The Open Man countdowns to the 2018 college football season with 129 — in honor of the 129 programs participating in the Football Bowl Subdivision this year — things we love (and some we hate) about the sport. Click the 129 Things tag to see every entry.
Overstated or not, uniforms have a role in the recruiting process. Unless a program’s classic look is associated with a rich history of national championships and All-Americans, like Alabama, Penn State or USC, updated gear can help a team stand out.
Much like everyday fashions, however, retro comes back on the gridiron. Some of the best looks in the game today are throwback uniforms.
No matter the occasion, it’s great to see teams take the field in throwback uniforms. Doing so in recognition of specific events enhances the cool factor.
Among my favorite examples in recent years that extended from the Pacific to the Atlantic: Both Oregon State and Duke donned gray helmets in 2016 to pay homage to the 75th anniversary of their 1942 Rose Bowl teams. The Open Man has alluded to the historic ’42 edition of the Granddaddy of ‘Em All — and will take every opportunity to tout the excellent Fields of Battle, which hit bookshelves the same month Duke and Oregon State wore their throwback uniforms.
Unis serving as reminder of more than just on-field achievement; that’s unspeakably cool.
— Duke FB Equipment (@DukeFBEquipment) October 20, 2016
Likewise, throwback uniforms can honor an individual player. Cal does exactly that when it wears its popular Joe Roth throwback uniforms. The All-American quarterback led the Golden Bears to a share of the Pac-8 championship, and placed in the Heisman Trophy vote just two months before his passing from melanoma.
Not all throwback uniforms tell such specific stories, but they all function as snapshots of a period in a program’s history. The current period is one in which a variety of different combinations, alternate colorways and new logos are en vogue.
Amid the variety of options teams have on game day, sometimes their throwback uniforms are even simply better looking than the more modern garb. Hawaii’s one such example of a program that should wear its retro gear full-time.
— Bleacher Report (@BleacherReport) September 10, 2015
— Cam Newton (@morrisoncrying) October 26, 2014
Arizona State ditched its classic look in 2011 with an athletic department-wide rebranding in 2011, and further altered its appearance with a switch from Nike to Adidas a few years ago. On those occasions when the Sun Devils ditch the funky, XFL-style numbering on their jerseys and rock the awesome Sparky logo instead of the USB plug-in-looking pitchfork, it’s a welcome change.
It’s always nice to see Sparky return to Arizona State’s helmets. Many aren’t fans of the Sun Devils’ current look, but I think it’s pretty darn good when used right. They continue to muddy it up with random, poorly executed alternates. I have issues with Arizona State’s Pat Tillman “tribute” that coincided with these throwbacks. But I’ll save that for another day and just appreciate seeing Sparky again.
Even the forerunner in alternate and modernized uniforms, Oregon, looks its best when turning back the clock.
Well…so long as it’s turning back the clock to this side of World War II.
— Oregon Football (@oregonfootball) October 3, 2016