From the moment it was announced that the Cleveland Browns would be getting the Nike uniform treatment (what felt like 10 minutes into Jimmy Haslam taking over ownership of the team), Browns fans have been dreading what will be done to one of the NFL’s classiest uniforms. Very little about the Browns uniforms has changed over the past few decades; the same brown and white striped orange helmet, slight modifications to the jersey striping, and white pants being replaced by orange or brown pants on occasion. While the on the field product has not met the same success, the Cleveland Browns uniforms are right up there with the Green Bay Packers and the Chicago Bears as being untouchable classics. Until now.
Back in March, Alec Scheiner provided the first details regarding the Browns redesign in an interview with 92.3:
We’ll have cutting-edge uniforms that link back to our history,” Scheiner told Bull & Fox of 92.3 The Fan in Cleveland on Tuesday. “I’m really excited about our direction. We’ve been working with the NFL and Nike for almost a year now. We have another year until we roll out our uniforms. I’d be very surprised if our fans don’t love our new-look uniforms.
Other than that statement, very little has been said as to what the Browns redesign will entail. Jimmy Haslam said early on that the helmet would not be changing. While some have taken this to mean that nothing will be done to the helmet, others believe that Haslam was referring to whether a logo would be added to the helmet or not. The Browns will still have a logo-less orange helmet, but the striping style could be updated, or they could go with a metallic or matte orange.
There are also rumors (of the “I know a guy who knows a guy who has seen the uniforms” variety) that the new Browns uniforms will be similar to the Ohio State rivalry uniforms from this past season. Something of that style would seem to match up with Alec Scheiner’s statement that the uniforms would be cutting edge, but link back to the team’s history. At least, that is what most Browns fans are hoping.
When marketing departments start using words like “cutting-edge”, fans start to get worried. The Buccaneers promised their fans a “bold new look”; what they got was a bold eyesore.
Since Nike took over, at least five teams have rebranded or updated their uniforms: the Buccaneers, Jaguars, Seahawks, Vikings, and Dolphins. The Seahawks earned the reputation of having new and wild uniforms, so their Nike update was not unexpected. The Buccaneers and Jaguars have been the most controversial updates, as both teams already had established logo and uniform identities that were popular with fans and well-regarded in the uniform community. What was done to Tampa Bay and Jacksonville sends a chill up most Browns fans spines.
The Dolphins were one of two “classic” teams given the Nike treatment, and they too promised a new look that honored the team’s past. What resulted was a clean and modern look but a boring update to the Dolphins logo. Nike took a logo that has been virtually unchanged since the ’60s and diluted to a logo that would fit on an ad for SeaWorld.
The only update that was a vast improvement was the Minnesota Vikings, but some of that could be attributed to the fact that Reebok completely destroyed the Vikings identity (thankfully they left the helmet alone). The update to the Vikings cleaned up all of the unecessary piping and modern striping from the Reebok days, and resulted in a modern classic. The only change to the helmet made by Nike was a change to matte purple.
Browns fans are dreading that they will get something more like the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, rather than a great update like the Minnesota Vikings. The theory is that a big change will be needed in order for fans to go out and buy new jerseys. A simple change to the striping pattern isn’t going to have people trading in their old jerseys. The change has to be noticeable. It also has to be respectful to the Cleveland Browns legacy; otherwise it could have the opposite effect on the fan base.