The world of sports may be stratospheres apart from the fashion industry, but in many ways, they are one and the same.
How else can you explain the fixation on uniforms?
New uniforms make almost as many headlines as game-winning three-pointers and last-second touchdown drives. We may be hesitant to admit it, but we care about the appearance of all our favorite teams.
If we want to show our support, we have to rock the replicas, too.
And as much as many of us loved the Oklahoma City Thunder last season, it was hard to pull off the bright blue and orange with confidence.
Fortunately, the Thunder—and a bunch of other teams—got uniform overhauls in 2012. Some of the changes were subtle, and some were enormous, but all of these new uniforms are, as Heidi Klum would say, in.
Here’s a look at 20 of the best new uniforms in sports.
The New York Knicks experienced an awakening of sorts in 2012, when Jeremy Lin helped the team rise from the dead and make a mad dash toward the postseason.
Unfortunately, they fell short in the first round against the Miami Heat and had to use the offseason to retool. They sent some players packing and brought in some wily veterans to take their places.
That offseason retooling also included some uniform changes—for the better.
The best upgrade was to the alternate uniform, which is now entirely bright orange. It's hard to get away with bold colors without them looking garish and kind of silly, but the Knicks pull it off, mostly because orange is the only color used—aside from the blue that outlines the numbers and lettering.
Instead of looking confused, these uniforms make a statement. Let's hope it's one the players like.
The Los Angeles Clippers manage to pull off a nice-looking new uniform without using a bold block font. The uniform is pleasing to the eye because other than the cursive font, there isn't much else going on.
But that doesn't mean the design is subtle—the royal blue takes care of that. In fact, it's kind of a Los Angeles Dodgers-blue.
The design still incorporates red and white in and around the lettering and numbering, but the lettering is the perfect size in that it doesn't overwhelm the front of the jersey.
This uniform is just the right amount of modern without looking tacky.
Perhaps Rutgers' 2012 uniform alteration was what sparked this team to a 9-3 overall record. This is one case where every variation of the new design looks really, really cool.
The best of the bunch is the black-based design, which features subtle pops of red on the shoulders and bordering the sleek silver numbers.
Black uniforms always look cool and classic. The other two designs are similarly simple—white-based and red-based—with the only embellishments appearing on the shoulders and down the sides of the pants.
The colors of these uniforms do all the work, rather than logos or silly designs.
The Notre Dame Fighting Irish have plenty to celebrate this season.
They achieved a No. 1 BCS ranking for the first time. They were the only BCS-bowl-eligible team to finish the regular season undefeated. Their star player nearly became the first-ever strictly defensive player to win the Heisman Trophy.
And, of course, there were these uniforms to celebrate, too.
Everyone knows the Fighting Irish for their navy-and-gold color scheme, so there wasn’t going to be any messing with that. By the way, congrats to the Irish for being one of the only teams in the NCAA to use a color that really is gold rather than yellow.
Despite the fact that Notre Dame has one of the most notable mascots/logos in college football, it kept its uniform simple, adorning the front only with their mascot name and numbers.
And then, of course, there’s the infamous gold-flaked helmet, which is gold on one side and features the Irish mascot on the other for just enough embellishment.
Oregon got a lot of people talking with the "White Vapor" uniforms designed by Nike, which the Ducks donned for their big game against the USC Trojans. Although designers were pretty into the unusual all-white design, fans had mixed reviews.
The reason for the white out?
It prevents the fans from being distracted by unnecessary adornments, according to Nike Creative Director for Football Todd Van Horne. More important than the color, of course, is the structural design, which is "ultra-breathable" and is part of "the strongest football uniform we've ever made," according to NikeInc.com.
The goal of preventing these uniforms from becoming a distraction kind of backfired, but at least the new threads helped the Ducks get a big win over USC.
Though several international clubs overhauled their uniform designs for 2012-13, Real Madrid presented us with one of the best around.
Why? Because the design is clean, simple and doesn’t incorporate a mess of loud colors or atrocious embellishments.
The jersey is entirely white with minimal hints of navy and royal blue around the collar and at the bottoms of the sleeves. The font, too, is navy, which ties the design together.
The former design, while also white-based, had a traditional collar and was complemented by hints of gold, which didn’t stand out enough from the base.
In this year’s iteration, the colors and design are subtle, and the uniform makes for a classic product on the field.
