Nike Combats Football Fashion

By Matt DeLaere, Marketing

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Football uses a lot of military terms: linemen work in the “trenches,” defenders “blitz,” and all take part in a “100-yard war.” It’s no real surprise, then, that Nike has fired the opening salvos of its own war on football fashion with their “Pro Combat” jerseys.  Taking the innovative (to put it nicely) design elements they’ve  tested on the University of Oregon’s uniforms  in recent years, Pro Combat jerseys re-think and re-brand traditional football programs, sometimes in extreme ways.

In past years we’ve seen Virginia Tech, Alabama, and Oregon State, among others, sport new looks, usually for one game. Uniform designs often feature new shades of traditional school colors, or new colors altogether, along with cutting-edge styling. Small details, such as phrases or historical years printed on the collar and socks, and school-specific accent patterns (such as tonal duck wings for Oregon, or tiger stripe accents on LSU’s numbers) are a big part of Pro Combat styling.  Also, the palm sides of each uniform’s gloves feature patterns that create a school logo or other design when the hands are put together. This year, nine teams will join the fray, with some honoring tradition while others mount a full assault.

Michigan State, for example, will not only battle archrival University of Michigan in their new duds, but also go against tradition with bronze, black, and green uniforms adorned with King Leonidas’ legendary cry, “Molon labe!”  Supposedly Leonidas’ response when asked to lay down his weapons at the battle of Thermopylae, the ancient Greek phrase is translated as, “Come and take them!” I’m sure many Spartan fans will hope that the Wolverines do just that with these jerseys.  These things happen when you flout tradition.

On the other hand, Ohio State will honor its 1961 championship team with their Pro Combat uniform. Based on the uniform worn by the 1961 team, the gray and scarlet uniform set combines a throwback look with modern touches, such as arm sleeves patterned with the Buckeye Grove, a collection of buckeye trees planted for each of the school’s All-American honorees.

Tradition and modernity will clash at the annual Army-Navy game, as each team will sport its own Pro Combat look. Army’s look pays homage to the 1944 and 1945 championship teams and features a tan sock/cleat combo that is reminiscent of combat boots.  Navy’s design features a blue jersey and pants, with the navy’s anchor logo on a white helmet. The uniform’s base layer has snakeskin accents and is inspired by the Navy Jack, a red and white striped flag with a rattlesnake and the words, “Don’t Tread On Me.”

Personally, I’m a traditionalist, but I can appreciate some of the Pro Combat uniforms. Michigan State’s looks sharp (at least for one game) and Navy’s has a clean, crisp look. I also appreciate the small touches, like Army’s faux combat boot.  And while not very utilitarian, the glove designs for each team are quite cool – check out LSU’s Tiger Stripes and eyes.

You can see each of the 2011 Pro Combat uniforms here, or see them in action on the dates below.

Michigan State (vs. Michigan) – Oct. 15

LSU (vs. Auburn) – Oct. 22

Ohio St. (vs. Wisconsin) – Oct. 29

Stanford (vs. Notre Dame) – Nov. 27

Army-Navy  –  Dec. 10


What are your thoughts on these uniforms?

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