure to the 90,000 passionate fans that show up here.  Seriously, take a look at this picture of I.M. Hipp and tell me you can’t see some of the design inspiration:

1978 IM Hipp

I’ll gladly listen to any cynics who want to (rightfully) point out that NU’s athletic apparel contract is coming up for renewal soon, and this is the uniform equivalent of the washed up veteran putting up big numbers before going into free agency.  With Michigan and Wisconsin leaving the “three stripe life”, adidas views Nebraska as their Rod Tidwell.  Or maybe you want to note that one success doesn’t make up for years of failures.  I get that.  Personally, I don’t think you’re wrong.

But let’s give credit where credit is due.  I have been a big critic of adidas and have used this space to attack their lackluster designs and what I perceive to be disrespect to Nebraska as a premier school. However, they came through here.  It may not be a clear-cut home run, but they are definitely a stand up triple.  That is huge.

There was a part of me that was worried that with alternate uniform alpha dog Oregon coming to town this fall, adidas would use that game to make some big splash – only to end up falling flat on their face.  But I would put these uniforms up against whatever the Ducks bring to town.  They’re that good.

Grade: A

*   *   *

Here are the updated Alternate Uniform Power Rankings

  1. 2016 “Husker Chrome”.  Easily the best.  Easily.
  2. 2009 “300th Sellout”.  Technically, a throwback to the 1962 uniforms, but they looked great.
  3. 2012 “Big N”. The idea was there, the execution wasn’t.
  4. 2013 “Longest Yard”. I actually think these are the ugliest, but they get bonus points for having legible numbers.
  5. 2015 “Back In Black”. The helmet was nice.
  6. 2014 Anarchy“. From the Bo Pelini reveal to the shoes that looked orange, these were all fail.
  7. 2002 “Wide Stripe”. I maintain the best thing Steve Pedersen did at Nebraska was to get rid of these.

 

2015 Nebraska Alternates Reviewed

Today is the day that some of us look forward to and others dread:  alternate uniform reveal day.  Nebraska will wear these October 24th against Northwestern.*

*Apparently, Nebraska is telling Northwestern “we’ll see your ugly black uniforms, and raise you one.”

Let’s dive in, piece by piece.

Helmet:

helmet

Like last year, the lid was easily the highlight of the ensemble.  When a picture of the matte black helmet with the classic sans-serif “N” was released late Wednesday night, I was cautiously optimistic that I would like this year’s uniforms.

In my opinion, this helmet represents what a Nebraska alternate uniform should strive to be:  different, yet recognizable.  Trendy, yet classic.  Without question, this is my favorite component of any Husker alternate to date.

Could this be the year that I go from grudging acceptance to full-on love?  Could adidas redeem their battered reputation with Husker fans with a grand slam design?

Grade:  A

Jersey:

jersey

 

Nope.

Goodness…where to even begin with this thing?  Let’s start with the pattern in the jersey.  The adidas press release says “the jersey’s padlock system secures tension over the shoulder pads, while the bodymap fit adheres to the player, making it difficult for opponents to grab, hold or tackle.”

Uh-huh.  Sure.  Bummer about not being able to tackle us Northwestern.

You can call it whatever you want.  I say it looks like tire treads, which when combined with the diagonal slits going through the numbers, makes it look like the uniforms were run over by a truck (Wisconsin fans, feel free to insert a Melvin Gordon joke here).

Speaking of the numerals, they are rather reminiscent of the duct tape numbers from last year’s jersey.  Hopefully, the addition of the silver – sorry, “forged steel” – outline will make them easier to read from row 47.  I’m not optimistic.

One of my biggest criticisms of adidas is how they put all of their schools through a generic template and fail to do anything unique – even for a once-a-year special jersey.  For the most part, that holds true:  compare these to the new adidas uniforms for UCLA, Miami, and others.  Lots of similarities, especially the tire tread pattern.  However, I will acknowledge that adidas has finally done something unique for the Huskers, adding the word “HUSKERS” along the side of the jersey.

sideview

I appreciate the gesture, but all it does is clutter up a jersey that is already too busy.  Next time, replace your tire treads with the outline of the state.

