The Best of the Only Incompetent Germans Comment Count

Seth July 7th, 2015 at 2:32 PM

It started off so well.


Mantras sewn into the fabric, apparently less intrusive piping, nods to the helmet stripes. The only ominous sign was marketing people who insisted on brand-specific copy errors.Untitled

Then they tried to lick our moisture:

…and things began to fall apart.

[After the jump: crimes against fashion, crimes against yellow, crimes against offense, crimes against eyes, crimes against humans]

The Battle for Maize

The first sign that not all was right with the maize and blue was something not right with the maize and blue, specifically with the continuing highlighter-fication of "maize":

Those are from user Wolverine Devotee's screengrabs of t-shirts in online stores. Nailing down exact shades of then and now is impossible because the vagaries of cameras/lighting/fabrics etc. I submit for evidence that my c. 1999 gameday t-shirt looks just like that next to students in modern official shirts.

Our best evidence of a dramatic yellow shift was pre-2012 banner versus various teams (2009 below) running under it:


Iowa games, since their yellow is also meant to be a reference to corn, are a good opportunity for comparison:




This went back before Adidas. It also became much worse under them. Two years ago we started to hear rumblings that Brandon wanted the highlighter creep to stop; obviously it didn't.

Poor Upchurch had to requisition a new lens because the uniforms were too bright for his camera. But the Only Incompetent Germans wouldn't be happy until even the retinas of human eyes were burned:

8448642683_0bc2fded3b_o04 8545657373_c6108e153e_o


The Basic Function of Clothing Provisioning

Before getting into aesthetics, an athletic clothing manufacturer has only a few functional things it needs to accomplish. It must prevent exposure and indecency, and to their credit we didn't have any Wolverines freeze to death or show anything more risqué than our athletes' spectacular abs. However there were a few rather basic things that did not go well:

1. Have numbers that are legible outside the boardroom.

The uniformz they debuted for Alabama were a bit heavy on the yellow and forever associated with Jerryworld. So alternates for the ensuing Outback Bowl, in addition to matte helmets, went blue on the shoulders and "yellow" with the numbers. The result(you may not want to leave this running, especially if your name is Vincent Smith):

The UFR from that game (yes, Brian actually did a losing bowl game UFR) gave up on identifying who's who.

2. Put all the players in the same uniform which 3. Doesn't hinder their play:

From a mailbag in 2011, emphasis mine:

On the armpit jerseys never dying.

Any thoughts or ideas as to why the defensive linemen switched to the road jerseys of the RR regime in the second half with the yellow piping?  Also, Denard was wearing that one of those jerseys on the last drive.  I like the look of this year's road jerseys without the yellow piping but wondering if if it is a fit or comfort issue although this year's home jerseys looked like they have the same fit with the wide, open arm-pit area.

Let's let another emailer answer this for me:

You've probably observed the same, but there are issues with the new Adidas techfits. I've seen them getting ripped to shreds at various points this season, and so you have guys like rvb, martin, roh, switch to last year's model in previous games. They were presumably asked to wear the new ones tonight given the more drastic change in appearance with elimination of the thick yellow piping. However, we've already seen rvb change back anyway despite the old piping.

I wouldn't normally care about this except for fact that underlying issue appears to be their tendency to be grabbed in a game-impacting way. Even fitz changed to the old jersey last game against Minn after being dragged down by the new techfit variety. We've seen the same thing happen to denard, although he hasn't switched. This is more annoying than anything else, especially to see potential big(ger) gains get stopped shorter than they should because some defender who was beat desperately was able to get a few fingers on some cloth.

We have seen a lot of guys dragged down by the jersey this year, haven't we? Could the Nike zealots have a point all of a sudden?

Apparently yes.


Clothing that contributed to fewer yards for Denard are tragedy enough, especially once his rushing yards for a quarterback record is assailed. But they also might have cost Michigan a game:


The turning point in the in-state rivalry was the moment Michigan came out in bumblebee clown costumes a seven-year-old wouldn't trick-or-treat in. Later when everyone in college football said it's pretty stupid we got a Sugar Bowl invite, we couldn't really argue, because that game and those uniforms were prima facie evidence that Michigan had surrendered its already tenuous claims to cachet.

