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Uni Symbolism You Never Thought About


BlueSky

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I'm a huge fan of national parks and have been to many. On a recent trip to Yosemite, the park ranger conducting the Valley Floor Tour surprised me by talking about their unis. I'd really never thought about it, and there are probably plenty more examples of uniform symbolism most people don't consider.

Anyway, it turns out that the Yosemite area and its groves of massive sequoias were the original inspiration to set aside majestic land for parks. At the state's request, Abraham Lincoln signed the Yosemite Grant in 1864, giving California the right to use this federal land for recreation and enjoyment. Yosemite National Park was established in 1890 and is the nation's third oldest national park.

To honor these origins, the National Park Service ranger uniform incorporates metallic sequoia cones on the Stetson hatband along with sequoia foliage tooled into the leather:

hat.jpg

The belt matches the hatband design:

Ranger+Belt.jpg

The ranger also explained the various elements of their logo, which are pretty obvious. The buffalo, sequoia, and mountain represent the agency's responsibility to manage and preserve wildlife, flora, and land respectively. The arrowhead stands for human history.

US_NationalParkService_Logo.svg_.png

What unis have you run across that have meaning that most people may not have thought about?

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this is the basics of good design, and most people really miss on this in sports. its not just about looking pretty. it has to be functional, but the design should always have meaning too; an idea behind it. aesthetics are fleeting, ideas are what last.

That's not entirely true. There's no story or inspiration (or really, any inherent function) behind the Bears uniform or the Yankees uniform. There's no 'idea' there. It's purely aesthetic, and the aesthetics of those uniforms have stood the test of time. The only functions a uniform has are to identify one team from the other and to identify each particular player with a numeral in most sports. The little metallic and leather details on the NPS uniform serve no function at their root. A plain leather belt would do the job just as well. They are purely aesthetic, because as the original post indicated, it's not well known what they represent, like the Bears' orange stripes and the Yankees' pinstripes. However, they have built equity in these attractive, non-functional decorations in each case. I maintain that as long as the function is met, a uniform's sole purpose is to look pretty. If you can do that with some extra relevance to the team or organization, then great, but it's certainly not going to diminish the product if it doesn't have any obvious ties to the team or organization it represents.

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this is the basics of good design, and most people really miss on this in sports. its not just about looking pretty. it has to be functional, but the design should always have meaning too; an idea behind it. aesthetics are fleeting, ideas are what last.

That's not entirely true. There's no story or inspiration (or really, any inherent function) behind the Bears uniform or the Yankees uniform. There's no 'idea' there. It's purely aesthetic, and the aesthetics of those uniforms have stood the test of time. The only functions a uniform has are to identify one team from the other and to identify each particular player with a numeral in most sports. The little metallic and leather details on the NPS uniform serve no function at their root. A plain leather belt would do the job just as well. They are purely aesthetic, because as the original post indicated, it's not well known what they represent, like the Bears' orange stripes and the Yankees' pinstripes. However, they have built equity in these attractive, non-functional decorations in each case. I maintain that as long as the function is met, a uniform's sole purpose is to look pretty. If you can do that with some extra relevance to the team or organization, then great, but it's certainly not going to diminish the product if it doesn't have any obvious ties to the team or organization it represents.

Sure they do. They function to remind people of where the organization originated and what it's about. Of course a plain belt or hatband would hold up a ranger's pants or adorn the hat, but that's strictly functional. They wouldn't have any meaning to go with the function, and that's how I read BrandMooreArt's reply, that design success = function + meaning.

What you stated about the Yankees and Bears was true when they were founded, but over time those organizations' success made the look of their uniforms iconic (i.e. meaningful), so now they meet the formula for success.

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Most military uniforms are based on function, as they should be when it's a matter of life-or-death. Dress uniforms are for the most part done in olive or khaki colors and have some history about them.

One notable exception is the United States Marine Corps, which has its classic "Dress Blues":

PlateIV_Enlisted_Dress_Uniform.jpg

From the USMC website:

Every detail of the dress blues uniform reflects the proud legacy of Marines who have served for more than two centuries:

The buttons featuring the eagle and anchor have been on the uniform since 1804, making them the oldest military insignia in continued use.

