Live by the sword, die by the sword.
That's the approach the Tennessee Titans are taking with their new uniform set, which was unveiled on Wednesday night. The new designs, which lean heavily on sword-based imagery, represent the franchise's first makeover since adopting the Titans moniker in 1999.
Like most NFL uniform sets, this one has a lot of components. Let's go one element at a time (with the usual caveat that we'll need to see these uniforms on the field to get the full effect):
The helmet represents the new uniform set's biggest change, and it's mostly for the better. The Titans' old white helmet has been replaced by a navy blue shell with a satin finish. The face mask is chrome, and the tapered silver center stripe is meant to evoke the tip of a sword.
The one holdover element is the Titans' familiar helmet logo, variously known as "the flaming thumbtack" (if you're among the many fans who've ridiculed the logo over the years) or "the fireball" (if you're the team's marketing department). It's been given a silver outline but is otherwise unchanged. Too bad -- it could have used some updating.
Still, the overall helmet is an upgrade. The Titans never looked quite right wearing white helmets, which are primarily the province of the AFC East. The new look works nicely. Grade: A-
The home jersey
The Titans are sticking with a navy home jersey with a contrasting shoulder yoke. But the old yoke was Columbia blue and ran as a solid horizontal stripe, while the new one features two shades of grayish silver and tapers to a point at each sleeve, supposedly to represent a beveled sword. If you ignore the sword nonsense and just assess it on an aesthetic level, it's not bad. And the navy jersey pairs well with the new navy helmet.
There's also a new number font, which takes inspiration from stone-carved Greek lettering. That's an intriguing idea that, like so many of Nike's typographic concepts, doesn't work so well in real life. The whole appeal of stone-carved lettering is that it's, you know, carved in stone -- it's fixed in place, immobile, eternal. But these jersey numbers are rendered in fabric that will be flexing, twisting, wrinkling and puckering, and Nike's press photos suggest that the font doesn't look so great under those conditions. Also, the font comprises a lot of fairly thin strokes, which looks fine on a slender defensive back but is less than ideal on a 300-pound lineman.
Each numeral also includes a little triangular point at the upper-right corner to evoke the northeastern tip of Tennessee -- a fun idea that works better with some numerals than with others. In the overall context of the number font, it's largely harmless.
Finally, the jersey also includes Columbia blue side panels, which is a major mistake. Contrasting side panels never look good on an NFL jersey (see: Patriots, Bengals, Broncos), and this one feels particularly gratuitous. A worthless throw-in element that serves no purpose and seriously detracts from the design. Grade: C+
The road jersey
Basically the same thing as the home jersey, but rendered in white. The silver-gray yoke works surprisingly well with the white jersey, and the blue side panels, while still pointless, aren't quite as obtrusive against the white background. Also, this jersey looks particularly good with the navy pants -- here's hoping the Titans go with that pairing on the road. Grade: B-
The alternate jersey
The same template again, this time in Columbia blue. Much like the team's previous Columbia blue jersey, this design will serve two functions: It will be an alternate jersey that can be worn up to twice per season, presumably with white pants, and it also will be worn for Thursday night games with matching Columbia blue pants. (And if Titans history is any guide, it might one day be redesignated as the team's primary jersey, with the navy design becoming the alternate.)
Unfortunately, the gray yoke looks much too drab against this color -- a downgrade from the navy yoke on the previous alternate. On the plus side, however, this jersey looks better with the navy helmet than the previous alternate looked with the white helmet. Grade: B-
Nike's designers like to play around with diagonally oriented pants piping. We've seen that before with the Jaguars and Buccaneers. Now they've put two diagonal gray stripes on the sides of the Titans' new pants and are claiming that it represents -- wait for it -- a sword being worn on the hip.
This is classic Nike -- a design detail that gets people saying, "Ahh!" at the unveiling event and then everyone will forget all about it by the next day. But if you ignore the sword silliness and just treat the two gray stripes as two gray stripes, they have a nice regimental look -- not bad. Grade: B+
Paul Lukas is looking forward to the Jaguars' and Dolphins' uniform unveilings on April 19. If you like this column, you'll probably like his Uni Watch Blog, plus you can follow him on Twitter and Facebook and sign up for his mailing list so you'll always know when a new column has been posted. Want to learn about his Uni Watch Membership Program, check out his Uni Watch merchandise, or just ask him a question? Contact him here.