Why Are Dark Colors So Prevalent in Modern Sports?

A while back when I posted the Notre Dame Uniform History Pictorial there were some rumblings. Once the 2011 version of The Shirt was unveiled it became a full blown discussion.

What color blue is appropriate for Notre Dame?

It's an interesting question and certainly one in which there really isn't a correct answer.

However, the talk about Notre Dame's jerseys being too dark, or not light enough, and the thoughts of some that the Madonna blue of The Shirt being a decidedly non-school color (despite actually being the official school color) brings up something I'd like to talk about.

Taking a look at some of these wonderful graphs created by The Sports Design Blog just reinforced my desire to get this out in the open.

Why has there been a trend in the past 10 to 20 years in sports that has caused so many people to equate dark colors with being classy?

Why is it when the majority of people bring up the current green uniforms worn by Notre Dame that they cite the darker green as being classy?

Does that mean the brighter green worn pre-2005 is not classy?

This is something that irks me.

I understand if you're buying a nice tailored suit you're going to gravitate towards a dark color. Same with your car or house. Some people will buy a bright orange automobile, but an overwhelming majority of the public thinks that a bit much and quite tacky.

But does it have to be this way in the realm of sports?

Obviously not!

Have you ever noticed how many sports franchises either came into existence in the 1990's-2000's or changed their colors during that time and ended up deliberately going to darker palettes?

Just about every single one did.

Odds are if you were one of those teams you became a member of the navy blue club, and if not that color, then turquoise or teal (which are not "dark" colors per se, but I digress).

Check out some of the changes in the realm of professional sports:

This list is not meant to be exhaustive.

In the NFL, Denver used to sport royal blue but now predictably wears navy blue.

Same with New England.

And St. Louis.

And Buffalo too (although the Bills are switching back to their old royal blue later this month).

The Chargers (despite wearing their powder blue throwbacks often) were one of the first teams in the late 80's to make the switch to navy blue.

Seattle used to wear a blue that popped on television but...no more.

Both the Eagles and Jets used to wear beautifully vibrant green on the field but have chosen to go with the dreaded dark green nowadays.

Tampa Bay had the opportunity to create an endearing love of orange in the same way the University of Tennessee has, but instead opted to change their colors to red, black, and friggin pewter.

The Houston Oilers used to have easily recognizable bright blue and red uniforms, but when the team moved to Tennessee...gotta add navy blue!

At least the Vikings wear a more vibrant purple than they ever have, although this is one instance in which the darker color of the past actually did look more classy...but that has more to do with the Vikings current uniform design which makes them look more Indoor League team than NFL franchise.

In all, 10 teams in the NFL have navy blue as a major color.

8 more use black.

In the NBA, the Atlanta Hawks used to mix it up with a bunch of different bright colors throughout their history, but now bore us to death with navy blue and red.

The Cavaliers re-branded for the LeBron James-era and chose navy blue and red as their primary colors.

The Nets used to have bright blue and red uniforms, but you guessed it...boring navy blue today.

Even the Jazz, who recently went back to a more old school look, could not pull the trigger and return to their original purple but chose navy blue.

Toronto used to be all about the purple, but now had replaced the color of kings with black.

The Dallas Mavericks used to have bright blue and green uniforms, but although they still feature alternate uniforms with those colors, their standard sets were redesigned with navy blue as the primary color.

Luckily there is hope in the Association, a league in which we generally see a lot of color changes and experiments.

Denver broke away from their navy blue days, Golden State recently did the same, while Philadelphia dropped the black for their original royal blue.

There are even rumors that Sacramento will drop their black and purple for their old Monarch red, white, and royal blue.

In all, 7 teams wear navy blue as a major color with 8 teams using black in the same way.

As proof that the NBA is the least monotonous (or is it least classy?) league out of the major sports in regards to navy blue, 12 teams use royal or light blue as a major color.

The MLB has 8 teams, the NHL 6 teams, and the NFL only a paltry 5 teams.

Baseball has its problems too.

Atlanta switched from a bright to navy blue...even if it was a long time ago.

Milwaukee got rid of their vibrant blue for a darker shade.

Seattle did the same.

When the Nationals came back into the Majors, yup...navy blue and red.

The Astros used to have orange as a dominant color, but then let navy blue take over and switched the orange to gold. Now, they wear black and red.

Arizona had very lively (but ugly) original uniforms and now wear the same colors as Houston.

Toronto had the gall to replace sky blue and red with black and gray.

In all, 13 teams use navy blue as a major color.

9 more use black as a major color.

The NHL is notorious for favoring darker colors in recent times.

The Sabres dropped royal blue and yellow in the 1990's for black and red. Then followed that up by bringing back the original colors, except navy blue instead of royal. Thankfully, the team wears a bright royal blue alternate.

When Minnesota moved to Dallas, they dropped the bright green and yellow for dark green and black.

Edmonton switched up their design in the late 90's bringing in navy blue instead of royal and copper instead of orange. Lately, they've added their brighter throwback as an alternate.

Nashville came into the league wearing navy blue.

The Islanders went through a couple uniform switches in the past that included making navy blue the dominant color over royal. They've since repented for their sins.

Pittsburgh can't be bothered to wear yellow, but opt for gold, although the powder blue throwbacks earn some bonus points.

San Jose moved away from the lively teal color and lets black dominate their scheme now.

St. Louis used to have some of the best looking bright blue uniforms in sports, but have settled for conformity in the navy blue section today.

Despite their beautiful throwback uniforms from this past year's Winter Classic, the Capitals are also members of the navy blue club as well.

Luckily there are still teams like Vancouver out there bold enough to sport bright blue and green, distancing themselves from decades of dull uniforms.

In all, 9 teams use navy blue as a major color, with 12 teams using black as a major color.

I like to hope that we're finally coming out of the era of navy blue dominance and teams are starting to embrace the power of brighter colors.

I think this specifically because of the prevalence of throwbacks from the 1960's and 70's when designs were not dull, often surprising people with the brightness, clarity, and sharpness of colors from yesteryear.

I guess I just don't understand why there's still a strong opinion that either consciously or subconsciously favors dark colors over bright ones in the world of sports.

Dark colors work for some teams, heck they work for many teams. But the past decade and a half has shown us that those who made a deliberate choice to jump on the navy blue or black bandwagon typically made a poor decision.

In closing, why did so many people not like the Notre Dame 1977 throwbacks from the 2007 USC game and regarded them as gaudy?

Yet, a uniform very similar in design like the Green Bay Packers is mentioned as one of sports' best?

I'm just going to take a guess that whenever the Irish throwbacks are unveiled (or the rumored uniforms for the USC game too), there will be plenty of criticism simply because the colors are too bright and not classy enough.

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