This week, Outsports is joining SB Nation in celebrating as well as deriding the sports jerseys, uniforms and kits that have made us proud, embarrassed and given us reasons to wonder, “what on earth were you thinking?” Today, contributor Brian Bell breaks down his top 10 favorite sports uniforms of all time.
The NFL’s rollout of new jerseys for the 2020-21 season has brought plenty of new looks, questionable or otherwise. From modern interpretations of classic gridiron garb to grand corrections of football fashion choices, the new kits have provided a discussion topic that distracts from the issues that may keep the NFL season from starting its season on time.
But all this discourse and critique brought my mind back to my favorite sports jerseys. The ones that stand the test of time and those that, I admit, seemingly only caught the eyes of a few. Maybe a stroll down that mental preservation hall is the perfect panacea to the unknown sports currently faces due to the pandemic. Good thing the coronavirus can’t get me in my feelings.
Orlando Solar Bears
If the name isn’t enough to immediately make you a fan of this Tampa Bay Lightning affiliate, then their perfectly central Florida color scheme will. The bright purple accented by orange and white encapsulates the fun attitude that’s made the Solar Bears the ECHL’s breath of fresh air since 2012. The only thing that would make it better is if they brought back the teal stripe. Just blast me with color.
The Whale is one of the most iconic and recognizable logos even some 20-plus years after the team departed the XL Center’s friendly confines for North Carolina. Mallrats surely contributed to the legacy of this jersey, but few throwbacks imbue the wearer with more pride than repping the green and navy of hockey days gone by. Long live the Whale.
We’ll get back to hockey in a second, but I have to highlight a team that brought the entire ROYGBIV pneumatic device to the diamond in the Bible Belt. The Charleston Rainbows only lasted nine years (1985-93) before taking their current nickname, the RiverDogs, but the team’s uniforms remain memorable for incorporating the rainbow in multiple ways. From piping to taking center-stage on jerseys and hats, the rainbows made a fashion statement during baseball’s best era of doing so. The RiverDogs even broke these throwbacks out during the 2014 Charleston Pride Festival.
Atlanta Hawks “Big Hawk”
Recent events show that Atlanta sports have an unnatural obsession with gradients on jerseys. But where the Falcons’ new Color Rush uniform inspires facepalms, the city’s first try back in 1995 produced an iconic look for the oft-fledgling Hawks. If that imposing wingspan isn’t enough, it also sparks memories of the entertaining Mutumbo-Blaylock-Smith era that often gets overshadowed by the tenures of Dominique Wilkins and Joe Johnson that bookend it.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers “Creamsicle”
The NFL is full of legendary looks, some that have stood the test of time for decades. One that seemed to only get its rightful love after its demise is the Buccaneers’ original pastel orange. There’s no doubt that the original jersey and logo will forever be tied to a franchise defined by losing, but the clothes don’t always make the man. I mean, if you’re going to set records in losing, you want to look good while doing it right? Or at least look tasty.
Miami Heat ViceWave City Edition
This should have been the Heat’s primary jersey from day one. Black and red invoke the flame that the team really didn’t exhibit until it’s mid-90s rivalry with the Knicks, but nothing is more Miami than these stark neons. The blue, pink and black fit Miami nightlife so beautifully while keeping with the NBA’s forward-facing attitude toward athletic fashion. The City Edition was created solely to right this wrong and you can’t tell me otherwise.
Portland Forest Dragons
The Arena Football League was the perfect kind of oddity, with its unique style of play rivaled in ridiculousness by its personality. Right in that soft spot for me are the Portland Forest Dragons, a team that never had a winning record and only stayed in the Pacific Northwest for three seasons. Yet these teal and silver babies remain embedded in my mind decades later. They were never as good as the Barnstormers or Red Dogs, but I’ll sport a Forest Dragons jersey any day of the week.
Mighty Ducks of Anaheim
Ducks fly together. Need I say more?
Team Canada 2016 World Cup of Hockey
At no point has the benign symbol of hockey’s heartland been represented in such badass form than on this one. Whoever scoffed at the Maple Leaf clearly never saw this angular work of wonder. It’s a shame these beauties didn’t get another turn after 2016, but I’m crossing my fingers for an unlikely return, perhaps at the 2022 Winter Olympics.
Professional sports in Arizona had a love affair with infusing their jersey designs with First Nations and southwestern U.S. art styles during the 1990s. And I was there for it. While I still have my OG Phoenix Coyotes cap on the hat rack, no one did it better than the Arena Football League’s Arizona Rattlers. The mix of teal, gold and black contrasts so well, and nearly every design the team donned was distinct and representative of the region. The detail work is what set them apart, with shoulder patterns spanning from the arid deserts to the skin of its namesake complementing the best logo for a football team to not play in the NFL.
What are some of your favorite jerseys, iconic or forgotten? No wrong answers, unless it includes vertical stripes. Share yours in the comments below!