Football Fashion 101


Football season is almost upon us.  I’ve always been more of a college guy than a pro football fan, and since the NFL has spent most of this summer trying to decide if they want to play or not, I’m going to talk about college.

I have a confession to make.  When it comes to football uniforms I’m as bad of a fashionista as any gay man you’ll ever meet.  I obsess over styles and new looks, I troll message boards looking for a sneak peek of a team’s new alternate uniform.  It’s strange, when it comes to my personal wardrobe I don’t care about much more than my T-shirt not smelling or having food stains.  But when it comes to football fashion I’m obsessed like a girl shopping for shoes.

So, in that spirit, this post will be devoted to the best and worst uniforms in college football.  Obviously this is all my personal opinion, and we all know my opinions tend to infuriate a great many people.  Oh well, deal with it.  You will all have the opportunity for rebuttal in the comments section.

I must note here that my rankings are based on a team’s uniforms as a whole.  Not just their helmets (unless that helmet ruins the whole package), not just their “special” uniforms they broke out for that one game back in 2005.  I will add a few tidbits about spectacularly good or bad special uniforms –like Nike’s Pro-Combat series— but in general these rankings will represent the basic look schools go with most of the time.

Alright, let’s get started with the worst of the worst.

#5–Iowa State

The Cyclones just have a knack for making bad uniforms.  I honestly can’t ever remember them having a cool look.  It’s not like red and gold are that hard to make look decent (see USC or Arizona State).  But Iowa State always seems to manage to look as brutal as possible.  Which is too bad, because given my pure unadulterated hatred for their archrival Iowa I could easily jump on the Cyclones’ bandwagon if they’d just throw me some kind of bone.

#4–Michigan

I know I’m gonna take heat on this one.  I can hear it now.  “Oh, Michigan’s uniforms are so iconic.  And the winged helmets are so classic!”  Oh yeah?  So classic what?  What exactly is that fucking stupid helmet?  Do Wolverines have wings??  Did I miss that episode of National Geographic???  Those wings have nothing to do with anything related to the state of Michigan, the University of Michigan, or the Wolverines mascot.  It’s just a fucking design!  I’ve got an idea, how about every school get one of their gay art students to make up a new helmet.  We can have post-modernist designs on all our helmets that have absolutely nothing to do with anything.

I will admit, the dark blue and the bright yellow look pretty good together.  But I don’t care what any of you say, that helmet is fucking ridiculous.  And if you think it’s cool then you are fucking ridiculous too!

#3–Tennessee

I grew up an Illinois fan, so I have an affinity for the color orange.  But the Vols have the worst shade of orange ever.  It’s brutal.  Somewhere between a hunting jacket and something real orange that was left out to fade in the sun too long.  Add to that the fact that they don’t have a second color to offset it.  Then, on top of that, check out the ridiculously wide stripe on top of their helmets.  There’s nothing good about Tennessee’s uni’s, especially when they go with their all whites on the road.  Just dreadful.

As an aside, in researching this post I came across the following picture.  I have no idea when the Vols wore these outfits (looks like late 70’s, early 80’s to me), but this might just be the worst ensemble ever worn on a football field ever.  Look at the orange and gray checkerboard pattern in the numbers.  Horrific!

#2–Wyoming

Poor Wyoming just doesn’t have a chance.  When your colors are piss and shit there’s just not much you can do.  Do you emphasize the brown?

Or the yellow?

Either way you’re screwed.  I’ve always been mildly offended by those teams that just adopt black as an alternate color even though it’s not an official color of theirs, but if ever there was a school that should embrace black and go with it as much as possible it’s the Pokes.

**Update: Nike has taken over Wyoming’s branding and has tried (and failed) to make them look better this year.  See for yourself.  Brown helmets, really?**

#1–Virginia Tech

Like Wyoming, Va Tech has the deck stacked against it just based on their colors.  Maroon isn’t a terrible color, neither is orange, but the two just don’t go together.  But it takes more than just bad colors to make take top spot in the dreadful uniforms category; there’s plenty of schools out there that have fine colors and manage to fuck it up with idiotic designs (that’s right, Michigan, I’m calling you out again).

But the Hokies have a real gift for choosing awful uniforms.  Whenever you think they’ve topped themselves they always find a way to do something just a little bit worse.  Don’t believe me?  You’ve seen exhibit A, check out exhibits B:

And C:

The worst, plain and simple.  It’s really not even close.

And now that you’ve seen the worst of the worst, here’s the absolute best of the best.

