A uniform is a pretty simple concept when you get to the basic meaning of the word. It’s defined as a prescribed identifying set of clothes for the members of an organization, such as soldiers, schoolchildren, or, in our context, baseball players.
There are aspects of the Indians’ current uniform set that I particularly enjoy. They’re clean-cut and not overcomplicated by drop shadows, fancy hard-to-read script, or an unnecessary use of the color black. Individually, each of the Indians’ current uniform combinations are great. But when you combine them in the context of the teams’ identity, things get a little crazy.
Allow me to explain. Ask anyone what the Indians’ current color set is and he or she will be sure to respond with the basic: red, white, and blue. More detail-oriented people might tell you that they’re red, white, and navy blue. That’s fine. Either way the answer is correct, at least on the surface. But, when you really look at the entire set it becomes a jumbled mess.
Typically, home and road uniforms are simply inversions of each other. One set is white with colored accents and the other is the reverse, colored with white accents. Just take a look at any football, basketball, or hockey team and you’ll see what I mean. Baseball complicated things just a bit (or maybe they simplified it, depending on your point of view)—home uniforms are traditionally white and road uniforms are gray with the team’s primary colors as accents.
Sometimes its a simple transition from home to road. Take the Reds. They wear whites and grays both with red as the dominant accent color. Makes sense seeing as how they’re the Reds. (Let’s forget the black era of the 2000′s ever happened.) Some teams use one accent color predominantly at home and the other on the road, like the Cardinals. They wear red and white at home and navy blue and gray on the road. Again, this is simple to make sense of.
However, the Indians have complicated things in what I can only assume is a gradual attempt to phase out Chief Wahoo (the subject for another day). They suffer the same problem that has plagued the Dallas Cowboys for years: the uniform sets and colors make no sense together. Take a look at the Cowboys’ classic, iconic, and timeless home uniforms. White jerseys with royal blue socks, numbers, and accents. The pants are a shiny metallic silver with a greenish hue. The iconic helmet is also…silver. Plain old silver. And the star and stripes are navy blue? That’s odd. Why the disconnect there?
It gets even more confusing when you look at the Cowboys’ seldom-worn navy blue uniform. All of the sudden all the blues match. The pants no longer have that greenish hue, but instead match the helmet perfectly. The uniform numbers have an outline and now there are stars on the sleeves. What in the name of Jerry Jones is going on here? Oh, and don’t even get me started on these.
So what does any of this have to do with the Indians? Well, just look for yourself (note that the shoes with the home alts should be black, not red). Are the Indians red and navy blue or are they red and navy “it’s so dark it might as well be black” blue? Even the two variations of the road hat are different. The standard road cap is the navy “it’s so dark it might as well be black” blue while the Chief Wahoo cap worn with the blue alternates on the road bares a closer resemblance to the home cap. Yeah, there’s a lot going on here. And that’s just the start.
The home alternate, which is cream-colored, was originally paired with dark navy accents and just recently changed to red accents. This change made sense seeing as how the Indians began by wearing what is now the primary road cap and then transitioned to the red cap we have all grown accustomed to. All of that blue made absolutely no sense when paired with a bright red cap. Switching to red accents brought the entire ensemble together, but now leaves the Indians with one uniform that predominantly features red while all the other feature blue…except for the batting helmets.
For whatever reason, the Indians have neglected to adopt a solid red batting helmet to pair with the home alternates. They don’t even put in the effort to wear the road helmets with the block C. That would at least make sense, but instead they’ve gone with the primary Chief Wahoo helmets in every incarnation of this set. Yes, it’s a minor detail, but other teams go to the trouble to match helmets to uniforms that are worn only on occasion or even only once. Why not go through the effort for a uniform that is in the regular rotation? It’s lazy not to.
Sure, this one small point could be overlooked seeing how it is an alternate uniform, but that alternate uniform might as well be the primary uniform at this point since it is worn for all special events (Opening Day and holidays) and all weekend home games. It’s featured just as much, if not more than the primary home design. Then there’s the fact that the primary home design looks a lot like the road alternate and the primary road design resembles the home alternate, which is hard to square on any level.
So for those of you scoring at home, we have four different designs featuring two different shades of the same color, differing primary accent colors, different logos, one cream colored uniform set, and primary uniform designs that favor alternate uniform designs and vice versa. Oh, and half of the Indians uniform designs seem to present a gradual phasing out of Chief Wahoo while the other half has him alive and kicking. My head hurts.
So how do the Indians fix this? For starters, adopt a single shade of blue to tie all the navy blue elements together. Personally, I prefer the darker version of the navy blue worn with the road uniforms. It provides a deeper contrast with the brightness of the red and makes the red elements seem more vibrant. The lighter version, which made it’s way into the design in the early 2000′s, never really seemed right. In the right light it almost looks like it has a purplish hue to it.
Second, unify the primary home and road sets and put an end to this jumbled mess. Since the Indians recently adopted the current road set and abandonded the Cleveland script on the road uniforms, it makes more sense to keep the primary road design in place and promote the current home alternate to the home primary. This would create a unified vision with the block C as the primary logo and relegate Chief Wahoo to secondary status.
Third, if they’re going to use red, go all out. Adopt red as the primary home color and use it to accent everything. This would tie in with the use of the current alternate as the new primary home set. They should also adopt red batting helmets with the block C that would match the red caps worn at home. As for the home alternates, the Tribe should use what is now the current primary home design with red accents, thus harkening back to the mid 90′s when Jacobs Field was first opened. This use of red primarily at home and blue primarily on the road would also be a subtle nod to the mid-90′s Indians. If they really wanted to go crazy they could even invert the current blue alternate top (red with blue script) or a create a new design featuring a red top with cream colored script and numbers for use as a home alternate. Bold? Yes, but it would be much more consistent.
Some of you may think focusing on this is ridiculous. Perhaps someone out there will see this and decide to hire me as a fashion consultant. Regardless, I hope I’ve at least brought to light the fact that the Indians’ current uniform set makes no sense. After all, shouldn’t uniforms have some uniformity?