Grade:  C

Pants

pants

Putting an “N” in the stripe is interesting.  I don’t hate it, but I don’t love it either.

Oh wait, that’s what I wrote a year ago when adidas made the same pants in red.

C’mon adidas.  Make an effort to do something new.  I understand the monochromatic looks are the big thing now, but I wouldn’t mind seeing this with red pants or even the silver – er, “forged steel” – from the outline of the numbers.

Points are deducted for the needless slashes through the stripes and the tire tread pattern.

Grade:  C-

Accessories

Let’s start with the cleats.

shoes

I love them.  Simple, clean, and a dramatic improvement over the 2014 version that looked orange under the lights.  Plus, they have ” a SPRINTSKIN upper with SHOCKWEB reinforcement and a SPRINTFRAME plate that provides maximum acceleration and multi-directional traction”*, which has to be good.

*Anybody else find it ironic that a company whose name does not have any capital letters creates products with the CAPS LOCK glued down?  Just me?

I have a seen a picture that suggests these will reflect very silver on the field, but I’m optimistic that will be okay.  If nothing else, they should take focus away from the ugly patterned dress socks.

Next up is the undershirt – I mean, “TECHFIT gun show baselayer”*.

undershirt

 

*You wish I was making that up.

As noted uniform critic Paul Lukas tweeted, “I think the red ‘N’ stands for ‘No.'”  I’m not a fan of the tire tread meets camouflage look on the sleeves, but it’s better than the “Z” that was on the arm last year.

Its interesting – at least as far as a discussion on alternate uniform accessories goes – that there are no close up pictures of the gloves.  All of the previous uniforms have had fancy gloves that make an “N” when the palms are placed side by side.  Surely, the new gloves do that – unless there wasn’t room after adidas put in “4-way stretch mesh for compression fit and GripTack 2.0 for consistent control in all weather conditions.”

Grade:  B

Overall

In what will be a surprise to nobody, I’m not a fan of these.  One last time, let’s go back to what I said a year ago:

I think for 2015, I will need to greatly lower my expectations.  I should expect adidas to provide Nebraska something that is on the line separating flashy and gaudy.  Something that looks like it came off a generic corporate template, instead of being inspired by Nebraska’s rich history.  I should expect a mediocre alternate from adidas, because that is all they have ever given us.

By those standards, adidas delivered 100%.  As you hopefully gathered by the corporate buzz speak that I sprinkled in from the press release, these uniforms are much more about adidas than they are about Nebraska.  Let’s take a look at the whole ensemble from head to toe.

headtotoe

There is very good potential here.  There really is.  I can’t believe my traditionalist fingers are going to type this, but that black helmet may be a keeper.  Silver shoes are silly, but no worse than the neon highlighter shoes many basketball teams wear.

Until Jason Peter says otherwise, I’m still of the opinion that black jerseys should not be worn by 4th string receivers.  That said, I could get on-board with an all-black get up similar to this.  Just simplify the look.  Lose the tire treads, the reflective numbers, the stripes that look like they survived an attack from Freddy Krueger, and you’d really have something nice.

It may not be as #HuskerBold as adidas would like, but I’d wager it would be better received.

Grade: C+

Should Nebraska Replace Adidas?

As a Nebraska football fan, I dread the months of July, and August.  Not because those months are painfully slow for news, the season feels light years away, or I’m already tired of predicting the team’s record for the upcoming season.

I dread this time of year because I know that any day now the new Husker football alternative uniform will be released.  If we’ve learned anything over the first three years of the “Unrivaled” series of alternate unis, it’s that they are routinely bad, mediocre at best, and downright awful at worst.

Of course, this is also the time of year where I start to get my hopes up and think “maybe this is the year that adidas knocks it out of the park and creates some spectacular.”  Surely, the three stripe folks – having recently lost Notre Dame and Tennessee, and reportedly being on the ropes with Michigan – will bring out their “a” game.  Right?

