HbD Breakdown: Edmonton Oilers Third Jerseys
Sometimes a legacy can be a burden. The Oilers experienced one of the greatest dynasties in the history of the game in the 1980s with the likes of Wayne Gretzky, Jari Kurri, Paul Coffey, et al. But, with that comes the burden of expectations, something we can all agree the Oilers haven’t lived up to in the decades since that dynastic era. And so the Oilers continue to visually detach themselves from it, with this third jersey being the latest step in their continued search for a new identity. We’ll break them down after the jump.
Slowly, over the last few season, the Oilers have been forging a new visual path for their brand. After going back to their original jerseys pre-McJesus thinking they’d turned a corner on-ice with Hall, Nuge, Yakupov, etc (“the glory days are back!”), the lack of success and pressure to be successful – as well as the desire to cash in on some of the flaming hot third jersey dollars – they introduced a new third orange jersey from their pre-NHL days for a couple seasons with McDavid’s arrival.
Then they ditched the original colours (and classic blue jersey) altogether, going with a darker blue and a slightly different orange. And now they stepped even further from the visual legacy of their glory years with these third jerseys, a bold and unique step not only for the franchise, but for the league in general.
We haven’t seen a two-tone jersey (with neither of those tones being white) in the league since the 1930-31 Philly Quakers. And we’ve never seen one without white or black as one of two colours.
Yeah, the dark navy blue is as close to black as you can get without being black. But it’s still not actually black.
The Oilers are trying to visually re-brand themselves: aggressive, cutting-edge, and most importantly: different. They’re trying to say “we are not your parent’s Oilers.” Or your slightly-older sibling’s Oilers. They’re letting their past die…killing it if they have to.
It’s actually been fascinating to watch the Oilers struggle a bit with this, bouncing back between their glory years and trying to find a new path. For better or worse, they’ve definitely picked a side now.
There’s no question that some of the details in the jersey are great (like the twill embroidery in the logo), but there two things problematic with the details: 1. there’s not enough of them, 2. they’re all designed to look as flat as possible, decreasing the contrast in them.
The first point is, in general, the trend that Adidas is setting with all their new non-throwback jerseys: ultra-minimalism with lots of detail work on the elements that are there. The detail work is incredibly rewarding to see and touch. Just absolutely great. The ultra-minimalism is what makes the jersey lacking.
There’s two thin stripes on the jersey, a thick band along the bottom and cuffs, and that’s it. And a logo. Minimalism can really work, and because of the bold and unique colour palette (we’ll get to that), it does work on these jerseys. But my issues arise from that – aside from the logo – there’s zero here that speaks to the Oilers past.
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There’s no symbolism anywhere on this jersey. It doesn’t tell a story. There’s a logo on it and some stripes, seemingly picked ad hoc to focus on minimalism more than anything else. They’re trying to do something really cool and different, just for the sake of being cool and different. Again, they’re trying to kill their past.
That sounds strongly negative, but I actually do have mixed feelings about the jersey. It’s really striking, and maybe that’s all a third jersey is meant to be…just something different. And send a message about the brand, which this certainly does as well. I just need something more…
And the Light Rises to Meet It (or Not)
…like some contrast.
For all the discussion that Adidas made about the high-contrast on this jersey with the orange and blue, it’s indisputable that navy blue and white has a much higher contrast than navy blue and orange. That’s just…the way it is. So it’s confusing when they say that it’s a high-contrast jersey, because it’s really not. It’s probably the visually flattest jersey (which the aforementioned details accentuate) I’ve seen in a while.
Sure, the lack of white means that the orange is the lightest thing on the jersey, which makes the orange pop more than it would if there was white on it. But damn, it needs some contrast on there, because there’s no visual depth to the jersey at all.
And despite what Adidas may say, I think that was the point: a flat, minimalist jersey that is more “urban” and for “fans on the street”. In that, they succeeded hugely, because it definitely has that aesthetic to it: a bold, gritty (not that Gritty), urban hockey jersey.
It just needs some white.
In some ways, this jersey works well. It forges a new path for the Oilers from a visual branding perspective. It’s bold, unique, and definitely more urban/street than anything they’ve had in the past (or has ever been in the league). But it’s also visually flat, lacking contrast and any meaningful or symbolical elements. It’s a jersey meant to look cool. And it does look cool. But cool for cool’s-sake in design means it won’t last long because it’s anchored to an aesthetic era. Which, for a third jersey, maybe that’s just fine.
For more photos/comments about the jersey, visit the Oilers’ dedicated site here.