BRONCOS

Will the Broncos new uniforms be built to last?

Apr 23, 2024, 1:57 AM | Updated: 1:57 am

Broncos new uniforms...

(Photo by RJ Sangosti/MediaNews Group/The Denver Post via Getty Images)

(Photo by RJ Sangosti/MediaNews Group/The Denver Post via Getty Images)

The last time the Broncos unveiled new uniforms, they brought out a look that lasted for 27 seasons. That followed a run with the “D” on the royal/academy-blue helmets that lasted for 29 seasons — with the 1967 season preceding it seeing that uniform template, but with blank helmets.

Now, there are reasons why the 1997-2023 design lasted as long as it did. In the 2010s, the calls for a refresh grew. The contrasting side panels on the jerseys, considered revolutionary in 1997, became dated and passé. But once the team passed from the direct guidance of Pat Bowlen to the Pat Bowlen Trust in 2014, the uniforms seemed preserved in amber.

The trust decided not to make any changes, partially out of respect to the 1997 design that Bowlen championed, and partially because it believed that such a decision should be made by new and permanent ownership, not a trust that was intended to be a placeholder — but ended up holding down the fort for eight seasons before the Walton-Penner group purchased the team in 2022.

So, had things been different, this day might have arrived sooner.

But instead, it comes after a 27-year era that saw all three Super Bowl wins — but also a descent to seven-consecutive losing seasons, the most in succession in nearly a half-century.

THE RECEPTION TO THEN-NEW BRONCOS UNIFORMS IN 1997 WAS HARSH

Writing for The (Colorado Springs) Gazette-Telegraph, Mike Klis noted, “The Broncos don’t have new home uniforms; owner Pat Bowlen had someone steal them from the Chicago Bears’ equipment room.”

The Los Angeles Times ran a photo with the caption, “Bronco bust?”

In the Louisville Courier-Journal, Pat Forde described the uniforms as “something better suited for Arenaball” and said the Broncos had “murdered tradition.” The Tampa Tribune noted that the uniforms were “hideous.”

And that says nothing about some of the published comments from fans at the time.

To wit:

  • “They look like they’re out of sugar plum fairies or Captain Marvel”
  • “They look like they’re playing in a caveman league”
  • “The logo looks like some genetic mutant between a horse, a cat and a video game serpent”
  • “I think the uniforms are repulsive”
  • “The uniforms look like something from Halloween”

Early success softened the reception to the uniforms among Broncos fans, although the uniforms never seemed to elicit wider appeal. They did not grow into the type of timeless classic utilized by some other teams, and by the 2010s, they frequently finished in the bottom tier of uniform rankings.

By comparison, the reactions to Monday’s unveiling were tame. And while Twitter/X polls are hardly official, getting roughly 64 percent of fans to give an A or B grade to the new uniforms — without counting the throwbacks — is probably as well as any uniform that wasn’t a simple fan-service throwback would reasonably receive. Human nature is a thing, and many human beings are change-averse.

LEARNING FROM THE MISSTEP OF THE PAST UNIFORMS

One of the core attributes of the Broncos’ look was the contrasting side panels that created a side “swoosh” extending from the upper chest to the knees. It had the effect of making players look like ambulatory parentheses, especially in the monochromatic all-blue and all-white looks.

But the intended unifying effect was torn asunder by the trend of wearing an untucked undershirt beneath the jersey.

Further, the trend toward mixing and matching the pants was effectively neutered by the Broncos’ uniform template and the need to make the side swooshes match. For two games in 2022, the team flipped that notion on its ear, wearing white jerseys — with blue side panels — atop blue pants with orange side panels.

The Broncos wore that mismatched look for two consecutive games, including a trip to London. They ditched it after losing at Tennessee in that uniform. But the notion of interchangeable pants lingered.

“We saw that in London [it] can be a challenge in the current uniforms,” Broncos president Damani Leech said.

One thing that could give this new look a chance to endure is its versatility. By going away from the side panels, the Broncos have nine different combinations of jerseys and pants. If you add socks into the mix, the Broncos have 27 uniform combinations, as orange, white and navy socks are a part of the wardrobe.

“This is the way we’ve outlined them: fully interchangeable,” Broncos chief marketing officer Hailey Sullivan said. “So pants can be determined later on as we also see kind of what players like and whatnot. But fully interchangeable.”

“… It showcases the versatility the closet so I mean it could be orange jersey, white pants. It could be orange jersey, navy pants. There’s so many different possibilities of what we could wear.”

The multiple possibilities could help keep the look fresh.

BUT WILL THE NEW LOOK STAND THE TEST OF TIME?

And what’s more, is it even intended to have a run like the previous two uniform templates?

“We sort of started that conversation and didn’t answer it by saying, ‘This is what we expect long-term,” Leech said.

“Obviously, there’s a league minimum of five years, so, we know that.

“But that (potential longevity) was not a driver, of that we want to create something that’s going to last and be timeless from a design standpoint.”

In other words, it’s to be determined. Myriad factors could come into play, including evolving tastes, fan reception to the uniforms and the on-field success itself.

But for now, the Broncos believe they got what they wanted.

“We want to try to move the aesthetic forward, move the game forward,” Sullivan said. “[And] we want this to be something that new young, diverse fan bases say, ‘Wow, that’s amazing. I want to be a part of that from a fan standpoint. I want to wear that from an apparel standpoint.’”

And if that is the case in several years to a decade, it’s possible we won’t wait 20-plus years for the next change.

Of course, there’s one final element: Voting with the wallet — as in where money is spent on jerseys. And if throwback jerseys outsell the new template by a substantial margin … that could illuminate where a future change may go.

So, this look may not be built to last. And that’s OK.

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Will the Broncos new uniforms be built to last?