A good football uniform always starts with the helmet design. And in that regard, the Jacksonville Jaguars have made a huge improvement.
Then again, they had nowhere to go but up. The Jaguars' new uniform set, which was unveiled today, officially marks the end of the line for the team's two-tone helmet. The strange-looking design -- half-black, half-gold -- was introduced in 2013 but never made sense and never looked right on the field. Many observers (including this one) considered it to be the worst helmet design in NFL history.
That helmet, thankfully, is now gone. In its place a standard glossy black shell with the team's familiar primary logo. Based on this move alone, the team's new uniform set is a significant upgrade.
But we're getting ahead of ourselves. Let's take a closer look at the Jags' new uniforms, one element at a time (with the usual caveat that we'll need to see these uniforms on the field before rendering a final judgment).
The team colors
The Jaguars can't seem to make up their minds about their color set. Their original uniforms (which your friendly uniform columnist loved) featured teal, gold and black -- a sensational color combo. In 2009 they eliminated the gold trim, and then in 2013 they brought it back. Now they've eliminated it again.
The Jags have been hinting about this in various ways for the past month or so (their 2018 NFL draft cap, for example, which was released last week, says "Black and Teal" -- no mention of gold), so the loss of the gold trim isn't a surprise, but it's still disappointing. The gold elements paired beautifully with the black and teal, added warmth to the overall design and made sense for a team playing in the Sunshine State. Reducing the color palette to black, white, and teal -- essentially what the team wore from 2009 through 2012 -- feels like a step backwards. It's not a terrible color combo, but it's not as good as it could be -- or as good as it once was.
Also disappointing: Many fans had hoped that the team would restore teal as its primary jersey color, but the new black jersey will serve as the primary, with the teal design serving as the alternate (which, by NFL rule, can only be worn twice per season). Even worse, a team spokesman says the plan is for the team to pair the black jersey with black pants for most home games, which creates a clichéd mono-black look (and also seems like an odd choice for a team playing in the hot Florida sun). Grade: B-
Halle-freakin'-lujah -- no more two-tone. Going back to a standard black shell, similar to the franchise's inaugural headgear, may not be the most creative approach (when we recently invited readers to redesign the Jags, several of the best design submissions featured a jaguar-spotted helmet -- imagine if the team had gone that route!), but it's still a huge upgrade over what they've been wearing for the past five seasons. And now that they're back to wearing a black helmet, that opens the door to wearing the awesome Mark Brunell-era uniform as a throwback. Grade: A-
Let's start with the good news: The number font is fine, and the sleeve color matches the rest of the jersey, both of which are upgrades over the previous set.
But there are problems. The lack of outlining on the numbers feels too plain, and what's the deal with repeating the helmet logo on the chest? This type of element generally adds needless clutter, but a team can maaaaybe get away with it if the logo is a defined shape, like a circle, an oval, or -- as the Jags themselves have shown -- a shield. But the free-floating jag's head, with nothing to anchor it, feels too random.
These jerseys are still better than the ones they're replacing, but not nearly as good as they could have been. Grade: C+
Much like the old helmets, the old pants were so ridiculous that there was nowhere to go but up. Now the pendulum has swung all the way to the other side, as the team is going with a minimalist design -- no side striping, no hip logo, just a thin band of color at the back of the base of each pant leg. Underdesigned pants are probably better than overdesigned pants, but would it have killed them to include some piping down the sides? Grade: B
NFL socks, once a stronghold of stripes, have become almost an afterthought in recent years. But the Jags' new hosiery actually breaks new ground with a curved upper stripe -- something that's never appeared before on an NFL uniform. In theory, it should look great; in practice, NFL players these days tend to take a lot of liberties with their socks (they wear the stripes at different heights, or wear tights and/or leg-warmers instead of standard socks), so the Jags' new curved stripes may end up looking muddled on the field. Still, it's a nice design touch. Maybe it'll open up some new possibilities for lower-leg football stylings. Grade: A-
There's a fine line between a uniform and a costume, and the Jags' previous uni set was on the wrong side of it. Their latest redesign addresses that problem -- they look like a football team again, not like comic book characters -- but they may have overcompensated by stripping down to too much of a no-frills look. The new helmet is a huge improvement, but most of the rest of the set isn't as strong as it could be. Overall grade: B-
Paul Lukas really hopes the Jaguars add that Mark Brunell-era throwback to their wardrobe. If you like this column, you'll probably like his Uni Watch Blog, plus you can follow him on Twitter and Facebook and sign up for his mailing list so you'll always know when a new column has been posted. Want to learn about his Uni Watch Membership Program, check out his Uni Watch merchandise, or ask him a question? Contact him here.