The outrage over the ugliest outfits in the history of the program quadrupled when it was revealed that Michigan's coaches meant to change the game plan from "let's pretend Denard is Joe Montana" when they came out for warmups and found a trash tornado. When the team returned to their locker room, they found these travesties, and spent all that time getting everyone changed. Then they tried to pass deep 70% of the time.

Adidas's accomplices in 2011 Michigan State have been banished to Toys 'R' Us (Dave Brandon), San Jose State (Al Borges), and a national tour of spring practices to learn about offensive theories other than "Brawndo is what plants crave!" (Brady Hoke). In 13 months the final perp will be gone.

4. Also this clothing ought not to come apart faster than a Wal-Mart pillowcase, such as when the basketball team went to Minneapolis in 2013 and wound up in rags by the second half:

Trey Burke’s No. 3 was the first to rip, so he played most of the game wearing No. 12, which was also ripped later in the game. So after Jordan Morgan used Michigan’s second and only other extra jersey — the redshirt junior played the second half wearing No. 30 — Burke and, later, Caris LeVert were forced to play with holes in their uniforms.

If you're going to have tear-aways, at least send extras.


The same thing happened a couple of years ago in the rainy Northwestern football game, when half the team was wearing their old jerseys by the end of it.

5. Actually, sending them at all would be a good start. Remember the quarterbacks going through spring in (Nike) Oregon State jerseys with hastily-patched fake Adidas logos?


6. Pay people who work for you. Unfortunately they're not the only clothing manufacturer that gets into labor disputes with Indonesians, but usually they're not going to the mattresses over $1.8 million when their imagined loophole to get out of severance was laughed out of various courts.

And I know you're not allowed to pay players, but have some basic human decency to, for example, know not to capitalize off of injury to one of them:

Louisville Adidas_thumb


Uniformz Department: Football

The home uniforms that Michigan hasn't substantially changed since Yost were thankfully left alone except for subtle growth in logo size. Numbers appeared on the helmets for UTL1, finally got changed to the same yellow as the rest of the uniform for the 2012 spring game, and disappeared after that season. Adidas's take on the aways was to go with a thicker pipes at first, then those diminished in favor of a blue collar. I was fine with this:



But of course there were a few times they spun out alternates. The bumblebee travesty was discussed above. Those were inspired by the UTL things…

Michigan football defensive end Ryan Van Bergen models the retro jersey to be worn for the Michigan vs. Notre Dame

…marketed as "throwbacks," because the marketing plan for uniformz does not comprehend how the most radical change to a basic kit in 100 years was deciding to wear helmets. The "M" in the middle was a design element from turn of the century letterman sweaters:


1897 team/Bentley

The shoulders stripes were pure fiction. UTL ended well and from angles you couldn't see the stripes the uniforms were at least tolerable. Thousands of angry fans after the MSU debacle probably saved us from more of this until the Sugar Bowl.


Other than a pretty crowded chest and too-thin numbers these were actually pretty well received. Take note, Nike redesign team.

Dallas gave them an excuse to futz again:



79320101_thumbOther than the silly mitts the above weren't so bad except the shade of yellow in sterile Jerryworld made sure that top stripe glowed like the hoops things. Purists cared that the helmet stripes met in the back. They cared more when the helmets went matte in the Outback Bowl:


As mentioned above, the bigger complaint was yellow numbers are illegible on a white background except on pore-o-vision. The backlash was apparently strong enough that they left us alone for 2013, even UTL II. Stuff they did went back to subtle and underneath, e.g. Desert Storm camo undershirts and bandanas for The Game 2013.


But the empire struck back with the 2014 night game. If the one repeated demand from the fanbase was "DON'T EVER WEAR ALL MAIZE", what was clear to Adidas was they didn't say "all blue." Before we get to the blue pants, they showed us the shirt:


Neon runway tape numbers, more tape on the shoulders, and between them there are marks like our guys were run over by the airplane itself. The M's on the undershirts had lightning bolts on them, because while people with eyes might find this tremendously tacky, the players whose scholarships can be pulled if they speak out against the administration universally agreed that they came to Michigan for the chance to play with lightning M's on their sleeves.

