You don't wake up one morning and change your uniform.
In the NFL, you decide one day and then wake up two years later to see it come to fruition.
Giants fans arose one summer morning to the launch of the classic blue uniform, similar to the one they – or their parents – saw on the posters above their beds as kids. The harkening back to the '80s and '90s will highlight two Legacy Games this season as the uniform makes its return on Oct. 2 vs. Chicago and Dec. 4 vs. Washington.
"It's always exciting when you bring back a piece of history, and that's what we did," Giants Chief Commercial Officer Pete Guelli said on the “Giants Huddle” podcast. "From Day 1, we were looking for ways to celebrate the amazing heritage of this organization, and there's no better way to do that than through the uniforms."
The New York Giants are bringing back their classic blue uniforms from the '80s and '90s this Sunday as part of two Legacy Games presented by Quest during the 2022 season.
The classic blue uniform with navy helmets is just one component of the Legacy Games. MetLife Stadium will be retrofitted to the '80s and '90s down to the end zones and in-game activations.
"We're going to try to take you back in time," Guelli said. "Everything that's done around those games is going to be thematically tied to that history. So, when you walk in the building and you see the end zones [painted like the ones in Super Bowl XXI], you'll remember them. When you walk in and you see the graphics on the walls, you'll understand what we're doing. When you hear the music that's being played, the video graphics that go up, and you see how we integrate alumni and the merchandise that we tie in and the giveaway that we're doing at the games, which is a retro pennant, all that stuff is connected to that part of our history. If you're a longtime Giants fan and you have fond memories of that window and those two Super Bowls, you're going to want to be here."
Making any change to the uniform is not taken lightly by the Giants, or the league.
Once the idea was conceived about two years ago, the Giants were "very careful, very deliberate" in how they went about it. A team of employees who had a lot of first-hand experience with the original uniform was tasked with matching the color, fonts, and everything in between.
The concept was then presented to the league, setting in motion a series of meetings.
"For a throwback uniform, you're really taking a creative direction we've already seen in the '80s and into the '90s in the LT era," said Rory Durkin, who manages on-field partnerships and consumer products at the NFL. "So when the Giants approached us, they kind of lay the concepts and overall creative direction down for us, which is super helpful. Then we'll take that creative direction and their concept, and we present that to Nike. Nike will start rendering those uniforms and showing us what they think, which in this case was very seamless and was great from the start. From there, we go into the sampling stage."
That's when the biggest decisions are made.
The evolution of fabric and fit added another layer of complexity to the design process, resulting in a modern flare to a uniform that is otherwise the same one the Giants wore when they won their first two Super Bowls.
"You feel the fabric, which in this case there's probably been three or four different fabrics since they last wore them," Durkin said. "The overall fabric that we use now is so much more complex. Once we get that in, we'll run it through Nike. Then we look at it, we send to the club, the equipment manager, and we make sure it's up to their standards. Once we get that approval, we'll move to a TV test."
The TV test is a uniform aficionado's Graceland … if they could get in.
Once a year, typically in August at an undisclosed stadium, the NFL hires a modeling agency to test every new uniform that will be launched the following year by clubs. But this isn't a normal photo shoot in a studio. Broadcast partners come to film them making football moves.
Even though the Giants didn't need to test it because it technically isn't a "new" uniform, Durkin shed some light on the secretive process.
"The athletes partake in football drills to make sure there's no glare on the helmet, make sure the numbers are readable, the nameplates are visible, stuff like that," Durkin said. "That's really into the weeds of what we do, but it's probably one of the most important parts because there have definitely been issues with how clear you can read someone's name or even see their number on a TV. … This game is made for television, and we need to make sure it's clear for everyone to see and there's no issues once you see it on film."
Check out the evolution of the New York Giants' uniforms through the years.
Coming through in high definition will be the return of the navy helmet, which was made possible by the new "two-helmet rule." NFL Senior Director of Uniforms and On-Field Products Jonathan Wright had spearheaded the idea for years because, under previous guidelines, clubs could use only one helmet over the course of a season. So, if a team wanted to bring back a retro look, they were limited to just switching the decals on the helmet.
