Editor’s Note: This is the second part of a three-part series, as we explore more about the Portland Trail Blazers' jersey designs, with the Trail Blazers Brand Team including, Director of Brand and Retail Marketing Todd Adams, Vice President of Brand Strategy Ryan Flaherty, and Trail Blazers Art Director Mario Milosevic.
Clean lines and a sash combination of red, black, white, or sometimes even silver has been a mainstay in the team’s uniform designs.
Those stripes on the jersey are unique to Portland.
Whether the look is called the sash or stripes, it’s not just Trail Blazers fans that recognize these striped uniforms as Portland’s.
That sash across the chest has been around since nearly the beginning of the Trail Blazers franchise.
KEEPING IT TRADITIONAL
As Trail Blazers Director of Brand and Retail Marketing Todd Adams explained, the stripes across the uniforms was an original design in the 1970s. The team has since made it a point to “stay rooted in those original designs.”
I think the 70s was a wild time for uniforms design. If you look up the cool things -- the Denver Nuggets introduced the rainbow design, the Atlanta Hawks and the Pacers had these cool curvy racing stripes that went across the chest… I think somewhere along the way a designer decided, ‘hey let’s tilt this across the chest and make it a sash’... Where some teams might… modernize or try to stay with the times… We just stay rooted in those original designs.” -- Trail Blazers Director of Brand and Retail Marketing Todd Adams
Three expansion teams entered the NBA in 1970, the Portland Trail Blazers being one of them along with the Cleveland Cavaliers and Buffalo Braves who are now the Los Angeles Clippers.
Think about the various looks across the league for a moment and the various looks over the years.
Are there specific teams that come to mind that always seem to stick to a traditional look?
Or, what about Indiana?
Portland should be in that same classification.
“We’re a little bit more of a traditional looking team,” said Vice President of Brand Strategy Ryan Flaherty. “There’s always Boston out there, that’s gonna be the most traditional, but I think I would put us in that category more than someone whose trying to just be trend-setting.”
The Trail Blazers organization not only wants to achieve the unique sash look to being rooted in rich tradition, but also to pay homage to the city of Portland.
We always use the term ‘retro-modern’ which I know contradicts itself… If you look around Portland, specifically, any type of design whether it’s a restaurant, or a brewery, or an art gallery, or any type of business, most of the ones that are popular have this little retro vibe to it, but reinvented, something modern for this area. It just is a look that’s really common and, I guess, adopted in the Portland area. -- Trail Blazers President of Brand Strategy Ryan Flaherty
And, what about calling it a sash? Is that okay?
"Yes," however, “it has been referred to as a ‘Blaze’ across the front of the uniforms,” according to Flaherty.
THIS LOOK BELONGS TO PORTLAND
No matter how the stripes down the chest are described, two things are certain:
- Trail Blazers fans want the sash to stay forever
- NBA fans recognize the stripes as belonging to the Trail Blazers
“We use focus groups with fans because when we were not only asking about our logos and marks, we were asking about our uniforms and -- it's very clearly that they liked the sash and wanted it used in some way, shape, or form. That was really loud and clear,” Flaherty said.
Others around the league realize that the sash IS PORTLAND.
Flaherty continued, “it’s one visual element that we kind of own across the league. When you turn on the TV and you see the sash, those stripes -- it’s us automatically."
Adams added that basketball fans across the country don’t need to see the word Portland Trail Blazers on a graphic or on the jersey to know what team is playing once they’ve see the stripes.
“When you’re changing the channel, or flipping through, it’s immediate to notice, ‘okay, that’s the Trail Blazers -- they’ve got that cool line across their chest.’”
THE PROCESS OF DESIGNING A JERSEY
Since the NBA partnered with Nike during the 2017-18 season, teams now have up to five or sometimes six uniforms a year.
Adams, Flaherty, and Trail Blazers Art Director Mario Milosevic currently design the jerseys with a handful of other people within the organization.
Designing new looks is always ongoing.
These are the five Trail Blazers uniforms for the 2019-20 season:
“We’re continually updating and working with [Nike] on what the new design can look like for the City Edition, which is every year.” Adams said. “The Statement, which is at least now every three years, and then we get an Earned Uniform if we make the playoffs.”
Fans will not find the stripes across the chest on a 'City Edition' jersey or a 'Statement Edition,' but rather on ‘The Association’ and ‘Icon’ editions, which lean more on the side of traditional for the old school fans that like that consistent look.
NBA design teams are mocking up the look and feel of the uniforms years before fans are able to throw on their favorite player’s jersey.
The Trail Blazers Brand Team is currently working on the 2022-23 ‘City Edition’ uniforms.
Luckily, Nike is already out ahead of the fashion fads.
“We work closely with Nike on that. They’re obviously ahead of the trends. They’re producing shoes in the same time frame and footwear and apparel two or three years out, so they’re creating trends in the industry so we rely on their expertise to guide us on that, as they help guide all the other 29 teams in the league,” Adams said.
Sometimes Nike will “push the envelope on the original design,” Adams said, adding, “it’s a real good partnership working with them and the league.”
The partnership between the Portland Trail Blazers and a sash on traditional jerseys is also a real good collaboration as well.
To learn more about your hometown team's look and design, check out the video at the top of the article.