Sometimes a team needs a serious overhaul of its look. But there are also times that call for evolution, not revolution. The Detroit Lions' new uniforms, which were unveiled on Thursday night, are a good example of that.
One welcome change running throughout the new set: The new design focuses on the team's longtime signature colors of Honolulu blue and silver, without a trace of black -- a move that had been announced earlier this year. Black was added to the team's visual program in 2003, reportedly at the instigation of then-GM Matt Millen, who wore black during his playing days with the Oakland Raiders. Although Millen left the Lions in 2008, black had remained in the team's color scheme until now. It never felt right as Lions color, and removing it is a textbook case of addition by subtraction.
Let's take a look at the new set, one element at a time:
New Lions helmet, with updated striping and chrome mask. pic.twitter.com/WdIruV1bhj— Paul Lukas (@UniWatch) April 14, 2017
The new chrome face mask looks great with the silver shell and makes sense for this city (a chrome grille for Detroit, get it?). The leaping lion logo looks better without the black outline, too. The only mild concern here is the new center striping, which looks like it might be a tad wide -- let's see how that looks on the field. Overall, though, nicely done. Grade: A-
The home uniform
Lions' new home uniform. pic.twitter.com/oXn5Vl5ISN— Paul Lukas (@UniWatch) April 14, 2017
Soooo much better without all the black trim. And look, the "Lions" chest lettering is gone, too -- a good move. Too bad they're sticking with a gimmicky number font, but at least this one is less gimmicky than the previous one. Of greater concern is the decision to put text inside the sleeve stripes: team wordmark on one side (always a bad idea) and the William Clay Ford memorial, which had previously been worn as a patch, on the other (doesn't look terrible, but it feels too much like a transparent copy of the Bears' similar sleeve memorial for George Halas). Grade: B+
The road uniform
Lions' new road uniform. pic.twitter.com/tUTWx6vIQ1— Paul Lukas (@UniWatch) April 14, 2017
Love it. The team previously wore blue pants in 1998 -- a great look then and now. There's one major flaw here -- the blue socks, which will combine with the blue pants to create the dreaded leotard effect (they'd be better off using white socks with blue striping) -- but otherwise this looks sharp. Grade: A-
The Thursday night uniform
Lions' new Thursday-night uniform. pic.twitter.com/BcSimylnjq— Paul Lukas (@UniWatch) April 14, 2017
The Lions were given a solid-black uniform last season but never got to wear it because they didn't have a Thursday night game. That uniform, as it turns out, will never make it onto the field, which might seem like a blessing until you see the solid-gray design that's replacing it -- woof. Blue would've been a better option. Gray just makes it look like the player has been stuck in a lint trap or something. Grade: F
The throwback uniform
Lions' new throwback. pic.twitter.com/jRwybCEreN— Paul Lukas (@UniWatch) April 14, 2017
This is the latest rendition of the minimalist throwback that the Lions have worn many times on Thanksgiving. No striping, no TV numbers, no frills, no nonsense, no problem. It is a bit plain, though. Grade: B+
Overall, not bad. All of the uniforms are rendered in Nike's new Vapor Untouchable template, which among other things means Lions fans will no longer be subjected to that annoying flywire collar -- a big upgrade.
The Lions are the seventh NFL team to get a full uniform makeover since Nike took over as the league's official outfitter in 2012. The other six are the Cleveland Browns, Jacksonville Jaguars, Miami Dolphins, Minnesota Vikings, Seattle Seahawks and Tampa Bay Buccaneers. At least one other team, the Tennessee Titans, is known to be planning a uniform change for 2018. Another club, the Los Angeles Rams, plans to unveil new uniforms in 2019, to coincide with the opening of the team's new stadium.
Paul Lukas writes about uniforms for ESPN.com. If you like this column, you'll probably like his Uni Watch Blog, plus you can follow him on Twitter and Facebook. Want to learn about his Uni Watch Membership Program, be added to his mailing list so you'll always know when a new column has been posted or just ask him a question? Contact him here.