Five Thoughts On Altering Michigan's Uniforms

Brandon Brown

Every year we see mockups and photoshopped images of potential alternate uniforms for Michigan football and they almost never come to fruition. Most are really bad and a few are pretty good. I definitely respect U-M's tradition and recognizable look, but I find myself falling somewhere between old school and new school when it comes to Michigan's unis. 

I grew up playing NCAA video games and always used Oregon at least sometimes because they had so many cool, new uniform concepts. I've always liked Texas' all white look and subtle details like USC's facemask color, which is somewhere between grey, tan and silver with an iridescent finish.

Then there's Michigan. The iconic helmet. The amazing contrast of maize and blue on a sunny fall Saturday. The staying power of pretty plain jerseys and pants and only subtle changes over the course of decades. The yellow pants with away whites, which I actually don't love, but can accept because that's just the way it is. Jim Harbaugh came in and implemented white pants on the road with striping down the sides and we've seen a few other alternates over the last decade plus, but some pretty easy and sharp options haven't happened.

I created a graphic of Donovan Peoples-Jones in an all blue concept and it absolutely blew up on Twitter. It's such a subtle and simple change, yet the reception was overwhelming. The all whites, on the other hand, not so much. Along the same line, we've seen an all maize uniform over the last couple of seasons and, for the most part, people seemed to like it. I didn't love that look, but Michigan has also had worse within the last 15 years.

All of that got me thinking, what would be acceptable and what wouldn't be when it comes to switching up U-M's duds?

1. Don't mess with the helmets.....much

I don't necessarily think this one is written in stone, but if there are any changes to the lids they'd have to be very, very subtle. Michigan did switch things up a few years ago by going with a matte finish versus the standard glossy look that used to be universal throughout college football, and also added navy accents (chin straps, helmet buckles, etc.) for a more uniform, streamlined look. I don't think there's any way you ever mess with the colors, but slight tweaks in finish — chrome, satin, duller matte — seem to be on the table because we've seen it since Jim Harbaugh took over.

2. All blues and all whites would work

As evidenced by my tweet above, the "Midnight Blues" would likely be well received. Michigan tried some form of all blues several years ago when adidas was still in charge of the threads but we haven't seen it yet since Michigan switched to Jordan. The all blue was a nice look, but the weird, striped numbers just weren't necessary and really kind of threw off the whole vibe.

Michigan wore all-blue uniforms in 2014 against Penn State.

Simply swapping out the normal maize pants for all blue ones, and requesting new gloves, accessories and maybe cleats would really take the all-navy look to a new level. As for the all whites, it's tough because of the helmet. I love Texas' all white look and, even though it's hard to admit, Michigan State's all white unis are very sharp as well. 

Michigan State has sported the all-white look several times over the last few years. Since they're willing to change the look of their helmet dramatically, it works.

Since changing the color of Michigan's helmets is essentially not allowed, the all-white look doesn't hit quite as hard. 

3. A sprinkle of old school would be cool

Most people who have been Wolverine fans for a while love the look of the Tom Brady-era jerseys, especially the away ones. Michigan was sponsored by Nike at the time and had one of the more progressive looks in college football and really pulled off the cropped, large mesh look perfectly.

Tom Brady definitely looks sharp in the away whites circa 1998.

The uniforms obviously also had maize outlines around the numbers and some striping around the neck and sleeves, which made for a really clean, crisp look.

During the 2017 season, Nebraska rolled out some retro throwback uniforms where the large mesh was essentially patterned into the numbers to create the look from the 1997 season.

Nebraska recreated the large mesh look from its 1997 uniforms in 2017.

I think if Michigan did something similar, with both its home and away uniforms, it would be very well received and sharp. The mesh isn't actually larger, so none of the technology from today's Nike/Jumpman uniforms would be lost, but it would have the look of the large holes and vintage piping and outlining. You could even commemorate the 1997 national championship season in some way with the uniforms. 

4. Don't add any other colors

I think this one is set in stone. Michigan is so well known for maize and blue, and the uniforms are so iconic, that randomly adding grey or black for a one-off alternate is simply a no-no. Some schools have pulled it off with quite a bit of success actually. West Virginia, Oklahoma State and Tennessee have all rolled out a sharp grey alternate, while Florida State, Ohio State, UCLA and Stanford have all unveiled some pretty cool black uniforms. It's just not going to happen at Michigan, nor should it.

Grey isn't one of West Virginia's official colors, but the all-grey looks is pretty smooth.

Michigan did have the grey facemasks for a while, but I think that look is dead, and putting colors like that into the actual uniforms just can't happen.

5. No major changes are needed

I think this is the key to changing Michigan's uniforms if it ever actually happens again. We don't need to see anything resembling a bumblebee or any uniform where the numbers are impossible to read on television ever again.

What was adidas thinking with Michigan's bumblebee uniforms?

No additional patterns, large stripes, number shape or color combinations need to be introduced. Subtle piping or striping, wholesale, existing color swaps and potentially a finish alteration on the helmets is about as far as most Michigan fans would be willing to go. 

I think you could do any or all of those things without changing too much and create something exciting and intriguing, both for an on-field look and for fans to buy. Anything with a Block M is going to sell, but why not do it right and create something people will be talking about in a positive light for years to come? 

What do you think of Michigan's uniforms? What would or wouldn't you do to them? Comment below!!!

Comments (1)

First of all let's acknowledge that Michigan has the best uniforms in college football period. Hands down, no questions. Now as far as changing or wearing alternate uniforms is concerned, I am for the occasional change if it is done in the right way. As a lifelong wolverine fan I would never want to see a change in the colors. No black, no grey. The all maize uniforms I thought looked surprisingly good. Probably would look even better if they would change the helmet to a maize base with blue wings and maize facemask. Now I may be going out on a limb here but the only exception to change their colors that I would ever support would be if they went to camouflage. Yes camouflage. To salute the men and women in the armed services. Imagine if you will camouflage wings on a army green helmet! An iconic helmet changed in honor of those who have served and are currently serving our country. The leaders and the best. Talk about a collector's item, that would be a conversation piece on any mantle, in any man cave or wolverine den. GO BLUE