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CHIME IN ON THE MESSAGE BOARDS
Today's the day. We've finally reached the end of our countdown, and not a minute too soon. At noon, the California athletic department will unveil its new unified branding campaign, which includes new uniforms for the Cal football team. We've been through the program's history, going from classic to ... ahem ... ill-advised. Today, we bring you the greatest uniform to ever grace the Memorial Stadium turf.
NO. 1: THE GOLD STANDARD
Yes, ladies and gentlemen, that is Tony Gonzalez, and yes, that is one marvelous looking uniform he's wearing.
The white gloves and wristbands were a nice touch, but here's what this set brings to the table: True blue and true gold, with a little bit of metallic finish on the pants ... Gold numerals with white outlines ... A simple, blue helmet with the classic Cal script, without any pesky pin striping our outlining ... No accent-colored facemask, no bells and whistles, no bumper stickers. The only stray bit of branding is the little Cal script on the hip. This is what Cal football should look like.
With such players as Tully Banta Cain, Gonzalez, Russell White (seen here wearing a helmet that had the Cal logo on only one side of the helmet), the original Ocho Deltha O'Neal and of course Nnamdi Asomugha, some serious talent wore this uniform. Even on the road these things were glorious. There was just one little, teensy, weensy problem.
The real tragedy with these uniforms -- and, perhaps, the reason behind all of the hand-wringing and uncertainty over the Bears' graphic identity -- is that at the time Cal wore these uniforms, they were horrid.
From 1987 to 2001, the Bears were 67-99, with just three winning seasons, with a 2-12-1 record against Stanford. OK, so maybe the axiom of Look good, feel good, play good didn't quite hold true for this one, which is a darn shame.
Yeah, all caps, baby. That's because I'm putting myself out there and predicting what we'll see when the clock strikes noon today.
We've seen from the blurry videos that the home uniforms will be all blue, from head to toe. What's least clear is what's on the helmet. It could be the venerable Cal script, it could be the bear claw, it could be the bear claw with text, or it could be some version of this fella, which I would absolutely love, but which I kind of doubt. But, just to be safe, on the prediction graphic below, I've covered both of the most plausible bases -- the bear claw and the Cal script.
The rest of the get-up, though, looks fairly plain, which I personally love. You know that NIKE will come up with some unique and dynamic font for the Bears, and that's what's represented in the photo art below, painstakingly rendered by yours truly about 12 hours ago.
So, we've got the all-blue at home. Kind of would have liked to seen gold pants in the video, but hey, baby steps. We may yet see them when the curtain goes up.
We've seen some sort of gold graphic on the side of the pant legs, so I'm going with the old slash mark that's somewhere between what the Aaron Rodgers teams wore and the double-slash that the outgoing knickers feature. It's unclear whether a similar shape seen on the away uniforms is a shadow or a Navy blue slash. Either way, I'm OK with it, as long as it's not just floating there.
It also looks like Bears fans won't be getting Vegas gold on the helmet or other accessories, which is a missed opportunity, but I'll reserve judgement until I see the final look, mainly because they at least seem to have gotten the blue color right, which is significantly darker than previous iterations.
That darker blue really pops on the away uniforms, which are all white, save for what appears to be a blue collar or yoke that mirrors the gold collar accent on the home set. I personally like the contrast collar, because it hearkens back to some older unis, while adding some spice to an otherwise very simple look. With blue gloves, socks and cleats, it's pretty darn solid. I suspect that the gold outlines on the numbers may be offset by a white interior outline, but again, we'll just have to see. What is pretty clear on the home unis is that the gold numbers are un-cluttered with any drop shadow or gradient, and that's what's reflected in my crystal ball up there.
Because of the blurred-out video, we don't know whether or not there will be any subtle touches on the shoulders (which appear to bear gold TV numbers at home, and blue TV numbers outlined in gold on the road) or anywhere else sublimated on the jersey, so I didn't try to re-invent the wheel there.
The biggest concern – and also the greatest object of anticipation – is the "bear on the sleeves," that Marshawn Lynch mentioned. Alysia Montano also noted how the new mascot looks fierce and aggressive, so that leads me to believe that there is some sort of Bear sigil on the sleeves, facing forward. I used a stand-in for that with a lopped-off head of the Walking Bear depicted on the state flag and on many other Cal brands, but I have a feeling we're going to be seeing something similar to this or this. Oski's needed an update for quite some time, so this would be a cool way of doing it.
There are two concerns here, though. First: Sleeves are optional. Therefore, one of the best uniform elements and one of the best opportunities for branding may be left by the wayside, and given the proclivity of some players to go without under sleeves, that would be a tragedy at worst, and inconsistent at best.
Second: Be wary of a graphic designer with a blank slate. Modernizing, streamlining, and toughening-up logos or mascots can go very, very, very wrong. Sometimes, you can go from this to this, but more often than not, the best logo re-designs are pulling back from the insane and going back to a look that recalls a beloved classic. Let's see what kind of twist the Swoosh puts on an old classic today.
Stay tuned throughout the day for commentary and analysis of the new unified branding effort!
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