Back in 1997, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers unveiled their new pewter-based uniforms, and most of the reactions were not kind. But most observers, including this one, eventually learned to like the pewter design, which has emerged as a modern classic.
Seventeen years later, the Bucs have updated their uniforms again, and let's hope we learn to like these, too, because the initial impression they make is not good.
You can see lots of photos of the new uni set here. Let's go one element at a time:
The colors: The old pewter has been darkened and burnished. Granted, we have only promotional photos to go by for now, so the new pewter might look fine on the field, but in the photos it looks like a cross between black and the Cleveland Browns' shade of brown. The Bucs had a really distinctive color that was completely theirs, and now, they appear to have watered it down. Disappointing.
The helmet: The new helmet was released last month. You can see a full assessment here. Now that we can see the helmet being worn with the rest of the uniform, two initial impressions have been confirmed: The chrome face mask looks very, very good, and the oversized logo is much too big.
The white jersey template: White jerseys with colored shoulder yokes have always been popular here at Uni Watch HQ, and the orange accenting on the pewter yoke is a nice touch. Not bad.
The red jersey template: Contrasting yokes on colored jerseys don't look cool -- they just look like the XFL. Woof!
The sleeve patches: Interesting move here. Most football jerseys have matching patches (or stripes, or whatever) on the left and right sleeves, but the Bucs are going with the team's secondary logo on the right sleeve and the word "Bucs" on the left. An interesting way to break up the symmetry of a football uniform.
The uniform numbers: Ugh -- a complete disaster and the undoing of the entire design concept. According to this page, the number font was "inspired by historical Buccaneer blade carvings," but it looks more like it was inspired by a 1980s digital alarm clock (which has already led to some amusing fan feedback). Almost everything else in the uniform feels overwhelmed by this font -- it's running the show, and ruining the show. A huge mistake. (But, on the plus side, the Bucs can now do a clock-radio giveaway and everyone will get the joke.)
Also, the numbers supposedly have a layer of reflective trim that will pop when the light hits them just so -- an NFL first. Too soon to say whether that's a good thing. But who wants an ugly typeface to pop in the first place?
The pants: Not a fan of pants striping that doesn't run the full length of the pant leg. Nike did something similar for the Jaguars last season. Does anyone think this looks good? Meanwhile, the team's press release says there will be two pant options, so we'll presumably see a white pair of pants at some point, but it hasn't been shown in any of the promotional photos.
The socks: Almost all of the photos released so far show pewter-topped socks, but there will be two other options -- a red-topped design (which you can see here) and an orange-topped design (which isn't shown in any of the promo photos). Let's hope they wear the red and orange versions with the pewter pants -- the whole point of football socks is to create visual contrast at the intersection of pant and sock. Pairing the pewter pants with pewter-topped socks creates the dreaded leotard effect.
In short: The Bucs will likely look a lot better in their white jerseys than in their reds, but they'll likely look fairly ridiculous in any case because of those uni numbers. Will we eventually learn to like the clock-radio numbers, just as we eventually came to terms with the pewter? Time will tell, but the hunch here is that we won't.
Paul Lukas realizes that not everyone likes contrasting shoulder yokes as much as he does. 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.