Um….about that….

*   *   *

A post on medium.com entitled “Adidas:  Sports Apparel Laughingstock“* chronicles a laundry list of screw ups and failings by adidas.

*As a public service, I should warn you to don protective eye-wear before clicking on that article, as it contains some images of athletic apparel that should come with an NC-17 rating.  We’re talking those Zubaz-inspired shorts adidas teams wore in the 2013 NCAA tournament, the cummerbund / fanny-pack look from this year, and some horrible Notre Dame alts.  

The alternate uniform history of adidas is such a dumpster fire that none of the Nebraska “Unrivaled” designs – and I use the word “designs” lightly – made the article.

A couple of quotes from the piece pull no punches:

  • “The pecking order of each of the Big Three sports apparel companies is abundantly clear: Nike is the gold standard, Under Armour is the millennial brand and adidas is a running joke.”
  • “Under Armour CEO Kevin Plank called adidas ‘our dumbest competitor’ this past February — and he wasn’t wrong.”
  • “Yes, Nike and Under Armour have had their misses with new uniforms, but they’ve also had a lot of hits. Adidas, on the other hand, almost exclusively sustains misses.”
  • “Making good-looking sports uniforms isn’t rocket science. All it takes is basic fashion rules and common sense. Unfortunately, adidas no longer has either.”

Ouch.

*   *   *

This may not be the best time to remind you that adidas provides apparel and footwear for each of NU’s 24 sports.  Nebraska’s contract with adidas was renewed in 2013, and expires in three years (June 30, 2018).

I’m not a sneaker-head nor an expert on the athletic apparel industry to say that adidas must go and [insert name of your preferred provider] should take over.  Certainly, if we’re just looking at this through the lens of ugly uniforms, EVERY provider has some disasters.  For all of the cool looks Nike has given Oregon, they’ve had their fair share of flops.  And any discussion of ugly uniforms must contain Under Armour’s long-standing desecration of the Maryland state flag.

It’s worth noting that NU’s 2013 renewal with adidas (approximately $8 million in cash and $7.5 million in apparel and equipment), is, in the words of Nebraska Chancellor Harvey Perlman “not a significant increase over the deal we had before.”  So why did the Huskers stay with adidas?  The Omaha World-Herald reported the deal was “more than any other apparel outfitter was willing to offer”.  The World-Herald cited discussions then-AD Tom Osborne had with Nike.

In other words, for Nebraska to have gotten out of their deal with adidas, they would have had to take less money and/or equipment from somebody else.  At a state school where the Athletic Department gets no tax dollars, the answer is pretty easy:  take the money.  But while Nebraska made the right choice in the short-term, did they make the best call long-term?

*   *   *

What is the impact of a bad apparel relationship?  Off the top of my head, three things come to mind:

Recruiting.  It always comes back that recruiting, doesn’t it?  If a main reason for having alternative uniforms (aside from merchandise sales) is to impress recruits, are you doing your recruiting a disservice by wearing “laughingstock” uniforms provided by a “running joke” of a company?  In other words, could you potentially lose a kid because he would rather wear the fancy costumes made by Nike or Under Armour instead of the silly suits made by adidas?

Merchandise.  As noted above, the other big reason for alternative jerseys is the prospect of selling new things to a fan base that loves to buy Husker gear.  But answer this:  how many people do you know who purchased a replica version of any of the three previous “Unrivaled” uniforms?  Of those folks, who many paid full price?  I considered buying a t-shirt replica of the 2014 duct tape jobs when the Nebraska Bookstore was closing, but even at 75% off, I couldn’t pull the trigger.  Had the design been better, I probably would have bought one at full price.

Program perception / brand.  For argument’s sake, let’s agree with the notion from the Medium.com piece that adidas is a distant third in the apparel pecking order.  How does that reflect on Nebraska being an adidas school – especially when one can make the argument that Nebraska is not in the top-tier of adidas schools?  Additionally, how does it reflect on the school – and the Nebraska Football brand – when they wear uniforms that are mocked and ridiculed?

