Ole Miss’ last major uniform update was an abomination for most Rebel fans and luckily it was short lived.
It was the year 2000. We had legends like Deuce McAllister, Romero Miller and a freshman named Manning on the field, and they were forced to wear horizontal shoulder stripes.
Not the vertical stripes that have become synonymous with the Ole Miss brand.
The vertical shoulder stripes are just as identifiable as the script writing on the helmet, even though I wouldn’t call the script “classic.” I will define the term “classic” later.
But horizontal shoulder stripes?
Nike could not have dreamed up a worse nightmare for Ole Miss traditionalists if they had given us chrome helmets, ala Oregon 2011.
I know we are in the era of Pro Combat, Breast Cancer Awareness pink trim, Wounded-Warrior-Camo uniforms, but not every school will embrace the Oregon/Maryland randomly generated uniforms.
So that begs the question, what would the Red, White and (Navy) Blue Ole Miss fans embrace?
Would you believe powder blue?
Powder Blue became a footnote for Ole Miss uniform history actually by mistake. As the story goes, Legendary Rebel coach Johnny Vaught ordered helmets for the Rebel’s season (late 50’s) and they arrived in a color best described as a robin’s egg.
As there were games to play and very few options to change them, the Rebels played with the powder blue helmets. And they continued with the powder blue helmets until 1969 and the NCAA centennial design, which was a return to the darker navy helmet.
Billy Brewer, being a Vaught disciple, brought back the powder blue helmets with the familiar script “Ole Miss” on the side from 1983 to 1994. When Tommy Tuberville took over as coach, he ushered in an updated uniform with navy blue helmets while keeping the Ole Miss script.
Since we are a school still obsessed with Archie Manning, I will consider his 1968 uniform to be the “classic” standard (powder blue helmets, vertical shoulder stripes).
However, my favorite uniform is from around 1997 (regardless of the navy helmets—the jerseys did not have a graphic shadow of the numbers—I like the shiny grey pants).
Many older fans feel as I do.
Any side discussion around the grove tent on a Saturday quickly divulges to a discussion of when we will see the powder blue helmets. And if you sit there long enough, you will overhear some version of the following:
"They have the powder blue helmets ready, they are waiting to break them out for the egg bowl."
"[Hugh] Freeze grew up with the powder blue helmets, why wouldn’t he bring them back?"
"I heard we will go to a total pro-combat uniform next year!"
"He’s a good rebel. (A universal descriptive phrase, means that he is one of us)."
Why are Ole Miss fans so infatuated with displaying a color not even affiliated with the school? It has no significance other than being a celebrated mistake. And let’s face it, powder blue is not the most masculine color to wear if you are a football player.
My answer is: The powder blue is an homage to the past, when Ole Miss was a dominant force in college football year after year.
It’s a homage to Johnny Vaught, it’s a tip of the hat to Archie Manning, Billy Brewer and so many of the players whose names conjure up images of our childhood, listening to games on the radio or traveling to games with our family.
Reminiscing on our own personal past is what the powder blue is about, and it is a strong emotion.
But what does the newer generations of fans, students and players want to see? I couldn’t be more disappointed to discover that powder blue is accepted at a much lower rate and only as part of the mangled, wreckage that is a Pro Combat uniform.
Here are a mixed bag of comments from my experience.
"Why do we use script on the helmets? Seems very feminine. We should use the block M." - Brandi. R
"I love Missouri’s helmets with the Tiger graphic; we should use a bear on our helmets!" - Brittney. S
"I don’t like the grey pants." - (Name redacted, she is dead to me now)
Still, all fans have an equal stake in the never ending uniform debate at Ole Miss.
I personally think Ole Miss has one of the more attractive color schemes in the nation. It’s not as traditional as Alabama or Penn State, but not as plain either.
Ole Miss’ red jerseys on a Saturday night on ESPN-HD is visually stunning; and for me, you can’t improve on perfection.
I do understand the fans that would like to see something different, even for one game a year. It brings a little more excitement for the fans and gives the University more merchandise to market and sell, but most importantly, it is exciting for the players, and I think they should help decide what they wear.
Athletic director Ross Bjork has mentioned Ole Miss is in the process of updating uniforms with Nike for the 2013 season on twitter. It’s not known how drastic the changes will be, but the only thing known at this point will be a new road white jersey with blue stripes and blue numbers.
These images have been circulating of a light blue and a matte navy blue helmet, but it is unknown if these are planned designs or just prototypes.
But bottom line, if current players like their uniforms and get pumped to wear an Ole Miss uniform, you can bet recruits would feel the same way.
SEC football is big business, and we can’t ignore the current trends in our “business.”
I just hope that powder blue is a part of the new editions.
Can a long time fan at least get a throwback?