EIGHT Great Unis: No. 1 – Ohio State
Disclaimer: It’s my blog. Any bias that may be represented in these rankings is solely attributable to the fact that, well, it’s my blog.
Okay, now that that’s out of the way, let’s get down to business.
No. 1 – The Ohio State Buckeyes
The Buckeyes of Columbus, Ohio have been donning the scarlet and gray on the gridiron since their inaugural campaign in 1890. While the club went 1-5 that season, they looked great doing it.
It’s very tempting to abandon the whole bow tie enterprise altogether and immediately begin making 1890 Ohio State football uniforms. I would wear that hat all day, every day. I might get asked for ice cream cones or haircuts, but I’d persevere. And how about that lace-up-front jersey?
(Note, all these old jerseys pictured are paintings from this great website, are catalogued at their blog, and are for sale. If you don’t want to commission us to make you a uniform, and would prefer the painting, you now know where to find them.)
Ohio State’s uniforms have not been uniform throughout the years. But you can see the continuity. There is a Buckeye uniform repertoire that is drawn on, and cycled through. There are sharp divergences–like the vertical stripes of the 1910’s. But for the most part, you’ve basically got gray pants, scarlet home jerseys, and stripes on the sleeves.
Eventually the Buckeyes uniform gods decreed there would be large block numbers, and the rest is history.
Throughout the modern era, the black accents have wandered from the shoulder numerals to the trouser stripes and back again. In the national championship game this January, the Bucks donned the Nike Diamond Quest jersey with black shoulder numerals, referencing this variant from a half century ago.
There’ve been some fascinating alternate uniforms for special occasions in the recent past. If you have read any of my posts in this series thus far, or know anything about me at all, you’ll be able to guess that I love the alternates that reference the past– or at least feel like they do:
And then there are the attempts to make the traditional uniforms “modern” for modern-sake. I dislike these:
In the end, what makes a great college uniform is the refusal to simply be modern for no other reason than to update things. My Buckeyes have been vulnerable to the temptations of novelty, more so than Michigan, Notre Dame, and Alabama. I tip my hat to these programs for staying the course.
But in the end, the Scarlet and Gray, I am confident, will settle back in, making reference to tradition and pulling occasional details from the archives in fresh ways that honor its history rather than capitulating to the demands of sleek. Nike will push a big fat check across the desk, suggesting that the Buckeyes could be the next Oregon Ducks. But a good athletic director will cordially push the check back from whence it came, and insist that tradition trumps titillation.
It’s possible that I’m being crotchety. I am always willing to take that risk.
But when you look at it from another angle, the diversity within the stable Buckeye uniform tradition gives OSU an advantage over the rigidity of, say, Penn State or Alabama. A departure from the exact specs of a Nittany Lions uniform is automatically a heretical, ghastly departure. Not so for the Bucks.
And that’s how style and tradition work. When the approach is one of incremental flexibility, consistently drawing on the archives, you run the risk of making Mr Grumpy Pants types like myself unhappy because “you couldn’t just leave well enough alone.” But, while I (and you) reserve the right to complain when the flexibility feels heretical, I also admit giddy delight when the new-old details are, well, right where they should be. When the alternate uniforms salute the dead Buckeyes of yore. When Nike gets it right for once.
This is how it works in the world of suits and loafers, blazers and dungarees, bow ties and pocket squares, too. Or, at least in my reckoning. Honor the tradition. Tweak the details. Pull surprises out of the archives. Make everything old new again.
Here’s to my Buckeyes, their uniforms, and their undisputed National Championship.
A Reward for Persevering Readers
If you’ve read this far, tolerated all my very contestable pontifications, and endured my rampant homerism, I have a treat for you. For the next couple days, you can take $8 off the Barrett bow tie, in honor of the Bucks’ 8th national title. Apply the discount code “JTtheQB”.