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Posted on Feb 11, 2015 in Andy blogs, EIGHT Great College Football Uniforms, Special Offer |

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.

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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?

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1916 – Chic Harley

(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.)

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1939

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1942

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1954

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.

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1968 – Rex Kern

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1973 – Archie Griffin

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.

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2015 – Top: Ezekiel Elliot; Below: Anonymous wounded ducks

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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:

2012 - Braxton Miller. Credit: Andrew Weber-USA TODAY Sports

2012 – Braxton Miller. Credit: Andrew Weber-USA TODAY Sports

 

2010 - Jordan Hall

2010 – Jordan Hall

NCAA FOOTBALL: NOV 21 Ohio State at Michigan

2009 – Zach Boren

And then there are the attempts to make the traditional uniforms “modern” for modern-sake. I dislike these:

2012. Lame. Stop please.

2012. Lame. Stop please.

2013 - Carlos Hyde: great; attempt to be sleek in the use of black: not great.

2013 – Carlos Hyde: great; attempt to be sleek in the use of black: not great.

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”.

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2014 - J.T. Barrett

2014 – J.T. Barrett

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Posted on Jan 28, 2015 in Andy blogs, EIGHT Great College Football Uniforms | 2 comments

EIGHT Great Unis: No. 2 – Notre Dame

There are a lot of reasons for me to not like Notre Dame football:

I’m a Protestant minister who still actually thinks the Reformation was a pretty good thing (blunders notwithstanding).

I’m a product of mostly public education: public high school, Kent State University, the University of South Carolina.

I’m a Midwesterner with a pretty incredible “home team” a mere two hours down I-71 from where I grew up in Akron, OH.

And, for whatever reason, the cumulative force of Irish-loving personalities in my youth did not give me altogether positive associations with the team from South Bend, Indiana.

Nevertheless.

No. 2 – The University of Notre Dame Fighting Irish

My high school buddy and teammate Joe Vardon, who now follows LeBron James everywhere he goes for the Northeast Ohio Media Group, tried valiantly to integrate some Irish Blue-and-Gold traditions into Tallmadge Blue Devil Blue-and-Gold rhythms. I think at one point we had a “play like a champion today” sign to smack on the way out of our locker room.

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Interestingly, one Laurie Wenger painted the sign at the beginning of the Lou Holtz era. It’s been reproduced tens of thousands of times, and Wenger gets all the cash from its licensing–which helps to pay her medical bills associated with her MS. “People think that sign has been up there since Christ was in diapers,” Wenger says. It’s been more like a quarter century.

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And that, dear readers, is the power of tradition. There is a thing called the invention of tradition. In fact, there’s an annoying book written by a Marxist sociologist named Benedict Anderson that invented the invention of tradition, that every graduate student in the humanities has to read. But inventing tradition itself is not annoying; it’s beautiful and genius.

And you can invent tradition a lot easier if there’s a long history of actual tradition to append it to. Play like a champion today gets associated with Touchdown Jesus, which makes Notre Dame seem as ancient as the eternal Son of God himself, which makes everyone think that Notre Dame football players have been playing like champions since at least the Pax Romana.

NotreDame

 

I forgot. This is about uniforms.

But I suppose there’s a segue in here somewhere. Ah–yes. Notre Dame has been wearing navy and gold, with big white numerals, since at least Saint Peter’s ascension to the Papal throne. (#donttellpresbytery)

The invention of tradition makes it easy to believe–makes us want to believe–that there’s actually gold in the gold paint on Irish helmets–and that there has been forever.

The invention of tradition makes it easy to justify having no last names on the backs of Irish jerseys–even in the age of the Individual, and even if Penn State breaks with tradition and puts surnames on the backs of their uniforms.

The invention of tradition makes us believe that Rudy is a true story. Oh–wait. It is a true story? Well, the invention of tradition makes us believe that the impossible–suiting up and taking the field for the Irish even though you really have no business doing so–is, in fact, possible.

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No one does the invention (and the maintenance) of tradition like Notre Dame.

Even when a Johnny Come Lately underwear athletic wear company like Under Armor gets the contract to make Notre Dame uniforms, they give us about the most “traditional” approach to a snazzy base layer compression shirt that one could imagine:

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Put the Irish on the natural turf of their Midwestern stadium in November, with its diagonal lines across the end zones, playing someone like Navy or Perdue or USC, and you can observe with your very eyes the Platonic forms of archetypal American sport.

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If you’re looking to gussy up your Irish style, consider this from The Cordial Churchman:

 

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Note: this will work well for Penn State fans, too.

 

 

 

 

 

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Posted on Jan 27, 2015 in Andy blogs, EIGHT Great College Football Uniforms |

EIGHT Great Unis – No. 3: Penn State

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Before we get into the Nittany Lions’ unis and the narrative behind them, I’d like to point out a peculiarity I stumbled upon today. Heading into the 2014 football campaign, a fella posted the 14 best collegiate uniforms, in his reckoning.

