New Detroit Lions Nike Uniforms: Flawless Victory

>> 4.06.2012


The horrible specter of the new Lions NIKE uniforms mortified me beyond rational thought. TLiW readers and Twitter followers alike tried to talk me off the ledge, but I was having none of it. NIKE is wont to make post-modern art school disasters out of uniforms, and the Lions just completed a solid, modern update of a timeless look.

Many pointed out that under NFL policy, the Lions couldn’t make significant changes to their uniforms within five years of their 2009 makeover. But if we’ve learned nothing else this offseason, it’s that the league office has no problem ignoring or rewriting its own rules.

town hall meeting, Lions President Tom Lewand quelled my fears by confirming we “wouldn’t see much difference” visually, and that those of us with brand-new Matthew Stafford and Ndamukong Suh jerseys “are safe.” Sure enough, the big reveal came, and . . .

Meet your 2012 Detroit Lions Nike Football Uniform, same as (or remarkably similar to) your 2011 Detroit Lions Reebok Football Uniform.

The Lions opted to take NIKE up on all of their technological innovations, with advanced fabrics cut to fit snugly, “zoned mesh integration,” an articulated shoulder, and the “flywire” collar that keeps jerseys locked down onto pads.

But in terms of the colors, numbers, stripes, and marks—the things that make the Lions uniform the Lions’ uniform—nothing has changed. Depending on reports, the pants are either “shinier silver” or “duller gray”; clearly lighting and the eye of the beholder come into play there.

There are many out there who were hoping the Lions would eliminate the black piping, revert the numbers to their blockier state, and/or tweak the swoopy wordmark, but nope: the look is identical.


Some don't understand why I take this so seriously. Branding yourself a “Lions fan” is exactly that: branding. You’re taking the team’s identity and wrapping yourself with it. People have often cynically called sports fandom “cheering for laundry” . . . well, when they change the laundry, that’s a big deal.

When you walk down the street in a Lions jersey, you’re signalling to others that you have invested significant time, money, and emotion in supporting the team.You allow, even invite, others to associate your own personal brand with everything the organization does. Every time the Lions win, we bask in the glory. Every time Ndamukong Suh gets a speeding ticket, friends, family, and total strangers bust our balls and lady balls.

Don the Honolulu Blue when the team is doing well, and it reflects well on you. Sport the gear when the team is doing poorly, and you run the risk of lowering yourself in others’ opinion.

This goes a step further. Amongst fellow Lions and NFL fans, jerseys (and other gear) become a matter of taste and fashion. Two years ago, I saw a fellow Lions fan in a supermarket rocking the eye-bleeding silver alternate jersey from the early Millen Era—only instead of the Charles Rogers model in the only picture of that monstrosity I could find, it was an Az-Zahir Hakim:


At a glance, I could tell several things about this person:

  • They were, at best, naïve about football in 2004.
  • They were unable to visually differentiate between “awful” and “awesome” in 2004.
  • They are profoundly clueless about football now.
  • They either remain ignorant of the difference between “awful” and “awesome,” or
  • Cannot afford a more respectable jersey, and in either case
  • They have absolutely no compunction about looking like an idiot in public.

You don't want to be that person. *I* don't want to be that person. I want to be the person who showed up to the 2009 home opener in a brand-new authentic home Matthew Stafford. I also, as I’ve said before, want this look, this Lions uniform, to be instantly identified with this era of Lions success—especially since, as relatively bold of a departure from the past it is, it’s still instantly identifiable as the Detroit Lions’ uniform.

That shouldn't change, and I'm thrilled it didn't.


Nate Washuta,  April 6, 2012 at 1:10 PM  

I take the opposite view here. I feel like a Lions jersey is a Lions jersey, no matter who the player is or when it's from.

I've been an Atlanta Braves fan since my childhood in the early 90s. There were plenty of great players to like - Maddux, Glavine, Smoltz, Chipper, etc. etc. - but my favorite player was the world renowned...Tony Graffanino. I wouldn't expect anyone to understand, and I don't even quite get it myself, but it never made me any less of a fan. If I had been a fan in the 80s, I can't say I wouldn't have gotten swept up in the powder blue era (

The uniform and the player matter very little to me when I see someone with the same fandom as me. I would proudly wear a Joey Harrington, Charles Rogers, or Az Hakim jersey (Az Hakim was amazing in Madden '03) knowing that I had proof I didn't just hop on the bandwagon and hit up a Modell's. If you're a Lions fan, you have to embrace the past. It's those failures that have magnified the recent success. So my first reaction would be that a uniform change would be good. It would give some kind of landmark, like AD or BC, BN (before nike) or AN (after nike). I would have proof that I was there since the beginning. My other reaction would be to wonder why the team is turning their back on the past when I, as a fan, have been there since the bad times.

