Steelers' throwback uniforms are creating quite the buzz
The Steelers' Isaac Redman models the throwback uniform commemorating the team's 80th season at a press conference in April.
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Across the Steelers Nation and inside the team's locker room, there's a buzz this week about the "bumblebee."
That's cornerback Ike Taylor's term for the throwback uniforms that the team will wear Sunday afternoon when they face the Washington Redskins at Heinz Field.
Modeled after the team's 1934 duds, the uniforms feature a bold black-and-gold striped jersey with squared numbers resembling an old scoreboard, matching striped socks and taupe pants.
Reaction to the ensemble has been polarizing.
"I like them. I like the throwback, man. That bumblebee, jailhouse look from back in the day," Mr. Taylor said. He is so bullish on the uniforms that he coined his own unique phrase combining two of his favorite slang words.
"I'll try to put 'swag' and 'swurve' in the same word. How about 'swavvin'? You got to have that Looney Toons accent like Porky the Pig when you say it, too. 'Swav-v-v-v-v-v-v-in.' "
But he conceded that the uniform's horizontal stripes might not be flattering to his teammates with a bit more girth.
"I don't like to call them fat, but on the big, healthy guys, it's not going to look too good."
The "healthiest" of them all, stout nose tackle Casey Hampton, agreed.
"Sideways stripes don't do me no good," Mr. Hampton deadpanned. "Honestly, any uniform does me bad, so it can't really get any worse than it already is."
Has he tried it on yet?
"Yeah. It's pretty bad."
America agrees. An ESPN SportsNation online poll conducted this week drew nearly 8,400 respondents, with 65 percent saying they "hate" the Steelers retro getups. A Pittsburgh Post-Gazette online poll found that only 14 percent of respondents like the uniforms.
Team president Art Rooney II said the idea of the uniforms, unveiled in April to kick off the Steelers' 80th season celebration, was to harken back to the earliest days of the franchise. He said the team had worn that particular uniform design only once.
During the previous five seasons, the Steelers have worn a throwback uniform from the 1960 season featuring black jerseys with gold numbers and gold arm stripes, white pants with gold stripes, and a gold helmet. That uniform first reappeared for the team's 75th anniversary in 2007. In 1994, the Steelers wore their original '33 uniforms as part of the NFL's 75th anniversary celebration.
The Steelers did not have sales figures for the jerseys -- which retail for $99.95 and had previously only been available online -- and an inquiry to jersey manufacturer Nike was not returned. A survey of fans shopping at the Steelers Sideline Store at Heinz Field Friday indicated that the new "old" jerseys were not going over well.
When asked if she'd consider buying one, Sandra Medwig-Lawhead of Indianapolis said, "No. They'd make me look like I was in jail, like I belonged in a lockup."
Dave Brown of Ottawa, Canada, said he wouldn't buy one, either.
"They're not my favorite," Mr. Brown said. "I would be really disappointed if they wear them more than once."
Mr. Brown will have to avert his eyes once more -- the Steelers plan to don the uniforms again for a Nov. 18 home game against Baltimore.
Making their annual trip to Pittsburgh for a Steelers game, Tim and Lynn Ruff of Memphis, Tenn., appreciated the symbolism of the jerseys, but still don't intend to buy them.
"We know it's a part of Steelers history but that doesn't mean we're going to spend money on them," Mr. Ruff laughed.
But to some, loyalty trumps fashion sense.
Annie Tinnick, a manager at the Hometown Sports clothing store in Station Square, said that she's gotten inquiries about the jersey for months from fans who want them, even though they think they're ugly, too.
"Customers that come here looking for them even say that they're ugly but still want them and think they're cool," Ms. Tinnick said as she stocked a shelf with new Halloween-themed Terrible Towels.
"But it's something new and different," she said, adding that above all else, "it's a jersey for the Steelers."
First Published October 27, 2012 12:00 am