January 26, 2011
Now you see them ... uh, now you dont? The San Diego Padres unveiled their new camouflage jerseys on Tuesday and there's already some speculation that the team's attention to detail might prove to be a little too effective in 2011.
While the Padres have worn two other camouflage jerseys since adopting the tradition in 2000, the previous versions used bolder prints worn by the Army and Navy. These new threads are meant to honor the Marines, but the MARPAT (short for "Marine Pattern") was designed by a computer and it features smaller splotches that are much harder to detect.
"Digitial camouflage," it's often called.
While these jerseys probably won't play major visual tricks on our eyes — it's not like the players are going to completely disappear from sight when framed against green grass — a few Marines say the Padres' tribute to the military won't be as easy to recognize as it has been in the past (see past examples below).
In other words, this is camouflage in its truest sense. From a distance, these new uniforms might simply look brown or green or whatever color the fabric has morphed into at that moment.
The digital pattern creates no solid lines or edges and blurs the outline of the human profile. Even the seams have soft edges.
As a Marine wearing a MARPAT uniform moves around, the colors mesh with the background.
"Up close, they look great," said Jack Ensch, the Padres' retiring director of military affairs. "But they are going to blend in more on television and from the stands. Many fans aren't going to be able to tell that these are camouflage uniforms paying tribute to the military."
The Marines quoted in that article above say they're still honored that the Padres have adopted their pattern, but not everyone likes the continued use of camouflage on uniforms. Uni Watch's Paul Lukas made his case against the practice a few years ago and the Padres' alternates were recently named the third-worst uniform in sports.
While I haven't liked the Chicago White Sox or Cincinnati Reds donning copycat camo uniforms in recent years, the Padres' tribute has always seemed top notch to me. It's actually one of the better community outreach efforts by a team, considering the city's military history and the composition of its fan base.
What's even cooler is that the team made the effort to recognize a third branch with these new tops. The authenticity of the Marines' uniforms might cause problems, sure, but it's that commitment to realism that keeps it a tribute that is rooted in honor and respect.
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