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  • Bets Dressed - The Unis - 2023 NFL Uniform Year in Review

Bets Dressed - The Unis - 2023 NFL Uniform Year in Review

It’s that time of year. We’re back with the second annual edition of the Unis - an awards show like no other. We gather to look back on the 2023 NFL uniform year in review and celebrate the season’s best, worst, and most memorable aesthetics.

Eat your heart out, NFL Honors. Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to the Unis!

Like any other awards show, we're going to run through a bunch of awards/superlatives/categories and name the winners (or losers depending on how you look at it). Keep an eye out for honorable (or dishonorable) mentions where applicable. Billy Crystal turned us down again, so you’re still stuck with me as host. No musical numbers I promise.

Enough preamble, let's get this party started.

The Awards.

Uniform Graphics by The Gridiron Uniform Database

For the second year in a row (and as any good awards show should), we start with a cold open: an icy white outfit running away with Best New Uniform.* After 17 years with a Bottom 3 uniform wardrobe, the Cardinals finally redesigned their look before the 2023 season. While I have my gripes with the red uniform, the white uniform is a home run - instantly becoming one of my favorite whiteouts in the league. The red elements pop and the addition of silver as an accent color continues to be a masterstroke. Plus the revamped helmet ties it all together with the enhanced logo, silver flakes, and silver mask. Job well done, Cardinals. Pair these white pants with the red jersey and maybe run this award back at the next Unis.

*For reasons that should be self explanatory, throwbacks are not new uniforms and thus are not eligible for this category (even if they were newly introduced this year).

Honorable Mention - Bengals perfecting the White Bengal.

Uniform Graphics by The Gridiron Uniform Database

The Lions took the worst uniform in their wardrobe and somehow made it worse. The gray bodysuit was bad enough on its own, but at least it featured the Lions solid primary helmet. The blue helmet does not do it for me. Just because a logo is old doesn’t mean it’s good. And the two-bar lion looks especially out of place on a helmet. The worst part about it may be the shell color. It’s less Honolulu Blue and more turquoise glow. Plus it does not match with the blue on the rest of the uniform. Woof all around. Let’s hope this look is not a sign of things to come for the upcoming redesign.

Dishonorable Mention - Colts Indiana Nights.

Uniform Graphics by The Gridiron Uniform Database

As if there were any other choice but the Summer of Throwbacks. While the greatest NFL uniform offseason in recent memory went beyond* the big four above, these were the showstoppers (and the ones we’ve all been waiting many years for). I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: I cannot choose a favorite among these outfits. It’s like picking a favorite child. You love each of them in their own way. With that being said, the Kelly Green Eagles have bragging rights - appearing in more best of the week matchups than the others.

*Shoutout Browns, Jets, and Vikings.

Uniform Graphics by The Gridiron Uniform Database

If you couldn’t figure it out using context clues, this award is for the year’s worst uniform matchup on foreign soil.* I applaud the league for bringing the game beyond America’s borders and showing it off to the world. I just ask that we try to keep things more aesthetically appealing. Ravens-Titans did take place in foggy London Town, but would it have been too much to ask for teams with purple and light blue to show off what they got? To be fair, it may be a breach of royal decorum to wear purple in the vicinity of the monarchy.

*Like the Oscars, the Unis are a globetrotting endeavor.

Uniform Graphics by The Gridiron Uniform Database

Back when I named Rams-Bengals the best uniform matchup of Week 3, I declared it the yin and yang matchup of the year. It took the lead in the clubhouse then and never let go. It’s all of my bits rolled into one. Icy white Bengals. Defense of the Rams uniforms. And culminating in a yin and yang of the year win (while admittedly tweaking the criteria to allow for the all-blue Rams to stand in for what is typically a team in all black). My awards show. My rules.

Honorable Mention - Bengals-Jags.

Uniform Graphics by The Gridiron Uniform Database

I will never understand the Saints and their repeated refusal to wear gold pants. Over the last two seasons, New Orleans has worn white-over-gold once and black-over-gold twice. Instead, we’ve been stuck with the many iterations of white and black practice pants. Truly preposterous. I got some grief for putting the Saints at No. 28 in the Uniform Wardrobe Power Rankings this year. The reality is, they weren’t low enough. Hopefully this season was rock bottom, but I won’t hold my breath.

Dishonorable Mention - The use of stripeless practice pants generally throughout the league.

Uniform Graphics by The Gridiron Uniform Database

And just when I thought I was all the way out, the Saints pull me back in. As aesthetically bad as things have been for them in recent years, kudos to New Orleans for bringing back the the Color Rush throwback - one of the best icy white looks in the league. I thought it was lost forever with the implementation of the dreadful fleur-de-lis wrapping paper black helmet. The surprise was all the more pleasant when paired with the Rams in Week 16 for a sneaky great uniform matchup. Next stop toward full redemption: scrap the black helmet in favor of matching the golds.

Uniform Graphics by The Gridiron Uniform Database

Nothing screams Thanksgiving more than the Lions in those gloriously simple throwbacks. And there are few (if any) teams they pair better with than the Packers. An added boost to this one: the John Madden patches. A time-capsule-worthy matchup all around.

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Blasts from the past don’t get much better than a redux of Super Bowl I. Credit to the Chiefs for going white-over-white (even though it set them up for the same losing result as the first big game). Not that a Week 13 loss matters in the grand scheme of a Super Bowl appearance in Vegas next week.

Honorable Mentions - Packers at Falcons; Chiefs at Jets; Packers at Raiders; Bears at Vikings; Packers at Giants.