Have a look.

Alright. Do you see what I see? That’s right. The first 13 are all either bold innovations or alternate uniforms for special occasions. There are wild styles from Nike for Oregon’s 2014 campaign (RIP). There are Akron University’s very, very gold helmets (shout out to my wife, a Zip). Lots of flashy or quirky stuff from NC State, BYU, Stanford, and the like.

And then, who’s number one? Penn State. Other than Notre Dame (whose uniforms, they mention, may get some tweaks due to a new contract with Under Armor), the Nittany Lions are the only traditional uniform in the whole batch. And they’re NUMBER ONE.

Even a fella who is enamored with novelty retreats to tradition when it’s time to crown the best uniforms in college football.

Does this go a long way in validating my insistence that tradition may be the crucial factor in building a collegiate gridiron brand with staying power? I believe it does.

NCAA FOOTBALL: OCT 18 Michigan at Penn State

Okay, on to Penn State themselves.

All the stuff with the Sandusky scandal happened during my decade-long slumber from football, so let’s just focus on the uniforms.

They’re crisp. They’re white. They’re navy. They don’t change.

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Even in those rare instances when they tweak something, it’s classy. Note the number on the helmets below. They honored a particular chap who wore “42”. Classy way to do it.

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My high school team, the Tallmadge Blue Devils, dropped the gold from our navy-and-gold one year, and went with PSU uniforms. The exception was that our helmets were navy with a white stripe. So maybe it’s nostalgia that makes me love Penn State’s get-up.

No, it’s not. It’s pure objective uniform awesomeness.

If it were up to me, I’d get rid of the players’ names on the back, just for tradition’s sake. But even though those have showed up in the last year or so, these threads are still perfect.

(This is also the point at which I mention that, in High School, I lined up against Wadsworth’s Bobby Jones, who played nose tackle at Penn State the following year, and whom I got to see in action against the Buckeyes in 1998. He went on to play in the NFL, and then did mixed martial arts. I would never want to line up against this guy again. Would you?)

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Posted on Jan 23, 2015 in Andy blogs, EIGHT Great College Football Uniforms |

EIGHT Great Unis: No. 4 – Michigan

While I’m in the charitable frame that finds me praising things about college football teams that I otherwise love to see lose, let’s just go ahead and do this.

Rivalries would be nothing without legitimate rivals. Ours is no exception. And they wouldn’t be worthy rivals without the tradition worthy rivals carry with them. And they wouldn’t be tradition-rich without tradition-bearing uniforms.

Yes, the Team Up North, whose name Ohio State Head Coach Urban Meyer would not go so far as to mention in his recent appearance on Letterman, has great uniforms.

No. 5 – The Michigan Wolverines

 

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I don’t fault Desmond Howard for striking the Heisman pose one bit. What a runner. When you’re running as well as he was, and when you’re dressed in such sharp, historic uniform as he was, you strike the pose.

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The iconic “winged helmet” was introduced by Fritz Crisler when he coached Princeton in 1935. When he later came to Ann Arbor, he brought the design with him. It’s been a TUN thing since.

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Apparently there was a time when the Team Up North had numbers on their helmets like Alabama. I think they ought to have kept them.

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Have I showed my cards yet? To me, the secret of a great college football uniform lies in simplicity, continuity, and tradition. The solid, unembellished pants and jerseys of the Wolverines, in striking colors (maize and navy), coupled with the iconic winged helmet, really do it for me. If you’re going to get beat by the Buckeyes, you may as well do it in style. And they do. Every year, pretty much. The style, that is. And usually the score.

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Part of the reason I’m being so kind to the Team Up North is because, at the close of the 2014 campaign, when OSU’s Heisman-candidate JT Barrett went down with an ankle fracture, Wolverine quarterback Devin Gardner was an incredible sportsman. He came up to Barrett as the trainers worked on him. Just before they carted him off the field with a season-ending injury, Gardner came up and knelt down to encourage Barrett. In one shot, he is seen holding his hand. In this textbook image of sportsmanship, he is seen with his hand on Barrett’s face.

The Buckeye’s responded with a letter from one of their school officials to Gardner, commending him on his honorable act of sportsmanship toward a rival quarterback.

Maize and Blue. You want to beat them more than you want to beat anyone else when you’re a Buckeye. But from now on, you want to do it with class. And you’ll want to be honest and admit that they look sharp as a knife in their unis.

I didn’t say all that nice stuff so that TUN fans would buy bow ties from these Buckeyes. But if you’re so inclined, or if your own team wears blue and gold, you may want this:

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Next up, Number 3.

