Thirty days ago, I made a premature call about Maryland’s new football uniforms. I called the leaked images “disgusting,” and railed against the removal of names off the back. Last night, Maryland unveiled the uniforms in full. While I still wouldn’t mind seeing some surnames stitched on, I am singing a different tune. These duds might not be terrible, and the helmet has so much to do with it. Let’s take a look:
- Those helmets! It seems, judging by the photo posted to the UM twitter account, that the black helmet will be the first-choice lid for the 2011 Terps. The logo-less, state-flag striped number is going to be an instant classic in college football if Maryland wins more than four games this season. Giving it that matte finish makes it look powerful in its simplicity, whereas a glossy black finish would just make it look like an arena league helmet. The terrapin-shell themed white helmet works for me as long as its trotted out in moderation. I’m usually against programs having two helmets in the regular rotation, because the more you vary a brand, the more you dilute it. The way to counter this, it seems, it to vary it so much that the variance itself becomes the brand. It would be easy to point to Oregon as a successful example of this tactic. Whether you like the hundreds of possible combinations that Oregon garbs itself it on game day, you have an opinion one way or another. They are synonymous with pushing the boundaries of what football uniforms are supposed to look like, even if they sometimes misfire. I could see these helmets sticking around after the uniform evolves beyond the current jersey and pant combinations into (hopefully) something simpler.
- The nice thing about uniforms with a lot of design elements is that the monochromatic versions usually work much better than with a traditional uniform. Sure, Penn State’s all-whites look good because they’ve been that way for decades, but they cannot compare to their home blue over whites. The Maryland all-red, all-black, all-white, and yes even all-gold strips completely work for me. There’s a unity there that makes them seem like they are part of a singular concept.
- What we don’t see in the picture above is the combinations that I think will work the best behind the single-tone looks. Red over white, black over white, red over black, and even white over yellow I think could all be strong color combos that we could potentially see.
- In the rhetoric around this release, the school stressed that the design concept and the team emphasis is much more about the state than the players or even the school. I think this is pretty unique and wonderful. Maryland has in my opinion the best and most unique state flag in the entire union, and our state is small enough that U. of M. can lay claim to representing the entire state. Kudos to them for keeping the tradition of incorporating our unique colors mascot.
- The terrapin shell patterns on the shoulders are a clear nod to the winged Oregon Ducks. They work on the white and red jerseys because they are subtle, but the fact that they used the contrasting red for the “shoulder shell” on the black and yellow tops make them stand out in an undesirable way.
- The number font isn’t bad, but the fake chrome, gradient-style numbers themselves do not work for me. I’d like to see something simpler there, and in a single color.
- Overall I’m just not a fan of black pants in general. It works for very few schools and for the rest it feels like a forced tough-guy look. One of my least favorite parts of the Jon Harbaugh era in Baltimore is the move away from the all-whites on the road to the white over black combo.
- As a design in general, it is certainly bold and to an extent unique. UnderArmour has their logo stamped on some very good, classic college uniforms they had nothing to do with (Auburn) and some very poor uniforms they had everything to do with (South Carolina). It took Nike a few years to hone their designs after the Denver Broncos-style uniforms of the late 90s and early 00s began sweeping the gridiron. Again, say what you will about Oregon, but the execution on the latest iteration of their uniforms is more deft, clean, and professional than what UnderArmour is outfitting the Terps with. They may get there eventually, but they are not Oregon East (yet).