The 10 Uniforms That Changed CFB Forever
2009 was an affront to God. More or less.
Let’s set the scene.
It’s August 2009. We’re in Year 1 of the Obama presidency. The Great Recession consumes the headlines. And, most worryingly, The Black Eyed Peas are in the middle of a 7-month run of having the #1 song in America.
This is when Nike changed the college football uniform landscape with their Pro Combat series of uniforms.
In 2009, ten of Nike’s top brands received fresh, mostly futuristic uniforms to be worn once during the season. With the exception of Miami’s look (which returned in their bowl game), everyone did exactly that. For 60 minutes of game time, they were donned, performed in, then tucked away, never to be seen again.
Then, this was a novel concept. But today? It’s pretty normal. With their Pro Combat line, Nike invented the modern way we look at alternate uniforms: one-off exceptions to an otherwise cohesive brand.
But how were the designs? And how do they hold up in 2019? Let’s dive in.
I’ll give Nike this: if you’re gonna give a team game-changing new one-off uniforms, you might as well do it for one of their biggest games of the year. And UF-FSU during this era definitely counted as such.
The issue? These are among the most dated uniforms in the set.
I have serious questions about this pants stripe, which is one of the most late-00s things I’ve ever seen. And while the sleeve striping isn’t great either, there’s at least a little dynamism in its design. The flywire design on the shoulders (a unifying factor in all these uniforms) sticks out like a sore thumb.
I’m sure someone thought these were cool in 2009. But I guarantee no one thinks so now.
In hindsight, these are probably the best black-based uniforms in Florida State history. Is that saying much? Well…
Fundamentally, Black/Garnet/Garnet is a cool uniform combo. And the traditional FSU spear helmet pops with a black shell. The flywire shoulders aren’t too bad either, as they add a little colorful intrigue to the shoulders.
The details, though, are pretty dated. For one, this is one of the plainest jerseys in this set. During this era, uniform numbers were noticeably smaller than they are today, so without TV numbers, sleeve stripes, a contrast collar, or a chest name, there’s a lot of dead space on this jersey.
And the pants. OH these pants. They’re all-timers. It’s one thing to have a graphic treatment on the sides, but it’s another to have it stop awkwardly on the stitching. It’s one of the sloppiest executions I’ve ever seen on a traditional power’s uniform.
I think there were good ideas here! They just weren’t all good ideas.
It’s pretty well-known that LSU wore metallic gold for much of their early history. And this was one of the first modern examples of Nike taking advantage of that history on a uniform.
On the bounce, this is a good look. The sleeve stripes are pleasant, the helmet is eye-catching, and the purple numbers with gold trim are pretty cool. And fortunately, Nike didn’t pull any wacky shenanigans with the pants striping.
Does the jersey fall victim to the lack of other details? A little bit. Some TV numbers on the shoulders (which contained an unseeable white version of the flywire design) would’ve added a lot here. But all in all? Probably the second-best design of the bunch.
If LSU is the second-best, then there has to be a first-best. And y’all, Miami served up some fire.
These two-tone numbers are probably not legal by today’s (stupid) NCAA standards, but they bring a ton of personality to the look. Outside of the flywire shoulders and some small orange-and-green swoops on the pants, the rest of this look is a simple, clean, and effective all-white uniform that’d totally pass in 2019.
A version of this with TV numbers would be one of my favorite college football uniforms ever. And I don’t say that lightly.
I believe this is Missouri’s first time experimenting with Nike’s dark grey “anthracite” color. It would become a Mizzou staple in the 2010s.
The anthracite helmets with the black M logo are imperfect, but they’re not bad. The sleeve striping is a little confusing, but it’s not distracting. And it’s notable that this is one of the only looks in the bunch that feature a team name on the jersey, which adds a little something.
These are definitely the okay-est uniforms of the bunch. Could’ve been better, could’ve been worse. Nothing more. Nothing less.
Nike, what the fuck is this?
I don’t know where to begin. It’s just so… clunky? The stripes aren’t readable on the dark grey sleeves. The empty shoulders are distracting. The mismatched helmet and jersey numbers are bizarre. There are four different stripes throughout this look.
Buddy, I’m screaming.
The only positives: 1) the helmets are pretty okay and 2) Ohio State only wore these once.
Oklahoma uniform heads consider this one of the best looks worn by OU in the modern era. Let’s break it down.
Based on the OU dynasties from the 1950s, this look features an almost picture-perfect throwback design throughout. Of course Nike had to mess with the pants stripes a bit, ruining some of the authenticity.
This is a uniform that’d do well with a 2019 reboot. Tighter jersey tailoring, bigger numbers, and proper pants striping would make this one a banger. As it stood in 2009, though, it felt a bit empty. Good, but not perfect.
Y’all ever looked at the Prada website before?
As one of the biggest fashion brands in the world, Prada has long been in love with “beautifully ugly” clothes. Their looks are never traditionally “cute” by today’s standards. Instead, they do this extremely high-brow “I’m so rich and beautiful that I can wear ugly things as a statement and no one can say anything about it” kind of thing. It’s not my cup of tea, but there’s definitely something… unique about it.
Anyways, I’m pretty sure I’ve seen these TCU uniforms on there.
This is literally just a Texas uniform with helmet numbers, no sleeve numbers, and alternate pants patches. It’s good. What else do you want me to say?
In anticipation of this piece, I read a Virginia Tech blog from when these uniforms came out. The reviews were… less than amazing. But compared to what VT was wearing in those days, this look is actually pretty slick.
Pretty much every high school team in the early 2010s used this sleeve striping pattern at some point. All-white never goes out of style. And while the numbers are pretty dated, you could do a lot worse than a warm orange-maroon gradient.
If the pants stripes weren’t… this, we’d have an excellent look on our hands. And I think that’s where I land with a lot of these uniforms. With a tweak here or an adjustment there, we’d have a real winner on our hands.
But, in all honesty, we have the benefit of hindsight. These looks were of their time. And while the last decade has seen massive changes throughout our society, I’m glad we can still agree on one thing: alternate uniforms are cool as shit.