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Fixing the Detroit Lions uniforms

The Lions’ biggest weakness in 2020? Their look. Let’s fix that.

Los Angeles Chargers v Detroit Lions Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images

The Detroit Lions have a problem that nobody is talking about: their uniforms are bad.

No, this is not another mock draft related article, nor is it speculation about where Darius Slay or Tua Tagovailoa will end up. Instead, I want to look at something that bothered me throughout the 2019 season: their look.

The Lions have been rocking the Honolulu blue and silver for decades, but this recent iteration of their uniform was implemented back in 2017. Previously, the Lions had black throughout the uniform, from black stripes on the helmet, shoulders, and pants to a black number outline. Instead, this current look prioritizes silver and blue on the home uniform. The numbers are just silver. The helmet stripes are just blue. From a color coordination perspective, it works. As well, they introduced a new number font, with a modern, sleek look to them.

However, all of these changes work better in theory than practice.

The contrast between the two colors is not as stark as it could be, and this leads to visual problems. Firstly, the silver of the numbers fails to make them stand out, and when watching from the broadcast, it can be difficult to differentiate numbers. The interior of the number is silver, but the outline is a slightly darker silver or grey. As a result, it does not stand out on the Honolulu blue jersey.

It works better on the away jerseys, but that it due to the stronger contrast between the white jersey and blue numbers.

The font, as well, offers poor contrast between numbers. The numbers 0, 3, 8, and 9 in particular have been problematic due to how similar they look. I have mistaken Danny Amendola (80), Jesse James (83), T.J. Hockenson (88), and Isaac Nauta (89) multiple times. This is attributed to a lack of a clear outline on the numbers.

Detroit Lions v Green Bay Packers Photo by Dylan Buell/Getty Images
NFL: OCT 20 Vikings at Lions Photo by Scott W. Grau/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

You can see how easily you could confuse the two.

Elsewhere on the uniform, another critique I have are the stripes. Much like on the numbers, they are composed of a single color: silver on the blue pants, and blue on the silver pants. The thin-thick-thin stripe pattern suffers similarly to the numbers, where contrast is a problem. Although stripes are more basic and easier to identify than numbers, they fail to stand out. Additionally, the gap between the two outer stripes and the inner stripe is quite small, giving the appearance of a single, very wide stripe when viewed from afar. This stripe pattern also appears on the helmet and shoulders, with similar issues.

Now, how do you fix this?

Uniform design is a complex process, with everyone having unique preferences. You do not want to be too bland, but you also do not want to be too bold (here’s looking at you, Buccaneers). It is a fine tightrope to walk, and you have to admit that you can’t please everyone.

But this is my article, and I’m going to do what I want.

My first proposal to fix the Lions uniforms is to add white. Ladies and gentlemen, we’re going back to the 90s.

Barry Sanders - Detroit Lions - File Photos Photo by Betsy Peabody Rowe/Getty Images

The current Lions uniform is severely lacking white, and it is the root of the current problem. White is fantastic for creating contrast between colors, and in the case of the Lions from the 1990s, it provided a good balance between the blue and silver. Adding this third color to the uniform would fix many of my issues with the current look. It also would not require any sort of brand change, since the Lions logo already has white on it: the blue lion is outlined by white, which is in turn outlined by silver.

The NFL has had a recent trend of reverting to classic looks, from the San Francisco 49ers to the Los Angeles Chargers. Is it a hipster, nostalgic trend because we like old things? Perhaps. But that does not change the fact that this old look was visually appealing.

Of course, there are some changes to be made.

For the sake of modernization, the shoulder stripes should be changed. I would keep the current WCF (for former owner William Clay Ford) and LIONS text on the stripe. The pants stripe is pretty basic, but that isn’t necessarily a negative. I would try to add something unique to it, perhaps changing the shape or thickness, but the color pattern is good.

The Lions could get creative with the numbers. I prefer numbers that are more blocky than rounded, since the numbers are more distinct and easier to differentiate between. Like the stripes, the old 90s font is plain, but you could find a unique design that still stands out.

Detroit Lions v Washington Redskins Photo by Focus on Sport/Getty Images

In terms of the colors, you have two options. You could return to the classic look of a white number with a silver outline. It is simple, clean, and most of all, it stands out. However, they could opt for the inverse: a silver interior, and a white outline. This might sound unappealing at first, but it helps emphasize the silver on the jersey. Meanwhile, the white outline is a sharp boundary between the silver and the blue. The Lions featured this look in the 1970s.

As for the helmet, I would adapt the 1990s helmet exactly. Coupled with the blue facemask, it is a classic look that would still fit in today’s NFL. It is simple, but do not overthink it. The stripe would also match the pants, adding some nice uniformity to the design.

So, what could this look like?

I have made two possible designs, but there are many more possible combinations. In the first uniform, it features a white number and name with a silver outline, and a white stripe inside singular silver (on the jersey) or blue (on the pants) stripes. This is a very clean look, emulating the 1990s look with the modern William Clay Ford logo on the shoulder. However, it is also quite simple, and you could argue that it is too plain for today’s NFL.

Another alternative is shown in the second uniform. This one utilizes the silver numbers and name instead, and features a double stripe on the shoulders and pants. The double stripe is similar to their current look, except the white adds improved visibility. The number coloring emphasizes the silver in the overall look, and the white takes more of a subtle tertiary role in the uniform. In my opinion, that should be the Lions’ primary motif: Honolulu blue and silver, with a touch of white for contrast. The double stripes, meanwhile, add a bit of variation to the look.

You could also combine the two looks: white number and double stripes, or silver number and single stripes. I am still torn on which look I prefer, but overall, they fulfill my wishes. Best of all, it would make spectating much better. The numbers are a problem right now, but a simple change could make them pop. The Detroit Lions have a fantastic uniform history, and they would be wise to tap into a classic look.

Unfortunately, NFL rules stipulate that the team cannot change its uniforms more often than once every five years. So save this on your Pinterest page until 2022, Lions.

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