Design of Sports: Evolving Uniforms - Design Bureau

Paul Lukas of Uni Watch, photo by Lori Baker

photo by Lori Baker



Game-Day Glossary

Design of Sports: Evolving Uniforms

Monday, August 8th, 2011

by Kyle Gilkeson

With a vocation like “the obsessive study of athletics aesthetics,” ESPN columnist and Uni Watch blog founder Paul Lukas notices design details on uniforms that go unseen by most of the world—even the most sports-savvy. We picked his brain to find out what exactly makes a uniform classically unforgettable or heinously regrettable. 

In your opinion, what makes a great uniform design? 

I generally favor simplicity; strong, iconic logos; bold, complementary colors; a strict avoidance of purple; and, ideally, a sense of texture (although that’s largely been lost with today’s modern fabrics). But there’s no formula, no recipe. And like any other design problem, each uniform solution is distinct, based on the team, the circumstances, etc. 

Historically, of any professional sport, what is considered the worst uniform design of all time? The best?

Lots of designs are in the running for the worst, but I usually lean toward the early-’60s Broncos and the late-’90s Devil Rays. As for the best, I’m a classicist: mid-’60s Packers and late-’60s Cardinals.

What is a trend in uniform design that you’d like to see make a comeback? What about one that should disappear?

Although it wasn’t a “trend” per se, I pine for the return of baseball stirrups. Football sleeves need to reappear, too. And a trend that’s long past its expiration date: black alternate jerseys.

What is one remarkable detail on uniforms that generally goes unnoticed by the viewing audience?

Shoelace colors can have a much greater effect on the look of the game than you might think. Really!

What’s your favorite uniform matchup in professional sports?

For baseball, give me a sunny afternoon at Wrigley Field with the [Chicago] Cubs hosting the [St. Louis] Cardinals. For football, a snowy late-November game at Lambeau Field between the [Green Bay] Packers and the [Chicago] Bears. NHL: [Montreal] Canadiens hosting the [New York] Rangers. NBA: [Boston] Celtics hosting the [San Antonio] Spurs.

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