The Charlotte Hornets are going back to the future.
That's the takeaway from the team's new uniform set, which was unveiled Thursday and will make its on-court debut this fall. The team, formerly known as the Charlotte Bobcats, has made a strong bid to reclaim the original Hornets' visual legacy while staking out some new aesthetic turf.
The uniforms are similar to designs that were described on the Uni Watch Blog back in January. Let's take a look at them, one at a time:
1. The home whites. Even for a confirmed purple-hater, there's a lot to like here. The lettering and numbering feel balanced and properly sized, the pinstripes down the left side (which is not repeated on the right) adds a nice bit of pizzazz, and the crossover collar is a nice nod to the original Hornets uni. If they're smart enough to leave this alone, it has a chance to become a modern classic. Grade: A
2. The road purples. Same basic template, but it doesn't work as well with this color treatment. Some white outlining on the uniform number would help immensely. Maybe they can make that change at some point down the road. Grade: B-minus
3. The teal alternates. Teal is one of the few colors that the NBA allows to be worn at home or on the road, and that's what the Hornets plan to do with this uniform. Look for it to be worn 16 to 20 times, although the home-to-road mix hasn't yet been determined. As for the design, this is another case where white outlining on the numbers would go a long way. On the plus side, the diving hornet on the shorts looks great (the home and road shorts have the team's "hornet's cell" secondary logo). Still, that's going to be a lot of teal when you have five guys wearing it on the court all at once. Grade: B-minus
Overall, not bad, but with a bit of room for improvement.
A few additional notes:
• The jerseys do not feature the NBA logo in its familiar upper-chest positioning. Instead, the logo appears on the back, above the player name. It's not yet clear if other teams will be doing this or if it's exclusive to the Hornets.
• The team's current shades of purple and teal are both a bit darker than the ones used by the original Hornets.
• The team hopes to wear the original Hornets uniform as a throwback at some point, but not in 2014-15.
• The team's new court design will be unveiled next Thursday.
One interesting subtext to all of this is that menswear designer and North Carolina native Alexander Julian, who designed the original Hornets uniforms in the late 1980s, was hoping to design the new set, as well. He even offered to do the job for free and created 150 different design possibilities. But the Hornets are owned by Michael Jordan, who has a longstanding partnership with Nike, so the team turned down Julian's offer and had Nike create the new uniform designs -- an unusual state of affairs, given that NBA uniforms are manufactured by Nike's archrival adidas.
But the new set still reflects Julian's influence because it features his groundbreaking purple-and-teal color scheme. Like it or hate it, that color palette was enormously influential in the uniform world over the next decade or so. Think of all the teams that used purple and/or teal in the 1990s, running the gamut from MLB (Rockies, Marlins, Diamondbacks) to the NFL (Ravens, Jaguars), the NBA (Raptors, Pistons) and the NHL (Coyotes, Sharks, Mighty Ducks). That all started with Julian's design for the Hornets.
Paul Lukas never thought he'd be referring to a purple-inclusive design as "a modern classic." 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.