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The full array of 2009 uniforms

The full array of 2009 uniforms

The Tokyo Yakult Swallows have “premiered” their shiny new uniforms for the coming 2009 season.
Though they last changed uniforms not so long ago as part of the “Tokyo” name-change, they’ve decided to make another switch, this time in some ways more radical than the last.
In 2006, the change was more of a refinement, losing the red-pinstripes from the home uniform, and just tweaking their distinctive navy and red road jerseys.

Well, this time, to celebrate their 40th anniversary (well, since Yakult took over the team, not of the Swallows organisation), they’ve gone a little further.

There’s a new anniversary logo, which I rather like, displaying the four cap logos the organization has used over the years.

And then it’s on to the uniforms themselves. The home unis are pretty similar to the previous ones, with the only major changes in my eyes being the colour of the “Swallows” logo across the front being changed from dark blue to white, and a change in the team logo on the left sleeve. The old sleeve logo was pretty much only to be seen on the sleeve, while the official team log remained the amateurish “penguin holding an inflatable banana”. The sleeve logo used to be a simple picture/silhouette of a Swallow in flight with the words “Professional Baseball Club” written in a red circle around it.

This seems to have been changed to the side-profile of the head of some kind of bird, which looks like some kind of puffin or penguin from what I can make out from the picture above. Whether or not this logo, will be used as the official team logo from now on remains to be seen.

Next, to the road shirts and well, what can I say? One of the things I loved about the Swallows when I first started following them was their unique (in Japan) navy blue and red road jerseys. That colour scheme had survived the last re-design but has met it’s demise in 2009. Despite assurances that the new road jersey is a shade of grey, it looks pretty white to me, and indeed, almost a facsimile of the new home jerseys, but with simply “Yakult” across the front instead of “Swallows”. Navy and Red RIP. . . thou shall be missed.

There are also throwback uniforms too, a powder blue road strip that’s very similar to the Atoms uniforms of last year. That uniform, despite it looking like the players forgot to change out of their pajamas, I like. Plus there are a couple of pinstriped home throwbacks too.

Well, while I’m going to reserve final judgment on these uniforms until I see them on the field, my initial impressions are not great. To cull the old road colour scheme is a disaster as far as I’m concerned, though I may be in the minority when it comes to my love of the old colours. And while perhaps unrealistic, it would have been nice to see them be bolder and put the “Tokyo” across the front of the road shirt instead of the “Yakult”. The throwbacks I do like though, and the new home jersey is nice enough.

So for better or worse, we’ll be playing in fresh new threads this year. What do people think about them?

About David Watkins

David is a baseball bothering Brummie who spends a fair portion of his life fretting over the Tokyo Swallows and the WORLD'S GREATEST FOOTBALL TEAM, Aston Villa. He completes the quartet of abusive sporting relationships by being a die hard New York Knicks and Mets fan. You can find him on twitter: @yakulto

  • Same here. I like the throwbacks, but the regular unis are bland. I hope they’ll be wearing the throwbacks often (like the Lions did last season, probably because they kept on winning wearing them).

    Seems like some teams are emulating the (almost) white jerseys on the road that the Giants used last season (well, they simply abandoned their ugly black tops early in the season for some reason). Lions’ new road duds are an off white colour as well. And I think the new unis announced by other teams use light grays for their road unis as well, hmmm.. a trend?

  • flick

    I am shocked by the new uniforms. I was going to get an away navy-blue Miyamoto replica this year, but ……
    I totally agree with you about the navy/red color scheme. It was awesome.
    But at the press conference the players were really happy about the uniforms being light, so I guess I can’t complain.

  • I liked last year’s model better.

  • Ken Worsley

    The white “Swallows” is awful. It’s hardly legible. Bad move.

    I liked the blue aways. They stood out, they were unique. Grey aways are so MLB traditional. No problem for most teams, but TYS are like a Marlins/Angels/Rockies-esque expansion team in my mind.

