7 Old-School College Football Uniform Trends We Want to Come Back

David Luther@@davidrlutherFeatured ColumnistApril 17, 2013

7 Old-School College Football Uniform Trends We Want to Come Back

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    Years ago, Oregon started a trend in college football thanks to Oregon alumnus and Nike co-founder Phil Knight. The Ducks began sporting unique uniforms in bright florescent colors, which instantly became a topic of conversation.

    Interestingly enough, those discussions helped to build Oregon into the national football power it is today. But what about the other end of the spectrum? Could all of these avant-garde styles create a demand of the old, classic looks of college football?

    Not every program in the nation is so quick to alter its look, and some are even well-known for their classic, no-frills approach to outfitting players. From the classic solid colors to simple strips and logos, here are seven old-school college football uniform trends we want to make a comeback.


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    We'll start our old-school uniform list with Iowa.

    The Hawkeyes have been pretty resistant to change over the years, and for good reason. The simple uniform scheme at Iowa is instantly recognizable—black jerseys with a triple white-in-yellow stripe and white block numbers, yellow pants with a black stripe and a black helmet with a yellow stripe and the logo on both sides.

    Simple, effective, understated and immediately identifiable with Hawkeye football. Sometimes, change isn't a good thing.


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    What would college football look like without Oklahoma's classic uniforms? We're not sure, but we're willing to bet that we would all feel like something is missing.

    The classic, solid-red uniform with the word “Sooners” over the numbers, both in solid block white, announces to everyone that one of history's top programs is taking the field. Old-school triple stripe pants (crimson over cream) topped off with a solid crimson helmet with Oklahoma's simple-yet-powerful logo completes the uncomplicated ensemble.

    Clearly, OU is focused on winning games, not winning uniform design competitions. Other programs might do well to take note of that philosophy.

Louisiana State

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    Just one look at an LSU football uniform and you're instantly transported back a few decades to an era where broad triple stripes on everything was all the rage. But instead of looking tacky and dated, the Tigers pull off this now-unique look with the perfect mix of modern success and nostalgia for yesteryear.

    Louisiana State also bucks the trend of wearing a dark uniform at home, opting instead to don the whites—the only FBS program that can make that claim.

    Pulling off the triple strip isn't easy without looking like you're from 1987, but if it's done correctly, as in the case of the Tigers, it can look very classy.

Notre Dame

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    There isn't a program in the nation that can compete with the kind of nostalgic history floating around Notre Dame every Saturday. The Fighting Irish have built one of the most revered college football programs over the past century, and the uniforms changed very little for most of that time.

    Thankfully, Notre Dame seems to be getting back to its roots under Brian Kelly, both in terms of relevance on the field and how the Irish dress themselves before every game.

    The plain blue jersey—typically without nameplates—is paired with plain gold-colored pants. The helmet is simply gorgeous, and its beauty lies in its unique simplicity.

    For years, Notre Dame went with a muted gold-colored paint. But recently, there's been a switch back to the old-school “gold in the gold.” The helmets are painted before each game, and the gold paint actually contains flecks of real gold. But the real change is that it's no longer a simple gold-colored paint, but a high-gloss, reflective gold.

    Now, those little flecks of gold stand out in the bright light and the “Golden Domers” helmets seem somehow more Notre Dame-ish. We hope this old-school look sticks around for a long, long time in South Bend.


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    There likely isn't a program in the nation—not even in South Bend, Indiana—with a better claim to tradition and history than the University of Michigan. The Wolverines are about to field their 134th college football team in 2013, and when Michigan takes the field, those famous winged helmets make it very easy to recognize the boys from Ann Arbor.

    But even the mighty Michigan isn't immune from flights of fancy when it comes to innovative uniform designs.

    Michigan been breaking out some new threads lately, most recently against South Carolina for the 2013 Outback Bowl. Michigan is trying to keep pace with some of the new designs that are available from manufacturers, but with a program so proud of its history, perhaps the old ways are best.

    Michigan fans are very particular about their traditions, and the uniforms are part of that tradition. A plain blue jersey without any names, or even the word “Michigan” or the famous block M (which appears on the pants) is as classic as it gets. The yellow—or maize, and any Michigan fan would tell you—pants are stripe-less, and the sleek, simple and stylish look is as timeless as the winningest program in college football history.

Penn State

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    When it comes to simplicity, there was no program better than Penn State.

    A plain blue jersey with white numbers, plain white pants, a plain white helmet with a single blue stripe and black shoes. It doesn't get much more basic than that. Under head coach Joe Paterno, things very rarely changed. Since his ouster, new head coach Bill O'Brien has instituted a few minor alterations that once would have been seen as sacrilege in Happy Valley. Player names now adorn the back of the jerseys and other changes may be under consideration.

    While the addition of nameplates was a controversial move, the team's addition of a blue ribbon to show support for the victims of child abuse was not. Whether or not the names stay, we're certainly a fan of the old-school 1950s look of the traditional Penn State unis.


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    There's no doubt that Alabama is the undisputed king of college football these days, so why not put the Tide atop yet another list? Alabama's uniforms are instantly recognizable anywhere in the nation, which is saying something considering how plain they are.

    Don't get us wrong: plain in this sense is not in any way a bad thing. The crimson red, unadorned jersey with white, thin triple-stripe pants are all part of the rich tradition at Alabama, which is brought together by the iconic numbered red helmets with a single white strip.

    Just how influential are these old-school helmets? Even the untouchable majesty of Michigan's helmets took a page out of Alabama's playbook with the occasional addition of helmet numbers.

    Besides the obvious awesomeness of Alabama's helmets, the numbers on the side provide another more real-world advantage: making player identification easier. We've all seen television replays where commentators have trouble identifying a player in a crowd or while he's surrounded by trainers while injured on the field. That doesn't happen with the Crimson Tide.

    Beyond that, the impressive-in-their-simplicity Alabama threads have now become synonymous with success. Maybe, just maybe this old-school college football uniform trend will start to catch on once again.

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