DETROIT -- The Detroit Lions wanted to honor their past. That was the main focus given to Nike designer Steve McClard when he initially was told the Detroit Lions wanted to redesign their uniforms.
And when McClard heard about the project, he made sure no one else touched it. This would be his. McClard grew up a Lions fan, first rooting for running back Billy Sims in the 1980s. He’d been in Oregon for a while, yet still caught games and highlights as much as he could.
So for the 46-year-old from Shelby Township, Michigan, this was close to a dream come true to design the uniforms for his hometown team.
“Peeling back, all the way back to the '30s, we definitely saw some patterns,” McClard said. “The Lions used to have really simple, bold expressions of uniforms. We had fallen off that and the evolution of the blue just naturally happened because of the material innovations, so it was kind of getting back to those simple, pure expressions our team set out as our main goal.”
Wood said the decision to get new jerseys started a season ago, when he saw the franchise’s all-black color rush jersey the team never ended up wearing. He then approached Nike about a possible redesign, including losing black from the color scheme.
The Lions went to four uniforms to give Detroit different options for home and away. He said they went back and forth about different designs, but always felt they were heading “in the right direction” when it comes to what the team wanted in their new duds. Wood said the Lions definitely will wear the home, road and throwback jerseys this season and will wait to see the NFL schedule before deciding on the color rush.
Gone is the black. In is as close to an approximation of the original Honolulu blue as the Nike color palette would allow. In, too, is more gray -- officially termed anthracite, or dark steel gray -- for the color rush jersey. The color rush pants will be anthracite with no stripes.
The home jersey will be matched with silver pants along with a vertical Honolulu blue stripe on the sides. The away pants will be blue -- for the most part -- with silver stripes similar to the blue for the home jersey.
The accentuation on the home and throwback jerseys is the team’s traditional silver, while the away jerseys are white with blue numbers with the anthracite trim. The Lions now have throwback uniforms available to wear for the first time since Thanksgiving in 2010 when the franchise wore throwbacks against New England. The throwback pants will be silver with no stripes.
The socks for home, road and throwback jerseys will be blue. The socks for the color rush jerseys will be anthracite to match the rest of the uniform.
“We wanted to get the black out of the uniforms and go back to the traditional Honolulu blue and silver,” Wood said. “That kind of led us to coming up with the creative ideas on what we could do to keep the Honolulu blue and silver, but also modernize the look.
“We added the option of wearing blue pants on the road, which we did, I think, for a couple of years. That’s different. The color rush, I think, is very sharp. We didn’t want to go with just our blue jerseys and blue pants. We wanted to go with something that was different and was part of our colors. So it was a great process.”
The sleeves on the home, road and color rush jerseys have stripes -- silver on the home jersey, blue on the away jersey and white on the color rush jersey. On the right sleeve, the word “Lions” will be screen printed. On the left sleeve, the initials “WCF” will be permanently part of the jersey. The WCF stands for William Clay Ford, the team’s late owner.
Initially, Ford had been honored with a patch on the franchise’s jerseys after his death in 2014. That has been moved to the sleeve, somewhat similar to what the Bears have for George Halas. Wood said the Lions had to apply to the NFL to make it a permanent change to their jerseys.
“It’s just honoring Mr. Ford’s 50-plus-year leadership of the organization,” Wood said. “The patch was designed to commemorate his ownership the year of his passing and we kept it for the first two years, and since we were doing this redesign it was an opportunity to take the patch off and move it into a more permanent location on the sleeve.”
The uniform itself is the Nike Vapor Untouchable uniform, which has fewer panels and seams than traditional jerseys and other uniforms Nike has made. The uniform and pants weigh a combined 20.4 ounces and are water resistant for games played in wet conditions.
The Lions players have not worn the new uniforms for extensive periods yet, but tight end Eric Ebron -- one of three players brought to Ford Field on Thursday to help with the jersey reveal -- said they feel lighter than their previous jerseys. He said he’s “in love” with the new design and that they can mix and match jersey and pants more.
Ebron said the uniform had “a better feel” even while moving to pose for pictures. He said he believes the Lions “have got the best uniforms in the National Football League” now, although he believes Seattle has a better color scheme.
“It’s not like I ran 60 yards with it, so we’re definitely going to have to test that out, but it definitely feels a lot better,” Ebron said. “If Nike says it’s lighter, it’s lighter. I’m going with whatever Nike says.”
And the Lions players are hoping the new uniforms might lead to success on the field. While the franchise is honoring its past, it’s a past that has not had much success. Detroit has one playoff win in the Super Bowl era, has not won a divisional title since 1993 and has yet to reach a Super Bowl.
“It’s definitely a lot better feel,” Ebron said. “As long as we feel better as players, we’re going to play better and hopefully going to do things different.”