Tomorrow at 8 PM Adidas and Michigan and Notre Dame will have an under-the-lights unveiling of the uniforms both will wear when the first night game in Michigan Stadium history goes down. That's odd: marketing 101 is "when you have bad news, release it on Friday at 5 PM." Michigan is treating their great unveiling like they're firing their coach for massive NCAA violations.
On the other hand, maybe it's not so odd. Yesterday the M-Den momentarily posted what looked like the official thing:
If that's what you're deploying, 8 PM isn't late enough. Broadcast the announcement from the Chinese factory where they'll be made at 4 AM Eastern.
The M-Den twitter feed later posted a three-part item expressing regret for the "mistake" that obviously failed to address whether or not those were the real McCoy. They likely are. Tom pointed out the close-up teaser image has the exact same M the mistakenly posted jersey does. If they're different, they're not much different.
Tomorrow we'll enter the ranks of schools that dress up like clowns for a little bit of money from a shoe company. Notre Dame will as well. I'll make some sarcastic comments, privately think anyone I see wearing one of the jerseys is a total sellout, and move on. This September we'll watch Clownz Faceoff 2011 and life will go on. It's not really a big deal. Everyone does it, and traditionalists sigh, and recruits say they're excited.
So why does this make me want to buy a shotgun, rocking chair, and lifetime supply of lawn fertilizer?
Well, there was a way to do this that would not give people hives. It did not require the assistance of a crack team of uniform designers, and it didn't have stripes conjured from one of their fever-dreams.
The numbers on the helmets (and the different wing pattern on them), block Ms on the socks and shoulders, and overall retro stylings of the mid-60s (like gray face-masks) would have provided a distinctive, historically accurate look. (Doctor Saturday pointed out that it would have been a look from an era when Michigan and Notre Dame were in one of their periodic snits, but whatever.)
It wouldn't have been much different. It would have been cool, though:
It would have been a genuine callback to another era of Michigan football. They could have brought out some former players, celebrated a Rose Bowl win, whatever. If they're going to do that in the Franken-uniforms they'll have to bring out a nighmarish assemblage of Horace Prettyman's arms and shoulders stapled to Bill Yearby's torso and head; the lower body will be a cyborg entity from 2211 that shoots postgame celebration laserz. The legs will stop at the knees because bony undead horror robots of 2211 come hovering or they don't come at all.
This bothers me because it makes it obvious that honoring the program's past doesn't crack the top several reasons they'll put the stripes on this fall, falling behind at least "money," "making Adidas happy," and "allowing Dave Brandon to 'create the future'." My money teat is easy to milk, but not that easy. I won't put on a Big Chill shirt with an Arby's logo on it and I'm not buying whatever that is above.
This makes me an old man but it also strikes me how stupid the corporate culture Dave Brandon comes from is. At a consumer-facing, mid-sized, publicly-traded corporation it's all about three months from now when you report your numbers and the stock price goes up or down and you're a hero or an idiot. Once companies go public they slowly lose the distinctive characteristics that made them successful in the first place and become a collection of generic suits*. The suits get paid exorbitant amounts of money to trade long-term goodwill for numbers that will allow another set of suits to increase the exorbitant amount of money they are getting paid.
The best example of how this doesn't have to happen is privately-owned Chik-Fil-A, which is still closed every Sunday for religious reasons and is so loved by Southerners that when the corporation bought the naming rights to the Peach Bowl it was generally regarded as an improvement. These are correlated factors.
These days a lot of tech companies are remaining private longer than they would have in the past—Facebook is the best example—in order to avoid the relentless make-your-numbers effect of being a public company. It seems like Michigan is announcing its IPO Friday night.
*[Once you get to the behemoth side of the scale you can maintain identity via monopoly: Google and Apple are distinctive entities that appear to have ethoses (ethii?) other than making money hand over fist; they can probably have these because they are making money hand over fist.]
(HT on the 60s uniform picks to "cutter," denizen of Michigan messageboards everywhere.)
That's not my point. I understand that they aren't going to wear turtlenecks and vests, my point was about kludging the design elements from different vests and turtlenecks. Precedented would be taking the design of one jersey worn by one person in one of those photos of one of those teams that won a shit ton of national and Big Ten/Western Conference championships and when the coach was FMFY, doing the best to fit it onto a modern jersey, and adding numbers. I think this would get more support than putting stripes on the sleeves like one team did (1920), but making them wide stripes other teams wore for an entire jersey (1884/1889), and then adding a block 'M' like other teams did (1891/1892/1895/1901).
