Ranking the Arena Football League’s New Uniforms

afl uniform ranking cover

I don’t consider myself a fashion designer by any means, but I would jump at the chance to design some uniforms for various football teams. Where my adoration for football occasionally wanes with the seasons, my taste for sweet football threads is almost ashamedly immovable. Just recently, the Arena Football League announced they were partnering with Phenom to supply the league’s uniforms, and they showed them off all at once. It was a lot to take in—I prefer it that way.

Looking at the re-designs (one uniform barely changed) for the first time, I was pretty mum on them, needing to let it all sink in before I placed my final verdict. The more I studied them, the more I realized there were all sorts of little trinkets placed within the designs that made each uniform more charming. Not only did I eventually come to tolerate them, I ended up thinking Phenom did a fantastic job with them, and is the best the AFL’s plethora of team uniforms have looked since I became a fan in 2013. Which uniforms are the best, though? Which uniforms are the most unimpressive? I vomit my opinion on this topic as I do with 98% of the content here on this blog.

#6 – Atlantic City Blackjacks

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The AFL’s newest team sports the dullest look in my eyes.

If not for the team’s logo and the playing card symbols running down the legs of the pants, I would have no idea that this team was inspired by the design of poker cards and gambling and such. Everything else has a very vapid look to it that looks as though it belongs in a random town’s high school team. Not to mention, the design already looks fairly similar to the Cleveland Gladiators, who are scheduled to return to the league next year. One can imagine that should they return, Phenom will work on their uniforms, too, so it may be wise not to have them clash too much.

I’m not huge on the red numbers with the white border. I think that might be the thing about them that irks me most. Perhaps just keeping it red would’ve been better suited to have the colors pop out more, at least for me personally (red and black are my favorite colors). Compared to the rest of the uniforms that we’ll look at in this post, it simply feels too safe, which is odd considering the Blackjacks were created fresh off the heels of New Jersey’s bill eliminating the ban on sports betting. And the AFL has had way too many teams in its history with black as a major proponent of their uniforms.

#5 – Baltimore Brigade

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The Brigade uniform is actually one I liked a lot prior to the re-designs. This isn’t to say that I don’t now, but with many other uniforms improved, it feels a little too similar despite some key changes with the uniform. Also, if anyone is looking at the pictures provided and are thinking, “Wow, those helmets look way too big on those guys,” I agree with you.

The biggest change to the Brigade uniform comes with the placement of the Maryland flag on the shoulders. As a fan of the Maryland flag’s design, I thought this was a neat choice, though I prefer it against the white uniform more than the blue. I also really like the multi-layered number coloring of the uniform and still think it’s the best in the league. What makes the re-design a little disappointing is the lack of gray with the uniform. The Brigade used to just have a simple gray pants with their uniform that I thought was suitable for the tough persona the team tries to embody. Mixing it all with one color kind of bums me out here, and I hope they’ll alternate some gray pants to see if it fits with the re-design. Until then, it remained pretty good, just not all that improved.

#4 – Albany Empire

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The Empire’s debut in the AFL last year saw them own the league’s best record during the regular season, only to fall to eventual ArenaBowl champions Washington Valor in the postseason. Their uniforms were slick and had a great blend of bright orange and navy blue. This re-design emphasizes a lot more orange and a lot less blue, and I think that’s a bad move.

This is the only re-design of a pre-existing uniform I find to be worse than the previous rendition. I really liked the orange jersey with the navy pants, and the away uniform used to feature orange numbers with a navy border, which I prefer over the vice-versa current version. One will notice when looking back on this post that every uniform is the same color from jersey to pants, which is another odd choice from Phenom. Again, I’m hoping they provide some alternates from time to time, because if it were only these jerseys all the time, I think that’d be bland. I wanna see the navy pants return! (And some contrasting colors.)

Even though I prefer the old version, the new appearance still looks really good. I like the tassel design near the bottom of the legs and the logo lightly imprinted on the jersey (hardly legible with the provided pictures, sorry). There’s more creativity to the designs than previously, even if it used to have better color combinations. Overall pretty good, I just wish they stuck with the orange-navy combo.

#3 – Washington Valor

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Look at that god damn helmet. Mmm! Beautiful.

The Washington Valor, since their debut in 2017, have always had a really sweet uniform. I adore the color combination—the navy and bright red, with little highlights of white, make everything pop splendidly. The number font is unique and interesting and the shoulder design is simple, but effective. Stars along the pants, stripe down the middle of the helmet. Nothing overly complex, just sleek design choices that do just enough.

The Valor uniforms are the only uniforms that basically changed nothing about their designs, and I’m overjoyed because of it. The only complaint I have is the all-white uniform, which looks a little bland without too much going on (to reiterate: really hoping for those alternates). The navy uniform, though, looks beautiful. I like it a tad better with the white pants, but the color combination and the helmet (Muah!) are designed so tremendously that it doesn’t even matter to me. Just a really, really solid uniform.

#2 – Philadelphia Soul

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These unjforms I am actually really excited over how much I like them. Why? Because I have never liked the Philadelphia Soul’s uniforms prior to now. They’ve always ranged from “Meh” to totally ugly. Now, they’re among my favorites—not without some hesitation, of course.

The Soul’s uniforms have changed drastically from how they normally do. Their home uniforms are typically gray with sky blue number fonts, and was traditionally pretty simple. Their new designs give off the impression that Phenom looked at the old designs, cleaned their eyes with bleach, then made them way more colorful. I don’t blame them. I think it turned out wonderfully, and perhaps that’s only because it looks so weird.

How abruptly the Soul logo infiltrates the uniform in both versions, never really conceding to one color in a uniform (ha) fashion. It’s kind of like what the Jacksonville Jaguars tried to do by having their helmets fade from black to gold, except it looked really bad because the colors clash. Here, I think it blends quite nicely, aided in part in that it doesn’t just rest on a block of colors, but various stripes and angles and what have you. And I love the higher emphasis on the sky blue. It’s a unique color that was never emphasized enough (except here) and I always thought that was a shame. Shame be gone.

#1 – Columbus Destroyers

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Hey, remember when I said too many teams in AFL history use black as a major proponent in their uniforms? Fuck that, the Destroyers look really, really good.

Why does everyone fawn over the Oakland Raiders uniform, one that’s historically been really simple? Probably because silver and black look really good together. The returning Columbus Destroyers, revived after a decade-long dormancy, have switched from navy and red to silver and black, and it just works so well. Every decision with the design appeals to my fashion choices like Phenom lives in my brain. Majority black, but silver (and occasionally white) highlights that give off a beautifully modern, deceptively simple model of greatness. It’s everything I love about the Valor uniforms times ten. Great color combination, simple highlights that speak volumes, and a shiny helmet that serves as the beacon of quality. I adore both uniforms, black and white, which is another rarity. A home run.

Now let’s hope they’re here to stay.

What do you think about these uniforms?

Thank you for your time. Have a great day.

2 thoughts on “Ranking the Arena Football League’s New Uniforms

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