Not to get all Jean Paul Gaultier on you or anything, but the 49ers’ duds are in dire need of an overhaul. The uniforms haven’t been tweaked in a decade and the shadowed numbers are sooooo mid 1990s. (Think: Linda Tripp.) Jed York agrees. York told me today that the 49ers plan to conduct a series of fan focus groups this offseason with the intent of making some serious alterations to the 49ers’ threads by the start of the 2009 season. (Reebok and the NFL must be informed of the design changes by October of this year).
Many 49ers’ fans, of course, are hoping the team returns to the cherry red duds of the early 1980s, the ones most closely associated with Joe Montana, Dwight Clark, The Catch and the franchise’s glory years. When Bill Walsh passed away this past summer, York said there was a movement to permanently return to the throwbacks for the start of the 2008 season. But the team didn’t want to rush the decision. Once you settle on a uniform change, after all, you have to stick with it for at least five seasons.
And there are some issues that need to be, ahem, ironed out. The No. 1 priority, York said, is making sure the players are comfortable in the duds. And today’s players look at uniforms differently than their 1980s counterparts did. Take, for instance, sleeves. The early 80s uniforms were notable for the three bold red and white stripes (they remind me of the Wicked Witch of the West’s socks) that came down close to the player’s elbow. Nowadays sleeves are becoming nearly non-existent. Linemen try to minimize them as much as possible to prevent holding while quarterbacks feel they restrict their movement. When the team has gone to its throwbacks the last few years, not everyone has been comfortable.
York said the point of the focus groups is to marry what the fans want to see with what the players want to wear. It’s the age-old concept of form vs. function. York – who favors the throwback design – cited the New York Yankees as an example. The logo and pinstripes have remained the team’s trademark decade after decade, but Derek Jeter certainly isn’t wearing the same uniform Babe Ruth donned. The overall concept remains but the details get tweaked. “I guarantee we’ll make some type of change,” York said. “Hopefully we’ll do it using the (early 1980s) themes while making sure they’re updated for today’s players.”
-- Matt Barrows