The good, bad, and ugly of football uniforms

Notice in the pic of Bryant that the Tide is sporting white helmets.  Also Bear has a Chesterfield in his fingers...Times have changed!

By Hunter Ford

With a blank white page burning my eyes, I decided to go to the Internet, as I often do, to help me write this week’s column. Last week, I wrote a piece about the tradition of Alabama football. That started my mind wandering about other school’s traditions (or lack thereof) and then to the broader topic of football in general, including the NFL.

Somewhere in cyberspace I was sucked into a vortex of sites dealing with the best and worst football uniforms.

On all the various sites I looked at, Alabama and Auburn both received high marks for their college football uniforms.

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Auburn was praised for its combination of orange and blue, which is often hard to pull off in a pleasing way (think of the old Denver Bronco’s uniforms, or Boise State).

I’m no Auburn fan, but I give them props for a classic uniform design that understates the orange trim and makes good use of dark blue and crisp white.

Being the biased Alabama fan I am, I cannot be objective myself, but most cyberspace critics put Alabama’s uniforms high on their “best of” lists.

Alabama has the best shade of red in the land and has maintained its simple yet classic look through decades of tampering by retarded marketing gurus. Like most everybody else, including Penn State, Bama has not been able to escape the dreaded Nike swoosh, but the Crimson Tide still maintains a numbered helmet with a clean white stripe down the middle and a pants scheme that avoids all the weird, eye-popping stripes and patchwork that adorns many other modern uniforms.

I’ve heard some Alabama fans who would have the Tide put the script “A” logo on the helmet. You might as well take all the old photographs of Bear Bryant and Photo Shop a sombrero on him.

Auburn wore a “throwback” uniform last year for one game. All the Tigers did was wear white jerseys for a home game and take the logo off the helmets. Oh, they wore grey facemasks too. Alabama has very little to “throw back” to. Every now and then (for instance when Bama plays Arkansas) the Tide could pull out the old white helmets.

Most other SEC teams have fooled with their uniforms in some way or the other.

Tennessee has experimented with large panels of orange, shoulder patches, orange shirts over orange britches (yech!). Arkansas has worn red pants, and worn huge hog logos on the sleeves. Vandy goes through several combinations of black, gold and white. South Carolina can’t decide what scheme of black, maroon and white to stick with. Florida rocks all blue from time to time, and recently wore ONE ORANGE SLEEVE on a blue jersey. Georgia wore black jerseys. Kentucky sported the all blue and switched up from white hats to blue ones. Mississippi State made probably one of the better uniform redesigns, although they look a lot like Alabama A&M if you follow college football that closely.

Ole Miss has a nice combination of red, blue and grey duds. Does anybody remember when the Rebels used to wear light blue helmets mismatched over navy blue shirts?

LSU has maintained its classic look, and even petitioned the NCAA a few years ago to keep from being required to wear purple jerseys at home. But what is up with them going purple with white hats last year against Tulane? It didn’t even look vaguely like LSU!

The marketers at Nike have done so much to ruin the classic look of football, just look at some of the nauseating things that have happened to NFL teams. The Chicago Bears in orange jerseys over navy pants? Could anything be more sacrilegious than screwing with the timeless “Monsters of the Midway?”

Any discussion of bizarre uniforms must start and stop with the Oregon Ducks. How many combinations of puke yellow and bass boat glitter green can be concocted?

Here’s my personal list of best football uniforms.

Best College:

Alabama, Auburn, USC, UCLA, Notre Dame, Texas, Nebraska, Penn State, Oklahoma and LSU (traditional).

Worst College (Besides Oregon):

Oregon State (even the nickname is lame), San Diego State, Boise State, Iowa State, Northwestern and any other school that let’s Nike do a redesign (think BYU with white bibbed jerseys).

Best NFL:

Almost every single team has some alternate uniform that completely ruins any tradition they might have established. Turn on a Sunday game and it’s hard to know who is even playing. But the four best are the teams that have resisted change (with the exception of the occasional throwback togs.) The Steelers, Cowboys, Bears and Packers each have maintained a classic look with very few tweaks. The New York teams get credit for going old school instead of mod squad. The Jets reverted back to the “Broadway Joe” suits and the Giants went back to the lower case “ny” logo and grey pants.

Worst NFL:

Bengals (it was hard to get WORSE, but they did!) Seattle (what color is that?). After that, all NFL teams have equally horrible uniforms.

I’d love to hear some feedback on this, please post some responses with photo evidence if you can!

You can read more from Hunter Ford at his blog Alagonzo.blogspot.com. Ford’s columns also appear in Bessemer’s Western Star newspaper.