Also blue pants.


By that point outrage was muted since fans were more preoccupied with deciding whether "supporting the players" meant firing Dave Brandon or lynching him.

Uniformz: Hoops Edition

Complaining about basketball is several orders of magnitude quieter. Fewer people watch, more games are played, and the game itself is less about tradition. That didn't prevent some weird:


A commenter will inevitably say the socks and shoes aren't as highlighter as they appear on my screen's settings and anyway they like them that color.

On the other hand the "throwbacks" were actually throwbacks, both the beloved '89 versions:


And my personal favorite, when they went back to the clean look of the Cazzie Russell era:


But it's not like any clothing manufacturer to be granted some leeway and not try to find just how far it stretches. So for one Wisconsin game, they tried ZUBAZZ:


Fortunately these were nixed after one game so the yellow version was never more than an extremely overpriced online store item:


The normal kits were an homage to the Fab five and thus pleasantly boring; I liked the darker navy they tried, but would have liked the 1990s to have ended before the hypercolor calves and shoulders:


Each year when March came closer we would fear the coming press release announcing whatever design all the Adidas schools had to push through various playoffs. I used to work for an environmental industry trade magazine, and started out by writing the new products sections. Companies would send me their jargon-y descriptions of RO filters, WESPs and RTOs, and being the Daily snob I was, I spent hours of my young career trying to turn those into English. At least they were selling complex equipment to engineers; I can't imagine what Adidas was doing with many of the same words in their "Made in March Uniform System" press release:

…uniforms feature a functional perforated print pattern along the leg of the stretch woven short to enhance breathability and ventilation, keeping players cool as the clock winds down. Adidas' quick-drying jersey technology found in current NBA uniforms along with ClimaCool zones on the chest, back and side move heat and moisture away from the body to keep the jersey light and dry as players sweat.


ClimaCool quick-drying perforated print pattern technology meets best available achievement standards and is an ideal solution for your water/wastewater needs.

Mercifully last year's March Marketing shorts didn't make it past the Big Ten Tournament:

Mar 12, 2015; Chicago, IL, USA; Michigan Wolverines guard/forward Zak Irvin (21) shoots past Illinois Fighting Illini forward Austin Colbert (31) during the second half in the second round of the Big Ten Conference Tournament at United Center. Mandatory Credit: Jerry Lai-USA TODAY Sports

Before we depart Crisler, something should be said about the endless ammunition Adidas provided for the Izzone with the generic, occasionally not grammatical warmup tees:


As for hockey, Adidas couldn't decide what they wanted to be before handing off to subsidiary Reebok, who took things in a very Swedish direction:


Each line above is a season starting in 2010-'11; the last pic is last year when they finally settled on the clean block M design favored by everybody (including in that informal poll I conducted in my diarist days). The white they made an off-white that was too white so it just looked kind of dirty.

They did another for the Soldier Field game nobody went to.


Adidas/Reebok's major contribution, other than a Red-as-a-player-era throwback that was cool until getting a block M in Dave Brandon's Block M Brandification Mandate of 2012, was the infamously hideous Big Chill Wolverbear:


This sort of thing you could get away with in a postwar period when uniforms changes were made by the coach's wife and her sewing machine.



When recreated by computer-guided lasers campy becomes grotesque. I will say of all the hockey outfits that have come and gone in the last 20 years, my favorites are the clean, modern maize:


Nike caveat: Ohio State wore at least as ridiculous stuff as anything above, and more often, and you have to figure Michigan will have as much say as the Buckeyes. At least half of the "uniformz" tag on MGoBlog is talking about another team, for example Ohio State's weird hockey things and colored helmets, and MSU wearing chrome hats and occasionally dressing like USF or Baylor when Nike insisted they have a third color.


Everyone Murders

July 7th, 2015 at 2:47 PM ^

I'm not being critical of the article here.  Seth did a good job here describing the various debacles Adidas put us through (although I wonder if we're reading something similar about Nike's gaffes when that contract expires).  But damn, that was like listening to a laundry-list of complaints from an ex-girlfriend after you've already broken up. 

