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Jim Ingraham: For Browns, the classic uniforms are the only ones that really fit

The Browns are going to unveil their new uniforms next week. What could possibly go wrong, right?

Don’t answer that.

The last time the Browns unveiled new uniforms — all nine combinations of them — the overwhelming public reaction ranged from “What?” to “Is it hot in here or is it me?” to “When will you be unveiling the next new uniforms after these ones?”

Those ones, all nine combinations of them, were not so much uniforms as they were costumes. Boiler suits. Random outerwear. Without belaboring the point, they were ill-conceived, poorly designed and there were way too many of them.

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How many of them were there?

Let’s put it this way: in a three-year period starting in 2015 the Browns had over twice as many uniform combinations (nine) as victories (four). I’m no fashionista, but I don’t think that’s a very good ratio.

The theory seemed to be that if the Browns couldn’t overwhelm fans with victories, how about uniforms? It was the ultimate diversionary tactic that flew in the face of logic; airspace, by the way, that the Browns have flown in exclusively for years.

Generally speaking, when it comes to professional sports, the optimal number of uniforms is two. One for home and one for the road. But that was before professional sports was overrun by marketing departments, which operate under the motto “The only bad uniforms are unsold uniforms.”

It used to be, in all sports, that you could instantly tell which team you were watching as soon as you saw the team’s uniforms. Good luck with that today. It’s bad in the NFL. It’s bad in Major League Baseball and it’s completely out of control in the NBA, whose teams never, it seems, wear the same uniforms in consecutive games.

I doubt, however, that any NBA team’s closet would have room for nine uniform combinations, an unsavory trend that the unsavvy Browns apparently tried to start, but, come next week — we can only hope — will finally, mercifully and officially abandon.

Hopefully, at next week’s uniform reveal, cooler heads will prevail and the Browns will go back to their glorious past, when they were always one of the best teams in the league, while wearing the handsomest uniforms in the league.

There’s incentive for doing this, because, historically, the better the Browns have looked on the field, the better the Browns have played on the field. Through the years, the further the Browns got from their uniforms of the 1960s, the further they got from Jim Brown’s Browns.

Brown and orange is a terrific color combination, but today’s Browns can’t even get the SHADE of orange right. It’s always not quite the shade the team used on the helmet that Jim Brown planted into opposing sternums on his way to the end zone.

Those vintage Browns uniforms were either brown jerseys over white pants, or white jerseys over white pants. It sounds plain, but it looked sensational. And there weren’t nine combinations. Only two. When fans across the country saw them on TV, they instantly knew it was a Browns game.

Going back to those classic Browns uniforms would be a very positive early sign that today’s Browns’ ownership and management is toning down its tone deafness to this franchise’s roots. There is nothing wrong with wearing the same classy uniforms every week.

But it’s a two-step process.

No. 1, you have to create the classy uniforms and, No.2, you have to commit to wearing them. The same one (or two) every week. Sure, it might negatively impact the bottom line in the team shops, souvenir stands and online sales of Browns jerseys. But so what? It’s time to worry more about the steak than the sizzle. Besides, what’s wrong with a stadium filled with fans all wearing the same classic Browns jerseys?

It’s time to move past all the cheesy derivatives, the tacky, troubling attempts to reinvent the wheel with all those countless variations on football clown suits.

Nothing screams “cluelessness reigns here” more than NINE uniform combinations.

Sounds crazy, but maybe in football you really are what you wear. Do the math. For the last several years the Browns have dressed like a 1-15 or 0-16 team WOULD dress.

Fashion-wise, the Browns have tried the ridiculous and it didn’t work. Spectacularly so. Now it’s time to give sublime a try. It would be a way for the Browns to acknowledge their past, a past when THEY were the gold standard for other teams. Not just in performance, but their uniforms. The Browns’ classic uniforms were then, and can be again, the best uniforms in the league.

Jerry Seinfeld once said that with all the player movement in sports, fans cheer not for the players, but for the laundry. The uniforms.

Under their current ownership, the Browns have had bad teams, and even worse laundry.

Jim Ingraham is a sports columnist for the Elyria Chronicle-Telegram and the Medina Gazette. Contact him at 329-7135 or [email protected] and follow him @Jim_Ingraham on Twitter

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