Uni Watch: UA goes back to school

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Under Armour celebrated its 20th anniversary Thursday night by unveiling some new college football uniforms, including two that had been highly anticipated: Notre Dame's latest Shamrock Series design and the apparel outfitter's first uniform under its new contract with Wisconsin.

In one case, Under Armour's designers may have done too little. In the other, they definitely did too much.

Let's start with Wisconsin. Fans who thought the team might get one of Under Armour's extreme makeovers will be relieved (or, depending on one's point of view, disappointed) to learn that the Badgers will still look like, well, the Badgers. At a glance, the biggest changes are the number font and the addition of the school's motion-W logo to the jersey's chest.

In addition, a series of arrows have been incorporated into the striping on the jersey sleeves, pants, and helmet, symbolizing the program's new slogan, "Forever Forward," which was inspired by the Wisconsin state motto, "Forward."

Overall: a slight downgrade. The new number font is too cartoonish, the arrows are too gimmicky (especially since some of them are pointing up, not forward, which doesn't match the program or state motto), and it all feels like change for change's sake, as if Under Armour said, "This is our first uniform for you, you have to let us redesign something," and Wisconsin responded, "Eh, OK, but only if it's really small." The Badgers will still be a good-looking team this fall, but not quite as sharp as last year under Adidas.

Then again, the Wisconsin uniform looks like a masterpiece compared to Notre Dame's latest Shamrock Series design, which the Fighting Irish will unfortunately wear on Nov. 12 while facing Army at the Alamodome in San Antonio.

By now everyone understands the basic idea behind the Shamrock Series uniforms: The Irish normally wear one of college football's most conservative, traditional designs, so for one game each year they get to cut loose and wear some sort of wacky superhero costume. It's like the premise behind the "Purge" movie series -- an annual day of mayhem, just to take the edge off.

If you like that approach, you'll love this year's Shamrock Series uniform. Since the opposing team is Army, the Irish are wearing olive instead of their usual shade of green. Unfortunately, this color really puts the "drab" in olive drab -- sort of a down-on-your-luck of the Irish.

As is typical for this type of uniform, there are lots of details that seem geared more toward a news conference than a football game. The helmets and sleeves, for example, feature an archway with a "God, Country, Notre Dame" inscription, which can be found at the Basilica of the Sacred Heart on the Notre Dame campus. Take a good look at them now, because they'll probably be reduced to a blur when you're watching the game.

This type of uniform almost resists critique because it's not really intended to be a uniform -- it's intended to create the feel of a comic book, or even a movie. If that's your thing, then by all means, reach for the popcorn. If not, well, the Irish will be wearing their regular uniforms for their other 12 games.

Paul Lukas writes about uniforms for ESPN.com. If you liked 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.