*   *   *

So where do we go from here?

Even though I’m typing this while wearing a Nebraska shirt made by adidas, I don’t really care if the Huskers wear Nike, adidas, or Under Armour.  I not naive enough to think that by going with one of the other two everything magically becomes peaches and rainbows.

That said, I’m ready for a change.  Until adidas can a) prove that they can design their way out of a wet paper bag or b) give one of their premier schools something unique that is not all about adidas, I’m willing to see what the other guys can do.  Maybe it will better.  Maybe it will be worse.  But right now adidas is the 9 and 4 of athletic apparel providers.  Bad enough to make you want change, but just good enough to keep them for another year.

Regardless of what happens in 2018, for the next three years, we’re linked arm and arm with #teamadidas.  For better or for worse.

Hopefully, the Huskers can improve their on-field/on-court success before the next negotiation period to make them more attractive to all three companies.  A winning team and/or program on the rise will have better prospects than one mired in mediocrity.

As for this year’s alternates and the dread I’ll have until they are released?  Let me close with something I wrote last summer after another underwhelming uniform was released:

I’m beginning to think the biggest issue is my expectations.  I want Nebraska to have something cool.  Something unique yet classic.  Something the five-star recruits want to wear, but the farmers at the coffee shop will like.  Admittedly, that is a tall order.  Yet every year, I keep expecting the design team at adidas to deliver it.  Unfortunately, I don’t think they can.*

*Nor am I sure that Nike, Under Armour, Reebok, or any other apparel provider could deliver something I’d love, but I wouldn’t mind seeing their concepts…

I think for 2015, I will need to greatly lower my expectations.  I should expect adidas to provide Nebraska something that is on the line separating flashy and gaudy.  Something that looks like it came off a generic corporate template, instead of being inspired by Nebraska’s rich history.  I should expect a mediocre alternate from adidas, because that is all they have ever given us.

Husker Halloween in September

Thanks for stopping by!  While I am very grateful for those who take the time to read my work, I would greatly it if you read this one on HuskerMax.com.  

Why?  As a writer for the site, I earn a fraction of a penny per page view.  And with three mouths to feed, and a poor wife who becomes a football widow 12 Saturdays a year, I need those penny parts to keep everybody happy.  

Thank you,

Feit Can Write

Nebraska’s 2014 Alternate Uniforms Reviewed

Yesterday, Nebraska revealed the adidas TechFit uniforms they will wear against Illinois on September 27.  This is the third year of Nebraska wearing alternate uniforms, and as you may recall, I haven’t exactly been fond of the previous editions (2012, 2013).  So how do the new ones grade out?

Helmet

Easily the best component in the whole ensemble.  The matte red with the black sans-serif “N” looks sharp on its own.  Adding the slice of black on the rear of the helmet brings a unique (but not completely original) touch.  The overall lid is easily the best of the three Nebraska alternates to date – even if it may contain a hidden message of anarchy.

Grade:  B+

Jersey

I didn’t care for last year’s black jerseys (only Blackshirts should wear black jerseys.  Period.)  I like having Nebraska wear red jerseys at home.  So there’s that – and yes, it’s all downhill from here.

My son isn’t old enough to ask for something like a Huskers alternate jersey, which is too bad because this one would be a pretty easy do-it-yourself project.  You would only need three items:

  1. A red shirt – preferably a form-fitting workout type shirt.
  2. Duct tape – classic silver
  3. Electrical tape – basic black

All you would do is put the duct tape on the shirt in the shape of whichever number you want, then put the electrical tape over the top.  Boom.  You just saved $59.99, and made something just as beautiful as this jersey.

I’m not a fan of the pattern in the chest and shoulders.  What is that?  Lightning bolts?  Tiger stripes?  As I said last year, if adidas insists on having some print pattern on the jerseys, make Nebraska’s unique – like the outline of the state, small letter “N”s, or a micro print of Bo Pelini holding a cat.