At first I was thinking "yeah, uh-huh, yep - remember that".  Then it kept going, and going, and going.  And going.  And like the ex-girlfriend's list of complaints, all of the complaints were valid*. 

But it's over, [baby][Adidas].  [I'm][Michigan's] moving on.

*Not really, in the case of the ex-girlfriend's complaints.  Depending on who you ask.


July 7th, 2015 at 2:53 PM ^

Those shoes doe.

Lost amidst all of the hubbub about jerseys and stuff is that Nike is the undisputed king of basketball shoes and has really earned that reputation.

And although I've never worn Adidas cleats, the old Nike stuff was much better than Reebok and the cheaper competitors of my day, so I would imagine they still make a great spike.


July 7th, 2015 at 2:58 PM ^

Adidas might wanna put an American in charge of their American division. Perhaps they can begin to recover by not screwing up their Miami (YTM) partnership since that is probably their biggest college deal atm. 

They got brand issues in this country. You know it's true when basketball players like Jimmy Butler are picking Jordan and Nike for less money based on injury superstitions about Adidas. 

In Europe they're doing just fine especially after picking up Juventus and ManU. 


July 7th, 2015 at 2:54 PM ^

That adidas never did Script Michigan Maize Hockey Jerseys, one of the most belove of the jerseys, is one of the major indictments of the only incompetent Germans.


July 7th, 2015 at 3:12 PM ^

Well that was a Nike sweater so maybe they'll bring it back now. I imagine Adidas was loathe to bring back something from the Nike era as a throwback, and there might have even been some rights issues around it. Anyway with so many alternates already i wasn't too bummed about not having one more.


July 7th, 2015 at 3:45 PM ^

I'm pretty sure Nike had copyrights to some of the Michigan logos unique to that time, like they had on the maize color.

Part of the original 1994 contract states:

  • The right to design a new logo, subject to U-M approval, and exclusive rights to sell all products with that new logo.

Also, I doubt this clause is coming back:

  • $45,000 over three years to the Chris Webber Endowment Fund, for scholarship aid to LS&A students.


July 7th, 2015 at 3:59 PM ^

Interesting.  I don't know if the script Michigan was a part of that, but it very well could be.  I just hope whomever is in charge of sitting down with the Nike designers are issued a stun buzzer whenever a buzzword is used.


July 7th, 2015 at 3:22 PM ^

The "highlighter" Maize, or any of the tweaking of the yellows are thanks to TV technologies. Colors look a lot different on TV now than even 10 years ago. HD is pretty new and different yellows will "pop" differently than they did 5-10-20-50 years ago.

That said, if Nike can pick ONE yellow and have that for everything, I'd be thrilled. Enough of different yellows for the helmets, numbers, and pants. Uniforms should be UNIFORM and match! /end OCD rant


July 7th, 2015 at 3:14 PM ^

It's like getting a new, hotter girlfriend, but you still have to fuck your old, ugly girlfriend for over a year before you get to consummate your new relationship with the hotter girlfriend.


July 7th, 2015 at 3:17 PM ^

I mean, I was definitely a Uniformz hater. I mean, Michigan wore SO MANY freaking jerseys in 2011, I forgot about how the jerseys didn't even work.


July 7th, 2015 at 3:18 PM ^

The M's on the undershirts had lightning bolts on them, because while people with eyes might find this tremendously tacky, the players whose scholarships can be pulled if they speak out against the administration universally agreed that they came to Michigan for the chance to play with lightning M's on their sleeves.

I wish this part were more universally acknowledged.  "The players like them" is one of the most overused arguments in history.  Players liking uniformzz is not proof that players unanimously like uniformzz, it's proof of a monumental sampling bias.


July 7th, 2015 at 3:24 PM ^

I remember with the Sugar Bowl Uniforms (which, standalone weren't awful, but again they were combo 9 in 13 games or something ridiculous) the AD made a big deal that the players chose those uniforms. Well, chose them over what? Were there 3 other Awful alternates to pick from? Were the standard Home or Away jerseys even an option? Probably not.


