Adidas is making some good changes to UCLA’s football uniforms in 2016, but there is still room for some obvious improvement.
There are some programs in the country that should not mess too much with their uniforms, and UCLA is among them. As is often the case whenever the Bruins decide to let the creative minds at Adidas dabble with some experiments, it tends to look flat out awful. Example No. 1: LA Steel. UCLA’s partnership with Adidas was essentially selling its soul to the devil as the apparel brand completely tore apart one of the greatest uniforms in college football and cut together an alternate black look and gave it a gimmicky localized nickname designed to generate buzz. This trend is coming with many programs, large and small, with all apparel companies like Nike and Under Armour, but Adidas has an unforgivable track record with this sort of thing.
Recently, UCLA showed off its updated look from Adidas for the 2016 season, and the initial reaction tended to be a positive one (a true rarity for any uniform issued by Adidas). The biggest reason for the complimentary feedback seemed to be regarding the work done on the signature shoulder stripes. For UCLA fans, the shoulder stripes are a big deal. Perhaps not as big a deal as the thought of Penn State adding a logo to its helmet or Michigan abandoning a winged helmet, but it’s a big deal nonetheless. That is why, according to Bruin Report, UCLA head coach Jim Mora made it a point to have Adidas focus on the traditional look of the shoulder stripes. In recent years those stripes have stopped short of wrapping around the full shoulder. This year’s uniforms appear to have returned to a more traditional form. In the below images you will see a look at UCLA’s jersey in 2015, followed by a look at this year’s uniform and then an older photo of a UCLA football uniform (produced by Champion, featuring Johnathan Ogden).
The biggest sticking point to me, as a self-proclaimed uniform critic, is the numbering on the uniform. As the above photos suggest, UCLA has not been shy about using a pretty standard block-style before, but I continue to wonder why the school would ever allow its football team to trot on to a field in anything other than this style…
Forget the difference in the shade of blue for a moment. Just look at that unique number style UCLA has used in the past until Adidas got their hands on the UCLA uniforms and completely ran away from it. What has been so frustrating with Adidas and the UCLA uniforms is they have shown the ability to use this number style at times but for whatever reason opt not to use it as the standard. In an age where programs are looking to enhance their brand and stand out above the rest, Adidas continues to let UCLA down in this area.
Now I hear what you are going to say already. But Kevin, recruits love this stuff! To that I say, yes, perhaps there is something to whatever UCLA and Adidas are doing. Since the hiring of Jim Mora as head coach in 2012, UCLA’s recruiting classes have ranked highly among Pac-12 foes (No. 3 in 2014, No. 2 in 2015 and 2016 per 247 Sports composite rankings). Ultimately, what sells recruits the most? The opportunity to win and take things to the NFL, if not both. UCLA can send talent to the NFL, but the Bruins continue to fall short of achieving on-field greatness as a team for any number of reasons. With that being the case, at least they have uniform gimmicks to fall back on.
The good news, perhaps, is change could be coming. UCLA is entering the final season of their contract with Adidas. UCLA will be switching over to Under Armour next year, which is a nice addition for the rising apparel company. Under Armour has had some misguided steps along the way with their take on football uniforms though, but hopefully they continue to learn some lessons as a result. By the time they get their hands on the UCLA uniforms (which they surely have already), here’s hoping they come up with a clean, traditional look that embraces the rounded number scheme and keeps the shoulder stripes as long as possible. Under Armour will surely try some new things with UCLA and may even have their own gimmicks ready to roll out, but nothing will be worst than anything Adidas had the Bruins wear. That is a statement I feel pretty confident in standing by in the years to come.