But my biggest gripe is the missed opportunity.  As the uniform patch tells you, 2014 is the 125th season of Nebraska football.  I didn’t expect Nebraska’s alt to be a true throwback, but I was hoping it would at least draw some inspiration from an old Nebraska jersey*.  A faux-retro Bugeaters jersey would have been beyond amazing, which is clearly too much to ask.

*Technically adidas was inspired by Nebraska’s past, as the all-red is from the 2012 alternate and the divided numerals are from the 2013 version.

Grade:  C

Pants

I’m not a fan of the red on red look.  I didn’t care for it in 2012, and I don’t like it any better in 2014.  I can understand that the kids – and these things are designed with 18 year old recruits in mind – may not want white pants, but I’m not sure they want to look like ketchup bottles either.  I think the pants would have been much better in black.

I’m undecided on the leg stripes.  Initially, I hated them – more electrical tape! – but I’ve come back towards indifference.  Putting an “N” in the stripe is interesting.  I don’t hate it, but I don’t love it either.

Grade:  C+

Accessories

As if there was any doubt that these alternate uniforms are all about getting you to buy things, the photo gallery on Huskers.com has more pictures of the gloves, shoes, and undershirt (3) than they do of the entire uniform (2).

The undershirt cracks me up.  Where to start?  The “N” on the sleeve is odd.  Aside from the unanswered question of why there is only one, there is the problem that unless you’re walking around in a permanent gun show flex (as all alternate uniform models are), that “N” on your arm is going to look like a “Z”.

The giant “N” looks like something a super hero would wear (“It’s a bird!  It’s a plane!  It’s Nowledge Man!”).  Maybe the super hero concept helps to explain the reappearance of the lightning bolts on the sleeves.

But the biggest source of amusement will be seeing these shirts on Husker fans this fall.  Our model is an obviously fit young man, in the middle of a flex which raises his chest and shoulders.  The skin-tight shirt looks good on him.  Joe Fan at the tailgate or in row 78 probably won’t be as slender as the model, and likely will just be standing there not flexing.  I guess what I’m trying to say is I fully expect these base layer shirts to look ridiculous on anybody with more than 10% body fat.

Every time I see the receiver gloves that make a picture/logo when put together, I’m always surprised that they do not produce more 15 yard unsportsmanlike penalties than they do.  Again, this is another missed opportunity for the outline of the state, a big bullseye for Tommy Armstrong, or a picture of Bo holding a cat.

I think the cleats are rather ugly – especially with the black dress socks – but no more so than the rest of the ensemble.

Grade:  C

Overall

I don’t like these uniforms.

I know, that’s not exactly breaking news given my disdain for the two previous versions.  I’ll freely admit my grades are skewed by who I am:

  • I’m old enough to be the father of a Husker player, so I’m not in the target demographic for these uniforms.
  • I’m unabashedly traditionalist.  I’ve gone my whole life knowing what Nebraska will look like when they come out of the tunnel.  Red jerseys, white pants, the iconic white helmet with the simple red “N”.  The details of that look have changed over the years, but the core stays the same.  I like that.

But as we enter the third year of alternate uniforms (with my third straight bad grade), I’m beginning to think the biggest issue is my expectations.  I want Nebraska to have something cool.  Something unique yet classic.  Something the five star recruits want to wear, but the farmers at the coffee shop will like.  Admittedly, that is a tall order.  Yet every year, I keep expecting the design team at adidas to deliver it.  Unfortunately, I don’t think they can.*

*Nor am I sure that Nike, Under Armour, Reebok, or any other apparel provider could deliver something I’d love, but I wouldn’t mind seeing their concepts…

I think for 2015, I will need to greatly lower my expectations.  I should expect adidas to provide Nebraska something that is on the line separating flashy and gaudy.  Something that looks like it came off a generic corporate template, instead of being inspired by Nebraska’s rich history.  I should expect a mediocre alternate from adidas, because that is all they have ever given us.

Grade:  C-

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