On Friday Illinois Football revealed new uniforms for the 2018 season. These are the first new uniforms for the team since the 2014 rebrand.
The new uniforms from Nike are very minimalistic, and feature no uniform stripes at all, or stokes around the numbers. Illinois has new Orange, Blue and White digs, but will continue to have its Gray Ghost alternates with this new set.
As with any new uniforms the fans are divided, and so is the staff of TCR.
Brandon Birkhead: Ok, let’s start with the new orange helmet.
The old orange helmet was bad, because it didn’t come close to matching the other orange on the jerseys and pants. The matte finish made it look more copper than orange. This solves that problem, and is a big upgrade in that regard.
But, I hate that they are using an orange stroke on the Block I logo on a orange helmet. Not only is this against brand standards, it ruins the shape of the Block I and will distort the shape of the logo from distance.
I understand they didn’t want to use any white in the new uniforms, but they could have done the same thing without breaking brand standards by using a solid, single color blue I. The other option would be a orange I with a blue stroke, but they may be too much orange.
Matt O’Neall: The orange helmet is probably my favorite part of the new uniforms. This is a major upgrade in my opinion, the metallic orange that didn’t match the rest of the uniform is gone, and they got rid of the white Block I which I thought looked terrible. I like excluding the white outline on the Block I. I think its going to look clean and sharp. Sometimes I feel like the outlines on numbers and logos are really forced and unnecessary so I personally like that they are stepping away from that.
The only thing I would maybe change would be to make the outline blue instead of orange. That would get rid of the curved inner I of the Block I, but it would look much more traditional. Fashion and design works in cycles, and right now less is more and that appeals to my current taste so I am pretty pleased.
Stephen Cohn: I agree with both of you guys here. I really like the orange helmet, and the fact that it isn’t going to have the shiny finish, so I think it will look really nice on the new kits. And personally, I know the shield hasn’t gone over that well with a lot of fans, so I don’t mind the Block I, but it is a little dark for me.
The “I” isn’t the typical Illinois shade of blue, and maybe it’s the orange outline on the letter, but I’m concerned the letter looks black from a distance on TV or a fan’s point of view, which makes these Halloween uniforms rather than Illini.
But the helmet is pretty sweet and clean.
Austin Jabs: Look, I may be in the minority here. I know a lot of people have been comparing these new unis to Syracuse. To be honest, when I first saw them I absolutely loved them. The simplicity, the boldness of the colors. I think it is a great transition away from what the Illini were rocking. I do think the white uniforms are the best of the bunch and the new helmets are the centerpiece.
If the helmets were the same as last season, the new uniforms would probably be hot garbage. The helmets make these sets great.
Brandon: I do think the best aspect of these uniforms is the fact that the colors rule the day. I like not having strokes around the uniform numbers, especially on the blue jersey. The uniform design itself isn’t bad.
Having said that, these uniforms represent the fact that Illinois no longer has any idea what its brand actually is anymore. This was the main problem with the rebrand in 2014, and the program is only further heading into a identity crisis with these uniforms.
The problem isn’t that these uniforms look like Syracuse’s current set, because they really don’t. However, if you slapped an “S” on the side of the helmets, they might as well be. Nike may be doing this for Syracuse right now in fact. There is nothing “Illinois” about these uniforms outside of the orange and blue, and they are as generic as possible.
Take a look at the new uniforms again.
Now look at the uniforms that Nike did for Washington State last year.
Illinois Football was given the same exact uniforms as the Washington State Cougars. Nike cared so much about the Illini, that they used a basic template. Maybe we should just be happy they they actually used Illinois’ number fonts and changed the colors and logos before they shipped them out.
Other teams will be getting this same uniform treatment in the next year or two. Illinois can try to claim they wanted to go to a more basic look based on the Dick Butkus’ era uniforms, but that is just marketing talk, and a distraction from what really happened. Illinois was just given the template treatment from Nike, and the Illinois brand continues to become more and more generic, and bland.
Thumpasaurus: Our football uniforms have been made worse. These aren’t awful, but they’re worse.
Every year that we continue to do the grays for homecoming I’m more upset about it. Like, Nike is trying to make this our THING that we DO on homecoming. It’s gonna someday be this evocative thing like penn state whiteout or Notre dame green jerseys or something.
If we wanna do something like that, let’s make it all orange and then the crowd wears orange. I love all orange. It’s so obnoxious yet so unique to us in the big ten. If gray is our homecoming thing...like....are we supposed to wear gray? I’ve never understood that.
But yeah those homecoming grays. We bust them out, you know it’s gonna be an iconic moment in Illini history. Like that time we knocked off Minnesota to buy Tim Beckman another nine months on the job! Or that time Malik Turner got knocked out! Or that time we gave up a first down for having 12 men on a punt return!
The only good thing about those uniforms is that they’re probably gonna have totally new ones within a few years anyway.
Brad Repplinger: I still miss white facemasks and helmet stripes...
If we're sticking with the rebranded "Illinois" font, I'd like to see it somewhere on the uniform. Maybe across the chest a la Michigan State? What about #TeamShield? It's on the gloves, why not work that logo into an alternate helmet design somewhere? They brought back those hideous grey uniforms...perhaps Tim Beckman is still on the design committee?
I’ve got it! Maybe they should turn the throwback basketball uniforms into the new football uniforms as well!
Brandon: At the very least, we can all agree that getting rid of the zig-zag basketball uniforms was long overdue.
Brad: But that's another roundtable for another time...