  • I liked the navy blue jerseys, so I’m sad to see them go. So far I am not a fan of these, but they might grow on me during the year… except when I see them full of mud at games in Yakult Toda and Lotte Urawa, I’m sure.

  • Rob

    Yeah, I liked the navy road uniforms as well. Powder blue is okay, but the trend toward off-white road uniforms is blecch!

  • Alex

    I don’t see the need for new jerseys, considering how new and sharp our previous set was. Apparently, Yakult is investing in the glasses and contacts field, seeing how we’ll all get eye strain trying to read white font on a white jersey (stupid). That said, I don’t hate it, just I don’t see it as an improvement.

    While i miss the navy away, I like grey for road jerseys…but I don’t think the Swallows (or the rest of the NPB for that matter) understand what the color grey looks like. I swear it looks like white. The BayStars’ new roads have a similar problem. I wish the league would step in…last year’s Marines’ road jerseys were an eyesore and mostly white.

    The throwbacks are nice, and I hope all teams wear to do this (I’m looking at you, Chunichi Dragons).

  • I don’t see the need for new jerseys

    Near the end of last season they were selling fukubukuro/lucky-dip bags of last year’s uniforms for cheap which was the first hint that they were going to change the strips.

    Now whilst this is completely heresay from the Jingu bleachers, some people thought they were going to change their uniforms to try to distance themselves/put a line under the Furuta-era (remember the last re-design was part of Furuta’s “F-Project” re-branding of the club).

    So maybe the uniforms part of a fresh new start with a young team full of potential? Or maybe they simply are a cash spinning exercise (though to be honest, I don’t think Yakult make too much off their merchandise…)

    I don’t know, but anyway, make of that what you will.

  • Rob

    I remember something to the effect that the old navy/red combos had something to do with TYS’ ties to the Cleveland Indians, but I don’t know if that was true or just some bored writer at a sports paper making something up for a Tuesday morning edition.

    I don’t dislike gray away jerseys, but Alex is spot-on about the problem with the concept of gray. I was really confused last year when I turned on the TV for a Giants road game and found both teams wearing white. “Now, waitaminit… that’s not right, is it? It’s in the other team’s park, but the Giants are wearing white. How did they pull THAT off? Oh, I see – it’s almost white – not really white. Hmmmmm….”

  • N26

    I have no idea about MLB but am glad it does not look American. The away unis are nice!

  • flick

    It’s kind of funny that in the post before this, Aikawa, at his press conference, is wearing a uniform that he will never wear during the regular season.

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  • I’m with you guys on the white-on-white being awful and on the need for the gray to be more distinguishable from the white. As I see it, though, the main problem is that these uniforms are tacky. The 2006 change dropped the red pin stripes, thus giving the uniforms a less flashy, more “classic” look, which I liked. I was quite a fan of the home uniforms (I never minded the away navy, but apparently was less attached to it than other folks were.)

    The powder blue retro thing is good only for fun once in a while, but is a danger to be avoided because it’s downright ugly. Around the world, in the ’70s, by which I mean in North America and Japan, baseball teams were in an unofficial competition to see who could make the ugliest, tackiest, most tasteless uniforms. While the San Diego Padres put in a strong contender with their brown and yellow, they were unseated by the first incarnation of the Chiba Lotte Marines uniform, which pushed the boundaries of bad uniform design. The entire CPBL has been giving the old Chiba threads a run for their money, but Chiba hit back with those Zubaz road uniforms.

    True to Yakult form, they’d like to be in the competition, but aren’t willing to commit. Those vertical stripes down the sides on the front are ridiculous. The pin stripes with the bold pant stripes and heavy font are a little too ’80s. More than anything, though, I’m sorry to see one of only two tasteful logos the club had go. I liked the old sleeve patch. I loathe cartoon characters as team logos.

    Finally, Kenzo, you think of the Swallows as a Marlins/Rockies-type expansion team? They were one of the original NPB teams (granted, that’s true of most of the existing teams) and have never merged or moved. They’ve even had the same name and similar uniforms for most of their history. What does a team have to do to get respect? Be the Giants?