The Giants did exactly that when they used the "GIANTS" logo to complement the all-white Color Rush uniform, which they first wore in 2016. Now, they are allowed to use a completely separate helmet to match the proper color from the '80s and '90s era.
"They were lucky enough to be one of the teams that will be able to pair their throwback helmet with their throwback uniform, that old shell," Durkin said. "We worked hand in hand with Riddell to make sure that color and the striping and the details were on par with what it looked like in the late '80s and '90s. It really was great timing for us, and I think it's really going to help adopt this uniform even more."
In fact, the white throwback uniform paved the way for the much-anticipated return of the classic blues.
"Fans had a good reaction to that," Durkin said. "I think this uniform will resonate even better with the fans. They're Big Blue. It's kind of who represents that uniform. You see a uniform that's on the field and you think of [Lawrence Taylor] and you think of those championships. You think of Phil Simms and then it goes into almost the Jessie Armstead era. I think it brings back a little something for an older fan who can relate to it and say, 'I was there, and I became a huge fan because of these players and this uniform.' Then obviously a team like the Giants, they don't change their uniform that often. Outside of the Color Rush, it's been 20 years they've been in the same uniform. It's going to be perfect to engage those young fans, but also the older fans are going to really appreciate the throwback uniform."
Fans of all ages had inundated Guelli with requests for the blue uniforms since he joined the Giants in 2019. Guelli quickly realized something else at that time.
"From the day I got here, you realize pretty quickly that we have this amazing history and an incredible base of alumni," Guelli said. "They're all very active. They're all very well known. Some of these guys are incredibly iconic."
That list, of course, begins with the man known by two letters: LT. The Giants brought the Hall of Famer into the fold shortly after the uniform concept was greenlighted.
"I had been looking for a way to work with LT probably since I got here, and we thought this is the perfect moment," Guelli said. "Nobody really personifies what the Giants were about in that era better than him. Needless to say, when we reached out, he was excited. Not only did we bring him here because we were shooting a lot of the content, but he came up and he spoke with the team. It was a really integrated process of getting him into the building and bringing him back into the family and using him for this project."
Just like the uniform process, the launch plan didn't happen overnight.
The marketing team staged a series of photo and video shoots with both alumni and current players to promote the new uniform. All the while, they had to keep it under wraps, which is no small task in today's technological age considering the names attached.
"These guys have been great because obviously we did not want anything to get out early," Guelli said. "The guys were great. They loved them from the minute they put them on. In the video and in a lot of the other pieces that we used from a marketing standpoint, you could see the level of excitement that they had. But the thing that was best was about it was knowing that you could collaborate with that group. The guys are all high-profile guys, and they understood that we wanted to keep this quiet until we had a chance to share it with the fans."
Guelli added, "This is one of the great things about working for the Giants. There's a really great connection between business and football sides. From Day 1, we worked with football [operations] to make sure everybody on that side of the house understood exactly what we were going to do because when you wear these things and it finally culminates on the field, it's a big deal. Guys will be excited to wear them. It will be a motivational moment, and it can impact things like performance. We're excited to see what happens when we roll them out."
Fans are able to purchase the jerseys now. The Giants also partnered with Ring of Honor linebacker Carl Banks, whose football prowess is matched by his reputation in the retail world. Together with Starter, Banks designed the Legacy Collection, which includes four classic items (windbreaker, satin jacket, sweater, and t-shirt) on the team's online shop and inside the MetLife Stadium store.
"Talk about assets and resources, it's incredible," Guelli said. "With his background, what he did here, how revered he is as a player and then how accomplished he is in the apparel space – and obviously he's still a Giant and works on a number of productions and broadcasts for us – so there really isn't a better person to get involved in something like this. Carl has done some really cool, retro pieces before, and now we had a chance to kind of dive in."
But what comes after the Fall of 2022? The bar has been set for 2023, 2024 and 2025.
"I never want to rule anything out," Guelli said when asked about the infamous red jerseys, "but what I will say is we put a five-year plan together that started a couple years ago. I don't think it's a secret that we will be celebrating our 100th anniversary here in the near future, so there's a lot of exciting things on the horizon."