Cal Uni Countdown: From Worst to First

Publisher, Cal Sports Digest
Posted Mar 30, 2013

As the California athletics department sets about re-branding itself with a uniform unveiling on April 10, we take a look at some of the best and worst looks the Golden Bears have sported on the gridiron over the years. Which looks made the cut? We start today at No. 10 ...


For much of California’s football history, the Golden Bears have worn a fairly simple uniform on the gridiron: Yale-blue tops and athletic gold bottoms. Recent years have seen a variety of combinations.

On March 4, NIKE unveiled a new unified branding effort for Oregon State, and on April 10, the Swoosh takes aim at Cal.

With the Cal athletics department rolling out a new, program-wide re-branding effort, Cal Sports Digest has decided to take a gander at some of the best -- and worst -- looks that the Bears have sported on the gridiron.

There are a number of reasons for this new, unifying branding effort. From the use of the Oski head logo, to the block C to various fonts and scripts used by Cal teams across all sports, it seems that the only thing that ties them all together are blue and gold. But, even those colors and their application have been widely inconsistent. How well a given fabric or material takes a color, differences in how colors are rendered on various screens and variances in the way colors are mixed all contribute to a bit of confusion.

This effort, ostensibly, endeavors to change that with a hard reset.

Not all sports will get new duds immediately, but the two heavy hitters -- basketball and football -- will lead the way. With a new coach, a new offense and a new way of doing business, what does the fabric future of the Cal football team look like? Before we find out, we take a look at the past, going from worst to first with California football uniforms.


Allan Bridgford. (USA Today)

Why it worked:

It didn't. The Bears went 0-1 in the all-whites, and 0-3 overall wearing the white helmet.

Why it didn't:

I like to call it the Surrender Uni. It’s the white flag of Cal uniforms. While the so-called Stormtrooper look is divisive, to say the least, with some falling on the side of tradition (wear your colors at home) and others digging the superhero vibe, for many observers, the white helmet was just too much to take.

These are the NIKE specials, which were -- in concept, at least -- debuted by Oregon in 2010. The Bears quickly followed suit, donning white from head to toe in their Oct. 6, 2011 contest at Autzen Stadium.

After the initial loss on NIKE's home field, Cal would not go full-bridal again, but would suffer an embarrassing loss at the hands of UCLA in 2011 while wearing white tops and the blanched buckets, and then finally drop first game in newly-renovated Memorial Stadium in the lustrous lids and white pants.

The Devil in the Details:

While Cal’s football helmets have integrated the bear claw slash motif -- the defining feature of the entire get-up -- since the team switched to the current uniform back in 2008, this helmet put just one too many bumper stickers on the set, in quite a literal sense:

Isi Sofele (USA Today)

In case it's hard to see, the back of the single bear claw slash down the middle of the helmet has CALIFORNIA spelled out in block letters. From a distance, it looks like a ragged or torn edge, which isn't too horrible, considering that right beneath it is a bear paw with claws extended. But, the closer you get, the more that conceit falls apart.

Then again, it's not like the original prototype was much better, though one of the alternatives did show some promise, but more on that as we continue the countdown.

New head coach Sonny Dykes has assured fans that the white helmet -- much like the polar bear as a species -- will disappear from the Cal wardrobe in 2013, which for those of us who are sartorially inclined, is good news. After all, there's only one team that wears all white from head to toe, and it's not one the Bears have any love for.


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