Up until this point, I found 2023’s additions to City Connect a bit of a let down. As mentioned when reviewing the Mariners uniform, City Connect this year feels much more like the NHL Reverse-Retro collection: being focused much more on modernizing and old aesthetic, rather than expressing the uniqueness of the location in a new way. To be completely honest, I while looking at the uniform release schedule, I was not confident that the Reds would be the team to break the dry spell. I was dead wrong, and boy, am I happy to say that!
Since it’s earliest conception, I consistently evaluate City Connect uniform under the following criteria:
1. Does it actually connect to the city, as the name implies?
2. Does it look like it belongs to the team they represent?
3. Does it look like it fits the mission of exotic, but not obnoxious?
First points first: this is the only City Connect uniform in 2023 to feature an alternate name for their respective city (and no, “The A” does not count). The collection is called City Connect, and this uniform puts the city name first and foremost, and done in a way that has not been done before. I especially appreciate the use of the word “Cincy” because it feels like a recognition and legitimization of slang. It’s almost like it’s a nod to the average person.
Part of me wonders if they could have gone slightly further with the city connection itself. But at the same time, I don’t know if they could have. Being someone from outside of Cincinnati, I really do not know the current identity of the city. Cincinnati is only important because it used to be important before any of us were alive. My initial expectations were looking for a riverboat to be featured. Frankly, I am glad they didn’t do that. A riverboat is a connection to the past, and the Reds made it very clear: this uniform is not about what “was”,it’s about what “is” and “will be.” I applaud the self awareness and commitment to the message.
To the second point, it absolutely does look on brand with the Cincinnati Reds. Granted, that’s a somewhat easy task, considering all you need to do so is include the colors red and black. Interestingly enough, the emphasis of the color black makes this feel most on-brand with early 2000s Reds, which is a look that I feel like the Reds have lost in time.
However, I do not love the “C” that they have chosen to use because it looks retro while the rest of the uniform looks futuristic. The font of the C does not look like it goes with the font on the chest. Regardless, the shape of the C makes it clear which team it belongs to.
Finally to address the third point, which is the uniforms biggest strength. Holy cow, does this look outstanding. I frequently describe the best City Connect uniforms as being adventurous, and this is what I mean when I say that. The overall uniform looks like something out of the movie Tron (if Tron was red instead of blue). It looks futuristic, almost like an optical illusion, and unlike any other uniform in MLB.
I think this uniform tells us a very valuable lesson in uniform design because it exploits how other teams misuse the color black. This uniform is drowned in black, yet feels perfectly balanced in color. The reason why is because this uniform understands that black is the neutral color, and the flair comes from minimal use of white and red. Contrast this with the Mariners City Connect which uses just a fraction of the amount of black as the Reds, yet feel so much more forced and out of place. The Mariners use black to embellish and enhance, and it just comes across as distracting. I hope other teams keep this realization: black is not flair, black is wha the flair must be in contrast to.
New City Connect rankings are as follows. As time has passed, and uniforms are being seen more frequently, my opinions have changed. Some uniforms in the following list are in a new place on the ranks:
- White Sox
- Red Sox