Traditional look of uniforms a nod to New Orleans history
August 1, 2013
As New Orleans Pelicans logo and uniform designer Rodney Richardson puts it, the city of New Orleans is frequently depicted nationally as “an over-the-top caricature.” That often results from TV coverage that broadcasts snippets of Mardi Gras for example, which publicize some of the more childish aspects of the annual celebration.
When Richardson envisioned what he wanted the uniforms for the New Orleans Pelicans to look like, he hoped to move far away from the Crescent City’s cartoonish portrayals. The result is a classic, clean-looking pair of navy blue and white uniforms, which were unveiled for the first time Thursday afternoon inside the team’s soon-to-be-completed practice facility. Pelicans players Ryan Anderson, Anthony Davis, Jrue Holiday and Jason Smith showed off the new gear.
The uniforms represent the first stage of a process that will continue in 2014-15 when the Pelicans unveil a third, alternate uniform. The following season, 2015-16, New Orleans will introduce a special fourth uniform.
“I like the classic look,” Smith said. “It really (symbolizes) the new emblem. I thought they did a nice job with the logo. They made it nice and classy. Now we’ve got to go out there and work and get ready for the season.”
The traditional appearance of the Pelicans’ 2013-14 game gear was part of an overall plan that emphasizes the lengthy history and multifaceted culture of the Crescent City. One goal was for the uniforms to stand the test of time; some NBA teams have recently introduced new uniforms, only to redesign them just 3-5 years later. There are several subtle aspects of the uniforms that acknowledge New Orleans’ history, such as the typeface on the chest that resembles French Quarter street signs.
“Anyone from New Orleans knows that there is a sensitivity here to the caricature that so many people outside the city have about the city and its people,” said Richardson, a Mississippi native and resident. “The team’s identity needed to represent the people who are from here and live here, not only in the city but the entire Gulf South. We wanted to make sure that it didn’t come off as this over-the-top caricature. It needed to represent the true nature, simplicity, beauty and richness here.”
Particularly during the 1990s, some NBA teams began moving away from traditional-looking basketball uniforms, instead preferring to use oversized graphics (see Toronto Raptors 1995-99, Houston Rockets 1995-2003). Virtually every attempt was unpopular long-term with fans, causing those same clubs to eventually return to uniforms that fit more of a classic profile.
Richardson, who also helped design the popular contemporary NBA uniforms of the Los Angeles Lakers, Miami Heat and Memphis Grizzlies, explained the return to old-school basketball apparel.
“Things go in cycles, and people want to do things that are radical and new,” Richardson said of the ill-fated 1990s NBA jersey movement. “But when the marketing moved away from representing the game, the sport and the athlete – and moved toward what will sell on a trash can to a 10-year-old – people started chasing trends.
“We had to reach a point where we said, ‘Wait a minute, kids don’t admire the NBA because they want a cartoon on a trash can. They look up to these players and want to play this game at a high level.' That’s what we need to tap into. We try not to be impacted by trends.”
One goal for the design of any new sports uniform is that it will remain popular decades into the future. The Pelicans’ new uniforms appear as though they could’ve been worn during any period of the NBA’s history.
“We want to build it in a way where we won’t look back in five years and have a whole identity that is obsolete,” Richardson said. “It has to look like a professional basketball uniform and have that distinct character. It’s not a cartoon. It’s not over-the-top. It needs to represent basketball at the highest level, and represent this city in a way that’s real and authentic.”