1). To those of you saying "It's just one game", I would politely counterpoint that many see "just one game" as a means of opening the pathway to a slippery slope.
2). I was pushing for 1957, Ron Kramer-era throwbacks, where the longsleeves could come from a compression shirt, grey facemasks, and numbers on the helmets, so the 1965 look is very close to that:
And if that doesn't work for you, how about 1940 Tom Harmon style throwbacks...
And lastly, if that doesn't work, further honor Desmond and the 20th Anniversary of the catch:
And for those of you thinking this is a lot of to do about uniforms, politely, uniforms are a critical common thread that links the three men above together. So if we're bent out of shape about it, maybe it's because symbols are imbued with meaning.
The fact that stripes have existed on Michigan uniforms in the past does not justify these abominations. They're ugly as sin, a pure money grab, and most notably, nothing like them has ever been worn by a Michigan football team.
If you want to justify them as no big deal, or they actually look great, or it'll pay for XYZ, that's certainly your right. I don't think it's something a team with iconic uniforms and our tradition should be doing, but that's just my opinion and it's far from gospel.
Just don't call them "retro" or "throwback" and justify them that way, because intermittent long-sleeve stripes of varying width doesn't make that true. This is RAWK MUSIC jersey design at its worst.
I know, I know I'm weird about this. As an historian and a uniform afficiando, I should be all over this. But I have an explanation. My four sports passions are Michigan football, Red Wings hockey, Tigers baseball, and Michigan hockey. Leaving aside the last one, which rolls through jersey styles like Italy went through post-war governments, the previous three all basically have had the same uniform since 1938. There are slight tweaks, but the Red Wings, Tigers, and Wolverines have all basically had the same uniform framework for nearly three quarters of a century* means that they have traditions largely unparalleled in American sport.
Honestly, if it were a genuine effort to move a real template of a Michigan jersey past on to a modern template, I'd be more likely to not care. But because this is clearly such a naked money grab, and so clearly an effort by adidas to sublimate their corportate symbol on to the MIchigan brand, I find it disturbing.
*--So is everyone looking forward to the 75 years of "our helmet has wings" celebration for the 2013 season?
Most likely the 1899 photo is the key used by the designer. The finished version combines three elements of the photo:  the classic block M jersey;  the striped jersey worn by the team captain in the photo (I'd like to see game photos, but this was likely worn for some games, maybe away?);  the stitching motif on the M is probably a reference to the stitched padding on the shoulders of some jerseys from that time (seen second from the right in the 1899 photo).
Can I get a quick breakdown on what the purpose of this is? This appears to be a total cash grab. Is the only money to be made off this jersey sales? If this is true could a boycott of the jersey sales end this fad once and for all at Michigan? I have never seen one Buckeye rocking his retro jersey. Do they actually sell that well?
Anybody involved in this business have any idea of the money were talking about here? So it's retro jersey sales less the lost sales of the current jersey sales(I'm assuming a certain segment of the population would only buy 1 jersey forcing a choice between the two)* Michigan profit share from.= $$$$ yo.
from bad uni's to rawk muzak to create the future to "Corporations are lame, man."
The uniforms are awful and unnecessary for the event, but often a change is good - even for traditional entities. And it's only 1 night. Rawk muzak - many fans see this as natural, part of today's game (though I also prefer the band only). Create the future - what did you expect him to do, sit at his desk and read mgoblog?
These are 3 things you don't like, but the last isn't really a thing. And the other 2 aren't enough to indict DB on this level. Which leads me to believe you're still ANGAR about Hoke (or your dislike for DBs political worldview is starting to seep through).
Unfortunately what you say especially about corporate America being focused on the bottom line and short term results is all too true. But for all of you that support a playoff system in football you are begging for college athletics to become even more focused on "what have you done for me lately". A playoff system will help push college sports even closer to the short term focus that corporate America has. How sad would buckeyes and trojan fans be today if their had been a playoff system the last eight years that allowed them to compete every year for a National Championship? How much pressure will their be every time a team goes 3 or 4 years of missing the playoffs before the fan base yells for the coach's head?
So if Brandon is going corporate maybe it is just a necessary step on the one winner per sport every year mind set.
