Hey, remember that time I got all excited about the Cleveland Browns' rediscovery of uniform typography? Remember how I thought it was so cool that someone had re-introduced a seemingly obsolete decorative device to sports uniforms? Well never mind that shit: here comes Mongo!
By Mongo, I mean the United States Naval Academy (better known in the biz as Navy), whose football team is preparing to play in the granddaddy of all annual rivalry games this weekend against Army. And they're gonna do it wearing these:
I mean, just look at them! Never mind that the images on the helmets just about have to be digital reproductions of original artwork (each helmet can't actually be hand-painted, right?). Also never mind what would normally strike me as a pretty egregious violation of the elegant simplicity I value in a good sports uniform (think Notre Dame). Forget about that for a minute, and just look at the care and thought that's been invested in these things. Would you ever, in a million years, have thought that a company like Under Armour would take the step of commissioning a set of seven original paintings for a college uniform design? I wouldn't.
Why are there seven different ones, you ask? Players will wear images of different ships depending on the position they play. Each ship, with its unique profile and utility in armed conflict, is metaphorically linked to the corresponding position's role on the field. (There's a link at the end of this post where you can read complete descriptions of the symbolism at play.) When, honestly, have you ever seen such an investment in artistry and symbolism in a sports uniform? And as far as I can tell, these are going to be worn for one game!
Call it tacky if you want. You wouldn't be entirely wrong. But tacky or not, I can't help but stand agape at what has gone into these and at the leap Under Armour has taken.
Apart from the helmets, which are just jaw-droppingly unexpected, the uniforms will feature a lot of the more austere stuff that got me excited about the Browns' new duds. There is gorgeous, slick, beautifully understated type all over the uniforms, including in some non-standard places. Look at the NAVY work mark above the left knee and the totally badass Naval slogan, "Damn the torpedoes," down the right leg. And that sharp, gold pinstripe...(swoon).
All of the type, numerals included, is designed to reference markings on ships. I'm particularly fond of the use of the Battleship Gray as a tertiary color.
You'd be forgiven for finding those helmets ostentatious, especially in representing a branch of the armed forces. But I have to acknowledge how cool it is to see original art being incorporated into a uniform. Beyond that, the detailing on the rest of the uniform is spectacularly smart, subtle and well-executed. The color palette is perfect. The type is powerful and surprising. The whole thing is full of class and tradition while simultaneously breaking boundaries. I hope to see more teams (hopefully professional clubs as well as colleges) follow suit in the near future.
Check out the uniforms in detail, here.