Nike is set to unveil the next worst moment in LSU football history today. And though they can’t top Les Miles’ performance in the last minute of the Ole Miss game, they come sort of close.
I give you the LSU Nike Pro Combat uniform in all its abominable glory:
So let’s break this ugly mother down.
Nike’s “theme” for the uniform is “Cochon de Lait” because it’s being worn for the Arkansas game. The concept is described on Nike’s Pro Combat site thusly:
The Bayou Bengals are planning an old-fashioned pig roast, complete with an updated dress code inspired by the legendary LSU teams of the 1940s.
As I pointed out before, of course, there wasn’t anything particularly legendary about LSU football in the 1940s. No national titles, no SEC titles, one bowl win, .600 winning percentage. So in the press release that goes out today, Nike has changed the notion of this “tribute” somewhat:
The uniform draws inspiration from LSU teams of the 1940s, led by legendary Tigers quarterback Y.A. Tittle. A dark gold helmet is a similar tone to the look worn by the Tigers during Tittle’s era. The color also represents the Golden Boot that LSU will play for on November 28, as it does annually.
So now the teams weren’t legendary, just Y.A. Tittle. At least they seem to understand history a little better now.
OK, so a top to bottom examination of this monstrosity.
Hey, hold on a second. Something’s a little off between the helmet shown in the full uniform shot and the one in the helmet detail.
Did LSU’s administration grow a spine? The helmet shown in the detail looks pretty familiar, and it’s definitely not the Washington shade of gold. Interesting. We’ll have to see what’s officially rolled out today, I guess.
But the concept is this tribute to the storied years of the 1940s … I mean Y.A. Tittle. That gold (edit: the “old gold”, not the current gold), of course, is closer to the gold worn by the legendary teams of the 1940s … I mean Y.A. Tittle. Mr. Tittle, of course, didn’t have the current LSU helmet logo on his helmet; that didn’t come along until 1977. If what we see is the old gold helmet with no logo (which seems like what’s in the full-uniform shot), then that’s probably Nike’s original concept. If we see the helmet that’s the current LSU color (or close to it) and logo, I guess that means LSU balked at the wholesale change. And I guess that’s a good thing, but the results would be even uglier than the full Nike concept.
If they are going to bill this as a tribute to the storied 1940s Tigers … I mean Y.A. Tittle (as opposed to, say, the 1958 National Championship team), at least be true to the history. This just comes off as a hideous compromise of Nike and LSU’s ideas.
UPDATE: Photos are in from the “pep rally” on campus today unveiling these things. The helmet is I guess the “old gold” (looks a little different in natural light?). Hey, I only posted what Nike provided, and they still show the yellower version in their media material.
Below the helmet, there’s really nothing at all that would identify this getup as an LSU uniform. Those aren’t our shades of purple and gold. We don’t outline our numbers like this. Our stripes stand proudly on our shoulders, not crammed in to the tiny remnants of sleeves modern jerseys have. And our stripes are gold in the middle with purple borders, not the other way around.
Again, they’re selling this as a tribute to the jersey Y.A. Tittle wore. Yeah, OK. It’s true that in the 1940s we had stripes on our sleeves instead of our shoulders. But back then, they actually had sleeves. With no proper sleeves to speak of, the notion of this as a “tribute” falls apart. And, again, if they had gone with a “tribute” to the 1958 team, we’d not only still have our proper colors, but we’d have stripes on the shoulders. But that would get in the way of the “high tenacity yarn” on the shoulders that Nike sells as a major feature of this uniform. Can’t get in the way of Nike marketing, you know.
White pants. Enough said there. Never should happen with LSU. And, of course, Nike feels the need to stylize the stripes.
And the “L” on the leg? I’ve never seen just an “L” linked to LSU except for in Everybody’s All American, when LSU officials didn’t want our actual name associated with a dirty movie. edit: comments here and elsewhere about the use of “L” with LSU apart from the uniforms specifically have changed my mind. I’m OK with the “L”, but still think LSU was stupid for not letting Everybody’s All American call its team “LSU”.
If Nike is honoring Y.A. Tittle with this uniform, they must be honoring M.C. Hammer with these shoes. Just … wow. These don’t look like shoes that would actually, you know, perform well on the field. But I suppose Nike does know what they are doing there. Before they became a fashion house, they used to make shoes.
The getup also includes gloves with fancy designs, but those aren’t worth the bandwidth. The gloves do carry the sole appearance of LSU’s stupid “eye of the tiger” logo, and the only good news about this hideous uniform is that the “eye” doesn’t seem to appear elsewhere.
If you haven’t guessed, I’m really not happy that LSU is turning over its season finale this weekend to Nike for an infomercial. You can count on a segment in the broadcast Saturday night where the sideline reporter talks about the technology of the uniform, how it’s lightweight, how modern players are more like track stars, etc. It’s a marketing gimmick, not a “tribute”. And shame on LSU for participating.
It should also be noted that LSU appears to be the program that’s allowed Nike to screw with its identity the most for this infomercial series. The historically-inaccurate helmet logo (and color?) is really the only thing that would identify these players as being an LSU team. I don’t think any of the other 10 teams (Clemson apparently is a part of this, but they aren’t on the promo site) had their colors changed, and I know none of them allowed both a color change and radical change in uniform design.
It’s sad. You’d think a head coach that’s been with the program for just under five years, an athletic director that’s been with the program for 17 months and a chancellor that’s been with the program for 15 months would be better guardians of LSU’s identity. Actually, I guess you wouldn’t think that.