Various players look up at Dikembe Mutombo's ugly jersey (Scott Cunningham/ Getty).
Back in the early '00s, NBA jerseys were in a dark place. Over the precious decade, franchises had married the x-treme aesthetic of the Mountain Dew generation to relentless focus-grouping, resulting in horribly busy outfits filled with garish colors, obtrusive graphics, and totally unnecessary pinstripes (tall people don't need to look taller, guys). By the time the century turned, those designs had grown horribly outdated. When teams wore retro jerseys from the '70s and '80s to honor their histories, fans loved the alternative. Eventually, permanent uniforms returned to the simple looks of that era.
Fashion goes in cycles, though, and now we're on the brink of seeing those in-your-face '90s jerseys again. According to Paul Lukas of UniWatch (via TBJ), several NBA teams have plans to wear them as throwbacks this season:
"I saw the Spring 2013 Adidas NBA Catalog and there are some new on-court offerings," says Chris Blackstone. "There are new jerseys for Christmas Day and for home weekend games during the second half of season, called the Winter Court jerseys. They're monochrome like the all-black Miami uniforms from the past couple years, but in team colors. Also, there are Hardwood Classic jerseys for Indiana (home from 1997-98 through 2004-05), Milwaukee (late '90s), Chicago (mid-'90s alternate), Atlanta (late-'90s road), Miami (late-'90s alternate), Sacramento (mid-'90s alternate), Phoenix (1990s alternate), Philly (early-'90s road), Cleveland (mid-'90s road), Toronto (late-'90ss home), Houston (late-'90s road), and Utah (late-'90s road)." No word on whether the NBA plans to put ads on throwbacks in 2013.
I came of an age as an NBA fan during this era, yet even I have few fond memories of these jerseys. The Rockets one, for instance, includes gradient stripes, a cartoon rocket, and a very large number over the chest. That's pretty much the definition of "too busy," almost like Poochie D in clothing form. Yet even that look is arguably better than those of the Cavs and Bucks. It's unclear who wins here, other than fans of irony.
I am not a fashion ascetic — I even liked some of the postseason's more adventurous postgame outfits. But sometimes people engage in nostalgia for its own sake, or as a way to sell new jerseys. These designs are ugly with very few exceptions (the Bulls looks are remembered well because of the Jordan/Pippen era, and the Phoenix look isn't half-bad). To look back on them as classic just because they're retro is to fetishize the past for being the past.
Why not take the best elements of these jerseys — like, say, creative use of images — as inspiration and develop new ideas for uniforms? Why, exactly, must we forever mine the past instead of building towards a better future? And why does anyone want to bring back teal?
- Sports & Recreation