  • John Lewis

    Don’t know how many of you are aware, but the home jersey and away jerseys are manufactured and provided by different companies! The home is ZETT (first ever pro jersey for them…)
    and the away is some other brand (either DESCENTE or MIZUNO).

    There’s no way you can have some kind of “uni”form taste when they’re both by different manufacturers…

    I had hoped the change to be a drastic one but was disappointed when I saw the new ones… The Lions should be applauded for their move to different threads that look really good.

  • Alex

    Wow, really? Two different companies?! That’s just strange.

  • Not very strange in Japan. Some (government?) buildings have elevators made by different companies in them.

  • They are provided by two manufacturers(the away is by MIZUNO), but both designed by BEAMS, the same as the old ones.
    So, as for the “uni”form taste, I don’t think there is a problem.
    The problem is that I don’t like the new ones very much….

  • Rob

    BEAMS? Isn’t that the dance troupe that comes out to lip-sync and aerobicize before the games? Wow – I didn’t realize they were so versatile.

  • That would be “DAD’S” (the lip-synching abomination) and “DDS” (the dance troupe that, far from being versatile, did the same routine to the same song at every game.) Let us hope both will vanish along with the “Dynamic and Dramatic” slogan.

    Last year’s uniforms were made by Descente. Looks like they lost the contract altogether this time.

  • I was proud of being (I believe) the only person in Jingu to boo DDS when they came over to the bleachers after the last game of 2008.

    But most of the regulars around us cheered them regardless. It seems eye candy/shiny hotpants are seen as more of a positive than money towards improving the team/organisation, but what do I know eh?

    I, like yourself Garrett, hope they will be far from Jingu come 2009, but I have an inkling they’ll be back………..

    It is a little odd that they’ve got two manufacturers in to make the uniforms, but this is the Swallows so nothing should really come as a surprise. And regardless, it’s BEAMS that’s to blame for the blandness of the new threads.

  • The dance troupe “JPTW”? What will the horrific pop group be called?

    Not only cheering, there were regulars who bought the CD. I was embarrassed to see that I was the only male over 10 in the Fan Club section to ignore them when they were out there flattering the gents for their sartorial tastes and flogging their CD.

    DDS was irritating and made the Swallows look pathetic. Even without the extra cash, I’s rather they weren’t there. Leave that silly crap to the Giants.

  • Garrett, I know they’ve been around since day one, but I guess the impression came from the uniforms.

    A couple of weeks have gone by and I still don’t like these uniforms. I’m boycotting the home opener this year, sorry.

  • Fair enough there, Kenzo. The only thing they could do to make those uniforms look more expansion would be to make them purple or teal.

    Could be worse, though. While the new threads are a step down, they’re still better than what most NPB teams have. We’ve mentioned Chiba’s goofy away strips, among other ill-advised uniforms, but every time I watch baseball reports or see the Fukuoka SoftBank Hawks, I thank my lucky stars that my team doesn’t have giant billboards on their uniforms spelling the full name of the team with a color scheme and stripe pattern to match the owners’ dull corporate logo. And all that in black and yellow! “Tacky” doesn’t begin to explain it.

    Sadly, the Swallows are sliding toward the ugly end of things, though.

    For baseball uniforms, there’s a simple rule: Don’t get fancy. Uniforms are not the place to try out your latest bit of whimsy. I won’t call the new threads a complete disaster, but whoever designed them should clearly be fired immediately.

  • whoever designed them should clearly be fired immediately.

    I don’t think anyone would come up with that design unless they were protected by lifetime employment.

  • Beams offers tenure? I could come up with a new bad uniform design every day of the week. Maybe I should look for a job.

  • Mark B

    Went for the Atoms shirt last April after seeng it at the UDX Building (Anime Centre) in Akihabara – Atom Boy connection and all that.

    Personally I like the white on white – much prefer the team names over the company names so much of Japan’s sporting world is occupied with.

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