The Philadelphia Union really did have a great branding concept when they started out. Step 1: Pick a name as close as reasonably possible to the most successful club in league history. Union, United, check. Step 2: Get some rocking colors like navy and gold, and a little homage to the city flag with the lighter blue. Check. Step three: Design the uniform around a signature visual element, like Ajax's big-ass bar down the torso. Check. Step four: implement your uniform idea using the club's official colors... Not so fast.
First off, the home uniforms were fine, if we ignore the fact that the bar just kind of stops before it reaches the top of the jersey. It's a great metaphor for a team trying to get off the ground - almost enough to match teams like D.C. United, the Chicago Fire and the Seattle Sounders who won trophies in their first seasons, but not quite. Ignoring that though, the navy home kits are respectable enough.
Those inaugural away kits, though. Yeesh. For those of you who chose to forget, the Union's second uniform set - which was effectively aborted with the launch of the all-white nominal third kit later that same 2010 season - featured the club's gold as the primary color, with a navy bar up the front (again, though, truncated before it could reach the collar). Only the gold wasn't really gold. It was more of a fleshy color, especially when viewed from a distance. The end result - at least for guys like Sebastien Le Toux and Brian Carroll - was what looked on TV to be a bunch of grown men running around in nothing but a strip of blue fabric hanging on their chests.
The all-nude kit was a thing. It was like the opposite of Tobias Fünke - always nude (except when they blue themselves... so maybe not entirely the opposite). I'm surprised any TV stations let the games involving them go to air. I'd have been afraid somebody paying only casual attention would write off a letter to the FCC and get me fined for a mass wardrobe malfunction on the scale the likes of which Janet Jackson and Justin Timberlake never dared to dream. Honestly, Jack McInerney might have still been underage at the time, meaning his appearance in these uniforms was very close to being a federal felony.
Even paired with the blue shorts, the look couldn't be saved. It was like a bit of false modesty: instead of nothing but a blue cloth hanging on dudes' chests, it was a cloth hanging from dudes chests, pinned to some shorts. It was like the worst bunch of male strippers you ever saw. It was truly a sight not to behold.
At the time, many of you convinced yourself they were a good look the same way I convinced myself in the 90s that floppy 1990s Matt Damon hair was a good look for me. I know better now, and so do you. Sometimes, though, you need to remember the mistakes you made in the past.
This is one of those times.
Then again, maybe the time has come to go back to the all-flesh look. The U's average conference finish was higher in those first two years, under the specter of the all-nudes, than they've been in the last two years. Maybe the threat that the coach will make the players wear such a stupid wardrobe was enough to get them to play their way to a 3rd place finish in the Eastern Conference in 2011. Then again, maybe Philly should do the rest of us, and our eyes, a favor and never bring those duds out of retirement.