The CFL will be will be unveiling its redesigned jerseys at an evening event in Montreal on May 12 and rumours of the CFL’s uniform redesigns have been swirling since last June when I revealed that the league was ending its partnership with Reebok following the 2015 season.
The most important part of May 12’s jersey announcement will, of course, be the aesthetic appeal of the uniforms themselves. And while some of the things that go into designing a jersey are subjective — colour, style, etc. — others aren’t.
For one, every jersey the CFL unveils in May has to feature legible numbers. As someone who watches a fair amount of film, nothing is more irritating than having to waste time discerning a player’s number due to its whacky font or lack of colour contrast to the surrounding uniform. Ottawa’s black home uniforms (below) are undoubtedly the worst for this issue. TSN 1200’s AJ Jakubec tweeted on Wednesday that “[he’s] been told play-by-play guys will be happy” with Ottawa’s new jerseys, so it sounds like this issue will be rectified by the new redesigns.
Numbers need to be easily identifiable — that, in fact, is why players wear them in the first place: to be identified. Make the numbers big, bold, and easy to read, please.
A second area that needs to be addressed in the league’s jersey redesigns is coloured side-paneling, particularly on away uniforms. CFL teams are required to wear white on the road. I’ve written in the past about why the league should do away with this practice, but there’s no reason to believe the CFL will heed my advice before May 12. As such, if the league is going to force its teams to wear white in away games, why not force them to actually wear white?
Take a look at this photo of Mike Reilly’s side profile (above). Does it look like Reilly is wearing a white road uniform? No, it doesn’t. Between his helmet, pants, and jersey paneling, his outfit is almost entirely green from this angle. Football spectators rarely get the opportunity to watch players compete from rear or head-on angles. Instead, most spectators — television viewers especially — spend the vast majority of game time watching players play from the side. If “white” road uniforms are going to appear almost entirely coloured from the side, why make teams wear white on the road at all?
Edmonton’s road uniforms are also guilty of another uniform qualm: road helmets. Road helmets are undeniably silly. What possible aesthetic need do road helmets fill? Reilly’s get-up in the photo above was not improved by swapping out Edmonton’s traditional yellow lid (below) for a green one. Both outfits are ugly, with the only difference being the homogenization of the CFL’s uniforms.
Edmonton has traditionally has been the only CFL team to wear yellow helmets. Saskatchewan has long-since been the only team to wear green helmets. Calgary is the lone team whose lids are red, while Ottawa is one of just two teams whose helmets are black.
Despite each team possessing a traditional colour that uniquely represents their brand, all four of these clubs wore road helmets in 2015 that did not feature their primary colour. Edmonton wore Saskatchewan’s green, Saskatchewan and Ottawa wore BC’s white, and Calgary wore Hamilton and Ottawa’s black.
Winnipeg did away with their iconic gold helmets after the 1994 season in favor of a colour that resembled the navy blue of Toronto (below). The Bombers quickly learned that going away from the colour that made them unique was a needless waste of team heritage and went back to gold prior to the 1998 season.
Maintaining team history isn’t the only reason that road helmets should be eliminated, however. For one, the NFL mandated in 2013 that each player must wear the same helmet for all sixteen regular season games after a heath and safety committee suggested that wearing different helmets over the course of a season can increase the risk of head injury. Purchasing and maintaining an extra set of customized helmets is also quite expensive for CFL teams, with the cost of utilizing road helmets reportedly being in the area of $30,000-40,000 annually.
Here’s hoping that road helmets have no place in May 12’s uniform announcement.
I also can’t help but question the timing of the league’s jersey release. The CFL hasn’t demanded any attention in the national news since free agency opened nine weeks ago. Would a March or April uniform release not have helped generate more mid-winter headlines?
And if not March or April, why not pair the jersey release with free agency itself? Fans across the league would have loved the opportunity to buy brand new, redesigned jerseys just hours after stars like Andrew Harris, Justin Capicciotti, and Chad Owens found new homes.
In any case, the CFL and Adidas have one month to reveal a set of uniforms that will appeal to fans across the country. Coming off 2014’s disastrous ‘signature look’ campaign, the league will need to find a way to blend traditional looks with modern style.
Here’s hoping they get it right.