As you saw in my Top 10 Posts of 2011, five of the ten most read posts of the past year were related to Auburn's uniforms. Needless to say, uniforms have been a hot topic over the past few years with Auburn fans. There seems to be an endless debate over whether Auburn should make major uniform changes for one game a year or stick with what some call the "traditional" uniform always and forever.
A few days ago, @GeorgeRBrown pointed me to a Flickr account that he ran across in a random Google search that contained fifteen water color paintings of Auburn's uniforms from 1892 to 2008. After doing a little digging, I was taken back to a site, Heritage Sports Art, that specializes in uniform history for various pro and college teams of all sports. Being the uniform freak that I am, I was floored that I had not seen or even heard anything about most of Auburn's previous uniform designs.
Below you will find prints of fifteen uniforms from the first year of Auburn football up until modern day. Each picture has a brief description from Heritage Sports Art (in italics), with my thoughts on the uniform below. Orange jerseys, blue helmets, and tiger heads, oh my...
1892 - This painting of a laced canvas jacket-jersey honors the first season of Auburn football. The team played one game in February 1892 (a win over Georgia) and three in November (a win and two losses). The coach was George Petrie, who only coached this one year and the captain was Frank Lupton. Purchase this print.
Can you imagine Lutzenkirchen wearing this? It reminds of something you'd see in a Shakespearean play, so I'm sure Blake Burgess wouldn't mind suiting up in it. And what exactly is the beanie for? Does it really need the ball on top? Notice that there was no blue on the uniform, only orange.
1903 - White-tan laced canvas "one piece jumper" with orange mid-section and sewn-on orange shoulder pads. No uniform number or lettering on front. Black rubber nose guard ... Coached by Billy Bates in his only year of coaching, the team went 4 and 3 and were captained by J. P. Paterson. Purchase this print.
Can someone get this over to Lady Gaga? I'm sure she'd love to wear it. That nose guard, which looks eerily similar to an archaic athletic supporter, would be right up her alley. I don't get the full frontal laces. It reminds me of a corset. Wouldn't buttons do? I guess they would get popped off easily during tackles, but still. Can you imagine unlacing that during a quick trip behind the tree next to the pasture this game was being played on. Notice that blue was introduced, but orange is equally prominent.
1913 - Blue woolen jersey with orange sleeve stripes and tan pants. No uniform number or lettering on front. Natural leather (brown) helmet ... The 1913 Tigers were undefeated as they went 8-0 and were crowned SIAA Champions. In the process they outscored their opponents 223-13. Team captain was QB Kirk Newell. The team was coached by Mike Donahue, who coached for 18 seasons from 1904-06 and 1908-22. Purchase this print.
Now we're talking. I would wear that right now, at least the jersey. A real helmet is finally added, but come on, that thing wouldn't stop anything but a goose egg.
1929 - White jersey with orange tiger head design. No uniform number or lettering on front. Natural leather/brown stove pipe helmet ... This Tiger-head jersey, worn only in 1929, is the only jersey in Auburn history to have a graphic image on it. The team struggled on the field (2-7), and saw coach George Bohler fired midway through the season. His replacement, John Floyd, lost the four games he coached and promptly left Auburn. Purchase this print.
Wow, I love this one. If Auburn ever did do a throwback jersey, they should pick this. A Tiger head on the front of the jersey?! That is beyond awesome in my opinion. Notice no blue, and the leather helmet had no major changes, other than the addition of Frankenstein-style flat top.
1932 - Blue jersey with orange uniform number. Blue helmet with orange stripes. The 1932 Tigers went 9-0-1 and won the Southern Conference. This 1932 uniform honors number 18, team captain Jimmy Hitchcock. Known as the "Phantom of Union Springs", Hitchcock was Auburn’s first All-American. Purchase this print.
Well look at that. Auburn has worn a blue helmet before. After all that hoopla in 2010, it turns out it wouldn't be that big of a deal, at least not to someone who was around in 1932. This is the first blue jersey with numbers and appears to be the beginning of what we know as the Auburn jersey today. But there they go with all those laces again...
1946 - Orange jersey with blue uniform number and sleeve stripes. Blue helmet. This painting honors #11 Travis Tidwell who in 1946 lead the nation in offensive yards as a freshman. The 1946 team was coached by four-year man Carl Voyles and finished with four wins against six losses. Purchase this print.