Uniform Graphics by The Gridiron Uniform Database

The Year of Minty Fresh Matchups. Everyone is focused on the NFL/Taylor Swift conspiracy while the real scandal is right there in front of us: Big Toothpaste has its hooks in NFL aesthetics. And while none of these matchups came anywhere near best of the year, I must say I dig it. Sure the color schemes can be a bit clashy, but they’re such excellent colors that it somehow works (plus a healthy dose of Triple Mismatch Club outfits above makes it right up my alley). Panthers-Dolphins in particular makes a good case for sneaky good matchup of the year.* And I’m rooting for Carolina to more regularly go white over blue.

*Might just have to add that category next year.

Uniform Graphics by The Gridiron Uniform Database

Believe it or not, there wasn’t a single best of the week matchup this year that featured a Triple Mismatch Club showdown (especially surprising given my appreciation of the Club). That’s just how the uniform cookie crumbles. With that being said, there was no shortage of worthy contenders. And none looked better on the screen than Rams at Cowboys in Week 8. No color palette pops more than the Rams, and it’s always a delight when Dallas mixes it up and goes silver-navy-white at home.

Honorable Mentions - Lions at Ravens; Steelers at Ravens.

Uniform Graphics by The Gridiron Uniform Database

Or stated differently: most lopsided uniform matchup. It’s only appropriate to follow up the Triple Mismatch Club category with the best and worst examples of the Club in the league. It doesn’t get better than the Chargers in white-powder-yellow. And the Jets in green-white-black remind us all that black has no business being in their color scheme.

Uniform Graphics by The Gridiron Uniform Database

In a category filled with “oh what could’ve beens”, 49ers-Seahawks on Thanksgiving stands above the rest. The 49ers white throwback is among the best uniforms in the league. So it defies all logic and reason that the Seahawks insist upon pairing it with their dreadful neon uniforms (neon-over-navy last year and neon unitard this year). If the Seahawks held up their end of the bargain and wore their royal throwbacks, it would’ve been a stone cold lock for best uniform matchup of the year. Something to think about for next year, Seattle.

Dishonorable Mentions - No purple pants from the Ravens on Christmas; No Pat the Patriot versus Dolphins or Jets throwbacks.

Uniform Graphics by The Gridiron Uniform Database

No one appreciates uniform pettiness more than me. So I had no issue with Tennessee breaking out the Oilers throwbacks against the Texans in Week 15. But if you live by the sword on your shoulders, be prepared to die by the sword on your shoulders. And the Texans got the last laugh - and a cathartic moment for many - drilling a walk-off field goal in overtime.

Honorable Mention - John Madden patches on Thanksgiving. A classy touch worthy of a pillar of the game that loved football (and Thanksgiving) more than just about anyone.

Uniform Graphics by The Gridiron Uniform Database

This one is as straightforward as it gets: which team was featured in “best uniform matchup of the week” the most this season.* Coming in first, with four total appearances, the San Francisco 49ers. No surprise to see the No. 2 team in the Uniform Wardrobe Power Rankings taking home the honor.

*I guess the antithesis of this honor would be “Uniform Nirvana Repellant”. That dubious distinction belongs to the Commanders and Jaguars - both appearing in five worst uniform matchups of the week. At least the Jaguars are able to claim one best of the week appearance (against the Niners). To no one’s surprise, no such luck for Washington.

Uniform Graphics by The Gridiron Uniform Database

Of all the awards this season, worst of the year was the hardest to pin down. It was a three horse race between Lions-Raiders, Bucs-Colts, and Seahawks-Titans. Each is horrendous in their own way. Lions-Raiders was better suited for a baseball field. Bucs-Colts was the latest example of color-on-color as a slippery slope in the NFL. And Seahawks-Titans was the darkest and dreariest matchup of the year (made worse by the fact that both teams have bottom tier uniforms that keep the Panelist Era alive). As you all can see, I ultimately landed on Seattle at Tennessee. The margins were paper thin with the bottom three matchups, so the individually strong uniforms of the Raiders and Colts saved those matchups from the lowest seat of shame. As such, the dishonor belongs to the Seahawks and Titans.

Dishonorable Mentions - Bucs-Colts; Lions-Raiders; Saints-Jags; Bears-Commanders.

Uniform Graphics by The Gridiron Uniform Database

We’ve got the makings of a dynasty. For the second year in a row, Cowboys-49ers reaches the mountaintop to claim the highest honor at the Unis. Silver against gold. Blue against red. This one is uniform nirvana in its purest form. And don’t look now, but these teams are scheduled to meet again in San Francisco next year. The hunt for three in a row is on. There were a number of worthy contenders (listed below as Honorable Mentions), but none rose to the level of unseating one of the best uniform matchups in NFL history. While Dallas and San Francisco are breathing in that cold, crisp air at the top, the rest of the football world is officially on notice. Bring your aesthetic A-game NFL, or we’ll be right back here next season honoring the first threepeat in league history.

Honorable Mentions - Cowboys-Chargers; Lions-Bucs; Chargers-Pats; Browns-Seahawks; Eagles-Bills; Cowboys-Dolphins; Dolphins-Ravens; Packers-Cowboys.

Parting Words.

Strike up the band, because it's finally time to play me off. The second annual edition of the Unis is officially in the books. Same time next year . . .

The Gridiron Uniform Database.

The uniform graphics you see here are courtesy of The Gridiron Uniform Database. If you’ve never paid their site a visit, stop what you’re doing right now and check it out. Best site on the Internet and an invaluable resource to uniform nerds and casuals alike.

Coming Attractions.

Super Bowl LVIII is one week away. If you're anything like me, you'll spend the next week watching highlights of old Super Bowls to get ready for the big game. Now you can add the Bets Dressed Super Bowl issue to your Super Bowl preparation ritual. Look for it to hit your inbox early Sunday well before 49ers-Chiefs kicks off in Sin City.

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