TALK ABOUT THE NEW UNIFORMS IN OUR FORUMS!
Read Part 1 of Devil in the Details
Now that we've had the chance to sleep on the new California athletics brand identity, it's time to o back to that fancy NIKE publicity folder and pick apart the new football uniforms in greater detail.
An extension of our previous ‘Devil in the Details' segment of our Cal Uni Countdown leading up to the unveiling, we look at the little things that make -- and break -- this new look.
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The Shadow Knows
I'm a uniform traditionalist. In my book, simplicity is king. When you grow up watching these every summer, bells and whistles tend to be anathema.
Sometimes, little details are actually kind of cool (that's a detail shot of Oregon baseball's pinstripes, which are actually micro-printed lyrics to the school fight song). Most of the time, though, they fail the Is it good, or is it stupid? test. Miserably.
But, much like the map of the Battle of the Bulge set into Army's uniform numbers last season, I think the roaring bear set into the new Cal uniform set is a big win.
Now, I'm not the guy stitching these numbers onto the jerseys, and trying to custom-make each digit for each different number, but the best part of this new look is that it doesn't beat you about the head and neck. You can only see it very close up, either on a high-definition screen or if you're actually on the field. It's something a player can look down at in a moment of doubt, and say, ‘Hell yeah, I'm a Bear. Roar.'
The same goes for the sublimated bear on the home blue jersey shoulder caps. Instead of calling attention to the design element like the other jerseys do, the home blues don't try too hard with the bear on the shoulder. Again, it's darker-on-dark, and is only visible up close.
This is the exact kind of detail that plays well with recruits. Is a prospect going to attend any given school solely because of the uniforms? No. But, if they see the care and work that go into a nifty component like this when they're on their recruiting trip, or, say, when they put on the jersey on an official visit, these can make a very powerful statement, driving home the idea of being on the field in that uniform.
Additionally, the use of sublimation extends beyond just football. While we have yet to see the new men's basketball uniforms (which will still be Jordan Brand, but will be re-vamped using the new colors and graphic identity), the women's hoops jerseys take advantage of the watermark-style detailing, showing off Sather Gate behind the back numbers, with the new bear logo occupying the lower back.
FINAL GRADE: A+
Just a Flesh Wound
It's no secret I wasn't a fan of the bear slash motif on the old uniforms, which has already been riffed on by other schools and even high schools.
But I'm actually kind of digging the new mark. For one, it actually looks like a bear claw, and it's not dependent on lining up with an underarm gusset for it to work. It stands alone as exactly what it should be: an accent piece.
It does double duty by not only looking good, but also letting the Swoosh take advantage of the different fabrics it uses in uniform construction, rather than being dragged down by it. It's also bold enough that, even as a part of the worst combination the Bears will sport, it serves to break up the leotard look.
This uniform element also gets bonus points for allowing room for the full bear logo as a patch on the right hip. While the mock-ups distributed by NIKE show a blank right hip on the blue pants, the Swoosh came to its senses and added the patch by the time the uniforms were unveiled.
FINAL GRADE: A-
Fight for Little C?
While establishing a new, uniform font for all of Cal athletics is surely a noble pursuit, and while the new font works for football, volleyball and basketball well enough, for other sports, it's kind of meh (rendered here in my own mock-up).
Baseball, rugby and softball are different animals when it comes to uniform fonts. Older and more traditional fonts and elements like banner tails and vertically-arched lettering are hallmarks of the diamond sports and we all know that Cal rugby is as blue-collar, no-frills as it gets.
With the new font's application guidelines forbidding any kind of kerning changes or arching, what Cal baseball and Cal softball will get is kind of bland-looking togs if they just replace old script with new. The font isn't too jarring if it's just used on the numerals, though, and would be even better if we see more sublimated bears inside them across the other sports.
Another consequence of introducing this font is that the Block C will now only be seen from the quarters of the Big C Society and up on the rugged eastern foothills.
The sad thing here is that the Big C has been the victim of bad publicity. The fact that it's been been depicted in so many different ways was what led to its downfall as a graphic identifier, according to athletic director Sandy Barbour.
While the C has long been associated with Cal baseball and Cal crew (seen here in 1908), it will now fall by the wayside as the new typography is used.
The new, taller C isn't going to do ball caps any favors, as the current block C -- which out of all of the variations, most closely resembles the original Big C -- will be ditched in favor of the skinnier, taller letter. The awkwardness can be mitigated if the new bear logo is used on baseball caps, but there's no certainty that's going to happen. If, instead of the new typography used for a wordmark across the jerseys, NIKE decides to go with the bear logo, well, now we're cooking.
Until we see how the other teams across the board will be applying the new font, word mark and logo, it's tough to give this an overall grade. The new font is good for football, basketball, volleyball and several other sports, but depending on its application, could look pretty out-of-place elsewhere. For now, I'm inclined to wait and see.
FINAL GRADE: INCOMPLETE
Missed our exclusive Cal Uni Countdown? Take a look at what Cal Sports Digest thinks are the best and worst uniforms in Cal football history with our 10-part feature!
Cal Uni Countdown: Polar Bear Checks in at No. 10
Cal Uni Countdown: Far From Cloud Nine
Cal Uni Countdown: The Ocho
Cal Uni Countdown: Lucky Number Seven
Cal Uni Countdown: Gold Reserves Check in at No. 6
Cal Uni Countdown: High Five
Cal Uni Countdown: Four on the Floor
Cal Uni Countdown: Three and the Tree
Cal Uni Countdown: Just Jackie
Cal Uni Countdown: The Golden Rule
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