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Fun and fashion on the gridiron

Here's an NFL statistic you probably won't see anyplace else: With the Bengals, Colts, Eagles, and Saints all switching from white shoes to black this season, the league's black-shod contingent now numbers 12 teams. (Can you name the other eight? See end of column for answer.) That's up from only one just five years ago, which makes the move toward ebony footwear the game's biggest uniform trend -- and the most overlooked, too.

So begins Uni Watch's characteristically detail-oriented survey of the new NFL season, which features some interesting developments.

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I thought the bears started it all....but I was wrong. they went with white from 90-2000. Tampa Bay is to credit or blame. They wore black with their turn to pewter. The bears followed a few years later in 2001 and then everyone started it soon after.

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I understood the Eagles did this back around the time Randall Cunningham was the QB and Jerome Brown died in a car accident. That season they wore his number in their helmets I seem to remember.

Whenever this dates them, they were the only team wearing black shoes then.

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This Lukas guy is hard to understand.

I understand that throwback stuff is popular, but he wants ALL uniforms back to their original designs... he also hates purple, and without any real reason.

I wrote to him and asked if there was a reason and all I got back was a politcla runaround answer that didn't answer the question.

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This Lukas guy is hard to understand.

I understand that throwback stuff is popular, but he wants ALL uniforms back to their original designs... he also hates purple, and without any real reason.

I wrote to him and asked if there was a reason and all I got back was a politcla runaround answer that didn't answer the question.

The man has to explain why he doesn't like purple? Maybe he simply doesn't like it. You don't have to have a reason to find a certain color less visually pleasing than others.

"Why do you hate purple?"

"Well it all started when I was five. My mother had just baked a cherry pie and was placing it in the window to cool, when the..."

I think you're taking him too seriously, and being too easily offended.

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I've been collecting Paul's articles for a couple of years now, and have a pretty good relationship with him (via email). I've actually started getting ALL of the Uni Watch articles in one place on the SSUR site, and soon will have them all so that one does not need to go to the Village Voice site, the Slate Magazine site, and ESPN Page 2 to see all of the articles. A one-stop-shop for Uni Watch articles.

I know that Paul likes the idea...

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and now a break down of the uni watch article with opinion insert by Hurricane Magus.

By Paul Lukas

Special to Page 2

Mark Bellhorn of the Red Sox may not seem like a particularly remarkable ballplayer, but he's actually a member of a rather exclusive club: Bellhorn is one of the few players to wear a double-earflap batting helmet. He began doing it while playing for the Cubs in 2002, when fellow switch-hitter and longtime double-flapper Delino DeShields explained that it's easier to have one helmet instead of two.

The problem, of course, is that a double-flap helmet makes you look 12 years old -- just ask Jose Vidro, who switched from wearing a double-flap to a single-flap a few seasons ago and instantly looked a full decade older.

If helmet earflaps seem like an esoteric subject, well, get used to it. Uni Watch is going to deconstruct athletic attire in excruciating detail.

-I don't watch baseball but all helmets look the same.

Why write about uniforms? Because the players come and go, but we keep on rooting for the uniforms and the logos long after they're gone. Because you've probably got a football jersey, a baseball cap, or a hockey sweater in your closet. Because you remember how cool it was to put on your Little League uniform. And because, admit it, you voted in Page 2's best and worst uniform brackets last fall.

Those of you who've read Uni Watch before (you can access the column's pre-ESPN material here and here) will find the same levels of minutiae fetishism, obsessive historical inquiry, and steadfast opposition to a certain very annoying color that you've enjoyed in the past.

For you newcomers, here are a few basic tenets of the Uni Watch manifesto:

1. Stirrups are cool, and more ballplayers should wear them.

What with the long-pants look that's now in vogue, nobody even realizes that the Cardinals' official uniform specs still include striped stirrups, or that the Phillies' socks still feature a little Liberty Bell. If players can't be bothered to wear stirrups, Uni Watch will settle for the high-stocking look, which at least gives a tacit nod to the sport's hosiery heritage. That's why we have team names like the Red Sox and White Sox, after all. In any case, the footie pajama pants have to go, preferably via an emergency edict from the Commissioner's office. (Comparatively trivial matters like mandatory steroid testing or finding a new city for the Expos can be back-burnered until this situation is resolved.)

-again all baseball uniforms look the same to me. there again i could careless about baseball.

2. Basketball uniforms are lame.

Sure, they've come up with a few cool designs over the years, like the old San Francisco Warriors or the ever-classic Celtics. But let's face it: There's just no way for a grown man to look good in shorts (although the 1976 Chicago White Sox get points for comic relief). And tank tops aren't the best look, either. Uni Watch hereby advises the NBA to let the players wear their warmup pants during the game, or else just get it over with and have them play naked. They couldn't possibly look worse than they look now.

-while i don't watch baseketball, there are some nice basketball uniforms. I say let the gangs of LA better known as the LA City Councel to redesign NBA uniforms.

It's not easy wearing purple.

3.The color purple is the title of an Alice Walker novel, not the chromatic basis of a uniform design.

Seriously, what self-respecting athlete can go out there dressed like this? Or this? What, you think it's just a coincidence that the Vikings lost all those Super Bowls? Repeat after Uni Watch: The sports world should be a purple-free zone.

-I strongly disagree, the vikings only look right in purple. any other colors on the ROY G. BIV spectrum would just be wrong.

4. The NFL needs to bring back sleeves.

Hard as it might be to believe, football jerseys once included genuine sleeves, just like any other shirt. Nowadays the players are obsessed with not giving an opposing player anything to grab onto, so football sleeves have devolved into little more than a gaping armhole with a teeny scrap of fabric stttrrrrrrretched over the shoulder pad. That isn't a sleeve; it's a nightmare -- especially when the paltry upper-arm coverage ends up exposing a burly lineman's armpit, something that Uni Watch, for one, does not need to see.

-the bigger disaster are those that redesign classic NFL uniforms in to the new space age look.

5. There's a difference between old-school classic and retro kitsch.

This, for example, is a thing of beauty; this, however, is an eyesore.

-I don't know why people like powder blue chargers, the blue needs to be much darker. As for the Astro's rainbow, only Franklin Pierce was a bigger disaster than the uniforms.

Those who detect a traditionalist bent at work here are on the right track. But that isn't to imply that Uni Watch is forever pining for the good old days, or is reflexively averse to modern designs. Indeed, two of today's best-dressed teams are the Atlanta Thrashers and the Jacksonville Jaguars, both fairly new franchises. But please, the Denver Broncos? The Washington Capitals? The original Tampa Bay Devil Rays? Don't get Uni Watch started.

-Lets hear it for the Atlanta Thrashers. Denver looks nice just bring back a modernized version of there old logo. The Capitals and Jaguars are a who cares look.

So there we are. We'll be doing this about twice a month. It may occasionally get contentious, so grab a helmet -- preferably, a single-earflap model -- and off we'll go.

When not obsessing about uniforms (it's been known to happen), Paul Lukas writes about food, travel, design, and business history for a variety of publications. Got a uni-related question or comment for him? Send it here.

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