Designing for impact: Nike's new high-tech NFL uniforms

Nike's new uniforms for the NFL are ultra-light weight, high-tech and leave no stone unturned.
Written by Beth Carter, Contributing Editor

Research and technology have made everything in sports lighter, faster and stronger. And that Nike's designers are on the cutting edge of this technology should not be news to anyone. Their products -- made for professional and amateur athletes alike-- can actually enhance performance, protect from impact, and even measure speed.

Recently, the company released the newest uniforms for America's National Football League, to announce their new status as the NFL's official apparel provider for both on and off the pitch.

Nike claims the uniforms, dubbed The Elite 51, are the "next generation" of lightweight performance technology, providing a new and "fully integrated system of dress of athletes at the highest level."

The base layers of the new uniforms have foam impact protection built into the "hit zones," like the shoulders, hips and tailbone. Players' thighs are protected by new lightweight carbon-fiber plates. Even the seams are strategically placed, designed to lie flat to avoid chafing. The fabric for the under-layer is Dri-FIT mesh, to soak up that mid-game perspiration.

The outer layer is made with Nike's Flywire technology, developed originally for their footwear. It weaves together fibers in such a way that adds support where needed that doesn't add any weight. This "lockdown" fit brings the pads back down to the body, getting rid of any loose fabric that someone could grab onto.

Nike also calls this a "shrink wrap" fit, "a design that enables speed without compromise."

The company is proud of the light weight, but also the flexibility, of the new system. The fabric has a four-way stretch to maximize full range of motion-- and this includes every part of the uniform, even the numbers sewn on the back.

The new fabric is also hydrophobic, doing its best in preventing the motion-limitations caused by wet uniforms during rainy games. Even the belt loops got some attention: they are made from aluminum and not steel, to shave some heft.

The name comes from Nike co-founder Bill Bowerman, who wore the number 51. "After serving in the 10th Mountain Division in WWII he understood the importance of a uniform in battle," said Nike. "Lightweight mattered, as did movement and strength." And as a coach, Bowerman held to these principles:  less weight increased speed and mobility.

Each team got to modify their uniform to fit their specific design needs and to pay homage to their history. Other cool additions include the Nike Vapor Game Sock, the Vapor Jet 2.0 gloves that inventively display the team logo on the palms when the hands are interlocked (a concept Nike tested out on college teams like the University of Oregon), and the Nike Vapor Talon Elite Cleat.

For more information and to see you team's new uniform, click here. More photos below.

[Core 77]
Images: Nike, Inc.

This post was originally published on Smartplanet.com

Editorial standards