Disclaimer: While I'd consider myself very strong with NFL and MLB uniforms, objectively, I'd consider my fluency in NHL sweaters as "I'm interested in them." If any of the below is incorrect, PLEASE correct me in the comments or Twitter (@dancfuller).
Watching all of the breathless speculation (some contributed by myself, of course) about the Flyers Winter Classic uniforms has been incredibly interesting. Because the Flyers don't have a varied uniform history (check out this picture of every jersey they've worn from inception to 2007), the designers are essentially making something up utilizing those same design cues, but which looks plausibly old.
pic via Frank Seravalli
Sure, the Flyers didn't exist in the 1940s, but design the uniforms well enough, and people will believe they did. This also creates an issue in tracking down the veracity of leaks, fakes, and fan renderings, because it's not like there's an actual "old" reference design to keep everyone straight. Pumpkin vs. Stripezilla made sense since it linked the Flyers with an actual historical team with ties to Philadelphia.
So, here we are with what is really the Flyers' Winter Classic jersey. A closer look is after the jump.
Does it look old?
Yep, gimmicky* features, like a drawstring neck, off-white fabric (I guess textile bleaching didn't exist in the Olde Times?), and choosing two dark colors instead of one light and one dark for the main features (see below) give it a vintage feel, while the delightfully tacky captain's patch consisting of a "C" inside a keystone seems like something from the good olde days.
*I know a lot of the readers were hoping they'd add a drawstring to the previous (fake) design, so I'm not evaluating the drawstring as a negative feature, just one that's obviously there to impart an old feeling to the jersey, even though it's unnecessary, a gimmick which now is an aesthetic statement instead of a functional one. As much as we're talking "uniforms" here, this is just as much related to marketing and branding as anything, and aesthetics are just as important. Again, the goal for these made-up jerseys is that they feel old.
The Flyers play it safe with their branding. Does it "say" Flyers?
Absolutely. They're not rocking any boats with this design, and that's perfect. Orange is the primary color, with black and white (well, off-white) as accents.
Does it look good?
Yes, but it could've looked better. I wouldn't fault anyone for buying one (or putting one on a Christmas list), but the more I look, the more I'm bothered by two features, both related by color selection, not geometry. 1) The black yoke (shoulder) is too dark and doesn't contrast sufficiently with the orange body of the jersey. Look through the Flyers uniform history when they used a yoke on an orange jersey, and you'll see they always picked white, and for good reason. The white is a nice, clean break from the orange. 2) The black numbers on the back are another bad decision. Again, look through the uniform history. It's only the often (and rightly) forgotten 3rd jersey from 2002–2007 which also made this mistake. Sure, it's effectively a small detail, but realistically, there's 40 years of successful graphic design they're ignoring in order to separate this jersey from every other orange jersey they've used.
[Cynic Alert] This isn't about historical accuracy, but that they're throwing away proven design concepts, whether sports-related or not, (specifically that black isn't a suitable color for contrasting features on a predominantly orange base), because they need to make a product that doesn't look too much like the existing orange jersey which most of the target market already owns.
Swapping (off-)white for black on the yoke and numbers would "fix" this jersey.
OK, any nitpicky details which neither help nor harm the uniform?
My "design symmetry" radar is blaring at me due to the sleeve stripes being white-black-white Northwestern stripes, but the beltline striping being just black and white, with the white being much thicker. It actually looks better as-designed (as opposed to appeasing crazies like me) than if they tried to squeeze three stripes on the beltline, just that it doesn't match.
Also, speaking of the beltline striping, no previous design ever used more than a single stripe…except that forgotten 2002–07 third jersey which used an unequal thickness grey-white-black triple stripe. Either an odd source of inspiration for whomever designed these Winter Classic Jerseys or a really odd coincidence that two of the lesser features of rightfully dead third jersey made it onto the final product of the most anticipated Flyers jersey since the introduction of the black jerseys in 1997.
Really? You like them? After all of that?
Yep. Aside from the orange and black mix-up, they're both different enough and similar enough to look exactly like we fans think of what the Flyers would have worn in that unspecified decade we sports fans think of as "the good old days," when decades of design language condense into a general feeling of "old." Designing that is easier said than done. And, also, they're not the Islanders newly unveiled third jerseys.