This is becoming the new RR endless stupid fucking pointless debate.
IT'S ONE NIGHT. WHO THE FUCK CARES ENOUGH TO WRITE ABOUT IT THIS MUCH. BOO HOO THEY ARE USING STRIPES AND THEY AREN'T REAL THROWBACKS. WE'RE NOW CORPORATE SELLOUTS, AND SINCE I DON'T WANT TO BE A SELLOUT I WON'T BUY ONE AND I REQUIRE NOBODY ELSE DOES EITHER.
I HAVE HIVES.
Just like everyone else on this site, I will state my opinion and move on. My opinion is that people are being a bunch of whiney bitches over something that does not deserve this much thought. Like it, or don't. Buy it, or don't. We aren't sellouts for trying something that has proven extremely popular at other programs.
At least the Wal-Mart wolverines (which vastly outnumber the cheese and wine crowd who seem to care the most) will probably like it.
Jeebus, don't we have better things to talk about?
Wait for tomorrow morning. Its "Senior Crawl" down here (I may head out to take advantage of the specials, even with the masses of bucknuts), maybe we will see one or two arrested for drunk and disorderl conduct.
Whether or not these jerseys are well-received will ultimately come down to the game's outcome. If we win, the misty watercolor memory of that first night game will cause everyone to find the jerseys growing on them. If we lose, they're banished to the attic forever.
As for the 1965 uniforms, it's pretty clear why they weren't chosen - they're not distinctive enough from the current jerseys. Yes, hardcore freaks like us know they're different (M on the shoulders! Numbers on the helmet!), but 99% of the country would have no idea what the difference is. If you're going to go throwback, you have to go whole hog and do something that looks totally different.
Well, to be honest they are growing on me. The fundamental problem M has re: throwbacks is that we haven't significantly altered the look since Crisler arrived in '38. Everything before that was a mis-mash of stripes/rugby/baseballish unis that sometimes had an M, sometimes didn't and the M changed from player to player in the same season.
So, I don't mind this amalgam of multiple looks that describe aspecs of M football uniforms from 1880-1935 or so. I'm sure this will be covered at the PC tomorrow night.
The other thing is that it's pretty clear to me that DB is towing the line between branding M in a modern way & marketing the program in the 21st century to young people (eg, night games & throwback unis scoreboards)..... and staying within tradition (not touching the helmets, no ads for football, Hoke Uber Allies). I'm not sure what else you could expect from him.
I'm not convinced that DB is actually "towing the line" between making Michigan relevant in the modern world, and honoring the unique traditions that define us.
What scares me is that the only thing that may be keeping DB from going completely over the schlock-tradition edge is that the opportunity hasn't presented itself yet. I'm not convinced that he has any kind of internal compass that will know when too far is too far.
I think he'd change the wings on the helmets to buckeye leaves if he thought he could raise gross margin by half a point this quarter.
I don't think that's a fair assessment. Brandon isn't just some random ex-CEO. He's a former Michigan football player. He was part of this program. He played for Bo. I can't imagine that wouln't have rubbed off him to some degree.
I'm a young person not a lawn protector, and these uniforms are friggin retarded.
If they're gonna depart from tradition they should do it for a jersey that should actually look cool. These jerseys suck. I've heard it mentioned that, "Well, at least recruits will like these." Recruits won't like these. They're not fashionable, they look like really, really bad soccer jerseys. They're a disaster in every way.
I think these happened as a result of confusion at Adidas... Someone said, "Create and alternate football jersey for Michigan," and since Adidas is a "football" (soccer) company, a "football" (soccer) jersey got created.
Dave Brandon is a corporate guy with a strong background in cheese; first in a company whose claim to fame was cheesy coupons, and second in a company whose main product IS mainly cheese.
I'd point out that Domino's cheese isn't actually very good cheese, but I probably don't need to. The goodness of the Domino product wasn't the issue. The salability of the product was the only concern. Obviously.
Steve Jobs is a marketing genius. Dave Brandon is a numbers man. Steve Jobs' selection of jersey would be amazing and come in a box you wouldn't want to throw away because it would be as nice or nicer than the garment. Brandon doesn't care about the design, as long as it generates numbers. Maybe he also has bad taste, though I don't think that matters.
The joy for a guy like DB comes in looking at mass markets (read, "lowest common denominator"), and not at whether a particular football jersey actually, you know, belongs on a Michigan football player's torso.
