Hamilton Tiger-Cats’ stylish new uniforms an ode to the city
Two thumbs up from Simoni Lawrence, who knows the city, who definitely knows style and who’s worn the team uniform longer than any current Tiger-Cat.
“It’s super swag-y, it represents The Hammer with the whole Steel City idea and that’s what Hamilton is built on,” the Tiger-Cats’ all-star linebacker said as he modelled the “Made in The Hammer” uniform for The Spectator that he and his teammates will wear during home games on Canada Day against Edmonton and on Oct. 21 against Ottawa, plus selected games in future seasons.
“It’s like Christmas, or the like the first day of school, for us. You get into our best outfit: just having something new is great motivation.”
The Ticats’ sartorial ode to the municipality was unveiled Thursday, 176 years to the day after Hamilton was founded as a city. Team management had committed to the project in 2019 and the club was planning to have players wear them prior to last year’s hometown Grey Cup to coincide with the city’s 175th birthday, but the pandemic delayed the launch.
“The notion of civic pride, of being from or coming to Hamilton, has never been greater than now,” Ticat president Matt Afinec said, noting that the original Hamilton Football Club was founded just 23 years after the city itself. “It’s a chance to celebrate the unique connection between the city and the club that is, frankly, as historically significant as any in pro sport. This is about inciting a heritage that no other city institution can.”
The uniform’s overriding colour is what the team calls “Hamilton steel grey,” but the numbers and name plates stand out starkly, using the long-established blacks and golds that are the foundation of the Ticats’ two primary game uniforms. The helmet remains black but the leaping tiger decals have been replaced by a stylized “H,” with the spaces inside the letter shaped like hammers. The same symbol sits boldly on the shoulders of both sleeves.
The “H” is reminiscent of the early Hamilton Tigers football and hockey teams and the retro-sweaters worn by the Bulldogs in their March game at Tim Hortons Field.
A string of small hammer shapes form the stripe down the helmet, and the same nuanced pattern adorns the V-neck of the jersey. “The Hammer,” the city’s universal nickname, is prominently displayed across the top front of the sweater.
And stitched inside the back of the jersey, is the label ‘Made In The Hammer.’
The traditional Ticat stripe is nowhere to be found on the either the jersey or the helmet, and the classic iconic leaping tiger is represented only by a small logo on the right upper thigh of the pants.
Is this marketing research for a planned future sea change? No, says team president Matt Afinec, who promises that neither the decades-old tiger, nor the instantly-recognizable black and gold, will ever be replaced by the alternate uniforms. He says the new designs will be used a couple of times per year, and attached to larger marketing programs specific to those games, and are designed to attract more eyeballs … and merchandise purchases, of course.
“The Hamilton Tiger-Cat uniform jersey and the leaping tiger form one of the great traditions in sport and has looked, for the most part, relatively the same for generations,” Afinec said. “And it will stay that way. This an innovation to provide a unique look. Our focus is always on attracting new fans while maintaining the integrity of the long-term brand.
“Part of the authenticity is celebrating the identity of Hamilton as much as celebrating the identity of the Tiger-Cats. You don’t have to be the biggest football fan to celebrate that.”
Jerseys are now for sale ($139 plus lettering fee) online at https://shop.ticats.forgefootball.club/ and at the stadium store. There are also T-shirts and hats in the “alternative” style, and cooler-weather items such as hoodies will arrive in the fall.
The Tiger-Cats have worn third uniforms before, most notably for the inaugural game at Tim Hortons Field in 2014, and during the 2013 “Guelph Year” when they played a game in the basic red worn by the Grey Cup champion 1943 Hamilton Flying Wildcats.
But, Afinec says, those were one-offs and “this is part of a collection. It’s not designed as a campaign for 2022 only. This is about an alternate kind of brand identification that includes a third jersey.”
The NBA and the Major League Baseball have both introduced “city edition” game uniforms. While there is a major connection to Hamilton’s past, it’s clear that these threads are aimed directly at the two youngest generations, the long-term future of the Ticat franchise. That fits other concepts, like “social viewing,” at Tim Hortons Field.
“At games, when we wear them, expect the entire fan experience to be transformed,” Afinec said. “In social media graphics, the logo at centre field, branding positions, graphics on video boards, retail support lines. It’s almost a brand takeover for those games.”
Lawrence says he’s particularly impressed by the menacing helmets and the hammers which make up the “stripe.”
“They’re totally dark,” he laughs. “So they’re going to feel it before they see it.”