Remember this post? It detailed my thoughts (and some mock ups I made) on what Nike would bring to the NFL table once they took over as the official apparel provider. It also was aimed at alleviating stress, stress that many of you felt when this move was first announced two-some-odd years ago. And here we are. Starting April 1st, Nike is the official sponsor of on and off-the-field apparel for the NFL. Nike has set Tuesday, April 3rd as the official unveiling of the 32 teams' new Nike jerseys. They'll be holding a press conference that I will be watching like a hawk.
We all knew this was coming.What some of you may not have realized is what this exactly means for our favorite team as well as the NFL as a whole. Beyond the jump I have collected some facts, speculation, and best of all, leaked pics of some of the new merch and apparel. Onward!
The Falcons' uniforms are in good hands. As Nike has shown with teams like the University of Alabama, their Pro Combat Apparel system can easily be fitted to a traditional football style. The main draw of the jerseys and pants Nike is hawking to the NCAA (and now NFL) is the lightweight "mesh" material that covers certain portions of the jersey/pants. This material is much more flexible and breathes (as in, cools the player down) much freer than what was previously used. If you've ever handled an authentic Reebok NFL jersey, you know how heavy, hot, and cumbersome they can be. Nike's Pro Combat style jerseys weigh less, breathe more, and are more "fitted" to athletes' bodies. Whether this translates into any marked performance improvement on the field is anyone's guess.
Study this image (I can't embed it due to copyright reasons). It's AJ McCarron in this year's BCS Championship game. Notice the off-color spots under his arms and on his stomach. These are the pliable mesh areas of the Nike Pro Combat jersey. Zoom in and you will see the panels (shoulders, chest, hips) that provide a thicker, more protective, less breathable area. This is exactly what you're likely to see the NFL teams donning this year. The same old jersey with a new "cut" (how the material is sewn and arranged) and not much else.
Sure, the Seahawks are going the "retool it!" route and the Panthers have a slightly more aggressive logo, but other than that, don't expect much in the way of change for the Falcons. If any at all. Yes, the uniforms will look and feel different but fundementally, they will be nearly identical to what you're used to seeing. How do I know this?
There's been no buzz. Seahawk and Panther fans are chomping at the bit because there's been news aplenty about the impending changes that may be happening. Not a peep from the Falcons. Also, Nike cannot simply change a team's uniform design at their whim. That's decided by the team as they are the owners of their own brand and Nike is just the provider of the finished jersey. Nike has to build the design to the specs of the team, not the other way around. They only really control the way the jersey is put together and sewn.
For the first time in a long time (or ever?), Nike will have its snazzy New Era line of caps focused on the NFL. These caps are what the MLB guys wear and I love them. They're comfortable, they breathe well, and they fit my big ol' noggin. The Reebok caps, while unique in design, never fit well and, over time, lost their form, causing the brim to tilt forward so the logo on the front would also be pointing slightly upwards and away from line of sight. New Era caps should remedy this. Images of the designs for certain teams have already leaked and they look awesome. Though it's Carolina Teal, this cap just looks like it'd feel great on my head.
Also awesome? Nike on-field extras. Things like "base wear" and gloves have gotten a shot in the arm in the design department. Here are all 32 Vapor Gloves | 32 Base layers | 32 Vapor Cleats.
PREPARE TO SPEND
Nike apparel is top quality stuff. Top quality stuff comes at a price. Most 59FIFTY New Era caps retail for $35 bucks. It's a lot to spend but they are great caps that last a long time. Expect the prices of official apparel to take a decent sized leap. Reebok held back on some of their merchandise's quality in the name of fan accessibility. Don't expect Nike to take the same shortcuts in the name of economy. Yes, replica jerseys will still exist but instead of $74, you're likely to see them hit $80 and $90 bucks. Don't even try to imagine how expensive the authentic jerseys will be. Why? Craftsmanship.
Reebok used iron-on twill logos and numbers with their top-line apparel. Nike embroiders everything. Check out this pic. This is an actual preview pic of the sleeve of the Dolphins' alternate (and horridly colored) orange jersey. Notice that there is no fabric pinching the edges of the Dolphin logo. This is because every thread in the logo is actually sewn into the jersey sleeve itself. Quality stuff, long lasting, hard to rip off in the middle of a tussle. And it'll cost you.
I will cover the Falcons' portion of the April 3rd press conference and will notate any changes that have occurred. I'll hopefully be able to get my hands on some hi-res pics for you guys. Until then...