#5–Washington

The Huskies have a bad habit of messing with a good thing.  In recent memory they’ve scrapped their beautiful gold helmets for purple, they’ve gone with an all-black uniform, and they’ve tried all kinds of odd stripes and piping over the years.  But when they stick with their basic, simple look they’re pretty tough to beat.  The gold helmet and purple jersey is a classic and by far the best look on the West Coast.

#4–Georgia

Another classic look.  The Bulldogs not only have the coolest mascot in all of sports (name another school where alums place flowers at the grave of the mascot who reigned during their enrollment; UGA is the coolest, bar none), but they have a simple yet distinctive look that is iconic.  I’m not usually a huge fan of the same color jersey and helmet, but it just fits here.  And the grey pants make a great touch that sets them apart.  In the past couple years they’ve tried using a black jersey for big games and it’s not nearly as good as the original.

#3–South Florida

USF breaks nearly every single one of my rules for football uniforms and yet they still look pretty damn tight.  I hate monochromatic uniforms, and yet the Bulls pull off the all-green look quite well (although I still prefer the green tops and gold pants).  I also prefer their gold helmets to the whites, but clearly they don’t care what I think because they’ve been using the whites a lot more recently, which might knock them off the list by next season.  But still, for a school that’s only had football since 1996 they have a surprisingly clean and classic look.

#2–Ohio State

No wonder half the Buckeyes team is in trouble for selling their jerseys, tOSU’s uni’s are spectacular.  Bold and strong with giant numbers, and there’s nobody else in college football with a plain silver helmet (unlike plain gold, which is worn by no less than five schools at this moment).  The cheaters’ uniforms are plain and simple yet they will never be confused with any other school.  If the NCAA really wanted to punish the Buckeyes for their latest bout of cheating they’d make them change to the godawful Nike Pro Combat uni’s they rolled out for one game in 2009:

#1–Florida State

By far the best helmet in all of football.  And not just because I am biased in favor of all Indian mascots, especially those that have survived the NCAA’s genocide.  (Hey Illinois, see how bad you shit the bed on this one?  How’s that super-cool block I logo working out for you?)

That spear is just badass.  And the uniforms are stellar too.  The garnet jersey with the Indian-style design on the collar and cuffs, the gold pants, it all looks great.  And the ‘Noles also have a unique gift in that, seemingly no matter what they do to mix things up, it still always looks good.  Check out their “Unconquered” all black uniforms they rolled out in 2009 to honor Chief Osceola of the Seminole nation:

Or, when they broke out the garnet pants in the mid-90’s (bought for the team by one of their most famous alums, Burt Reynolds):

Yep, there’s no doubt in my mind that the Seminoles have the best look in all the land.

A few other random tidbits:

–Nike’s Pro Combat uniforms have caused quite a stir the past couple years.  I alluded to some of the worst looks they brought us with Ohio State and Virginia Tech, but they scored a few hits too.  TCU’s “bloodlines” helmet, with red stripes symbolizing the blood a horned frog can shoot from its eyes (don’t ask me, I’ve never seen a real horned frog, but supposedly that’s what they do), and the silver frog skin pants are an outstanding look.  TCU would do well to make this their permanent look.

–Another great Pro Combat hit was last year’s Miami Hurricanes.  It’s loud, it’s bright, it’s obnoxious.  In short, it’s the perfect look for the dirtiest program in college football history.  The green metallic helmets are particularly cool.

–Sometimes traditional and classic is good.  But sometimes it’s just plain boring. Penn State’s entire look is pretty boring, but nobody has a more boring helmet than Nebraska.  C’mon, Huskers, you’re in the Big Ten now, it’s time to get a decent helmet.  Surely there’s a computer somewhere in all of Nebraska that has some different fonts you could play with and find something that’s not so thoroughly dull.

–That being said, I’m a big fan of numbers on the helmets. Alabama’s uniforms overall are pretty average, but the numbers on the helmets are a nice, distinctive touch. Check out this amazing pic of a Bama player who somehow got one of his numbers knocked off of his helmet:

–Big props to Navy for their uniforms.  While they’re not the coolest or the flashiest, I love the fact that they put the Navy logo on one shoulder and Marine Corps on the other.  Very classy.

I stole a whole bunch of pictures to make this post.  Let’s hope no one sues me.  Like an angry Michigan fan.

Let’s play some football!

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4 Comments

  1. Sorry you let your hating get in the way of your use of reason.

  2. Feel free to enlighten me on how the winged wolverine helmet is so cool. Go Chips!

  3. Man you have no grasp of college football man Tradition is everything to most of the programs and you sound like you one knob turn form exiting the closet bud.

    • You’re right, the schools I complimented (Ohio State, Florida State) have no tradition.

      Clearly I badmouthed your treasured team. I’m sorry your school’s uni’s suck.


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