Bills Alumni and local military prepare for Uniform Launch Event. Standing (L to R) – Steve Tasker, Charlie Ferguson, Greg Price, Nick Stone, Anthony Kuhn, Russ Brandon, James McLendon, Booker Edgerson, Jim Kelly. Kneeling (L to R) – Robert Smith and Kevin Reynolds.
It was 18 months in the making. There was fanfare, pyrotechnics, Bills icons and a tribute to Western New York's local military. With the Bills much anticipated 2011 uniform unveiling fans were ecstatic to see the familiar royal blue return as well as the white helmet. But right away it was clear what element of the Bills new uniforms would be omnipresent, the trademark charging buffalo.
The charging blue buffalo with the red speed stripe, which has been the club's most identifiable mark since its inception in 1973, appears on every article of the Bills new uniforms except the socks. Naturally it will continue to appear on each side of Buffalo's helmet, but it will also make its first ever appearance on the back of the jersey above the player's name and on each hip of the pants.
"We listened to our fans," said Bills CEO Russ Brandon. "We have done a lot of research on this is a long process to go through. We just wanted to get back to our storied tradition while we still highlight our brand."
"One of the things we heard consistently was there was really no identifying mark on our jersey," said Bills Senior Vice President of Marketing and Broadcasting Marc Honan. "We feel that the charging buffalo is perhaps one of the strongest marks in the league and why not incorporate it into the look and we think it looks great on the jersey."
The Bills are only one of three teams in the league to incorporate their team logo above the nameplate on the back of the jersey joining Arizona and Minnesota.
Another new element to the jersey is the presence of the team name just below the V-neck of the jersey on the front where 'BILLS' is stitched.
"In the last five years we've seen a real trend in the league with teams moving towards including whether it's a logo or a word mark as part of their jersey makeup," said Honan.
The white numbers on the blue jersey and the blue numbers on the white jersey have always been outlined in red and that continues with the current edition, but there is also a thin navy blue outline outside the red outline. The purpose is to make the jersey numbers stand out more prominently on television.
With Reebok as a design partner in the process, there were also some high tech components to the 2011 jerseys. The player jerseys are made of stretch mesh, a Reebok fabric that provides players with superior breathability and better range of motion.
"Those jerseys actually cool players down a lot more," said Bills equipment manager Dave Hojnowski. "That's the evolution. The material stretches a little more. It's a little more breathable and they're trying to pull more of that moisture away from the body."
The jerseys are also 20 to 30 percent lighter in weight, depending on the player's size, due to Reebok's ability to reduce cut lines and seams for a high performance fit.
With respect to the Bills helmet aside from returning to a white helmet for the first time since 1983, the biggest alteration is with the striping down the middle. It is much wider than it has been in the past and much like the jersey numbers the red and blue stripes are bordered by a thin navy blue stripe on each side. The striping also widens as it travels from the front to the back of the helmet to mimic the speed streak on the Bills logo which also widens as it moves from the head to the tail of the charging buffalo.
The white color of the helmet has also been enhanced with what's termed a "metallic flake" to give the white a sparkling quality, which will really pop in the sunlight or under the lights for a night game.
"We wanted something that just wasn't a flat white," said Bills Director of Merchandise Tim Kehoe, a point person with the new uniform design. "For more of a modern type of a look we wanted to go with this metallic flake, which will add a little bit of reflective nature to the quality of the helmet."
There is also a tie in between the uniform socks and the jersey. The striping on the socks matches the sleeve stripes on the jerseys.
Player inputOver the past year and a half Bills players also had input on the new design, with veteran receiver Lee Evans one of the more prominent sounding boards for the design team. Evans also participated in a lot of the preliminary uniform fittings to help the design team assess uniform performance.
"The players have been excited about the new uniforms," said Brandon. "We've had to go through some TV testing at the league level and the players that have seen them from a look and performance standpoint and have been very excited about it. I think the players are going to be fired up and we now know that our fans are very fired up."