The "blood stripe" runs down each trouser leg of the dress blues worn by noncommissioned officers, staff noncommissioned officers and officers. The solid red stripe became part of the uniform in 1849. Today, it serves to honor the memory of fallen comrades.

The collar of today's dress blues reflects the original Marine uniform of the American Revolution, which had a high leather neck to help protect Marines from sword blows.

Because it embodies Marine Corps history, rigorous standards apply to wearing this uniform and every Marine upholds those standards with pride.

____________________

In addition, the Marine Corps "eagle, globe and anchor" emblem has much symbolism.

180px-Officer_GlobeAnchor.jpg

The Eagle, Globe and Anchor emblem has been part of the uniform since 1868 and became the official emblem of the Marine Corps in 1955.

The eagle with spread wings represents our proud nation. The globe points to worldwide presence. The anchor stands for naval tradition. Together, they represent a dedication to service in the air, on land and at sea.

The Eagle, Globe and Anchor emblem is presented to recruits at the end of Recruit Training, symbolizing that they have earned the title "United States Marine."

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this is the basics of good design, and most people really miss on this in sports. its not just about looking pretty. it has to be functional, but the design should always have meaning too; an idea behind it. aesthetics are fleeting, ideas are what last.

That's not entirely true. There's no story or inspiration (or really, any inherent function) behind the Bears uniform or the Yankees uniform. There's no 'idea' there. It's purely aesthetic, and the aesthetics of those uniforms have stood the test of time. The only functions a uniform has are to identify one team from the other and to identify each particular player with a numeral in most sports. The little metallic and leather details on the NPS uniform serve no function at their root. A plain leather belt would do the job just as well. They are purely aesthetic, because as the original post indicated, it's not well known what they represent, like the Bears' orange stripes and the Yankees' pinstripes. However, they have built equity in these attractive, non-functional decorations in each case. I maintain that as long as the function is met, a uniform's sole purpose is to look pretty. If you can do that with some extra relevance to the team or organization, then great, but it's certainly not going to diminish the product if it doesn't have any obvious ties to the team or organization it represents.

I think another thing that is missing here is the lack of technology.

These uniforms have stood the test of time because of victory and tradition, and because of that, they have meaning. I would append "modern" to the design success = function + meaning formula. When the Bears and Yanks came up with the basic designs they still use today, there was no illustrator. Hell, there were no computers. Everything was likely hand-sewn (patches and logos), so they had to remain simple. There's no telling what those unis would look like had the technology level been higher in those eras.

I have to agree though, design without purpose is just that. In my own eyes, if a logo makes me go "ohhhhh!" when I see/realize what it symbolizes, I like it that much more, and consider it a relative success.

Nice example with the NPS, btw. Never noticed that.

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I would submit ot the group that hte uniform symblism in service uniforms is not equal to atheltics. There area many historical items that are integrated in servvice uniforms and in sports that is genereally nothte case. Nike college basketball is starting t odo that with hte SoD jersey inlays but I can't treally think of other items that match up with it.

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i think Andrew makes a good point. specific brand ideas and symbolism isnt a necessity for the uniform to perform its function of identifying a team or individual. generic design elements work for that purpose and can be enough to build a brand and identity with. but the goal for designers should be to do something more than that. i think the point to take away here is why the thread was started. BlueSky saw something unique and personal in a design that he really appreciated. those ideas were well thought out and well executed. thats what takes good design to great design. it makes it very personal

speaking of Nike SOD jerseys, i love ideas like that. my boy Joshua Smith was a perfect choice for the artwork: http://www.hydro74.com/hydro2011/neu/nikencaa.html

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i think Andrew makes a good point. specific brand ideas and symbolism isnt a necessity for the uniform to perform its function of identifying a team or individual. generic design elements work for that purpose and can be enough to build a brand and identity with. but the goal for designers should be to do something more than that. i think the point to take away here is why the thread was started. BlueSky saw something unique and personal in a design that he really appreciated. those ideas were well thought out and well executed. thats what takes good design to great design. it makes it very personal

speaking of Nike SOD jerseys, i love ideas like that. my boy Joshua Smith was a perfect choice for the artwork: http://www.hydro74.com/hydro2011/neu/nikencaa.html

Couldn't have said it better.

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