Prior to embarking on their March Madness journey, the Baylor Bears were one of the basketball teams chosen to undergo a uniform overhaul prior to the postseason festivities.
And despite the fact that the base color is a neon green, it doesn’t look all that bad. It's actually kind of cool, especially when nobody else in college basketball has anything remotely similar.
These "highlighter-green" uniforms are unique, if nothing else. Even the shorts have an interesting zebra-like design.
But the best part of this uniform is its material. As the contestants always say on Project Runway, "the fabric is everything."
These Adidas adiZero uniforms are "the lightest uniform[s] in program history," according to the team’s official website.
And isn’t that what really matters when you’re trying to make a run to the Final Four?
Plus, points for creativity.
When the Denver Broncos started playing with their orange uniforms back in 2011, they started playing a whole lot better. Deviating from that design would have been a mistake when Nike stepped in to revamp the uniforms.
The team even talked to the NFL about how strongly it felt about wearing burnt orange back in 2011, so Nike didn’t make any drastic changes. In fact, the company made the orange jerseys the default home uniform.
The orange base color is one of the most unique and boldest in football, and the gloves have been embellished with the team logo—far superior to slapping a horse on the jersey and thinking it’s cool.
Sometimes, when you’re given the opportunity to re-design a uniform, you need to step back and think about what’s working. In other words, if it ain't broke, don't fix it.
The most important change to this uniform came in the material, which includes heavier padding and flywire thread on the collars.
All told, the Broncos got to look cooler in the color they wanted with added comfort.
It’s a win-win-win.
The Missouri Tigers were another team that did an excellent job utilizing the bold-color-on-black motif for their 2012 uniforms.
In this case, the Tigers’ yellow-on-black uniform was the big winner, though the yellow-based model is pretty nice, too. The black design is complemented by yellow numbers and yellow text (though the Tigers like to call it gold like so many others who are really wearing yellow).
The yellow-based design avoids going too overboard by utilizing black sleeves. Plus, there’s just enough pizazz on the helmet with a big tiger logo.
Much like the Knicks, the Cleveland Cavaliers went with big, bold changes to their uniform in 2012.
The base color is a bright yellow (which the team is calling "gold," of course), and the lettering and numbers are dark red with matching stripes extending around the neckline and sleeves.
Bright colors only work when they are not accompanied by embellishments, and this jersey wins in that regard. There's nothing on the front of the jersey except the team mascot and a number. A clean feel, to say the least.
But the Cavs need to start making a statement with their play—not just with their attire.
Perhaps the new uniforms will provide the necessary mojo.
The Denver Nuggets' new uniforms are on this list primarily because they are a hilarious train wreck.
But these designers get points for creativity.
First, there's the color: bright yellow. That would be fine, on its own—but the front of the uniform is crowded with a white, navy and sky blue mountains. Under that is the team name, and above it is the number.
You couldn't squeeze anything else onto the front of this uniform if you tried.
JaVale McGee's face says it all. This uniform looks like the product of a Project Runway challenge in which the winner was crowned by default because everyone failed.
In fact, maybe next time the Nuggets should hold a Project Runway contest to determine their new uniform design. It probably isn't possible for it to turn out worse than this.
But hey. It's creative. It's different. It's fun(ny).
The best-looking soccer uniforms are the most modern-looking ones that do their talking with colors rather than logos.
Most of the designs are minimal and rely on one or two colors at the very most. Some of them, however, are on the verge of looking a bit boring—but not Atletico Madrid’s.
The black-and-lighter-black horizontally striped design makes this uniform look modern, and the red blocks of color at the bottoms of the sleeves and at the hem add just enough pop.
A traditional black-and-red uniform would have been a snooze. Between the stripes and crew-neck neckline, this unique design is anything but.
The Oklahoma State Cowboys implemented a subtle uniform change in 2012, but it made a big difference.
On the old uniform, the base color was gray, the team name was written in navy and the numbers were orange outlined with navy.
The new uniform counts gray and navy as its primary colors with only subtle hints of bright orange, making for a far more sophisticated design.
When you’re using three colors, you can end up going way overboard pretty quickly. To avoid that, it’s often necessary to minimize use of the brightest color.
Rumors floated around that the Cowboys planned to unveil a hideous red-and-black camouflage uniform for its big game against the Texas Longhorns, but thankfully, those uniforms were scrapped.
