The Possible Future of Sports Uniforms

I’ve paid very close attention to sports uniform design for the last 5 years. Specifically, college and pro football. This year has been one of the most disappointing seasons for football uniform and logo design (actually, just the NFL in the logo department). It seems it’s been mostly about recycling ideas and copying what others have done before rather than creating something new. Although there are one or two new things for 2013, It largely seems like schools and designers are running out of ideas. But I think what lies ahead can be very promising, if someone takes advantage of it.

Socks – Socks are a growing niche for apparel manufactures as some are reporting a 35% increase in sock sales within the last year. This growing trend with the often overlooked and unexplored area of sock design in sports uniforms makes for a great opportunity for a school and designer to take advantage of. Especially for UnderArmor, Nike, and adidas, where everything they do is to direct you back to shoes. Because the sock/shoe combo is such a great hook in stores now, they do offer socks that will combo with your new pair of kicks. But the attention could be driven more towards that if they took advantage of a sock design for one of their major college clients.

Everyone is racing for the helmet now, and sublimated patterns and unique designs within numbers and jersey sleeves have been around for a few years. The unexplored ankle area could be one that these companies will compete for soon. Under Armor is experimenting with sublimated sock designs now for purchase in stores. Don’t be surprised if Maryland football rolls out with a school specific pattern on their socks ala’ the popular pattern-within-numbers trend. Oh, but let it be known I though of it first 3 years ago :)

Cooling Technology – I’m not sure if this will make it’s way into the jersey and pants fabric for football because it’s a cold weather sport. Baseball and basketball could be different stories though. But what I envision for under shirts, sweatbands, arm sleeves, skull caps, helmet liners, and headbands is being made from self cooling fabrics.

Conventional wisdom says that to cool the body, you need to move air and have ventilation; something modern jerseys and helmets are designed to do. But with these new materials, companies are saying cooling comes from conduction, where the material cools the skin. Basically, when the fabric gets wet, it gets cold.

Adidas is already in the game with Climachill, which will hit the marketplace in spring 2014. It acts like a mesh, using titanium cooling fibers and aluminum silver dots that cool the body. A company I’m more interested in is Dr Cools ( who also has material hitting the marketplace in spring 2014. Their biggest piece right now is a hoodie which is endorsed by Reggie Bush, using EnduraCool technology. It does the same thing as adidas’ version in principle; when the material gets wet from sweat, it gets cold. Another company doing the same but I know very little about is NEXAR.

Helmet Design -  We have seen matte helmet finishes and matte vinyl graphics before. I have yet to see matte properly combined with a gloss finish. I have to believe though, that it’s only a matter of time before the muscle car influence hits college football where a matte decal is set on a gloss finish (it’s always the other way around). I think it would be an excellent combo for the ever popular black-on-black look, as seen below.

There’s also a whole world of vinyl graphics that the football game hasn’t seen yet. Oregon has used fluorescents on their helmets, and a few others have used chrome-color on theirs. But we’ve only touched the tip of the iceberg. There’s so many other fluorescent, pearlescent, reflective, metal flake, chrome-color, engine turn, gloss, matte, satin, and translucent options available that I’m not even sure if Nike, UA, and adidas even know about. It dosent have to be a gaudy, in-your-face application, just imagine a helmet with a matte-chrome (kind of like brushed aluminum) finish with a 1 color logo in any of the previously mentioned materials. There is plenty of original ideas waiting to be discovered.

It would be great to see any of these ideas actually used in uniform design, but like all the other trends and advances, it has potential to be abused. There's nothing wrong with gradients and matte finishes and such, but the way they are used most of the time is horrible. Most critics and sideline designers want to put all the blame on the designers, Nike, adidas, etc. But the clients are the ones getting what they want in the end. They're the ones making the final calls, and if they're already doing a shit job of handling what's available to them now, then they'll probably do a shit job of handling everything else to come after it. I like to stay positive though. Can someone just please do a matte black decal on gloss black helmet for me!?!?