To expect a Dave Brandon to lead Michigan in any direction other than midwest-corporate-mediocre-sucky when it comes to "branding" the athletic department is wishful thinking. This is a corporate coupon man, not a visionary.
If Brandon designed a car, it would be a station wagon or a minivan. It would sell well. It would be boring as hell to drive, but he would get much acclaim for creating it, and either way, he'd be rolling in coin.
What sticks in my craw is that the University of Michigan is a respected institution of higher learning. That is what gives its so-called "brand" value.
The athletic department's "brand value" has been its success on the field. Without that, the winged helmet and all the other bullshit wouldn't mean a damned thing.
Michigan is not a corporation selling a product. It is a school offering something far more meaningful. The team unis stand for Michigan the Institution, and not Michigan, the cheesy T-shirt manufacturer.
I hope Brandon can get that through his egocentric skull at some point.
I respectfully disagree. I think, like it or not, the Michigan football brand has some rebuilding to do after a few really really terrible events (poor onfield performance, the HORROR, etc).
He is a former Bo player and obviously a very successful business man. Jobs is also a very successful business man. You don't think Jobs plays to the lowest common denominator? Sure, a lot of people can't afford what Jobs is selling, but if you know a thing or two about technology you know that it is nothing spectacular outside of its shell, but that is what builds the spanning desire to have it. Jobs creates a run of the mill PB&J, but covers it in gold flakes so everyone has to have it (eh, terrible analogy, but whatevs).
It is that core where Michigan excels. Inside the shell, the academics and tradition, is pure gold. I kind of like that DB is bringing a little new age pizazz to a time old tradition. That doesn't change the core, it just decorates the outside to build some excitement around it. Sure, Michigan is a recognizeable institution and program, but what is wrong with bringing in some fresh fans? The old farts at the game yelling at people to sit down may hate it, but hey the stone age routine has to be fazed out eventually.
My opinion may not be popular, but I think it is a good thing in building a highly valuable and marketable brand, so long as it does not change who and what Michigan isat their core.
A jersey change for one game does not represent a dramatic shift of Michigan ideals.
So, what happened to the all the Brandon's "Pimp-Hand" posts from last fall? Looks like he is using both hands to grab money. I wonder what corporate sponsor's logo he'll put on the jersey or if he'll save that for the helmet?
Nice post Brian. I am resigned to seeing this kind of crap more and more. And make no mistake - it is pure crap. I also bet that this will back fire on him big time. Most fans have no idea this is happening. I hope Ann Arbor Torch and Pitch Fork offers a senior discount.
I can only hope that NDs look worse - but that is not possible.
“Your satisfaction lies in your illusions/ But your delusions are yours and not mine”
Here's something I'd do with tonight's presentation . . . .
Assuming that the jersey Michigan will be unveiling tonight is the one pictured in MGoBlog and other sources, then I have a recommendation for tonight's presentaiton.
I think we're all largely agreed that the jersey being shown is a composite of a look for the late 1800s/early 1900s along with a Michigan varsity sweater. All these uniforms, etc. were the inspiration for the design.
What I'd like to see is one or more of the players dressed up as "reenactors" wearing the uniforms that inspired the thowback look Michigan will be wearing against Notre Dame next Septemer. You put that inviduals or other indivduals next to (I assume) Denard Robinson (and others), who will be modelling the throwback uniform.
I think the majority reaction to the jersey right now is negative. By showing the old uniforms right next to the new ones, at least people would have an easy and strong visual that puts together the old and the new. It would certainly be more effective in terms of promoting the jerseys and the "look" than showing, for example, the pictures from the past teams that we've posted here.
David Brandon and his marketing team have had months to plan this. I imagine it would take awhile to reproduce the older uniforms, but I have very little doubt that there are actual samples in the university's archives, that could be used as a pattern and would provide information on the materials actually used, etc. It would take a little planning and research, but it could certainly be done.
One final thought about the use of reenactors. Even though their uniform doesn't look like the throwback, I'd have put someone in the uniform used by the Michigan football team in 1887 to remind everyone that it was the Wolverines who taught Notre Dame how to play football. See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/1887_Michigan_Wolverines_football_team for background information. It would be a great way to highlight the very simple fact that Michigan's football tradition spans a longer time than Notre Dame's and that the Wolverines taught the Fighting Irish how to play the game in the first place.