As we get ever closer to yet another new season of college football, the growing buzz is typically surrounded around the game previews and families planning their weekly tailgates. The entire offseason is filled with pointless preseason rankings, way too early predictions, and most importantly, new uniforms. Thankfully for those of you reading this, you don't have to worry too terribly much about the best uniforms in college football changing, unlike fans of Michigan or UCLA. Yuck. Really adidas? Being the local Auburn "uniform guy," I'm often asked about Auburn's uniforms - what's different this year versus last, when will this or that change, and of course the unavoidable talk about possible alternate uniforms. I come to today in hopes of clearing up some questions many of you may have regarding Auburn's uniforms as well as addressing some other items.
Following the 2010 National Championship, UnderArmour transitioned Auburn's uniforms over to their newest template. This unfortunately resulted in smaller shoulder stripes, uniform numbers, and nameplates, as well as the tapered pant stripes. Many people believe this to be a design change, that Auburn and/or UnderArmour wanted to "modernize" the uniforms by doing this. But the thing is, everything different between the 2010 and 2011 seasons are all based on UA's template. If you look closely on the jerseys, you can notice there are two separate shoulder stitches, which results in the smaller sleeve stripes. This is also the reason for the 2013 National Championship patch being placed below the UnderArmour logo rather than the preferred spot above the logo. The nameplates were rendered skinnier on all of UnderArmour's uniforms with the same template following the 2010 season as well. For the pants, there's an odd "webbing" looking insert that goes from the top of the leg down to the bottom, and it flares out at the knee. This insert is really noticeable on uniforms like South Carolina's Wounded Warriors design, with the camo pattern printed on them. The flare at the knee is what is preventing Auburn's pants striping to be full like in year's past.
But there is good news. Last season, UnderArmour rolled out their newest template for their home team Maryland (for what Oregon is to Nike, Maryland is to UnderArmour. UA's founder played football at Maryland and the company is based out of Baltimore) as well as Texas Tech (which is not the team I would've figured to be UA's "#2" team. Must be the alternates). As you can see in this picture, the double shoulder stitches are no more, being replaced by a boxier stitching pattern. You can also see that the shoulder caps are wider, which would lead me to presume it would be possible to make the shoulder stripes full again.
The problem with uniform research is that you're at the mercy of the photographs available. And finding high quality photos of the backside of a football player's pants to get a look at the stitching is tougher than you'd think. Thankfully, I did find one good photo. As you can see on #11, there is no back side insert like what's present on other UA pants. I know it doesn't show the possible knee flare area, but consulting other pictures it's noticeable that it is not there, thankfully. This tells me that more and more UnderArmour schools will have the possibility to wear full length stripes as they transition more teams over to the new template.
Two small changes have also been made since the 2011 season. With the new uniforms back then, the pants came with what it dubbed the "tramp stamp," with "WAR EAGLE" printed right below the belt line on the back side. This was thankfully removed last season. Also, for the 2012 season, the SEC transitioned all their football teams from the pennant SEC logo to the circular logo, which basically every other sport was using.
Did you know that the striping pattern Auburn's football uniforms have a name? Yep, they're called "Northwestern Stripes," as they were originated by Northwestern (UCLA and LSU wear "UCLA Stripes"). Back in 2012, UnderArmour revealed new Northwestern uniforms with the return of their stripes. Ever since then, UA has been in love with these stripes. Two years ago, Auburn's basketball teams received new uniforms with the same striping pattern (the women didn't like their original uniforms, so they wore the previous set until they received another new set this past season). The teams (and myself!) also have striped socks. Well, it didn't end there. Auburn football broke out new striped arm sleeves (think of these more as leg warmers. Some NFL players would actually cut socks for the same result) for the Texas A&M game. About the same time the basketball team began to wear shooting sleeves (these are padded in the elbow) with the stripes around the elbow rather than down the sleeve. Shortly after, the football team pretty much stole these from the hoops guys, as basketball players didn't wear them much more and they took off with the football team. I know a few people, myself included, that loved the look of the blue jersey with the orange sleeve. Chris Davis wore it that way on his way to making history.
Another small aspect to a team's design are the gloves. For the 2011 Chick-fil-a bowl, Auburn received what I believe to be the first custom gloves, with the AU logo on the palm. These were used throughout the 2012 season. The 2013 season saw a new design, with an eagle design being made when the palms met (those are my gloves actually!). We obviously haven't seen any actions shots of the new gloves for the 2014 season, but some nice promotional photos have given us a nice look at them. I told you UnderArmour loves these stripes. So much so they are now on the palm of the gloves.
What's the easiest way to get Auburn fans sweating bullets when it comes to uniforms? Post a picture of a fake or fan made custom helmet on the internet.
<blockquote class="twitter-tweet" lang="en"><p><a href="https://twitter.com/NickMarshaII">@NickMarshaII</a> new design. <a href="http://t.co/N1nraaiHq8">pic.twitter.com/N1nraaiHq8</a></p>— Michael bowman (@mbowman0842) <a href="https://twitter.com/mbowman0842/statuses/475048864282464256">June 6, 2014</a></blockquote>
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Even recently this matte blue helmet was posted and people were asking me if it was real. Through my time doing this, I've noticed a pretty split number of people around Auburn in regards to changing the uniforms. Many people would rather the uniforms never be touched. Then there's a good percentage that wouldn't mind seeing some small changes or a one-off alternate. Oddly enough, there's a small group of people that would love to see a crazy alternate, similar to many of the crazy concepts floating around the internet. I was a guest on the AU Wishbone Podcast a few weeks ago, and we came up with the idea of a throwback weekend, similar to many teams' Military Appreciation or Breast Cancer Awareness weekends. This special weekend would typically fall on homecoming, which is one of the most historic and traditional moments of anything college related, right? One year could consist of an orange facemask reminiscent of the early 1980s teams, another year could actually throw back to the orange helmets, blue tops, orange jerseys of the 1940s and 50s. Personally, as someone that would rather not change uniforms, I think this could be the ideal situation. Once a year, the Auburn family would be able to experience the historic aspects of what Auburn football, and football in general, used to be.