July 7th, 2015 at 3:42 PM ^

From what I remember, guys on the team said that Adidas had three options to choose from, and the team voted on the most toned down of the three.  All were white, and one of them would be the bowl game uniform.


July 7th, 2015 at 7:51 PM ^

If Hackett and Harbaugh know what in hell they're doing, they would tell Adidas to fuck off in that situation. Adidas cannot force UM to wear something it doesn't want to wear.

That's the seldom-mentioned fact about the clowniforms: Michigan was not contractually obligated to wear anything other than their standard unis for any game. Whether it was David Brandon or Brady Hoke, the adults in charge of the Michigan football program were the ones who made the uniform decisions.

Given that Brandon's stated mantra was "If it ain't broke, break it!!" I'm putting the primary responsibility in his lap, with the hapless acquiescence of a coach who was aware, but not fully aware.

Black Socks

July 7th, 2015 at 3:25 PM ^

Great article.  German companies are all pretty solid except Adidas.  Maybe they should have hired a Hugo Boss attache.  I'm excited to get back to attractive and functional uniforms.


July 7th, 2015 at 3:26 PM ^

During the trash tornado game, UofM wore yellow undershirts with "Victors" on one arm and "Valiant" on the other. I know this because I have one of those shirts. Don't blame me, it was a gift.


July 7th, 2015 at 3:27 PM ^

In 3 years, once Michigan is contractually allowed to say disparaging things about adidas, MGoBlue should just post a press release with this link as their statement of the Incompetent German Era. 

Naked Bootlegger

July 7th, 2015 at 3:29 PM ^

Thanks, Seth.  I just swallowed my vomit a few times post-lunch.   I mostly thought that I was a middle-aged cranky fan who didn't like trendy uniform changes.  But this synopsis drove home the point that some of the uniforms we've recently donned are downright hideous.   I hope they are not stuffed into a time capsule recently buried somewhere on the athletic campus.  I never want to see them again, and I definitely don't want some post-apocalyptic survivor band unearthing them 1500 years from now.

The most beautiful uniform image shown in your write-up was the basketball unis circa the Cazzie Russell era.  Simplistic beauty.  Throw a block M on the shorts like the Fab 5 era, and that's my perfect hoops uniform.


Ronnie Kaye

July 7th, 2015 at 3:45 PM ^

I dunno, man. I don't remember a ton of hate for Adidas as a company from the MGoWriters before this. When uniformz were revealed, the ire was mostly directed at Brandon. I know this article was just a summary but it felt a little like a radio host who is mildly challenging to a guest and then eviscerates them the second they hang up.


July 7th, 2015 at 4:08 PM ^

Most of the really hideous stuff was on Brandon for approving it, but Adidas isn't blameless since they designed it in the first place. I put the incompetence things and the highlighter creep first because those I attributed those to Adidas.

Nike will probably be as bad or worse about the uniformz unless Michigan is very good at not letting them be. However we complained about the crappy gear when it occurred and I think that will go away.

Shop Smart Sho…

July 7th, 2015 at 3:59 PM ^

This will suck for the tennis teams though.  Adidas shoes are so far superior to the crap Nike makes for court shoes.  It doesn't matter when a pro is wearing them, as they can have a new pair broken in for every match, but I'm guessing even a good college team like Michigan won't be able to afford that.

Baugh So Har

July 7th, 2015 at 4:00 PM ^

Those Cazzie Russell Throwbacks are fire. Would love to see that become the away scheme across all sports... with the Nike/Jordan logo offset to the right (stage left) to bring together a clean and classic look.

tee wrecks

July 7th, 2015 at 4:03 PM ^

There may be some insider snark that went over my head, but I think these are just typos in the post (which poked fun at "Adidas" v. "adidas" copy errors).


July 7th, 2015 at 4:29 PM ^

but I'm wary that Michigan fans will continue to observe more "unformz!" horeshit in the not too distant future. 

It's our lot in life. We were made to suffer.


July 7th, 2015 at 4:42 PM ^

Which is that there is an objective standard of good looking design--it is not subject to individual opinion. These are bad, and if you think they are good, you are simpy wrong, not just someone with a different opinion.