The Tampa Bay Buccaneers unveiled new and dramatically transformed uniforms Monday morning, presenting a trend-setting look that is distinctly modern and at the same time representative of the franchise's four-decade history. This marks just the second time in 39 seasons, and the first time in 17 years, that the team has made substantive changes to its uniform.
Among the many new elements to the uniform are pewter sleeves and shoulders on both the red and white jerseys, more prominent usage of "Bay Orange" as a primary trim on the jerseys and pants, a custom-designed font and a reflective chrome trim around the jersey numbers.
"Today marks the culmination of more than two years of research and planning to bring the Tampa Bay Buccaneers into a new and exciting era of our history," said Buccaneers Co-Chairman Edward Glazer. "We worked closely with our partners at Nike to design a uniform that would set the standard for both design and functionality. The result is a sleek, modern design that honors our championship past while also establishing a new, bolder identity moving forward."
As was revealed when the Buccaneers unveiled their enhanced logo and helmet on February 20, the team has retained its primary color scheme while introducing a brighter, more vibrant red and a richer, darker pewter. By paying homage to the team's original color scheme through the Bay Orange accents, keeping the popular red-and-pewter combination that was introduced in 1997 and creating a sleeker and bolder presentation moving forward, the Buccaneers have adopted a uniform that very visibly combines the franchise's past, present and future.
"It's awesome how it all ties together," said Pro Bowl defensive tackle Gerald McCoy, a lifelong Buccaneers fan who knows the franchise's history well. "You've got the orange, which is the past, the original color. Then you have the red, which is the present. It's a more vibrant red to give it a more modern look, but it's still traditional. Then you have the added pewter on the top of the jersey and the reflective chrome outlines, which is more of the futuristic look. We put the pewter on the jersey instead of just the pants, and it ties everything together.
"This is nothing that anybody else has. We're individualized and we're us. And that's how it should be. I think people need to know that the Bucs are going to bring something different to the NFL, and these uniforms are going to show that."
In collaboration with the Buccaneers and the NFL, Nike designers incorporated many of the unique historical aspects of the Tampa Bay area by showcasing the city's roots, vibrant culture and spirited fan base. The uniform is a completely integrated system of dress with a new design that honors the Buccaneers' rich tradition while boldly bringing the team into the future through a modern industrial design aesthetic.
"Ultimately, we know that the fan votes for this, and the fan wants to be proud about this," said Todd Van Horne, Nike's creative director for football. "This reflects their community, their community spirit, how they go to the game, how they tailgate at the game, the culture in and around the stadium, and we really wanted that to be part of the story. We even looked at how Tampa Bay was created and the industries that have existed for years and decades."
The reflective trim added to the numbers on the front, back and shoulders of the jersey is one of the new uniform's groundbreaking developments. The Buccaneers are the first NFL franchise to feature this revolutionary element in their uniforms, incorporating a technologically-advanced reflective coating that adds a new dimension and increased readability to the numbers. The pewter color bar on top of the jersey is also unique to the NFL, as is the custom font with serifs and lines designed to look like cuts from a swashbuckler's sword. The Buccaneers will also have the option of wearing red, pewter or orange socks to create distinct looks.
"Through our collaboration with Edward Glazer and the Buccaneers management, we wanted to do something that had never been done before, that being the reflective twill within the numbers," said Van Horne. "What you see in daylight is not necessarily what you're going to see in flash photography. [It] really pops and it's completely unique and different, and a first in the NFL.
"It was a two-year process, taking all the innovation that we know at Nike and bringing the inspiration from what the Buccaneers are and what Mr. Glazer saw as the future of the Buccaneers' franchise. [The process took] a little longer than usual, and we're actually proud about that because we went through a lot of iterations and we had a lot of collaborative brainstorming. There was a definite strong pull to say, 'Hey, let's be first at these certain things, the first NFL franchise to do these. We really want to make a statement about the next generation.' And we heard that loud and clear as far as the [Buccaneers'] goals."
The Buccaneers' new asymmetrical shoulder logos is also an uncommon NFL uniform feature. The right shoulder bears the team's refreshed pirate ship logo and the left shoulder bears a new "BUCS" mark in the distinctive custom font. The new ship logo, like the enhanced primary flag mark, gives the impression of relentless forward motion, like a menacing pirate vessel on the open seas, and the BUCS logo pays homage to the team's four-decade connection with its fans. Tampa Bay's fan base so commonly refers to the team as "the Bucs," a nickname now prominently and proudly displayed on the jersey.
"We wanted to do what's right for the fans while inspiring the players, giving them the innovation of the uniforms – the materials and everything else – and then really exciting them when they actually get game-day ready to say, 'Wow, here's the modern Buccaneer,'" said Van Horne.
The players have already responded very favorably. Running back Doug Martin was particularly impressed with the reflective numbers and was thrilled to be a member of the first team that will get to put the franchise's new look on display.
"When I first saw these uniforms I said, 'Wow!'" he said. "The new colors, the new font on the jersey…it just looks so great together, and it integrates the future and the past. This is a cool look. I'm really excited to get these things on."
Added McCoy: "I just look at the jersey and I get excited. I know our fans, when they see these, they're going to get excited."
Buccaneer players will also get all the performance benefits of Nike's Elite 51 Uniform, which are designed to create a perfect fit and a distraction-free environment for the athlete. The uniform's baselayer, padding, jersey and pant work in concert, and lightweight padding is also integrated directly into the crucial "hit zones" in the baselayer. New innovations include integrated Flywire technology in the neckline to reduce weight and provide lockdown fit over pads, increased sleeve articulation for better range of motion, and all-over four-way stretch fabrication to provide a streamlined shrink-wrap fit.
Nike develops its custom fit – with different jersey constructions to meet the needs of players at different positions – through an ongoing study of current and past NFL players. Using such technology as a body-scan device that produces 3D images with thousands of points of reference, overlaid by player images, Nike has created a vast database of NFL body shapes. Combining this technological innovation with the aesthetic work of the uniform designers is what Nike collaborators call "blending craft with science."
"We take the base innovations – what we're doing with the materials and the four-way stretch and the breathability that we zone in through here and all the things to really make the athletes perform at their highest – but we also want to inspire them, get them psychologically ready for game day, really gear them in to battle," said Van Horne. "And they become a Buccaneer. Fans relate to that, too. When they put that on, it reflects their community and it story-tells what a Buccaneer is and what a modern Buccaneer is."
What the Buccaneers aspire to be is champions once again. The team's adoption of a new logo and color scheme in 1997 coincided with the team's first playoff season in 15 years, beginning a rise that would culminate in the Super Bowl XXXVII championship in the 2002 season. McCoy, who reveled in that Buccaneer era as a fan in Oklahoma, thinks Monday's unveiling of new uniforms is a harbinger of another championship era in Tampa Bay.
"When '97 hit, when the new uniforms hit, that was the real turnaround for the Bucs," said McCoy. "They started winning, started a different attitude, and things just changed. In 1996, Tony Dungy had just come in so they were just getting rolling with the new unis. Now it's 2014. We've got a new coach and new uniforms…it's coming!"