They may not seem like much, but they are a team's image—the essence of what the program represents.
After all, could a fan imagine Penn State in a teal and black uniform? Or Michigan without the patented wings on the helmet?
Needless to say, ranking uniforms is a subjective task, and in full disclosure, my tastes veer towards the traditional, as opposed to the loud, modern and flashy (ala Oregon).
In effect, my tastes will be reflected in the pages that follow—Big Ten uniforms, from worst to best.
Maroon and yellow.
Eerily reminiscent of the colors and design of the bank that sponsors the Gophers' brand-spanking-new stadium.
Well, maybe corporate sponsorship is the way of the future in college sports. After all, Phil Knight of Nike all but owns Oregon—and is no small element of their recent success.
However, that doesn't change the fact that the color combination itself is garish and an eyesore.
Purple is, by itself, a difficult color to pull off on a football field.
However, while the new uniform, which was unveiled (per Yahoo Sports) at the first day of 2012 Big Ten Media Days, isn't unattractive, it doesn't quite look like a football uniform.
In fact, it looks more like a rugby, or even soccer uniform.
Maybe, if the getup had to double for both the football and the soccer team, it would get a higher ranking.
The white-on-white away uniform that the Illini usually wear isn't bad—a bit blah perhaps, but not bad.
However, things get out of hand when the Illini start to strut that orange, as they do above.
In order to wear the Illini colors, the team in question has to have a tradition like the Denver Broncos, and lately, the Illini just don't have it.
I've said I'm a fan of the "traditional" uniform, and when one breaks it down, there are three uniforms in the Big Ten—Indiana, Nebraska and Wisconsin—that aren't especially far off from each other.
So why is Indiana lower than the other two?
There is nothing behind the uniforms. Tradition goes a long way into making something as simple as a "crimson and cream" uniform into an icon.
It would be a different story if I were ranking the basketball uniforms.
The problem with the Purdue uniforms is that they try too hard.
Is the gold helmet really necessary? I guess Boilermakers work in metals, but I doubt they have much to do with gold.
And along with the gold, there isn't much else in this uniform of which to take note.
The first problem is the number on the helmet. I know Wolverine fans are split on this, but for me, it gets in the way. The Horns are classic and are best left alone.
Secondly, there is an element to the uniform—at least on some players—where it is reminiscent of Wolverine of the X-Men.
With Michigan being the Wolverines that makes sense, but it doesn't work for me.
I realize that a great many would disagree with this, but UM's uniform is lacking for me, though it would help tremendously if they got rid of the number.
This is the second in the Big Ten classic red-and-white uniforms.
Again, history puts Wisconsin automatically over Indiana, even though the uniforms are decidedly similar.
The big, block "W" on the helmet is iconic, but it's also somewhat boring.
I admit I'm biased, but the Tigerhawk—Iowa's logo—is the best logo in the Big Ten. It's not as iconic as Michigan's winged helmets, but taken alone, it has more aesthetic appeal.
While the black and gold uniforms were borrowed from the Pittsburgh Steelers, there isn't another NFL program that is more appropriate to model a uniform after.
MSU should go back to an old-school uniform—no fancy designs, just green and white.
That said, as the uniforms have evolved they have kept an element of their traditionalism, and they still look simple and imposing.
The silver helmets are as iconic an image of football as has ever existed.
The Buckeye stickers are as well, though for me, they get in the way of understated elegance. If it weren't for said stickers, I'd put the Bucks at No. 2, though I suspect most OSU fans wouldn't have their Buckeye helmets any other way.
The final and best of the red-and-white uniforms.
What puts Nebraska above Indiana and Wisconsin is the helmet, which consists of an "N" in the most traditional of fonts—designed before there was such a thing as "fonts"—and a number in the back.
The Cornhuskers are big on tradition and it is evident in everything they do, all the way down to their uniforms.
The new, alternate uniforms featuring black helmets (per Greenwichtime.com) will only add to it.
By the way, before Nebraska was added to the conference and the Big Ten was kicking around different teams to add, I suggested that Nebraska vs. Wisconsin would make a great rivalry game if the teams played for the right to wear red for the following year.
I still think it's a great idea, and if Barry Alvarez or Tom Osborne is reading this, which is highly likely, take note.
As I mentioned in the introduction, my tastes veer towards simplicity and tradition, and there are no uniforms in the conference, or in the country, that are more simple, traditional and tasteful than Penn State's.
Some might complain about the stark white helmet, but for me, it is perfect.
Recently, via The Wilkes-Barre Times Leader, head coach Bill O'Brien indicated there might be some changes to the uniform. Presumably, this is his way of getting out of the dark shadow still lingering over the program.
While I understand his mentality, I think change, in this case, would be a bad decision.