There isn't that much to be said about Nebraska's 2013 alternate uniforms. Yes, whenever the topic comes up, fans wring their hands and agonize over change, but as Brandon Vogel wrote over on Hail Varsity, these are platonic alternate uniforms. The matte design was more than likely one of the first few that Addidas showed Nebraska, and after some tweaking, they were ready to go.
Tom Osborne, Bo Pelini, and Shawn Eichorst didn't talk much about the alternate uniforms after the Wisconsin game last year. The red onesies with all black and no white trim Nebraska wore that night didn't look intimidating, and while saved by the bold “N” on the front, got compared to the Domino's mascot. This year's selection mostly avoids that risk of looking completely ridiculous, even if they don't showcase scarlet.
Somehow, Nebraska has to use these jerseys to sell black and make black an official Nebraska color, even if Pelini vacillates every year on when to give his defense their black practice jerseys. (Granted, Texas A&M wore black uniforms last year, and they have less of an association with black than Nebraska. Black and white are the universal colors of every team.) A red-matte jersey would have been less of a risk, but when have alternate uniforms been about doing what's safe? In spite of this ploy, the detail work of sprayed-on numbers and red and black facemask does enhance the urban hipster image and amps up the intimidation factor. Overall, there is not a huge flaw with these uniforms, and that's what's important.
But seeing the black against the red background in the video does a lot to accentuate the uniform. Nebraska won't be playing UCLA on a red field, and these uniforms may look like bland gym uniforms against green turf under the bright noon sun. (Here's to hoping it rains.)
The use of a matte look itself does raise the point of whether or not Nebraska should be a program that regularly integrates matte into its uniforms. This why (I imagine) fans who strongly support traditional uniforms are so steadfast. The essence of the matte uniform is to look and feel relative and flexible, to be an in-between shade rather than a block color or letter. Nebraska tried an alternate that had solid colors last year; now, it's doing a futuristic uniform a futuristic way. If the traditionalists complain about this design, Addidas can always say, “We tried to give you what you wanted last year, and you didn't like it!” Of course, Addidas hasn't given Husker fans all-red uniforms with red helmets (like NC State has worn at times over the past two years) or other striping patterns that involve tweaking the scarlet and cream, or just adding a little black trim.
So what will the impact of these jerseys be? Nebraska will look pretty cool for their most visible game of the first half of the season, and that should help with recruiting. From a merchandising perspective, the design is enough of a departure from traditional Nebraska garb that fans might consider buying it, unlike last year, where the large sans-serif 'N' t-shirt was too much like T-shirts fans already had. As someone who wants to see regular alternate uniforms, I'm glad this is being done for the second year in a row and hope it continues in 2014, but I'm beginning to wonder if alternates should be reserved for less prominent games. No matter what designs Addidas come up with, nothing will surpass the passion Husker fans had for 2009 throwback game at the 300th sellout.
Derek Johnson is a Seward, Nebraska native who works for his family's organic farm seed company, Blue River Hybrids, and is a freelance writer and commission photographer. He has been a contributor to Husker Max since 2013, and is a former contributor to the website Husker Locker. Visit his blog, derekjohnsonmuses.com, and follow him on twitter @derekjohnson05 for regular updates.