The New Orleans Hornets are having an indentity crisis and unfortunately, both Hornets players and NBA fans everywhere are paying the price. I am referring to the uniform abominations that the Hornets are wearing on the court – the NOLA Mardis Gras jerseys. The Hornets debuted their own personal homage to Fat Tuesday in February 2010, starting a new tradition that will see the Hornets wear the jerseys every Mardi Gras season from now on. The Hornets only wear the jerseys in February and March but they have left quite an impression. I suppose the marketing schtick is that the team has now given them up for lent (thank you, Jesus Shuttlesworth). But, you can still buy them online along with other merchandise in the garish colorway.
I understand why the Hornets would want to reach out to the New Orleans community and embrace the Mardi Gras tradition. After all, heritage is important to sports fan and the happier (and hoakier) the fan is with the team’s dedication to the city, the more likely they are to support and spend.
There’s so much inspiration to take from New Orleans and the great Mardi Gras tradition, but clearly the adidas designers took it all too literally. The over-use of elements lead to a very busy and cheap look, like what a retro Value Village find you’d only pull out to wear with a joke mullet. Here’s a brief run down of a few of the uniform’s elements.
- The only element that really works is the use of “NOLA” as the city name. NOLA refers to the colloquial term for New Orleans, Louisiana and is also the nickname of the Hornet mascot – that’s cute. But after that, it goes downhill fast.
- The font for NOLA and the numbers similar to what the Hornets are using for their other questionable jerseys. However it’s much thicker and looks oversized and almost child-like. The yellow colour and green outline makes the NOLA script stand out even more.
- The colors of Mardi Gras are green, purple and yellow. Green means faith, purple means justice and yellow means power. Naturally, the designers abused their power by using all three colours liberally including making the jersey two-tone: purple in the front, green in the back. The last two-tone jerseys that went into production were last season’s All-Star style, also from New Orleans (quel surprise). It received less than favorable reviews at the time, so I’m not sure why Adidas went back to an unpopular style. The result is a jarring sight because you’re not sure which colour to focus on – perhaps they thought it would confuse the competition.
- The side panels add to the busyness of the uniform. The piping resembles Mardi Gras beads and goes the length of the jersey and the shorts in a curve. The gold panels within the beads pay homage to all the beautiful grill work in the city and is only visible up close or in sparkling high-definition. It’s color, texture, shine and pattern – all things that make an outfit interesting, but here, it’s an overload.
- This uniform features an excessive amount of logos. The fleur-de-lis is on the back of the jersey, the NOLA Hornet on the front of the shorts and the NOLA logo on the bum of the shorts. Finally, there’s a “New Orleans Hornets, Mardi Gras” patch above the usual tag on the bottom right of the jersey complete with bead detail.
The most tragic thing about these new uniforms is that they are simply another awful offering in the Hornets equipment closet. Since the organization’s start, from the Charlotte Hornets and even dating back to the New Orleans Jazz, they have not had one respectful, simple uniform. The city is vibrant, colorful and proud of their heritage but that doesn’t equal over-design.
Take a look at the New Orleans Saints uniforms. A simple fleur-de-lis, clean lines and three colours – gold, black and white. It’s an effective and regal look on the field that translates well to merchandise and fans of all sizes. The Saints uniforms are proof that you can take a rich inspiration point and simplify it without being overly complicated. The best intelligent sports design needs to be utilitarian and streamlined to be successful and to sell well.
The Hornets use 4 colours on their home and away jerseys alone: creole blue, purple, white, gold AND stripes. They’ve changed the shades of the colours so often it looks like someone had an issue with the laundry. Seeing poor NOLA, the teal hornet mascot, in the new jersey is painful. The Mardi Gras colours completely clash with the regular Hornets colours – even the purples are not the same. It leaves that poor hornet looking like a hot mess. The current Hornets jerseys feel dated because the style was big in the early 90′s with the Orlando Magic and Toronto Raptors, and those jerseys retired for a reason. I’d classify them in the “so bad they’re good“ category.
In addition to the three current uniform offerings, the Hornets decided to add a fourth version to the mix beginning the 2010-2011 season. The alternate uniforms were introduced as the second homage to Mardi Gras in jersey form. According to Hornets president Hugh Weber, “Our [...] gold uniforms proudly pay tribute to our hometown of New Orleans by not only displaying NOLA across the chest of the jersey, but also wearing one of our signature colors that represents the culture, heritage and celebration that makes up our great city.”
The sentiment, much like the other mash-up Mardi Gras jerseys is appreciated, but poorly executed. The designer’s obsession with pinstripes, especially in blue and purple, seems very unnecessary and make the yellow even harder to look at as well as process for cameras. The uniforms look cheap and dated and are not at all modern. The uniforms would be helped using a neutral color for the body of shorts and jersey but the overuse of colors The fact that there are better jerseys in the D-League than in the New Orleans Hornets dressing room is very telling and a little depressing. Both the city of New Orleans and their basketball team are in states of rebuilding – why not celebrate a new chapter instead of looking only to the past for inspiration points and style?
What do you think of the Mardi Gras theme jerseys? Too literal or just right for New Orleans? Would you wear them? Where do you think both the green and purple and the gold versions rank among the worst NBA jerseys of all time? Leave me a comment or tweet me your take.
This blog was originally published on March 5th, 2010 and was updated on February 17th, 2012 to reflect the latest uniforms of the Hornets since they are once again, sporting the Mardi Gras style.