Tuesday, November 19, 2019

On the Retro-Uniform Trend in Milwaukee and San Diego

Hollywood has a trend that really sums up the state of all of society right now: if it works, remake it, rehash it, re-release it, keep it fresh in people's minds so it never feels old to them. And when that doesn't work, remake something else and make them forget about the other thing. Did the new Terminator or Charlie's Angels movies fail BECAUSE they'd been redone several times, or because, as the studios now want you to believe, the franchise isn't as cool as the next new thing that's being remade or reimagined?

There's a point to this.

In the past week, the Milwaukee Brewers and San Diego Padres have unveiled two very similar uniform rebranding strategies. With the Padres, I thought it was a singular event, but now that I see the Brewers one, as well as taking past moves by other clubs into perspective, I realize it's a universal mindset.

So let's examine the Brewers' new uniforms:

Toldja this post would have more pictures...
Now, let's really think about these.

A cream base for a home uniform isn't new, as it was last used in 1977. That Brewers font is also a 70s import, one that even carried into the much-maligned 90s uniforms. The pinstripe is definitely an 80s import. The glove-and-ball insignia is back in full force, which means the M-and-wheat is officially dead. The only truly new element here is the all-navy alternates Brent Suter is wearing here, but those are still ROAD alts.

Still, these uniforms are a chance of pace from the dull, one-note navy-based uniforms of the last decade and a half. But the main takeaway is that instead of bringing in new elements, and unveiling a fresh new look, sort of like what the Marlins did last year to some success, the Brewers decided to look backward in order to go forward, and rely on nostalgia for past teams in order to grow support for future teams.

The new ideas, as it seems, don't work. So let's try something old, and see if people go for it. And people online HAVE been going for it.

Now, let's look at the new Padres uniforms that were announced last week:

These are a little different from the Brewers ones, and quite honestly I like them better because of the execution.

What does this evoke initially? Well...brown is back! Not since the year 1999 have sports fans been inexplicably happy about Brown(s) being back. Not only that, but Brown will be back on more days than just Thursday home games. The Padres have OFFICIALLY replaced navy with brown in their uniform structure, and have gone back to pinstriped home uniforms for the first time since 2001, and to BROWN pinstripes home uniforms since 1990.

But, instead of solely being the 1980s-era Padres logo across the chest, we have a variant of the 2017-era Padres nameplate being used, as a way of tying into the recent eras of Padres baseball. It's not completely old, and while several ideas are based in old concepts (such as grey-and-brown pinstripes for roadwear), it's not completely nostalgic.

The Padres new uniforms are taking concepts from previous, nostalgic uniforms, and using them to create a new, striking uniform era for the team. It's not just a carbon copy of the 80s brown uniforms- it's a variation on the brown uniforms, but for a new generation of fans. By comparison, the Brewers' new uniforms are glorified throwback uniforms.

Getting new, younger fans into these new uniforms will be tough, because they'll be trying to attract younger fans with a uniform idea that doesn't exactly speak to them as much as it speaks to older generations of fans. That's not really a problem these Padres uniforms have- sure, they're brown, but brown-and-yellow is a heck of a lot more interesting than the navy-and-grey base we've been dealing with for the past decade and a half.

And this isn't to say that appealing to new generations of fans with uniforms always works. Look at the Arizona Diamondbacks. In 2016, they unveil a new design, with a black-and-red fade on the shoulders, and blocky letter, and an emphasis on grey, in an effort to bring a cooler, more mod texture to their uniforms. It didn't work. It confused people. So for 2020, they're going back to the early-2010s color scheme (maroon/cream bases), but with a slightly fine-tuned nomenclature on the logo. Plus, the uniforms are emphasizing black, like they should have been all along. This is a sign that the Diamondbacks knew what didn't work, and fine-tuned it in order to get their goodwill back. Granted, it's a smaller change, but it was one that needed to be made.

So that's three teams that have altered, in one way or another, their uniforms for 2020. Will it stop at three? Will the Braves decide to emphasize cherry red after their friday promotions went well? Will the Phillies emphasize baby blue after their throwback promotions worked? Will the Reds placate me and go back to the black vests?

Or will new ideas arise from uniform design people? Maybe a team will come up with a fresh reimagining that will sweep the leagues over the course of the next decade.

For now...nostalgia seems to work. So if the Brewers, Padres and D-Backs want to keep mining it, I guess we can't stop them.

1 comment:

  1. It looks like the Nationals have a new home jersey, modeled after the navy alt they wore to the World Series, as well as two new caps that hearken back to the Senators of yesteryear.

    With so many new uniforms updates this year so far, you have to wonder how much Nike has to do with this in their inaugural year in MLB.