Nebraska Football: Adidas Gets It Right (Mostly) With Cornhusker Alternate Uniforms

Photo from adidas, story by Patrick Runge

For the last few days, Nebraska fans have been on pins and needles as adidas teased the Cornhuskers’ new uniforms. On Thursday, we finally got a look at what adidas has in mind.

This year’s offering will be a one-off, worn on October 24 against Northwestern (much like the Purples did last year with their Gothic-inspired alternates against Nebraska). It’s not quite as dramatic a look as adidas gave Louisville for its alternate uniform. And it’s not the sweeping full-uniform change that adidas put together for Miami this year. Nor is it the missed-opportunity disaster that adidas fostered on UCLA.

So how did adidas do in making Nebraska part of their #3StripeLife?

The Good

The helmet works well, basically replicating the standard helmet with a matte black base and chrome red striping. Functionally, it’s a matte version of the 2012 alternate helmet, which up to now was the sharpest of the helmet offerings.

There is one difference, though. On the back of the helmet, there will be giant-sized player numbers with the same horizontal slashes that permeate the design of the uniform.

The jersey is a real amalgam of previous alternates for Nebraska. Since 2013, adidas has used the stencil-like numerals for Nebraska’s alternate, and this year’s offering is no different. It has the black from Nebraska’s 2013 alternate, and incorporated the “metallic” look from the 2014 model.

However, by using a red-on-black color scheme, hopefully adidas will make the numbers legible from a distance, a huge problem with the 2014 offering.

The pants are functionally identical to last year’s model, with the color scheme being swapped (red-on-black instead of black-on-red) this year. The subtle sans-serifed N inside of the side stripes on the pants is repeated this year, which is a clever addition.

One other observation is the number adidas chose for the reveal, 15. It may not be breaking news, but this is further confirmation that De’Mornay Pierson-El will be the face of Nebraska this season.

The Bad

Yes, the undershirt is ridiculous, as pointed out by Paul Lukas of UniWatch.

(And before you say it, yes, we’ve all heard the one about the N standing for “knowledge,” thank you very much.)

But it’s an undershirt. No one other than the players will ever see it outside of today’s reveal.

Of bigger concern is the tire-tread  stretch pattern on the jerseys. Of course, we’ll hear from adidas all about how it will make the players faster, lighter, and stronger. But, come on. The primary reason for the design is to give a unified look to all adidas-outfitted schools. The German outfitter wants you to know at a glance that a uniform is living the #3StripeLife, and the pattern (along with the diagonal slashes in the stripes, as seen with Nebraska, Miami, and UCLA) is how adidas will accomplish that goal.

And The Amalgam

Adidas has come under withering scrutiny over the last year or so for producing flops in uniforms. It’s no accident that Michigan, Tennessee, and Notre Dame have all stopped living the #3StripeLife when they got the chance recently.

So there was not a little pressure on adidas to get things right this year for their football offerings. After a huge fail (UCLA), an interesting alternate (Louisville), and a qualified success (Miami), what adidas would do with Nebraska was a cross-your-fingers moment.

Taken on its own, the 2015 alternate is a success. For alternates, black seems to work better than red, as it’s easier to differentiate it from Nebraska’s standard uniforms without being overly weird. Prior to this season’s gear, the 2013 black uniforms were the best in my book, followed by the under-loved 2012 giant N uniforms (although Wisconsin’s that year were better) and then the 2014 “duct-tape” model which worked far better in theory than in practice.

But when you look at the history of Nebraska’s alternates (never mind how weird it is to think of alternate uniforms as having a “history”), this year’s offering seems like a re-tread.

See what I did there, referring to Nebraska’s tire-tread-pattered uniform as a “re-tread”? Quality analysis at work.

There’s really not much new in these uniforms. Instead, it feels like taking the best parts of previous uniforms and melding them together in the hopes of getting something right. Functionally, the uniform takes the black helmet from 2012, the black shirts from 2013, and the shiny numbers and N-pattered pant stripes from 2014 in a way that will be (hopefully) legible from a distance.

So overall, it should be fun to see Nebraska take the field on October 24 in these uniforms. Assuming the numbers are legible, adidas managed to avoid a car-crash of a uniform. And the black uniforms and helmets should be a hit.

But it’s hard not to feel like this year’s offering is anything more than a recycling of previous years’ models. And that’s not what an alternate uniform is supposed to be.

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