Image via Adidas
No uniform is going to please everyone. Not only does any given team inspire the disdain of opposing fans, but they often face the wrath of their own faithful who may be looking for a good excuse to pile on a bad team or who feel any changes betray their identity/history.
Even if a franchise avoids the pitfalls of ill-advised efforts to update or rebrand its look and feel, cultural and economic forces will eventually force their hand to some degree.
The Red Sox and Steelers are never going to stray far from their cherished images, but promotion-driven special edition jerseys and symbolic throwbacks mean that even the most immutable, iconic uniforms in sports are sometimes interrupted by a hot mess of stripes and khaki.
For some teams, a new look can transform their fortunes—consider the New England Patriots and Tampa Bay Buccaneers. But, that pesky amnesia always comes creeping back and eventually people start feeling nostalgic for that winking snapper in a tri-fold...or even dare say they miss the Buc's long-gone "creamsicle" uniforms.
When you consider history, not all decisions about team uniforms are created equal. Plenty of "disasters" from years past look less so as time passes by, but some decisions are never going to lose their sting.
These are the 20 worst uniform decisions ever.
Throwback uniforms can be awesome and a great way to honor a franchise's history while giving fans another excuse to spend money. Even some of the "ugly" ones are endearing in their own way.
However, there is little to like about the Pittsburgh Steelers' "bumble bee" or the Montreal Canadians' Centennial throwbacks. Without the old-time leather helmets and other accoutrements, they emanate "prison camp" chic.
No, this not the photo of a confused and disoriented speed-skater who showed up at the 1988 Summer Olympic Games under the impression that Seoul was hosting the Winter Games. This is U.S. hurdler Roger Kingdom, who won a gold in the 110-meter event.
Bad uniform decision, but obviously a great performance decision.
It's terrific when a team does its part to salute the men and women of the armed forces who serve our country. Athletes and coaches who participate in USO tours are doing a great thing when they travel to some pretty dangerous places to give the troops a welcome respite and help boost morale.
However, the recent trend of ballclubs introducing an alternate camouflage-themed uniform feels like kind of a hollow gesture—and are almost unanimously putrid-looking.
But, if the proceeds from the sale of the these jerseys go to the USO or other veterans organizations, then the camouflage is a tiny price to pay.
Few pro-sports franchises captured the goofiness of the late 60s and 70s more perfectly than the Houston Astros. Burnt color tones prominently featured? Check. All lettering in bold Sans Serif? You bet.
As a team named after Houston's role in the U.S. Space Program, you'd think they could have been more forward-thinking.
The Mighty Ducks is a schmaltzy, classic children's flick that manages to be a decent sports movie, too. Considering the dearth of films centered around hockey, you can't fault anyone who still gets excited when they see "the Flying V."
But, should any movie starring Emilio Estevez be the inspiration behind an NHL expansion team's identity? The Anaheim Ducks apparently thought so—suiting up in the same uniform, featuring the same logo, in The Mighty Ducks.
Orange isn't generally viewed as a good primary color choice—whether painting your bedroom or picking a tuxedo. Orange is the color of caution, incarceration and the popsicles you push aside to get to the red ones.
It is perfectly acceptable as a complimentary element, but you rarely see anyone or anything covered in it.
Admittedly, some people in sports love Clemson's all-orange uniform alternate—but as also is the case with the Knicks and Orioles—everyone else just feel their retinas burning when the color goes head-to-toe.
I'm drawing a line in the sand on this one—the original short-shorts worn by the NBA greats until the end of the Eighties were awesome. While I'm no scientist (contrary to popular belief), those tiny drawers had to be less intrusive than the baggy knee-length shorts that became the norm.
Just take a moment, close your eyes, and imagine Shaquille O'Neal attacking a rebound in a pair of crotch-huggers. Check and mate.
Few uniform variations elicit a collective groan from fans, the sports media—and even the players themselves—than when a classic jersey gets the remix treatment. And, no tinkering is worse than when the mascot/logo goes from having a complementary role to getting all in your business.
As if Pittsburgh Pirates fans haven't endured enough, having to watch the players walk around with a giant, sneering face on their chests is just piling it on.
