Cal Uni Countdown: Polar Bear Checks in at No. 10
Cal Uni Countdown: Far From Cloud Nine
Cal Uni Countdown: The Ocho
Cal Uni Countdown: Lucky Number Seven
Cal Uni Countdown: Gold Reserves Check in at No. 6
Cal Uni Countdown: High Five
Cal Uni Countdown: Four on the Floor
Cal Uni Countdown: Three and the Tree
CHIME IN ON THE MESSAGE BOARDS
We’re just less than 48 hours away from the big unveiling of California’s new unified brand identity, and before the noon press conference in the Field Club of Memorial Stadium, we still have two more Bears football uniforms to get through on our Cal Uni Countdown.
For our latest entry, we reach back to hallowed antiquity, and bring you perhaps the most classic uniform the Cal football team has ever sported on the gridiron. What single player defines this uniform that was worn almost exclusively up until the 1960s? Well, he made his hay not on the football field, but on the baseball diamond. Yes, we’re talking about this guy -- Jackie Jensen -- who wore plenty of classy duds in his time in professional baseball, and while playing both baseball and football for Cal, as well as managing the Golden Bears on the diamond.
NO. 2: THE JACKIE
Why it worked
Let it never be said that I don’t listen to the people. This is my personal favorite uniform look, but several posters have suggested yet another one that strikes me as the true No. 1, so, I reluctantly slotted this one on the silver-medal stand.
The blue in the above colorized picture is a bit lighter than the actual shade of blue the Bears wore during Jensen’s day, which was best described as a midnight blue, which is the true color of the university.
The numerals were also tackle twill, which gave them a shinier, somewhat metallic look, a true gold instead of a matte goldenrod or flat yellow.
Variations on this uniform were worn throughout the first half of the 20th century, and boy, did it work. These were the uniforms worn during the majority of Pappy Waldorf’s tenure, and were the uniforms worn when the Bears last won the Rose Bowl in 1928, way back in the leather helmet era.
While the helmets appear to have been that dark blue during the early part of the century and early on during Jensen’s years at Cal, the black-and-white photography of the era may be deceptive, as the official program for the game showed that Cal wore golden or yellow-painted helmets at least at some point, as suggested in this photo from the 1938 Big Game, showing Angelo Reginato taking a Vic Bottari pass and running for the winning touchdown against Stanford. Incidentally, another note in that photo is the fact that the two teams are both wearing color. USC and UCLA did that number for the years when the two teams shared a stadium, and recently returned to that tradition. Of course, back in 1938, most teams only had one uniform, so color-on-color was the norm. Wouldn't it be fun to see the Bears and the Cardinal go back to blue-versus-red as depicted on this 1951 Big Game program? (Sadly, even during that game, we didn't get color-versus-color). They've come close recently, but we've more often seen something like this or this. Side note to the side note: Whatever happened to cover art for Big Game programs? That needs to make a comeback.
Back to the matter at hand. Only late in the game did hard plastic helmets arrive, and when they did, they were painted the same dark blue as the jerseys.
No logos, no stripes, no gimmicks -- these uniforms are truly evocative. They were worn during the best of times for the program, one of the greatest athletes to ever come out of the University of California wore them, they endured for decades and had a divine simplicity. They were neither antiquated nor ahead of their time. They had enough flash in the materials to suggest a true California gold, while not being too overwhelming. They were bright and rich. They defined the school colors. They were timeless. They were perfection.
We already know that the helmets for the new uniform set will have a logo. That’s a given. Very few teams can pull off the no-logo look, and some that do have at least something on the old brain buckets. We know that the new uniforms will be relatively simple, but in this day and age of high-tech fabrics, gussets, expansion panels and stretchy materials providing all too many places to add a few bumper stickers, we won’t see this look again. That’s just the day and age we live in. But, head coach Sonny Dykes has said that he wants simplicity, and that’s what it appears we’ll get. Sadly, the days of the true blue and gold are long past, unless there’s a pair of gold pants we have yet to see in the preview videos.
Check back tomorrow morning for the greatest uniform in Cal football history, as we conclude our countdown before the new togs are unveiled!