June 23, 2009
Uniform posts are traditionally the refuge of the bored blogger. Oregon, on the other hand, in conjunction with their benevolent corporate overlords at Nike, has a tradition of pushing the boundaries of athletic fashion. The Ducks' last rollout, in 2006, offered no less than 384 possible game-day combinations, at least 380 of them manifestly hideous to most of mainstream America. That day-glo cornucopia somehow failing to satisfy, the Ducks unveiled their newest line today in a press conference that, unfortunately, was less "Paris runway" than "Eugene locker room." But these things sound exciting:
• According to Nike, Oregon employs the "fastest-playing uniforms" in college football, which is probably unquantifiable with existing cloth-clocking technology. These duds also mark the deployment of something called "Nike Pro Combat," protective equipment allegedly integrated into the uni pieces themselves. Other new features touted by Nike: A 25 percent reduction in weight, more breathable materials, titanium belt rings, and "carbon textured anti-abrasion shoulder reinforcements," which sounds like it was made up on the spot but actually was probably engineered and market-tested into oblivion.
• Players were active in the design process -- Nike sent reps to campus to meet with a few members the team and discuss what was most important to them in a new uniform. They would have skipped the middle man and gone straight to the Ducks' most important recruiting targets, but that would have been a violation or something.
• As for the unis themselves: Not bad. Not bad at all. Traditionalists are going to have a lot less to scream about this time around, other than the, uh, duck-wing pattern on the shoulders, introduced in last year's Arizona game (see above) and now a feature of every uniform at the request of the players. Otherwise, the five new looks on display today allow the Ducks to maintain their ability to trot out any one of approximately one godzillion combinations on a given Saturday. The green-on-green home uniforms are the clear winner here; it's a clean modern look that'll pop well in HD.
• For all the talk of Thunder Green and Lightning Yellow, the much-maligned highlighter shades are are nowhere to be seen. And one of the away looks introduced actually contains no green or yellow at all, just a white jersey and silver pants in a shade that the Nike rep solemnly referred to as "steel."
• The only combination that induced any eyerolling was the black "Lights Out" look, for the simple fact that it exists. (Are we the only ones sick to death of "blackout" jerseys? We're not, are we?)
• Details: Even the proprietary Oregon font, "Bellotti Bold" -- of course Oregon has its own proprietary font -- gets a few new tweaks. The shoes were not discussed, but several of the modeling players were wearing black and yellow cleats vaguely (and promisingly) evocative of Dick Tracy.
• Highlight of the afternoon: New head coach Chip Kelly being asked about his level of input in the creative process and replying that he needed to "win a couple games" before he would be allowed to mess with team fashion.
• Obligatory sign of economic distress: Like 'em or not, you'll have to get used to the new looks, as they're meant to last the team three to four whole years. Does our national deprivation know no bounds?