CFB’s 10 Most Influential and Iconic Uniforms of the 2010s
It was a weird decade for us all.
There’s a case to be made that the 2010s are the wildest decade in the history of college football uniforms.
Sure, there are more important decades. The adoption of shoulder pads in the 1900s was crucial to the game’s history, and the advent of the facemask in the 1940s would like a word as well.
But no decade had as many uniforms as the 2010s. Between one-off alternates, throwbacks, decal swaps, and thousands of mix-and-match combos, it was harder than ever to stand out in a crowded field.
So which looks managed to cut through the noise? Let’s break it down.
TCU Rose Bowl, 2011
We start our list with arguably the biggest non-playoff bowl game of the 2010s.
TCU was 12-0 coming into this one, with wins over Oregon State, Baylor, and Utah on their way to a Mountain West championship. And while they were shut out of the BCS National Championship game, the #3 Horned Frogs were given a chance to do something no non-power conference team had ever done before: win the Rose Bowl.
With the special occasion came special uniforms. Purple/Black/Purple was selected as the combo, which both maximized TCU’s unique colors and provided a nice backdrop against Wisconsin’s White/White/Red road set.
But what everyone remembers from this uniform is the helmet, featuring TCU’s horned frog logo holding a rose in its mouth. In their biggest game in program history, TCU looked like one of the big boys.
Maryland Flag Uniforms, 2011
2011 Maryland was one of the most forgettable power conference teams on this decade, finishing an abysmal 2-10 under Randy Edsall. But they’ll remain in the hearts and minds of many for their uniforms.
On Labor Day, Maryland and Miami had a national audience for one of college football’s the weirdest uniform moments ever. The Terps emerged from the tunnel dressed in half-and-half Maryland flag helmets, with matching shoulder yokes for added effect.
To this day, few looks capture the post-Oregon uniform bonanza quite like this one. While there were many teams throwing out wild designs at this time, this Maryland look cut through the noise in a way almost no uniform has done since. And almost a decade out, there might be a half-and-half helmet again in our near future.
Oregon Rose Bowl Uniforms, 2012
I had to limit myself to just one Oregon uniform on this list. While it may not be as iconic, this look set the groundwork for Oregon’s — and college football’s — future visual program.
The 2010 Ducks famously wore carbon-and-neon uniforms for the BCS National Championship against Auburn. But the 2011 Ducks went with a (relatively) more traditional look against Wisconsin, featuring green jerseys and pants with shiny chrome helmets. This marked the first time Oregon wore winged helmets and jerseys with textured wings on the shoulders. Both of these would become Oregon fixtures in 2012.
But arguably the biggest effect of these uniforms? The rise of the chrome helmet. From Kentucky to North Carolina to Charlotte to WKU to Baylor to Troy and everywhere in between, the chrome revolution touched programs all over the nation. And we’re still feeling its effects today.
Texas A&M All-White vs Alabama, 2012
Before their first season in the SEC, Texas A&M made a major uniform change. Little did they know it’d be the backdrop to an iconic upset that’d spark a Heisman campaign.
When Johnny Manziel and company took the field against Alabama, they faced one of the most dominant teams in recent memory on their home turf. 345 yards from Manziel later, they came away from a historic victory over the eventual national champions.
It’s hard to overstate how important this look is the Johnny Manziel story. If you polled 100 college football fans about what uniform they picture him in, at least 80% would say all-white. That’s what makes an iconic uniform.
Navy “White Dress” vs Army, 2012
When you invent an original helmet design on one of the biggest stages in college football, you have to be on this list.
Army-Navy wasn’t always the uniform party it is today. 2012 was just the 4th season where both teams wore alternates, but it’s arguably still the two sides’ coolest uniform matchup ever. By some cruel twist of fate, Army’s Gold/Black/Black combo was one of the best they’ve ever worn… and it still finishes second to this incredible Navy look.
If you wanted to make the case that this was the best all-white uniform from the 2010s, I wouldn’t stop you.
Ohio State National Championship Throwbacks, 2014
The biggest football story of the 2010s was the death of the BCS and the rise of the College Football Playoff. So when the champions of the first CFP pull off two dominant wins in throwback uniforms to win the title, you have to include them.
Both uniforms, featuring old school sleeve striping and TV numbers, were as good as you’ll find anywhere. Not to mention that Zeke Elliott’s crop top jersey was the coolest individual player fashion statement from this decade. In short, Ohio State won two titles in 2014: the football one and the uniforms one.
Ole Miss Powder Blue Helmets vs Alabama, 2015
Somehow both fresh and retro, Ole Miss’ powder blue helmets were a staple of the Hugh Freeze era. But their defining moment? The 2015 upset of Alabama in Tuscaloosa.
Ole Miss (in many ways) was one of the 2010s’ biggest stories. Freeze won 39 games in his 5 years in charge and made consecutive NY6 bowl games in 2014 and 2015. But there was no win bigger than this triumph over Alabama, which legitimized Ole Miss as a program to beat in the SEC West. Just don’t check what happened after that, okay?
Michigan Jordan Brand Revamp, 2016
Across the 2010s, no apparel provider change has been better for a program than Michigan going from Adidas to Jordan.
Gone are the days of highlighter-adjacent yellow accents and weird-fitting jerseys. These days, Michigan’s maize is golder than ever, and their 80s-style road uniforms are some of the best in the sport. It’s a complete turnaround from their aimless Adidas days.
This set also established Jordan as a premium college football uniform provider. While they’re still a Nike subsidiary, Michigan was their first foray into the football market. And there’s no doubt about it — this set is a slam dunk.
Louisville Red/Red/White vs Florida State, 2016
Manziel had his Heisman Moment in all-white. Lamar Jackson had his in Red/Red/White.
Louisville’s red chrome helmets were a revelation in 2016, and their decision to wear them with red jerseys was unique at the time. Though the most striking part of this design was that it was worn by Jackson, arguably the decade’s most electric player.
This game against Florida State turned Jackson into a national name. 362 yards and 5 TDs against the #2 team in the nation will do that.
Pitt Primary Home and Road, 2019
It’s not every day that a school revamps its color scheme. And it’s not every decade that it produces an instant classic.
Pitt made a business decision. After decades in the Navy-and-Gold wilderness, they returned — successfully — to their roots: blue and yellow. And thanks to the timeless Pitt Script on the helmets and some clever modern styling, Pitt has a uniform that can stand the test of time.