Nate Washuta,  April 6, 2012 at 1:13 PM  

Also, what's with the Zelda rupee-shaped ass pad?

Flamekeeper_Ty,  April 6, 2012 at 3:59 PM  

Watch yer cornhole, bud.

Flamekeeper_Ty,  April 6, 2012 at 4:06 PM  

I love this. I love it and I get it and it's brilliant and I respect it.

I have one each of the last two generations of jerseys: a very-well-worn Charlie Batch (which was crappily made and is falling apart) and an away Charles Rogers (which is an awesome-looking jersey, and a treasured birthday present from the Mrs.).

I actually had someone offer me cash to take the Rogers off my hands to use as a Fantasy Football league shame talisman. I can't really rep Chuck in public anymore, but I couldn't let it be used like THAT.

Doubling down on the Stafford authentic was a huge statement from me, at a time when MANY Lions fans, to an extent myself included, had great trepidation about another "savior" quarterback coming to town.

The switch to Nike jerseys will let that my jersey stand as evidence I stuck my neck out there, but won't obsolete the one I've got. Win-win.


Jimmerz,  April 6, 2012 at 5:57 PM  

Personally I have far more respect as a fan for the guy wearing the Az Hakim jersey than the guy wearing the jersey of the player that hasn't played a down in the NFL.

Flamekeeper_Ty,  April 9, 2012 at 2:24 PM  

Hey, that's cool. As I said above:

"Doubling down on the Stafford authentic was a huge statement from me, at a time when MANY Lions fans, to an extent myself included, had great trepidation about another "savior" quarterback coming to town."

For me, buying the Stafford jersey was a statement of faith in the new way of things, and I was willing to be wrong. The guy with the Hakim jersey . . . I mean, I liked Hakim and thought he might be a very strong #2. But even amongst the players at the time, he was far from the best choice. Leaving Rogers and Harrington aside, you had Dre Bly, Damien Woody, etc.

Hakim was a weird choice then, and repping Hakim's tenure with the Lions makes little sense now.


Lionsberry,  April 9, 2012 at 7:03 PM  

There are two scenarios one must consider about the Hakim jersey or any similar one. The first, which I find more likely, is that the dude found it on the clearance rack after Hakim was gone, liked that it was "different," and considered it a cost-effective way to rep the team. The second is that he was a huge Lions/Hakim fan and shelled out full price on near-Day 1. In that case, the guy probably is thinking "I laid down some serious coin on what is essentially a t-shirt, I'm gonna' get my use out of it." Actually, that point applies in either scenario. Once a person has made the financial investment, however large or small, one can't really blame the person for getting his/her money's worth. At the same time, in these trying economic times, you can't expect folks to "re-up" every time the roster changes. I really have no problem with someone rocking an old player unless there are extenuating circumstances (I, too, no longer wear my C. Rogers and would shake my head at anyone else who did). As for the styling, beauty is in the eye of the beholder, one man's trash, etc., etc. I might not like the look, but if that guy does, more power to him.

Craig,  April 9, 2012 at 11:17 PM  

Ty, I Gotta agree with you. I think the new threads are a perfect blend of tradition and progress. I like the Idea of this era of Lions having a signature look that future generations of fans will instantly recognize. Keep up he great work. I read every post.

Spartynation1,  April 12, 2012 at 3:50 AM  

Though purely an alternate, you made no mention of your feelings on the Nike Pro Combat uniform concept. I didn't care for the collegiate version in the least, but my teenage son loved them. Youtube showing possibles:

Jeremy Weinland,  September 11, 2012 at 11:33 PM  

I wear my black calvin johnson jersey. But the black jersey's are gone.
Does that make me an idiot too? Because apparently all the compliments
from people here in Los Angeles and the compliments from Detroiters
themselves certainly seem to think I'm not an Idiot. If he buys a jersey
in 2004 that means he's been a fan for at least 8 years now. He doesn't
have to buy the new jersey to show support for the team. In fact I
can't tell you how many times when I go to any sports game I see jerseys
from any time between 1980-2010 INCLUDING jerseys from the early

Do I look more like an idiot in this picture with my CUSTOMIZED Sketchbook for my Architecture class and my jersey from before 2010? Or do I look more like a real lions fan?

Flamekeeper_Ty,  September 11, 2012 at 11:50 PM  

Jeremy, note that the jersey in the picture is a silver Charles Rogers jersey. No form of Calvin Johnson jersey looks ridiculous, and many folks liked the black jerseys, myself included.

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