Oh no! It's the ultimate traditionalist's worst nightmare: an orange jersey AND a blue helmet in the same uniform! Blasphemy! How dare they?! I don't know about you, but I think this looks pretty awesome. I'd take it. Again, only in a rare, throwback uniform sort of way. This appears to be the first orange jersey worn at Auburn, and as you'll see, won't be the last.
1957 - White jersey with blue uniform number and blue and orange sleeve stripes. White helmet with orange and blue stripes. This painting honors one of Auburn’s greatest teams - the 10-0 National Champion 1957 Auburn Tigers ... #61 honors sophomore Zeke Smith who played both ways, and it was for his defensive work that he won the Outland Trophy in 1958 ... Legendary Ralph "Shug" Jordan was coach having taken the reins in 1951. Purchase this print.
The birth of the Storm Trooper. Other than the single stripe on the pants and the absence of the AU logo on the helmet, this is pretty much what Auburn wears today. So I guess Auburn's "traditional" away uniforms started in 1957. I think, THINK, that Auburn only wore white back then because there were no rules on home-away jersey colors.
1963 - Blue jersey with white uniform number and white/orange sleeve stripes. White helmet with orange and blue stripes. The 1963 team was coached by Ralph "Shug" Jordan, finished 9-2 (6-1 in the SEC) and was ranked 5th nationally by the AP Poll and 6th by UPI. Uniform #12 honors QB Jimmy Sidle, a 1963 All-American. Sidle was the first college QB ever to lead the nation in rushing as he gained 1,006 yards in 1963. Purchase this print.
The "traditional" blue jersey is introduced. The single stripe on the pants remains, and the players number is added to the helmet. Not sure how I feel about that, but it was pretty common back then.
1971 - Blue mesh jersey with white uniform number and white/orange sleeve stripes. White helmet with orange and blue stripes ... The 1971 Auburn squad was ranked 12th by AP and 5th by UPI ... This 1971 painting honors Heisman Trophy winning QB Pat Sullivan who was Auburn’s first Heisman winner. In his three varsity seasons at Auburn (1969-71), Sullivan went 26-7 as he racked up 53 passing TD’s and 18 rushing TD’s and was named All-American in 1970 and 1971. Purchase this print.
From top to bottom, this is generally the Auburn uniform of today. The major difference is the see through mesh jersey. I guess they were cooler?
1978 - Orange jersey with white uniform number. White helmet with orange and blue stripes. This orange jersey was worn for one game in 1978 (11/18/78 at home vs Georgia in a 22-22 tie). The orange jerseys appears to have been a coach Doug Barfield (1976-80) experiment, and were worn once in 1978, 1979 and 1980 ... The team went 1-1-1 in those games ... #20 honors running back and senior Joe Cribbs. Purchase this print.
This kind of looks like Auburn forgot their jerseys for the game and had to borrow some from Tennessee. The orange jersey doesn't even come close to matching the orange in the helmet and pants. That's probably due to the fact that people didn't really care as much about style and production back in 1978. Barfield probably told a student worker to order some orange jerseys and that was it. Before you think this is just a poor paint job, you can see how off the orange was in this program cover from the 1980 Tennessee game and this video of the 1980 Georgia game.
1983 - Blue jersey with white uniform number and white/orange sleeve stripes. Uniform number 34 honors Bo Jackson, 1985 Heisman Trophy winner. White helmet with orange and blue stripes ... The 1983 Tigers went 11-1, 6-0 SEC, and finished the season ranked third nationally, although after the fact they were crowned national champs by the NY Times, mathematician David Rothman and the College Football Researchers Association. The 1983 squad was coached by Pat Dye and won the Sugar Bowl over Michigan 9-7. Purchase this print.
Ahhh, the orange facemasks. I'm torn on whether they should ever bring those back. They look so retro that they seemed to fit nicely back then. Now with the skinnier bars on the facemasks I'm not really sure how it would look. This is a tweak I don't think many people would mind, but how much would that effect the player's view out of the helmet? It seems like the bright color would be distracting. But if it's good enough for Bo, it's good enough for anybody.
