The University of Pittsburgh, the biggest school in my hometown, has a new color scheme, some new logos, and new uniforms for all of its teams. Let’s talk about them.
1. THE HELMETS.
That photo’s via the school, like all the other ones in this post of the Panthers’ new clothes.
2. The color scheme is excellent. If you don’t like that vibrant shade of blue up against that fun yellow, I can’t help you.
It’s also locally appropriate, as:
- Heinz, a Pittsburgh company known for its ketchup, is also active in mustard.
- The yellow nicely matches the seats at Heinz Field.
(The yellow is commonly called “athletic gold.” I’ll be referring to it going forward as “yellow.)
3. The numbering is kind of weird, but at least I get it.
Pitt had been wearing similar football throwbacks on and off for a few years. Those had blockier numbers, with a bit less sharpness to them:
The new number font has more edges and looks kind of science-fictional to me:
But I get the desire to project some newness, and I also get that Pitt seems to be going for some standardization across sports here. For instance, look at these soccer numbers:
And these basketball numbers:
There’s a specific Pitt reason for the font, too. Cardiac Hill explains:
One issue addressed by the new branding is Pitt’s numerical font, which was not uniform across all teams until Sunday. The football and basketball teams had been wearing throwbacks with block numbers, while the non-revenue teams went with a futuristic font that somewhat negated the retro theme established by the colors. Now, all uniforms bearing numbers feature a more rounded font inspired by the Cathedral of Learning’s arches.
I’m prepared to just not make a big deal about this particular thing.
4. The whole uniform design is a throwback to what any reasonable observer would call the most beloved sports era in Pitt history.
The football team was a national power in the late ‘70s and early ‘80s, dressed like this:
Jerome Lane broke a backboard dressed like this:
There are a lot of good feelings about the Pitt of that time, and it’s good to tap into them.
5. The new Panther logo does make it look like Pitt is cosplaying as FIU.
Pitt calls this thing The Panther Head ...
... and notes that it has some history with this logo design. There’s a fountain in front of the school’s Cathedral of Learning, in Pittsburgh’s Oakland neighborhood, that features water spouting out of a similar-looking panther head. Pitt says the logo is a “culmination of the beloved panther statues spread across the campus,” which, fine.
Sadly, there are apparently only so many ways to draw a fierce-looking panther.
Check out Pitt's completely original new Panther logo! pic.twitter.com/7JdO1TXLeq— RedditCFB (@RedditCFB) April 7, 2019
6. On the bright side, it’s hard to argue it’s worse than this Panther logo.
Pitt could’ve gone with a side-profile panther instead, but the university has already been there, tried that, and produced one of the weirdest-looking things in recent logo history:
This cannot not be worse than that, though I’ll admit to some childhood affection for that mangled-looking panther face from earlier this century.
7. The Panthers are also introducing a standard “P” logo, and you might think they stole it from the Philadelphia Phillies, but you’d be wrong.
Here’s the new Pitt P, modeled on a baseball uniform:
Admittedly, it looks a lot like the logo belonging to the pro baseball team from the inferior side of Pennsylvania. The Phillies wear a similar font of P on their unis and hats:
But if anyone’s committed a logo heist here, I’d argue it’s the Phillies, who weren’t rocking a logo like that until 1992. The Phillies did briefly use a logo in the 1940s that shared some features with their current P, but that was a much thinner letter, and the Phillies’ listed history of their own uniforms does not show that they ever actually wore that elongated P:
Meanwhile, here was a Pitt logo in the 1970s:
It’s not Pitt’s fault that the franchise with the most losses in Major League Baseball history decided to go to a nearly identical-looking P decades later.
8. One of the coolest Pittsburgh sports things is that the pro teams all wear roughly the same colors. Pitt’s now more in line with its city.
The Steelers and Pirates have worn what anyone from Pittsburgh will tell you is black and gold — but is actually black and a more mustardy yellow — for generations. The Penguins have alternated between various shades of blue, black, and yellow. But a few years ago, the local hockey team nixed an ugly “Vegas gold” shade ...
... and went to a full-time throwback that more appropriately aligns with the city:
Meanwhile, Pitt’s been a straggler. The Panthers are never going to make black a primary color like the rest of the city’s teams, but they’d long languished with weird shades of gold that looked more like those 2000s Penguins uniforms than anything truly Pittsburgh:
The new shade of yellow is far more 412, right down to being closer to the city’s flag:
9. Wiz Khalifa helped make this possible.
Wiz, the rapper who grew up in Pittsburgh and went to Allderdice High in Squirrel Hill, put out Black and Yellow in 2010. It reached No. 1 on the chart and became an anthem for pretty much anyone under 40 who lived within a stone’s throw of the Fort Pitt Tunnel. It remains a regular playlist presence at all kinds of Pittsburgh sporting events.
You will never convince me that Wiz making black and yellow cool did not have a serious juicing effect on the Pirates’ decision to emphasize uniforms with black tops and a yellow P when they were in their heyday from 2013-15, the Penguins’ decision to go back to a truer yellow full-time in 2016, and Pitt’s decision to yellow itself up a bit in 2019.
For that reason — and with all due respect to the late and very great Mac Miller — Wiz is the most influential artist in Pittsburgh history, at least as far as influencing the locals goes. Andy Warhol can piss off.