Why embrace an understated, but tried and true, uniform style that combines a blue/white color scheme and straight-forward logo—when you add LIGHTNING BOLTS SHOOTIN' OUT?
From 1996-1999, the Lightning skated around the ice in this alternate uniform that looks like it was designed by a 16-year-old kid who invested way too much money in making his aging Neon look insane.
The 1978-1985 version of the Vancouver Canucks wanted you to know they're the Vancouver Canucks. Not the Saskatoon Canucks, or Langford Canucks—it's Vancouver, with a deep, in-your-face "V."
There's a good reason shirts are either sleeved or sleeveless—people like symmetry. When you see or experienced something unbalanced, whether it's your checkbook or a table leg, it's unsettling.
So, when Florence Griffith Joyner ran the 1988 Olympic Trials in this uniform design with one pant-leg, it surely raised questions.
Apparently the Tampa Bay Devil Rays' original front-office didn't get the memo that using Microsoft Word's preset WordArt to design your uniform is a terrible idea.
From 1998-2000, the club's jersey featured the team name in a bizarre, gradient color style.
Here's a rule of thumb when deciding how a uniform should look and feel on an athlete—avoid anything that turns those wearing it into a walking example of TMI.
I'm sure there's a very good reason the U.S. Women's Olympic Cycling team needs something that is form-fitting, but I don't think nether-region wind resistance would ever cost them the gold.
It tough to fathom now, but the same franchise that won three Stanley Cups with superstars like Mario Lemieux, Jaromir Jagr, Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin, was driven into bankruptcy in the mid-90s never truly recovered until the NHL remade itself after the '04-'05 lockout.
As seemed to be the habit of a lot of pro teams in the Nineties, the Penguins decided they needed a makeover. Thus, the endearing pissed off, stick-handling penguin logo that defined the Eastern Conference power, was replaced by a soulless symbol that looked like focus-group concocted tripe.
If you're an NBA team like the Golden State Warriors—who've made the playoffs twice since 1994—fresh ideas should be encouraged. While this uniform design may be...fresh...it's not good; at all.
Between the unorthodox sleeves, all gold—yet not the same gold—scheme and why-the-hell-not vertical stripes on the shorts, the Warriors look more like students in gym class; at a school that requires all-yellow gear for P.E.
The White Sox share the same city with the cult-hero Cubs; a cross-town rival that hasn't been nearly successful, yet remains much more popular. So, when the White Sox took the field in 1976 in super-snug shorts and knee-high socks, it was a wake-up call to the people of Chicago and baseball fans across the nation.
And by wake-up call, I mean a horrible decision that invited ridicule and made the team look ridiculous. No man wearing shorts will ever be taken seriously. Sorry, but it's the truth.
The New York Islanders were an NHL dynasty from 1979-1983—winning four Stanley Cups and dominating the rest of the NHL. Those classic uniforms are iconic.
Understandably, the franchise's epic decline since the glory years has led to drastic changes and intense soul searching, how could anyone in the organization think turning the uniform into a de facto advertisement for Gorton's Fish Sticks is baffling. Thankfully, it was a short-lived experiment.
The Toronto Raptors old uniform—which featured a ballin' Velociraptor with a 'tude befitting his flashy red facade—was often cited as exacerbating the struggling franchise's poor public image in the 90s. So, in 1999 the team killed the cartoon raptor and psychedelic collage of purple, black, red and blue.
Well, guess what? They have been and continue to be terrible; but now they're terrible and boring. That Raptor was a scapegoat.
At the 2012 Olympic Games in London, Australia's men's discus team inexplicably donned a uniform featuring an artistic rendering of human muscles; as in, what you'd see in an anatomy class.
Simultaneously, creepy and explicit, someone should have informed the squad that beefy dudes in spandex, hurling heavy discs, is graphic enough on its own.
Despite the fact that mankind has a disastrously short, collective memory, it's still shocking that adidas seems to have forgotten about the style-crimes of the 80s and earlier 90s. Tiger-stripes, sleeved jerseys; headache-inducing combinations of these things—they're fine for Zubaz-wearing dudes crushing nachos in the comfort of their own home.
But, Kansas, Notre Dame, UCLA and Louisville's men's basketball teams? Adidas foisted a true indignity on the wearers as well as the spectators.