If you're old enough to rent an American automobile, we have news for you: From here on in, college football is going to be mostly nostalgia—memories of crisp Autumn afternoons as a kid and fuzzy recollections of nights spent in the student section; a reminder that the players you once looked up to as adults, you now call kids. But that's OK, because nostalgia is good and fine and normal and also a perfect excuse to dive headfirst into one of college football's deepest wells of it: Throwback uniforms. From grainy '60s staples to meshy '90s swag, there's no shortage of epic oldies just waiting for their time to shine once again, so we figured we'd offer up few our favorites for consideration. As Doc Brown once said while firing up his own time machine, where we're going, we don't need roads.
Ohio State Buckeyes – 1962
Over the course of the past decade, Ohio State have made a tradition out of taxidermizing the Wolverines while clad in obscure, mid-20th century regalia. With the likes of 1942 and 1954 already mined for inspiration, perhaps this 1962 flashback, replete with a thick scarlet helmet stripe, is ready for its reimagining.
Michigan State Spartans – 1966
Sparty’s sartorial evolution has been a subtle one. There have been slow shifts from evergreen to Kelly green and back again and multiple experiments with serif and sans-serif fonts. One thing is certain, however: Their 1966 helmet decal remains the program’s finest fashion moment. Bring this iconic domepiece back and we’ might even forgive you for these atrocities.
Pitt – 1979
While Pitt’s navy-and-mustard look pales in comparison to the teal-and-orange Dan Marino would be donning in a few years' time, they’re still an all-time college football classic. Thankfully, after years of blue-and gold purgatory, Pitt finally got the message, reverting back to their original uniforms for the 2019 season. No word yet on whether or not those oversized helmet stickers will make their triumphant return, however.
Oklahoma State Cowboys – 1986
If these pre-pumpkin spice homes were good enough for Barry Sanders, they’re certainly good enough for Mike “The Mullet” Gundy. Short of Oregon, no one has pumped out more adventurous alternates than the Cowboys in recent years, but here’s hoping they tone the down the chrome and give the college football world what it's really been waiting for this whole time.
Oregon Ducks – 1991
Speaking of Oregon, the Ducks have revived their '90s-era greens on occasion over the course of the past decade, but the whites are the real standout, allowing that awesome UO helmet and yellow pants to really steal the spotlight. Plus, on the bright side, for every throwback Oregon puts into the world, there’s one less highlighter-dipped-Mountain-Dew alternate to fry your eyeballs up like a pair of state fair Oreos.
Baylor Bears – 1992
Giant bear paws on the shoulder pads. Is that really too much to ask for, Baylor?
Virginia Cavaliers – 1993
Paradoxically enough, these grunge-era Cavs uniforms are so fresh they make Mr. Clean look like Pigpen. The eye is immediately drain to the “V” on the sleeves of the otherwise unbranded jersey, but it’s the two-tone stripe on the pure Penn State-style helmet that is the star of the show. In fact, if Virginia decided they just wanted to bring back that helmet and save funds for something nerdy like books (ew, gross), we would be totally cool with that.
Iowa Hawkeyes – 1995
File these painfully '90s Hawkeye specials under “so bad they’re good.” The wing motif is rough enough on its own, but the additional hawk logo plastered in no man’s land over the heart (probably not an accident knowing how serious Big Ten country takes its football) really sets this stinker over the top. That said, our imagination runs wild at the prospect of a modern update on these forgotten dodos, even if they do end flying a little too close to the sun.
Nebraska Cornhuskers – 1995
Ignore the hype. The closest the Cornhuskers are getting to a national championship this year are a set of ’95 throwbacks, and honestly that’s OK with us, because they are quite possibly the most downright gorgeous uniform in the history of college football. From the liberal use of mesh to the bellybutton crop, there’s nothing not to love about these Gen-X icons…unless, of course, you’re a Colorado fan.
Tennessee Volunteers – 1997
While the Peyton Manning-era at Rocky Top might be best known for those creamsicle classics, these meshy all-whites with black-bordered numbering are in need of the most pressing reboot. Also note that little football shaped “T” emblem right at the collar. Pure class, just like ol’ number 18 (or should we say 16) himself.
UCLA Bruins – 2001
The Bruin blues. The sparkling golds. The dinner party invitation font with the dark blue drop shadow. UCLA’s 2001 homes are quite literally fit for kings. This year, the school will introduce all-whites for the first time in a long time, but gaudy classics are not only deserving, but are also well within Under Armour’s infamously overblown wheelhouse. Fingers crossed for 2020.
Boise State Broncos – 2007
These are not particularly great uniforms. In fact, some might say they’re downright hideous. But they are the Fiesta Bowl Statue of Motherfreakin’ Liberty uniforms, and on that merit and that merit alone deserve inclusion on this list. No single moment in modern college football history has announced the arrival of a new power program quite like this, and we can’t think of our better to pay tribute than to recommission these bad boys.
Hawaii Rainbow Warriors – 2007
Find us a more badass college football uniform than this. We'll wait. Black and dark green? Whoever thought that would work is either an idiot or a genius, but oh boy did it ever. Throw in a tribal tattoo motif on the left pant leg and skull-n-crossbones helmet decals—not to mention a bleach-blonde Colt Brennan hucking it all over the South Pacific—and you have a college uni fit for Blade himself.