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Browns Uniforms

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Behind the process that led to the Browns' new uniforms

Redesigning uniforms takes years.

There's meetings. There's design concepts to analyze. There's meetings to discuss those concepts. There's modified concepts. There's meetings to discuss those concepts. There's waiting. There's decisions to make. There's fabric to feel. There's tests. There's more waiting. 

"All those things and dates just take time to set up," said Jonathan Wright, the NFL's Senior Director of Uniforms and On-Field Products. "I wish I could snap my fingers and get it done." 

All of the above took place for the Browns, who began the redesign process with the NFL in 2017. It started with a small meeting that included Browns owner Dee Haslam and Executive Vice President and Owner JW Johnson. 

The request was simple: Get us back to our roots.

The NFL's and Nike's collective response? Easy enough. 

"These guys then took that idea and really realized that the old uniform prior to this current one was needed to be the North Star," Wright said. "Then, how do you get there in a way that is slightly modern but does not deviate from who the Browns are?"

When the Browns, Nike and the NFL met in August 2018, the groups looked over a deck that outlined the goals and inspiration for what would become the new uniforms. The first bullet point summed up the mission: "Keep it simple." Another said "Take it back to the studs." The studs, in this case, would be the team's uniforms from 1983 and 1985.

Below the text were pictures of two Browns icons, Brian Sipe from 1983 and Bernie Kosar from 1985.

"We just want to play football," Johnson said. "I think our uniforms have always been iconic. They've always been classic. They will forever be iconic and classic."

The Browns on Wednesday debuted their new uniforms for 2020 and beyond.

The Browns looked over a number of different uniform designs that ultimately varied little from what would become the final product. It was all about the details and nuances that bring a uniform together -- some with different number stylings, some with "Browns" on the chest, some with tweaks to the nameplate, some that had socks with the team's trademark stripes and some that featured plain socks like the ones Cleveland sports with its Color Rush uniform.

It was a collection of small decisions that fed into the overall solution.

"There was always that fan focus, that it was going to be right for the fans," Wright said. "It wasn't about wanting to achieve something and now we have to make up the story behind it. It was, 'This is going to be right for our fans from the beginning.'"

Wright, NFL Creative and Brand Director Mollie Wilkie and others were in Cleveland for the most memorable Thursday night in 2018. They watched as the Browns donned their all-brown Color Rush uniforms -- which had sat in the closet for multiple years before making their debut -- and saw Baker Mayfield lead the team in his NFL debut to a streak-busting win over the Jets that sent the town into a frenzy.

"It was cool, and it sort of reinforced that everyone was in and ready to go," Wilkie said. "There was just more excitement around it."

The meetings, though, would continue through the rest of the year before the design was finalized. It amounted to "at least" 10 presentations, Wilkie said, but that's what's necessary for a process as complex as creating a new NFL uniform -- even when it's as simple and "back to the studs" as the Browns'. 

"It was pretty easy," Wilkie said. "It was just like, 'You ask for this, and we'll put it together, take it back and strip it down.' It's about football. We're not wearing shiny, fancy uniforms, but they're still cool and still relevant.

"Everybody had the same point of view and the same perspective moving through from start to finish. Nobody was like, 'Oh, we need to have that, that and that.' It was very streamlined and everybody knew what they wanted. It was smart thinking. Everyone was connected. On the design side of things, it was just a breath of fresh air to work with."

By early 2019, the Browns had samples of their uniforms to view on mannequins. Some players, including Mayfield and Odell Beckham Jr., were given sneak peeks along the way and provided the kind of feedback that gave Johnson confidence the entire uniform set would be just as popular with the players as the Color Rush uniforms were. Later in the year, the uniforms went through a TV test to ensure they would translate well to a national broadcast. 

All of the I's were dotted and T's were crossed by the summer of 2019. There was just one hurdle to overcome before they made their grand debut.

The COVID-19 pandemic and the subsequent stay-at-home edicts that have helped save countless lives prevented the Browns from going forward with a long-planned photo and video shoot in Los Angeles with a number of the team's top players. It has also thrown a bit of a delay into the process of creating the jerseys Browns players will wear on Sundays throughout the fall because the factory that makes them is working at limited capacity.

Ultimately, the Browns held a photo shoot inside a marketing department employee's garage -- practicing social distancing from start to finish -- with another employee modeling the various looks.

"Obviously, for our safety, their safety and production crew safety was paramount," Johnson said. "That's why we had to make some changes to get this done in a safe manner to provide some joy and content to fans."

On Monday, the Browns launched the "Hats Off to Our Heroes" Fund, which will focus on aiding health care professionals, first responders, educational professionals and other groups who are pivotal in the community year round and are valiantly serving as role models in the face of significant adversity due to COVID-19. The Browns will commit 100 percent of the team's net proceeds from 2020 Browns jersey sales at FirstEnergy Stadium's Pro Shop and online through Fanatics to the "Hats Off To Our Heroes" Fund for a significant period of time.

For a process that was years in the making, it was a quick and fruitful decision to give back during these unprecedented times.

"We hope that our fans and players, who are obviously really excited about it, will be happy with the direction where we went," Johnson said.