1993 - White jersey with blue uniform number and blue/orange sleeve stripes. White helmet with orange and blue stripes. Uniform number 74 honors Wayne Gandy ... The 1993 team went 11-0 (8-0 SEC) for the first time and was ranked 4th nationally ... 1993 was Terry Bowden’s 1st year as coach. Purchase this print.
For whatever reason, it was all the rage in the 80's and 90's to have a short jersey that showed your stomach. I have no idea why. I' d want my stuff covered up. Other than that, in terms of uniform design, this, like 1971, is what Auburn wears today.
1997 - Blue jersey with white uniform number and orange drop shadow, while/orange sleeve stripes. White helmet with orange and blue stripes .. This 1997 jersey features an unusual drop shadow numbering style and honors #55 Takeo Spikes ... The 1997 Tigers also had a successful 1997 campaign under 5th and final year coach Terry Bowden. The squad finished 10-3, including a one point loss to Tennessee in the SEC Championship game and a thrilling win over Clemson in the Peach Bowl. Purchase this print.
Besides winning his first 20 games as Auburn's coach, most fans remember Terry Bowden as the guy who brought in the orange drop shadow to the uniform numbers. It's a very 90's look, so as far as I remember, it was accepted back then. Right now, it looks hideous to me.
2004 - Blue jersey with white uniform number and while/orange sleeve stripes. White helmet with orange and blue stripes ... The 2004 Tigers went 13-0 in 2004 (8-0 in SEC). The team was coached by Tommy Tuberville and was ranked 2nd in both the AP and ESPN/USA Today season ending polls ... The 2004 team was led by #17, QB Jason Campbell, who was later drafted in the 1st round by the Redskins. In 2004, Campbell was First-team All-SEC, SEC Offensive Player of the Year, 5 times SEC Offensive Player of the Week, SEC Championship Game MVP and Sugar Bowl MVP. Purchase this print.
Other than the little circle with the AU logo at the neck, there's no real change in the design from previous years. Obviously the drop shadow was dropped when Bowden left/was fired in the middle of the 1998 season.
2008 - White jersey with blue uniform number and blue/orange sleeve stripes. White helmet with orange and blue stripes ... Uniform number 94 honors Sen’Derrick Marks, a junior defensive end in 2008 ... Auburn began the 2008 campaign ranked 10th by AP and 11th by USA Today/ESPN, but their 5-7 record for the 2008 season marked their first losing season since coach Tuberville’s first season in 1999. Purchase this print.
The SEC logo was added to the front of the jersey, a standard for all conference teams, the AU logo was added to the pants (I'm not positive that this wasn't there in 2004), and the circle logo was replaced by a small "AUBURN" on the neck. Again, this is pretty much what Auburn wears today. Showing again that no major changes have been made since 1971.
That brings me to a quick point I'd like to make. Over the past few years, there have been rampant rumors of jersey and helmet changes for certain games. I don't know where they came from, but I hear he's handsome.
Anyway, when those rumors come up, half the fanbase wants it to happen, and half go and get their pitchforks claiming that Auburn should always stick to their traditional jerseys. After seeing the history of changes in Auburn's 100+ year history, how can you say what is traditional? Is what Auburn has worn in the past 40 years considered traditional? I'm not arguing, just asking a question.
After seeing these prints, I am 100% on the bandwagon of a throwback uniform at some point of every season. It would not be a change. It would be an act of honoring the history of Auburn football. One could argue that Michigan has the most famous and traditional uniform, and this year they wore some sort of throwback in almost every game. The world didn't explode, and Michigan had their best season in years.
In all actuality, uniforms have zero to do with wins and losses, unless you're Georgia. An occasional look back at history would be awesome, especially with that 1929 jersey with the Tiger head on the front. Alright, I'm off my soap box.
If you want more history and details of each of these prints, head on over to the Heritage Uniforms and Jerseys blog on Auburn. It has more history than I've ever read about Auburn's uniforms. This guy has done his research and knows his stuff. You can purchase any and all of these framed, original watercolor paintings here.
Here's a video of the owner of Heritage Sports Art and Maple Leaf Productions, Scott Silcox, briefly going over each painting and how to order the framed prints if you'd like to do that.