I’ve never been to the Bentley Historical Library at the University of Michigan, but I’m a lot more curious about making a visit since reader J.D. Arendshorst told me about an exhibit currently displayed on the library’s web site: “Art of Football,” which features U of M football game program covers from 1894 through 2001. Since many of the covers depict football players of the day, the exhibit functions as a de facto timeline of football uniform history — not just for Michigan, but for the school’s opponents, and for college football in general.
Many of the programs have spectacular cover art that isn’t uni-related, so I’ll avoid discussion of those and let you discover them for yourselves by clicking through the site. Meanwhile, here’s a chronological look at some of the uniform highlights:
1897: This is the earliest uni-related image in the exhibit. That’s Michigan in the blue and gold, and the opponent is the University of Chicago. I’m too busy digging the striped stockings to wonder why some of the players are wearing vests.
1900: Once again, U. of Chicago is the opponent — and they appear to be wearing gaiters!
1900: This time it’s Michigan with the gaiters.
1907: Hockey isn’t the only sport where the jerseys used to be sweaters.
1915: Arguably more notable for the crowd-borne “M” than for the unis.
1919: Not very revelatory from a uni standpoint, but what an amazing design! The typography alone is probably my favorite thing in this entire exhibit.
1922: Did Michigan ever wear red pants, or was this just artistic license?
1924: Chinstraps were apparently as optional as the helmets themselves.
1927: Whose knicker-clad leg is that in the foreground — the ref’s?
1936: Back to illustration. How great would a poster of this be?
1937 and 1938: Bizarre series. According to the exhibit text: “San Francisco artist Michael Kady’s ‘Kid’ cover for the 1937 Michigan State program proved so popular with U of M football fans he was invited to do a whole series for the 1938 programs [here's another]. Kady’s own son served as the model for the Norman Rockwell-style paintings.”
1939: Again, quoting the exhibit: “Portraits of the opposing captain highlighted the 1939 programs in a style that mimicked LIFE magazine.” Dig that chenille chest logo!
1940: Compare those pants to today’s, and there’s really not so much difference.
1941: First sighting — at least on the program cover — of Michigan’s classic “winged” helmet design. The team first wore it in 1938, and of course the design itself originated at Princeton (further details here and here).
1943: Check out the little “M” logos on the socks!
1945: Starting to look, every so slightly, like a modern football team.
1953: Again with the “M” on the socks.
1957: Never knew Michigan wore numbers on their helmets until I saw this shot.
Things start looking pretty conventional after that, but you can see for yourself. Kudos to the Bentley Library for putting together such a kickass gallery, and to J.D. Arendshorst for letting me know about it.
Uni Watch News Ticker: The Sabres are due to unveil their new uniforms tomorrow, but this image leaked yesterday. The colors (good) and logo (bad) are no surprise, but the real news is that front uni number. There’s some NHL precedent for wearing a number on the front, if you count some recent All-Star Games (these designs were used in 2000 and 2001, and these in 2002 and 2003). Too soon to assess this until we see the full uni, though. … Interesting note in the Lubbock Avalanche Journal (forwarded by Michael Reeves) regarding Texas Tech’s road game against UTEP last Saturday: “Texas Tech wore the combination of white jerseys with scarlet pants for the first time in 15 years. The last time the Red Raiders used that combination, according to Tech research, was in a 22-17 loss at Wyoming in 1991. A superstitious Spike Dykes scrapped the white-over-red after that. Tech was to wear white over white on Saturday. A Tech spokesman said the white pants didn’t arrive in time from Under Armour, which is the team’s apparel manufacturer.” … In a truly sublime development, Wisconsin football coach Bret Bielema is apparently changing his necktie each week to match the school’s upcoming opponent. Full details here (with thanks to Mike Carr). … I was doing some photo research for another project and stumbled across something I hadn’t recalled seeing before: Mike Piazza wearing a hockey-style mask in 1998. He must have done that only for a very short period. … More mismatched sleeves on the gridiron, this time at the high school level: Norcross High in Georgia looks pretty normal from this side, but things look a little different once you get the full view. And in the unlikely event you were wondering who’s responsible for this hokum, note the shoulder logo. (Thanks to Byron Wages for the tip.) … Finally! A clear view of Jamie Moyer’s Liberty Bell stirrups. … I don’t watch Survivor, but Mayer Weisel does, and he notes that one of the current contestants from the Hispanic team is wearing faux stirrup socks.