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Cal Uni Countdown: Lucky Number Seven
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As we move closer and closer to April 10, and the new uniform unveiling for the California football team, we have now reached the line between good design and bad, and what better uniform to represent that delineation than one defined by some thin, gold lines.
NO. 7: THE ZEBRAS
Big Game, 1962.
Arleigh Williams runs the ball for California in 1932.
Why it worked:
For decades, the Big C Society has dispensed so-called Zebra Sweaters to first-year lettermen, with stripes on the sleeves to represent the number of players on the field/in the pool at the same time in their respective sports (11 for football, 9 for baseball (seen here on Bob Milano), 7 for water polo, 5 for basketball, 15 for rugby, etc.). In the early 1930s and in the early 1960s, those sweaters turned into football "jerseys." Classic, simple, a little quirky, these outfits had some very unique numbering fonts (both in the 1930s and 1960s) and were the kind of deep, almost-black blue first envisioned by the founders of the University.
There's a lot to love about the 1960s version of these uniforms. From the enormous, distinctive numbers to the deep-blue color to the sleeves to the simple helmets (blue crown with grey facemasks) and the muted gold pants, to the un-adorned black spikes, they're just sublime. And, yes, it's tough to see 11 stripes on every sleeve, because some were cut shorter and others were rolled up, but the idea was at least a clever one, right?
One problem here: There's no comprehensive uniform database that tells us exactly when each edition of this uniform came into and out of vogue, so we can't get you accurate win-loss records for each, but man, when you think of old school football, these jerseys certainly fit the bill, don't they? There's something so reassuringly familiar about them ...
Why it didn't:
… because you've seen them before! And not on Golden Bears, either. Well, maybe you have. It's foolish for me to presume. But, almost everyone who's seen this uniform in black and white would automatically think of one school, and it's not Cal. It's Princeton, and the famous Tiger Stripes. They even wear those stripes without proper sleeves these days.
Additionally, according to a former defensive lineman who played in the early 1960s -- our very own RealBear65 -- the uniforms were "ugly and hot," due to the fabrics of the time and the fact that "you couldn't get 11 gold stripes on short sleeves."
OK, so maybe comfort, heat stroke and playability weren't taken into account, but look at these magnificent bastards! Sometimes, for the sake of fashion, sacrifices have to be made!
Given that there is hardly anything resembling sleeves left in football these days, I don't see these making a comeback, but, I can dream, can't I? No, no I can't. These jerseys originally cracked my top five, but the more and more I began to dig and consult other observers, the further these slipped. I would really like to see stripes come back in some form, but the main reason these fell so far was the same reason that put the previous three entries so low: Unoriginality. The fact that Princeton now pretty much corners the market on sleeve stripes, these aren't seeing the light of day any time soon.
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