The Cowboys get points just for that.
Nike scored big again with its redesign of the Minnesota Golden Gophers’ football uniforms.
Gone is the school name emblazoned across the front of the jersey and the white-outlined numbers.
The new design is much more streamlined. The front of the jersey has only the player number and the "M" logo at the neckline with no text. The pants have no adornments except a Nike logo. The helmets have a bigger and bolder logo.
The uniform comes in white, yellow and red, and the matching pants can be worn with any variation of the jersey, adding some variety.
If only the Gophers could have used those uniforms to turn over a new leaf in the Big Ten.
Now, let’s be fair: It’s tough for any team to incorporate neon green into its uniform design.
Automatically, that should qualify the uniform as one of the ugliest in existence. But, like Baylor, the Seahawks did the best they could to look presentable in their new Nike uniforms, which, in all honesty, are an upgrade from last season’s.
For a second, ignore the neon green and focus on the rest of the design. It's not that bad at all. In fact, it’s a bit Cowboys-esque.
Navy and silver is a winning combination. And because the green is restricted to the piping, gloves and cleats, it doesn’t look half bad.
Over the last several years, the Maryland football team has taken more heat for its uniforms than perhaps any other team in sports.
The Under Armour-commandeered design took a big step forward in 2012, though, rebounding from a somewhat disastrous 2011 effort. Those half-checkered, half-red-and-white helmets were perhaps the biggest abomination in college football in 2011.
But in 2012, the Terps dialed it back and presented something far simpler.
There are still remnants of that odd checkered-and-red pattern, but instead of covering the uniform with it, there is merely a horizontal stripe around the helmet. The jerseys and pants are either red or white with subtle pops of yellow.
It's not perfect, but this edited version of the 2011 design is a huge step forward.
The Oklahoma City Thunder were one of the squads that needed a uniform overhaul the most.
They staked their claim in the Western Conference in 2012, establishing themselves as the NBA's most promising groups of rising stars.
But with that newfound reputation for excellence came the need to look the part, too.
OKC's new alternate uniform is far simpler than the 2011-12 edition. Its best attribute is its simplicity: It has two colors rather than 100, and the colors are bold yet inoffensive.
The navy base makes the white lettering pop, and the vertical mascot name dropping from the shoulder makes this uniform just unique enough to stand out.
A vast improvement over last year's orange-and-bright-blue mess.
The Cincinnati Bengals have it tough. They have orange and black for colors, their mascot is a giant cat and they have to incorporate that into a design that looks cool and classic.
In the past, they haven’t fared so well, and their uniforms have looked ghastly.
These days, the Bengals are closer to getting it right.
The 2012 uniform designed by Nike incorporates enough black into the design to offset the damage done by the orange and the necessary evil of tiger stripes.
The design is mostly black, but complemented by a sprinkling of orange. The stripes are restricted to the shoulders and, of course, to the helmet.
This could be the best look in franchise history.
The Penn State Nittany Lions didn’t have a lot to celebrate as the 2012 football season approached.
They were fined thousands of dollars and were deprived of scholarships and bowl eligibility in the wake of the Jerry Sandusky scandal. The whole country seemed to have turned against them, including some of their best players and recruits, who jumped ship for less controversial schools.
For these reasons and more, Bill O’Brien’s decision to put names on the backs of the jerseys for the first time was incredibly important.
As he told the Sporting News back in September, "We want our fans to know and recognize these young men. They have stuck together during tough times, and I commend them for the leadership they have shown."
It was a risky move. Penn State is built on tradition, and much of the powerful alumni base wasn’t too happy about the new guy coming in and throwing away some of that history.
But the decision paid off. The players who stuck around helped the Nittany Lions to an 8-4 overall record in the wake of one of the most devastating scandals in NCAA history.
All of the fanfare brought on by the Nets’ move from New Jersey to Brooklyn came, of course, with new uniforms.
And there is perhaps no team that needed a uniform overhaul as much as the poor Nets.
Their old uniforms were on the more garish side of the NBA fashion spectrum. The colors were too bold, the fonts were too childish and the design was too extravagant.
With their new Brooklyn uniforms, the Nets keep things simple: black and white, clean and bold fonts, no embellishments.
The uniform, after all, should add to the Nets’ new mystique—not dominate it.