Michigan State will be wearing Nike Pro Combat uniforms for their game against Michigan this weekend. I actually think the uniforms look great and I'm probably not as offended as I should be about Nike's use of military words and pictures to market to teenage athletes.
Most Nike Pro Combat uniforms pay homage to great teams from the past, echo traditional uniform elements or employ locale-specific themes; I like to think that a total lack of options required Michigan State to go all the way back through their history to ancient Sparta for design elements worth repeating.
I laughed when I read the original press release in September as I imagined how the uniform would look if they really wanted to dress up their football team like Spartans. Nike could use dye sublimation to print 300-esque physiques on the jersey and pants and add blood spatter numbers and branding to reinforce the whole "Prepare for Combat" message. Nike isn't afraid of introducing new technology in their uniforms, so why not a partnership with Vibram to combine the natural feel of FiveFingers with the traction of Vapor cleats?
Here's what Nike's official press release would say about my version of Michigan State's Spartan throwback uniform:
Like the ferocious Spartan warriors of ancient Greece, the Michigan State University football team views every game as a battle of attrition, requiring the right equipment, body oil and attitude to die to the last man. Accordingly, the Spartans have been chosen to wear the innovative Nike Pro Combat system of dress-up for the 2011 season. When the gates lift for their battle against archrival Michigan on Oct. 15, the Spartans will sport a design with dye-sublimated physiques printed from full body scans to perfectly match each player's skin and muscle tone. Bronze helmets honor the heroic armor of their historic namesake and an intimidating detachable plume will be worn during pregame warmups. Realistic skin effects are visible throughout the uniform, adding the authentic skimpy durability synonymous with the Spartan name.
The uniform's overall innovation starts with the skin tight baselayer, as strategically placed seams, pads and cooling zones help minimize chafing and optimize protective coverage. It features customizable protection, incorporating a thin, incredibly strong carbon fiber plate textured and painted to look like genuine leather. This symbolically mirrors that of the Spartan body armor, which consisted of leather briefs and sash with a small amount of padding on the shield arm shoulder.
An exclusive partnership with Vibram brings natural running technology to the gridiron for the very first time. Like their ancient counterparts, these Spartans will battle barefoot, or as close to it as NCAA rules allow. For the first time, football players are able to experience the sensation and freedom of barefoot running with the protection and sure-footed grip of Nike's new Talon cleat technology.
Echoing the cry of King Leonidas, the back of the collar is inscribed with the words "Molon Labe," the Spartans' defiant challenge to the competition (and to fans clamoring for officially licensed gear) to "come and get them!" Flayed, blood-spattered numbers and branding compete the traditional Spartan post-combat look. Armed with intensity and determination, and realistic leather accessories, MSU will fight on the battlefield until the last team is standing.
The images below are a previews only. You can get the widescreen, 4:3, iPad and mobile wallpapers at The Art. The Art. The Art!.
How it was made
I needed a solid white uniform to pull this off and was lucky to find a decent image from a previous version of LSU's Pro Combat uniform. As you can see in the video, I painted over the existing numbers and logos and then superimposed the muscles and other effects. If you're up for several minutes of uncomfortable closeups with bare-chested warriors being manipulated digitally then this making-of video is for you.