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SB Nation Jersey Week: A look back at Ohio State’s first uniforms

Can we please talk about 1907?

Vic Janowicz, Ohio State Football Action

As you may or may not be aware by now, our friends at SBNation.com have deemed this week “Jersey Week.” Here’s how we’ve participated so far:

First, our own Brett Ludwiczak is anti-alternate jerseys altogether, however he took a different route and explained why Ohio State and Michigan should take a page from USC/UCLA’s book and each wear their home jerseys for The Game.

“Why don’t Ohio State and Michigan both wear their home uniforms for The Game?” Brett writes. “Scarlet against blue. Good versus evil. It may way too much sense for the rivalry to have not done this before, but for unknown reasons we haven’t seen the rivals battle each other in their home uniforms yet. It’s a crime.”

Next, our Gene Ross wrote about which alternate jerseys, he believes, are Ohio State’s “best fits” to date. Which I must say I agree and if you don’t, well, you’re wrong.

Now that we’ve got modern-day jersey opinions/requested changes out of the way, its time to take a trip down memory lane. Let’s take a look at what some of the first-ever Ohio State football uniforms looked like.

1890

Watercolor painting by Steve Houston for Maple Leaf Productions Ltd.

The 1890 Ohio State football team was the first football team to be established by the university. It consisted of two teams: a spring team and a fall team.

A student at the school, George N. Cole, formed the inaugural team. Cole purchased the first football for the team and convinced his friend, Alexander S. Lilley, to take an unpaid position as head coach. In their first game on May 3, 1890, the team beat Ohio Wesleyan University 20-14.

The Ohio State University Archives

Their uniforms featured striped caps instead of helmets and white long-sleeved “jerseys” with the letters “OSU” along the front. Pretty sure they borrowed these from the baseball team.


1907

Watercolor artists Steve Houston & Nola McConnan

There’s a lot to unpack here. It looks like they upgraded their striped cap to a striped cap with ear pads. They added a synched, corset-esque waste and puffed sleeves to really show opposing teams who’s boss. Pretty sure they borrowed these from the jousting team.

The 1907 Buckeyes finished the season with a 7–2–1 record under second-year head coach Albert E. Herrnstein. This team didn’t exactly do anything special, so hopefully Ohio State will never...ever... pay homage to these.

http://www.sgsosu.net/osu/songs/ohio.html

1916

http://www.buckeye50.com/drive_1916_illinois.html

We now officially have something resembling a football uniform. Not sure what the thought process was behind the placement of the gray stripes, but hey, anything’s better than 1907.

These should also look familiar to you...

Ohio State payed homage to the 1916 football team during a home game against Nebraska in 2016. As you can imagine, they were not exactly well-received. Any alternate jersey uniforms that don’t feature Buckeye leaves on the helmets aren’t going to be popular amongst Buckeye fans.

Anywho, the 1916 team was the first Buckeyes team to finish a season undefeated, led by three-time All-American running back Chic Harley, whose running style was once described by a sportswriter as “music and cannon fire.” Whatever that means.

Chic Harley, 1919
The Ohio State University Archives

1939

Watercolor artist Nola McConnan for Maple Leaf Productions Ltd.

Now we’re just getting lazy. Here we have the addition of a jersey number, however the jersey is more just a long sleeve tee over pads. Also, what’s with all the long sleeved jerseys?

Bill Nosker, campus leader and starting guard for the Ohio State football team
The Ohio State University Alumni Association

At least the pants fit better.

The 1939 Buckeyes compiled a 6–2 record and outscored foes 189–64. Coached by Francis Schmidt, the team won the Big Ten Conference championship for the second time in Schmidt’s tenure at Ohio State.


The uniforms basically look like this from 1939 until around 1968, adding a stripe here and there as the years go on.

1942

Watercolor artist Steve Houston for Maple Leaf Productions Ltd.

Coached by Paul Brown, the 1942 Buckeyes were awarded the national championship by the Associated Press, the first generally recognized national title in program history.

Look familiar? In 2010, Ohio State honored the 1942 national champs during a home game against Michigan.

Marvin Fong, The Plain Dealer

I don’t remember these as clearly as the others, but considering the helmets are scarlet, sans Buckeye leaves, I can’t imagine they were a huge hit.

1954

Watercolor artist Nola McConnan for Maple Leaf Productions Ltd.

Coached by Woody Hayes, the 1954 Buckeyes were the second to win a national championship. Still long-sleeved, but we’re definitely getting closer to the classic, universally beloved uniforms we have today.

And yes, Ohio State payed homage to these as well in The Game (2009).

Marvin Fong, The Plain Dealer

And finally, 1968

Watercolor artist Nola McConnan for Maple Leaf Productions Ltd.

We finally have short sleeves, Buckeye leaves on the helmet, and numbers on the sleeves. The 1968 team was considered one of the strongest in OSU history, with 11 All-Americans and six NFL draft picks. Coached by Woody Hayes, capped an undefeated season with a 50–14 victory over Michigan followed by a 27–16 victory over USC in the 1969 Rose Bowl to secure the national title— their last national title until 2002.

Ohio State wide receiver Bruce Jankowski
Sports Illustrated, 1968

They won a national championship, so you know the drill...

All State Sugar Bowl - Alabama v Ohio State Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images
National Championship - Oregon v Ohio State Photo by Don Juan Moore/Getty Images

Against Alabama in the 2014 Sugar Bowl, Ohio State wore the road version of the “Nike Diamond Quest” edition uniforms. They then wore the home version in their following national championship win against Oregon.

They look almost identical to their regular jerseys, but as Gene wrote in his article linked above:

“At its core, it is incredibly similar to the team’s everyday uniforms, and those who don’t watch OSU play regularly may not even notice it is any different. However, the jerseys featured grey and white shoulder stripes and black numbers on the shoulders...”

And they should, without a doubt, be Ohio State’s uniforms moving forward. Not only are they good luck (clearly), but they’re sharp, classic, and please even the most anti-alternate jersey folks.