By Chris Mahr
One of the most popular items that I tweeted out from Lost Lettermen’s account on Wednesday was a picture that was originally posted to Reddit with the billing “Oregon’s Home Opener Uniforms!”
Two duck eyes were added directly above the forehead, and orange paint rendered the face-guard as beak-like. The jerseys had a sailor knot below the neck a la Donald Duck, and orange socks and cleats had everything below the knees resembling duck feet.
Unsurprisingly, these are not actually the uniforms that Oregon will wear on Sept. 1 against Arkansas State. They are a mockup from Charlie Sollars. (If the name rings a bell, it’s because we featured his helmet designs on Lost Lettermen in March.)
But a funny thing happened when I tried making a joke out of this. Posting the mockup to Twitter, I got the expected “This is awful” line of commentary. What I didn’t expect were responses from people who actually liked the design.
— Dave Smith (@DaveSmith_1) August 15, 2012
— The Future Dr. J (@RmJackson13) August 15, 2012
And Reddit user JavaLSU pointed out the following: “The best part about this post and thread, is that Oregon has conditioned us so much, that we actually had to convince ourselves that it isn’t real.”
You need not worry about the rantings of a staunch traditionalist who wants to go back to uniforms that are only gray, blue or white. I like seeing evolutions in uniform design just as much as anyone else. When Oregon’s space-aged uniforms touched down at the Rose Bowl, I welcomed them with open arms.
(This in spite of Lost Lettermen’s grade of a C+. Remember, I wasn’t working for them yet.)
But there’s a flip side to this greater-than-ever emphasis on coming up with the newest, one-of-a-kind uniform design. Surely you remember where you were when Maryland seemingly crawled out of the head of Tim Burton and took the field for its 2011 season opener against Miami.
Congratulations, Under Armour. You broke Twitter. But no one said that garnering that kind of attention required a complete abandonment of design aesthetics.
Here’s my memo to any school or outfitter looking to make a statement with their uniforms. If you’re at the point where your front-running design follows a kitchen sink approach, STOP EVERYTHING!!!
And go retro.
It’s not the most forward-thinking design approach, but it works. In a story Lost Lettermen wrote two weeks ago encouraging Pitt to readopt its old “Script” logo, we spoke to a Pittsburgh-area creative director named Bryan Brunsell. He kindly provided us with updated prototypes of some “old is new” helmets, and they looked beautiful.
At the NFL level, both the Giants and Jets have earned rave reviews for readopting the uniforms that they wore during the 1960s. (I’m a native Bostonian praising the uniforms of New York teams. Just think about that for a moment.)
I’m not trying to stem creativity in college football. All I’m asking for is a “less is more” and/or a “one step at a time” approach when making changes.
And if ever inspiration strikes to have your uniform resemble a Jackson Pollack painting, just take a deep breath and stop. Sometimes the best course of action for the future is by going back in time.
Chris Mahr is the managing editor at Lost Lettermen. His column appears on Tuesdays and Thursdays. You can follow him on Twitter at @CMahrtian.