This past weekend was a significant one in sports æsthetics, not only because of the first on-field appearance of the Packers' 1929-style throwback uniforms, but because of an innovation that took the field in Corvallis, Oregon on Saturday.
Working with uniform manufacturer Nike, the Oregon State Beavers wanted to create a 1960s-style throwback uniform for the latest installment of their traditional "Civil War" game with the Oregon Ducks. This presented a common problem: reconciling the classic uniform style of distinctive sleeve stripes with modern jersey cuts which no longer have sleeves. This is a problem the Packers have faced for years. The previous solution (also created by Nike) was to reduce the number of stripes to something more likely to fit. This time, Nike's designers came up with an inspired solution (if such a description is not too immodest, as I have been advocating the exact same move for years), they moved the stripes off the jersey itself and on to the compression shirts worn under those jerseys.
The end result was pretty solid. And it's one that the Packers should seriously consider when Nike takes over the NFL uniform manufacturing contract in 2012.
It's easy to imagine these jerseys in a particular shade of green and gold.
I'm aware that the reduction in sleeves has come at the request of players, particularly linemen, who feel that every square inch of fabric gives an opponent more opportunity to grab a handful of jersey. That's why I like this solution - not only does it address the æsthetics but also the performance aspects. Fabric worn tight against the skin is hard to hold onto. To the extent any jersey prohibits such holds, the compression shirt model does.
There can be long-sleeve versions and short-sleeve versions for players, ensuring that in warmer weather players could still show their stripes, and in colder weather players would be assured that opposing players couldn't get a grip on their sleeves.
There's an added off-field benefit - the Packers could do a brisk business selling compression shirts to fans, either for wearing under their jerseys or by themselves.
So there you have it. There is a performance benefit, a commercial benefit, and an æsthetic benefit. A win/win/win.
Okay, Mr. Murphy. The ball is in your court - time to bring the Packers' jerseys back to their original form by embracing a bold step forward.