Much like its play on the field, Oregon has had a rich history of being at the forefront of college football uniform innovation. And much like this year's iteration of the team, the new uniforms released by Nike seem as though to be trying too hard while somehow accomplishing less than in the recent past. You can find a full photo gallery of the new duds HERE, but before we dig into the new fall line, let's look back at Oregon and Nike's past innovations. I'll be ranking these on a scale of 0 (Grellow Garbage) to 10 (Sartorial Perfection)
"The Joeys" (1999-2002)
Now, there are plenty of things not to like about these: that side strip is 1000% too thick, the dark green shoulders on a black jersey isn't the best color combination (something Nike didn't take note of until the first wings kit in 2008).
But man, this is just wonderful.
It actually took me a while to come around to these; I didn't become a Ducks fan until I started school in 2005, so I don't have the sentimental value attached to these years that some of you do. But these uniforms feel right. They feel good. Those strong lemon yellow numbers on the black jersey. The green and yellow from that glorious helmet flowing down the road whites in perfect harmony and synchronization.
Uniform Set Rating: 8.5
"The Kellens" (2003-2005)
If we're comparing to the Joeys, I think the whites get better by ditching the gigantic side stripe, but get worse by wiping out all traces of yellow, so ultimately it's a wash. The home unis on the other hand, take a gigantic step back. The greens and yellows don't match the helmet anymore, the dumb pants commas don't connect to anything on the jersey, and the yellow jersey and pants don't even match each other. Yikes.
I own that yellow jersey though. Wore it when Oregon won the Rose Bowl in 2012. I regret nothing.
Uniform Set Rating: 3
"The Dixons" (2005-2008)
In hindsight, the diamond-plating is massively stupid. In 2006, when Oregon was a middle-of-the-Pac team, they were essentially what we think Maryland is today: a mediocre football team in silly shirts.
But then Chip Kelly showed up. And Dennis Dixon demolished Michigan. And the Stormtroopers invaded Husky Stadium and ran the dawgs the hell over. These uniforms no longer looked like gimmicky lookitme's. They looked fast. They looked intimidating. They looked like the future.
In hindsight, they're still massively stupid (especially the yellow). But damn, they're the good kind of stupid.
Uniform Set Rating: 7
Uniform Rating: Zero. Point. Zero.
The Wings 1.0 (2008-2011)
You can see the last decade of the past in these uniforms: the shoulders as a showcase for something more than just numbers; the lack of clutter, the bold and brilliant decision to ditch the green from the black and yellow jerseys, infinitely improving the look of both. If I have one nit to pick about this set, it'd be the silver wings on the green jersey. In 2009, the numbers on the green jersey were also silver, which made more sense, but looked bad. The yellow numbers were a huge improvement, but the wings just felt out of place. I don't have a solution, and at the time, neither did Nike. It's a tiny hair out of place on what is otherwise a master stroke.
Uniform Set Rating: 9.5
This is the coolest uniform college football has ever seen, or will ever see. It's the coolest uniform Oregon has ever worn. If they wore this every game for the rest of my life, I would be a happy, happy man. Screw school colors, this is immaculate.
Uniform Set Rating: 10
Wings 2.0 (2012-2015)
This set would be special if all we did was switch to the winged helmets, which are spectacular and extraordinary. This redesign also gave us the apple green uniform (as modeled above by John Boyett), which is also spectacular and extraordinary. The iridescent numbers make for the best Stormtrooper uniform ever, which is spectacular and extraordinary. They even fixed the green jersey wings problem by going with different shiny stuff.
Oregon won its first modern-era Rose Bowl in this uniform. Marcus Mariota announced himself to the world in this uniform. It is the standard by which all uniform redesigns are measured.
Uniform Set Rating: 10
Two-Tone Wings (2013-2015)
Here's where the wheels start to come off. Remember what I said earlier about Nike eliminating clutter as they redesigned through the years, eventually finding the apex with the wings jerseys? These jerseys are starting to get busy again, with multi-colored and intrusive wings, and wordmarks down the pant legs. You'll notice the redesign on the white jersey from the Alamo Bowl to the 2014 season, truncating the wings in order to add shoulder numbers, another component to a uniform with already too much going on.
Uniform Set Rating: 4
Fighting Ducks and Beyond (2015-)
I mean, there's nothing wrong with these uniforms. In fact, the green uni is next-level amazing. But there's no drama, no anticipation and excitement. There's also no sense of continuity, considering we've worn three differen jersey designs already this season. It feels as though Nike's run out of ideas, and this "angry Duck" thing is the best they've got.
Uniform Set Rating: 6
So it makes sense that a design team out of new ideas is making their next swing a lazy one, with a pair of 230 year old explorers and a "new" jersey that's essentially the white jersey Oregon has worn twice this year with some squiggly lines drawn on it. I guess it matches the unimaginative playcalling and curious decision-making we've seen from Helfrich, Lockie, and company in 2015.
Apparently - both on the field and on the drawing board - old is the new new, and lazy is the new bold.