 

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Posted on Jan 22, 2015 in Andy blogs, EIGHT Great College Football Uniforms | 1 comment

EIGHT Great Unis: No. 5 – Alabama

As I’ve done a few times since January 1, I turned to YouTube for a re-play of the Sugar Bowl, featuring my Buckeyes and the Alabama Crimson Tide. (The one I watched last night had all the action edited down to a one-hour presentation: perfect for unwinding before bed.)

I won’t spoil it for you. Go ahead and watch it yourself, and be delighted by the outcome.

No. 5 – The Alabama Crimson Tide

With one eye, watch the football. With the other eye, enjoy the uniforms.

Specifically, Alabama’s.

ALABAMA BRYANT

 

When you’re so good at football, so consistently, for so long, you don’t need to draw attention to your program through flashy and innovative uniforms. Better still, the more that other programs seek to reinvent themselves through their uniforms, the classier you look with each passing decade, because you keep on winning in the same old garb.

Oh–it does appear the Tide has changed one thing: the size of the number on the helmet. In the Bear Bryant days of old, you could read a player’s number off their helmet from outer space–except space travel hadn’t been invented yet, I think.

 

NCAA Football: Texas A&M at Alabama

 

Sartorially speaking, the way tradition works is usually like this: there’s a utilitarian need for a “thingy” on your clothes. Eventually the need is no longer a need. But the thingy has been there all along, so you just keep it, even after it serves no utilitarian function. Some will scoff at the uselessness of these thingies. But traditionalists will smile at these useless thingies on our clothes and, with pride, feel connected to the past.

Buttons on blazer sleeves from once-working cuffs. Broguing on your wingtips as a remnant of English men shaking their shoes dry after slogging through the bog. Helmet numbers as a hat tip to when it really helped to identify which player made the tackle. Am I getting this narrative right? If not, does it sound cool anyway?

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Alabama is proof that you can do a lot with one color. Crimson and white, hardly an embellishment anywhere from head to toe, and you immediately recognize that you’re watching Saban’s gang, King of the Southeastern Conference.

This is not an act of good sportsmanship. These are beautiful uniforms.

Oh, and for those of you looking for a bow tie to wear on game day, or to church the day after a big win, might I recommend the following?

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Technically “cranberry“, but sheesh—there’s so many shades of red. Close enough, right?

Next up is No. 4.

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Posted on Jan 21, 2015 in Andy blogs, EIGHT Great College Football Uniforms |

EIGHT Great Unis: No. 6 – Florida State

Okay, let’s just state the obvious right here at the beginning and then we can move on to pure aesthetics. Nobody, with the possible exception of the Seminoles themselves and a few die hard fans, wanted this team to go all the way again in 2014. And those same nobodies got their negative-wish. Kudos to the runner-up Oregon Ducks for depantsing the ‘Noles in the semi-final round of the first ever college football playoff.

It is probably the best thing that could happen to the FSU program that their Heisman quarterback is leaving after just two years of school football in Tallahassee. In a few years, I might not even root against Florida State in every one of their games. Might not.

No. 6 – Florida State Seminoles

As difficult as it may be, with a vigorous effort, we can abstract the actual people and ethos of this school’s program from the equation and focus solely on their threads.

“Better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to speak out and remove all doubt” – Abe Lincoln

Honest Abe spoke the truth.

Same goes for uniforms.

As will become evident within a few posts, I tend to group college uniforms into two groups:

  1. Has Stuff on Them
  2. Doesn’t Have Stuff on Them

The former is my less-favorite category, especially because adding stuff so often makes football players look foolish.

But if you’re going to have stuff on your uniform, take the Seminoles as your guide.

Syracuse Florida St Football

See that stuff? That’s good stuff.

A quick report card—and probably the best report card that has ever been associated with Florida State’s football program:

Large helmet logo: A

Helmet sticker: A+

Overall presentation of helmet: A

You hand out tomahawks when people do good stuff. Awesome. Nice arrangement on there, too. Not random. Not cluttered. Well done, tomahawk placement specialist.

Okay, the other stuff:

New-Florida-State-Football-Uniforms-Home-6

Shoulder stuff: A++

Neckline stuff: A+++

Logo on neckline: B+

What they’ve done here, especially on the shoulder, is brilliant. The classic uniform tradition says “stick a stripe there, or two, or three.” What the ‘Noles say is “how about stripes made from our stuff?” It works really well. And then they go and do the same thing on the neckline. Apart from this stuff, their uniforms aren’t trying to do too much. They keep it in the ballpark. But these two collections of stuff are great.

Well done ‘Noles.

And, look–their colors are just so attractive. I love the shade of red. Garnet. Pairs so nicely with gold.

Okay, that is enough Florida State for a while.

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Now, look, I know this isn’t technically “garnet”—but it’s close enough. In fact, the fact that it’s not garnet will help you avoid people thinking you’re a Florida State fan. You know, if that’s what you’re going for. Or if you are, then, you know, yeah, you could buy this and wear it in Tallahassee.

Next up is No. 5.

 

 

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