Ranking the CFL's Signature Uniforms

Jim FlanneryAnalyst INovember 13, 2014

Ranking the CFL's Signature Uniforms

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    The BC Lions and Toronto Argonauts have both now played games in their Signature uniforms.
    The BC Lions and Toronto Argonauts have both now played games in their Signature uniforms.Dave Sandford/Getty Images

    The CFL began unveiling what it refers to as its "Signature Uniforms" in 2013 when the BC Lions busted out their special black outfits in honour of the franchise's 60th anniversary. 

    According to CFL.ca, "The product of eighteen months of consultation, design and manufacturing, each CFL Signature Uniform will be worn by its team twice this year, and again into next season." Sara Moore, VP of Marketing for the CFL added, "Each one tells a story about its team, what that team stands for, and the fans who stand with it."

    Uniforms have become a big source of revenue for sports teams, and this alternate gear will no doubt generate a bunch of extra money for the league. Generally speaking, this is the main reason why I dislike alternate jerseys: they're an obvious—and often ham-handed—cash grab.

    But the ploy seems to work, with plenty of people lining up to get their hands on another piece of their team's stuff, so obviously this is something the fans want.

    Notwithstanding that the Signature Uniform collection apparently took 18 months to put together, there are basically two styles used.

    The first has the team logo prominently centred on the chest, unlike the traditional football uniform format of putting a jersey number front and centre. 

    The other variation is simply to go with a more typical football uniform design, but with a different colour pattern from the team's normal choices.

    Considering how these unis are supposed to be "unique," that's not a lot of variety.

    As with most alternate uniform designs, there are plenty that just look lame and a couple that actually look pretty sharp. Ranked from worst to best, here are the CFL's Signature Uniforms.

9. Ottawa RedBlacks

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    Sorry, Ottawa, but football uniforms are no place for plaid.
    Sorry, Ottawa, but football uniforms are no place for plaid.Andre Ringuette/Freestyle Photo/Getty Images

    The Ottawa RedBlacks are the CFL's newest team and, in their inaugural season, have played like an expansion team, winning only two games all year.

    When this newest Ottawa franchise came to be, they adopted the same red-and-black colour scheme that the previous Renegades and Rough Riders teams had used. Their regular outfits—white with black and red trim on the road and black with red and white trim at home—are actually pretty sharp and could easily be an update from the old Rough Riders gear.

    The Signature Uniforms are a substantial downgrade from their typical uniforms. The red tops with the team logo on the chest aren't an improvement and the plaid.

    The RedBlacks explained, via CFL.ca, that the plaid was meant to be "another connection to the history of Ottawa/Gatineau as a region founded by the lumber industry, just like our 'R' logo with its saw blade background." The helmets were also supposed to be plaid but, mercifully, they've only used their black lids this season with the Signature Uniforms.

    I'm sorry, but there pretty much hasn't been a lumberjack in Ottawa since the city became Canada's capitol in 1867.

    Plaid looks fine on an actual lumberjack—or Eddy Vedder—but on a football player, it just looks silly. This uniform is a disaster, just like their season.

8. Winnipeg Blue Bombers

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    The Winnipeg Blue Bombers Signature uniforms are more blue and less bomber.
    The Winnipeg Blue Bombers Signature uniforms are more blue and less bomber.Marianne Helm/Getty Images

    The Winnipeg Blue Bombers have one of the sharpest, best-looking uniforms in all of sports, in my humble opinion. The blue-and-gold colour combination they've been using forever is distinctive and sharp and seems to work well even when they fiddle with the actual shades used—everything just seems to come together in the right proportions.

    The Signature Uniforms have abandoned the gold in favour of digitized camouflage on the shoulders, down the sides of the pants and covering the entire logo-free helmet. According to Bombers president Wade Miller, this is apparently in an attempt to attract younger fans.

    As noted by Mitch Rosset of Global News, "The majority of people hated the new helmets, with many comparing them to bowling balls or a picture of a weather radar system."

    Bowling ball heads are not a good look as far as I'm concerned. Unless you're a bowling team—and even then, probably not.

    My other big issue is that removing the gold from the outfits and substituting different shades of blue and white has now made Winnipeg's gear almost indistinguishable from the double-blue of the Toronto Argonauts.

    That is not what I call an improvement.

7. Edmonton Eskimos

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    The Edmonton Eskimos have bigger logos on their new unis. Much bigger logos.
    The Edmonton Eskimos have bigger logos on their new unis. Much bigger logos.Brent Just/Getty Images

    I have a fondness for the Edmonton Eskimos regular uniforms—probably because my high school's colours were also green and gold.

    But the Signature Uniforms miss the mark for me. Edmonton's special new gear is nearly identical to their regular outfits, but with a couple of changes for the worse.

    Basically, the Eskies have gone with the classic team logo on their chests and have taken that logo on the helmet and made it huge. According to the promo video on You Tube, this is supposed to be traditional, but edgy. 

    I'd call it tacky.

    Adding the team name down the sides of the pants doesn't improve things either.

    When all is said and done, I don't think this is an ugly uniform. It's just unremarkable, and that is the exact opposite of what a special occasion uniform should be.

6. Toronto Argonauts

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    The Toronto Argonauts have maintained a traditional double-blue look.
    The Toronto Argonauts have maintained a traditional double-blue look.Claus Andersen/Getty Images

    Like the Eskimos, I'd say the biggest crime with the Toronto Argos Signature Uniforms is that they are just too similar to the team's regular gear.

