Well isn’t this a nifty treat on a gloomy Friday afternoon. Today, the New York Knicks unveiled their 2018-19 City Edition uniform. Gone is the quasi-beloved ode to New York’s Bravest (which your humble fashion correspondent really dug) and in its stead, the ‘Bockers will be rocking these threads. Take it away, Madison Square Garden video and marketing department:
Exciting stuff, nu? Given some of the outré frippery and downright eye-popping aesthetics we’ve seen from other teams’ fourth jerseys, all in all, this scans as a clean and visually pleasing—if relatively subdued—uniform. Maybe someday we’ll get another jersey with “KNICKS” across the front, as was the case with this wonderfully bizarre set from the early 80s, but that’s a topic for another day.
Anyway, as the above clip dutifully breaks down, a number of different elements from Knicks’ jerseys of yore have been smooshed together: The main color is a dark navy—yes, in some photos, they appear to be black, but trust me, it’s a dark shade of blue—like last year’s City Edition and not unlike the dreaded New York Yankees. The “NEW YORK” wordmark is still there, but it’s straight as an arrow for the first time in team history, and without any fancy contrasting orange trim or nothin’ (again, sort of like a dreaded Yankees batting practice jersey). The royal blue and orange checkerboard pattern across the shoulders and neck are a tip of the cap to the duds worn from 1952 through 1961. (A throwback road version of said uniform was hauled out of the closet for the 2005-06 season, and the home whites made an a few appearances in 2015-16.)
Here’s where things get really wild. Check out the 360 degree view of the uniform in the promo again. (We’ll wait.) It appears as if the Knicks are going with an all new—or rather, retro—style of nameplate. Just to keep going with this whole Stephen A. leitmotif, TAke a look, y’all:
Currently, the Knicks’
home and road Icon and Association jerseys have a radially-arched nameplate. That is to say, every letter situated on an angle as if they all tracked to the center of a nonexistent circle just like (think back to high school geometry, kids) a radius. This, though, is an example of a vertically-arched nameplate, where each letter remains at a 90 degree angle, becoming more slanted and elongated the further away it is from the center, just like those worn by the wondrous Frazier-Reed-DeBusschere squads. (The Knicks went to a radially-arched nameplate after the 1990-91 season.)
If true—we’ll get there in a second—this is a fairly radical design choice by the Knicks. As Bill Henderson documented at Uni-Watch, over the last three decades the vertically-arched nameplate has been more or less wiped out. Why? Henderson’s article is definitely worth reading in its entirety, but it boils down to this: Radially-arched nameplates were much easier and less expensive for teams to manufacture.
You see, all radially-arched letters are identical, even if when fanned out along a curve it suggests otherwise. (If you want to really drill down into the world of optical illusions and typography, this blog post may be of interest.) In contrast, vertically-arched letters are differently-sized, -shaped, and -tilted depending on where they land in any given last name. For example, you’d need three entirely different “E’s” to succesfully pull off a vertical Gilgeous-Alexander nameplate. You know, were Shai a Knick. (Sadly, he is not.)
A radially-arched team could crank out piles of identical radially-arched letters and have them ready to go if, say, they pulled off a midseason trade for a backup infielder or power foward. A team using vertical lettering, though, required the services of a draughtsman to recreate a new letter from a template by hand. At a time when leagues weren’t blessed with fat, multi-billion-dollar televsion contracts, saving a few bucks at the margins made a difference. And but so, beauty fell before the cold, calculating hands of utility and profit. (The booming sports merchandise market in the early 90s gave this trend more than a little nudge, too.)
Now, every NBA and Major League Baseball team boasts a radially-arched or straight, horizontal nameplate. The last MLB holdout was the Atlanta Braves in 2005, leaving the NHL’s New York Rangers and Detroit Red Wings as the last noble reminders of a brighter, better past. Even though computerization and automation has rendered many of these previous bottom-line concerns relatively moot, the vertically-arched sports nameplate is still this close to going the way of the Dodo bird.
But I say unto you, by all that is holy and good, the vertical arch is vastly superior to its radial cousin. NO ONE DENIES THIS. It’s so durned pretty it makes me want to run through the forest, gamboling and spreading magic pixie dust hither and yonder, while howling, “I love you, vertically-arched nameplate!”
Let us now praise famous men, then! (Or at least a few people hard at work in the bowels of 4 Penn Plaza) For our noble New York basketball franchise is standing athwart history and yelling “stop!”
Or perhaps not.
Over at Ye Olde Knicks Team Shoppe, the replica version available for purchase has a (boo!) radially-arched nameplate.
Same goes for the gear shown in this second promotional video in which a passel of New Yorkers deem the new City Edition threads “fire” and whatnot.
So what gives? It’s possible that whomever put together the computer-generated images in the first video biffed one aspect of the design. Which, sure. It’s equally possible that the replicas will feature the cheaper radial arch and the name on the back of the on-court, regulation jerseys will be (please dear Lord) vertically-arched.
Alas, this mystery will remain unsolved until [checks this handy-dandy schedule listing all the upcoming jerseys that will be worn by NBA teams this season] Sunday night, when the Knickerbockers take the floor in these beauts versus the Orlando Magic.