    The Argos have taken their double-blue colour scheme and applied it judiciously to the new outfits, placing the team's classic "A" logo on the chest instead of the number. The logo is also on the sides of the helmet in much the same fashion and style as on their regular helmets.

    The big difference, if you even want to call it that, is that the light blue in their colour scheme is emphasized over the dark blue (which is the opposite of their traditional gear).

    The one truly unique element about this Toronto uniform, when compared to the rest of the Signature Uniforms around the CFL, is that the team went with a white top, which sets Toronto apart a bit from everyone else. But this one difference ultimately doesn't elevate this outfit beyond the ordinary.

5. Hamilton Tiger Cats

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    Grey elements give the Ti-Cats a different look.
    Grey elements give the Ti-Cats a different look.Claus Andersen/Getty Images

    The Hamilton Tiger-Cats have done something interesting and unique with their Signature Uniforms. Finally, we're getting somewhere.

    Adding grey to the classic black-and-gold colour scheme of the Ti-Cats gives them a little extra dimension and sets these uniforms apart from their regular gear. You'll find it prominently featured on the jersey, as well as on a wide stripe down the centre of the helmet. The tiger logos on the right side of the helmet, the shoulders and the upper pants are also grey.

    The addition of a number on the left side of the helmet brings a nice Old School touch to what is otherwise a pretty modern-looking uniform. I have to consider this one a success.

4. Saskatchewan Roughriders

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    The Roughriders gear pays homage to their fans' watermelon obsession.
    The Roughriders gear pays homage to their fans' watermelon obsession.Brent Just/Getty Images

    Saskatchewan Roughriders fans like to wear watermelons on their heads as a demonstration of their love of the team. I am not making this up.

    So imagine my surprise when I got my first look at the new Riders Signature Uniforms, and it looked like the team members were wearing watermelons on their heads!

    According to the introduction video, the pattern on the helmets and the shoulders and numbers of the jersey is a modern take on the wheat Saskatchewan is most famous for, while the new, bright green accent colour is to give the uniform a little extra pop and appeal to the ladies. Watermelons are never mentioned in the video.

    But come on. Does the organization seriously want me to believe no one looked at those lids and thought the fans might love seeing their team wearing high-tech watermelons on their domes? Frankly, I'm not buying it.

    Whether the helmet just looks like a watermelon by accident or by design, I think it's fairly brilliant and is the single best nod to a team's fans that these Signature Uniform designers have come up with. For that, I have to place this outfit in the top half.

3. Calgary Stampeders

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    The Calgary Stampeders' two-tone helmet has crazy style.
    The Calgary Stampeders' two-tone helmet has crazy style.Todd Korol/Getty Images

    The Calgary Stampeders are my hometown team, so I admit I have a soft spot for them. That said, the new uniforms look pretty badass.

    It's hard to go wrong with red on black, so they're playing with the right colour palette. And I also have to admit that the two-tone helmets with the reflective silver horses look really sharp.

    According to the introduction video, the colour scheme should hopefully make the players feel aggressive and powerful, which is always a good thing in football.

    But here's my problem. The Stampeders are traditionally red and white—black accents are a very recent addition to the uniforms. Having that accent colour now dominate what used to be a simple, classic uniform doesn't really sit right with me. 

    I've had to bump the Stamps down a couple pegs as a result. But I do like those helmets.

2. BC Lions

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    The Lions debuted their Signature uniforms in 2013.
    The Lions debuted their Signature uniforms in 2013.Dave Sandford/Getty Images

    The first Signature Uniform to be unveiled was that of the BC Lions. They began playing in this outfit during the 2013 season in celebration of their 60th season in the CFL.

    I wasn't very impressed when I first saw these uniforms, mainly because the black numbers on a black jersey (with just a hint of an orange outline) made the numbers really hard to see while watching the game. 

    But I have to admit, this gear has grown on me.

    The matte black helmets look good. The simple but dramatic black jerseys, pants and socks with that subtle orange trim look very modern, very unique and thoroughly intimidating. And it still hearkens back to the orange and black colours that have always been a part of the Lions look.

    I still have trouble picking up the jersey numbers in that black-on-black gear, but this is a wicked football uniform. Thumbs up from me.

1. Montreal Alouettes

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    Montreal's Signature uniforms feature a two-tone helmet, like the Stampeders' uniforms.
    Montreal's Signature uniforms feature a two-tone helmet, like the Stampeders' uniforms.Minas Panagiotakis/Getty Images

    The Montreal Alouettes have done a fantastic job with their Signature Uniforms.

    As explained in the introduction video for the uniforms, the team was named after the 425th bomber squadron from World War II (the only francophone bomber squadron in Canadian military history). The 425th is given full props with a badge on the front left shoulder, as well as on the palms of the gloves. 

    Beyond that, the shoulders of the jerseys and the stripes down the sides of the pants are adorned with a feather pattern, a further nod to the air force history of the team name. And yet another touch is the bird pattern on the front of the helmets which, again, is an homage to the 425th.

    The Alouettes have retained their traditional blue and red colour scheme, including a two-tone helmet, while also adding grey as the dominant colour for the jersey and the pants. Again, the grey seems to me to hearken back to the original bomber squadron, reflecting the look of the planes' fuselages while still providing a 21st century look to the uniforms.

    This is what an alternate uniform should be. It honours the team's history while looking forward to the future, yet still looks damn fine.

    Congratulations, Montreal. You've done yourself proud.

     

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