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July 26, 2011

Go You Several Britches!

The colorful 1978 Georgia-Auburn game: the Tigers in orange tops, Dawgs in red bottoms 
When I heard last week that Georgia would be wearing new uniforms for the season opener against Boise State, I recalled the last time the Bulldogs tried for a new look.  Notice I said "tried," as Georgia, looking more like Grambling State or a team from the now-defunct XFL, presented itself nearly as badly in appearance as it did in performance as the Bulldogs were soundly defeated in their new attire in 2009 by No. 1-ranked Florida.   

Personally, I don't mind a little alteration in uniform every once in a while by the Bulldogs; however, if the change is to something on the order of what has been rumored, my only hope is Georgia plays much better than it looks (and the new unis are retired before the following Saturday vs. South Carolina).  

Being a Bulldog history buff, I'm very much a traditionalist; couple that with the fact Georgia has seldom changed its look over the years compared to other football programs (whether helmets, or otherwise), and a drastic change in appearance can be difficult for some old-school fans to swallow. 

With Coach Wally Butts' arrival in 1939 came the silver helmet-red jersey-silver pants look which would nearly go unchanged for a quarter-century until Vince Dooley came to UGA.  Later, Coach Ray Goff kept the then-existing look over his entire seven seasons, except when he darkened the helmet a bit for a single game.  

Prior to apparently monkeying around with other coaches' money, Coach Jim Donnan often did the same with the Bulldogs' appearance in a short period of time, promptly adding a black stripe to the helmet in 1996, which would only last as long as the coach's tenure at UGA.  Donnan also introduced black pants in the 1998 Outback Bowl, which Georgia wore again the following season in yet again, another dismantling by the Gators.  Admirably, Donnan reintroduced white pants in 1999 after a 20-year hiatus in memory of deceased assistant coach Pat Watson.

In addition, and in no particular order, here is my opinion of the most notable uniform changes in the modern era of Georgia football:

Vince Revamps Uniform: With the arrival of 31-year-old Coach Dooley and athletic director Joel Eaves in 1963, changes needed to be immediately made to Georgia's, at the time, losing image and for Vince, that included to the uniform.  Believing there was too much emphasis on silver - the color of both the team's helmet and pants, but not even an official color of the school - Dooley introduced red helmets and white pants.  Reportedly, some alumni were very skeptical of the change, citing that it could "hurt the team in some way."  In the process, Georgia also lost its rallying cry, Go You Silver Britches, at least for a little while.  However, added (to the helmet) was the distinguished "G" logo that so many would become familiar with over the following decades.    

Red Britches: Many Georgia fans identify the Bulldogs' old red pants with Herschel Walker's first game at Tennessee in 1980 but the britches actually debuted two years earlier at South Carolina.  Over a period of 11 seasons from 1978 to 1988, Georgia wore the pants a combined 15 times in six different seasons.  From 1978 through the 1980 season opener, the Bulldogs donned the red britches in all eight of their games in which they wore road white jerseys.  They wouldn't be seen again until the 1985 Clemson game in Death Valley after being suggested by equipment manager Howard Beavers to Coach Dooley.  Although Georgia lost only three times it sported the red pants, the unusual britches were retired in 1988 just like they had been unveiled 10 years earlier - with a loss in Columbia by double digits.

A Short-Term Solution: The most unusual of all Georgia football uniform changes has to be when the Bulldogs added a red square-style "G" to both sides of their helmets during the 1962 season.  For nearly 25 years, Georgia had worn a plain silver helmet but suddenly, evidently in the middle of Coach Johnny Griffith's second of three seasons, the very first UGA football helmet decal in history was unveiled.  Why the change and why during the season?  I have no clue...maybe Georgia was hoping the "G" would help reverse its bad fortune as the Bulldogs were enduring their ninth non-winning campaign in 14 years.  Reportedly, Georgia displayed the decal for three games that season: Florida State (5th game of season), Auburn (9th game and likely Griffith's biggest win in his three seasons), and Georgia Tech (10th and final game).  As curiously as it came, the "G" disappeared in 1963 for Griffith's third and final year.   

Back In Black?: I've been to few Georgia football games that had as much buzz and excitement than when the Bulldogs ran out in black jerseys against Auburn in 2007.  Nearly as stirring was the debate on whether or not Georgia had worn black before.  Initially, the black jerseys were considered a first but then a photo (or two) surfaced depicting Frank Sinkwich in a black jersey (noticed the arm stripes) apparently while at Georgia during the early-40s.  However, in all my research, I had never read of or seen in any game photo (or two) the Bulldogs wearing black jerseys (notice no arm stripes).  After the Auburn victory, Dan Magill declared the black jerseys were a UGA football first while Charley Trippi told me prior to the 2008 Alabama game that the Dogs in his day never wore any colored top except red and white.  In  my opinion, case closed.  Speaking of Alabama...  Wearing the black jerseys for a third time in nine games (2007-2008), the Bulldogs were throttled by the Tide and the dark-colored tops haven't been seen since.

Go You Silver Britches II: On Picture Day of 1980, Coach Dooley brought back the tradition he had halted 16 years earlier with the second coming of the silver britches.  Revealed at Woodruff Field, the team’s practice grounds, in front of approximately 2,000 fans, the new pants were met with varying opinions.  When asked if he liked the new tradition, eventual All-American Scott Woerner responded, "That remains to be seen."  While Leroy Dukes, a member of the last Georgia team to wear silver britches in 1963, was present passing out hats that declared, “Go You Silver Britches," and distributing bumper stickers with the same slogan.  For the second game of the season against Texas A&M, the Bulldogs wore their new pants, which soon became such a sensation that the red was discarded as the team's road pants and the silver was worn for every game.  Fittingly, Georgia would go on to win its first undisputed national championship donned in its new silver britches.

9 comments:

Cincinnati Dawg said...

Very interesting article, well written. What really bothers me is the current(since 2009) dull, matte grey pants that often look dirty white or even khaki. Nike put UGA and Ohio State in those dull grey "cordura" pants from 2004-2005, as they supposedly retain less water and are less heavy. The Dawgs went back to shiny silver in 2006-2008, but this time with the G on the front hip, not the side (as they were pre-2004). But in 2009, the team voted to go back to the dull grey and I think they look awful. They players may say they are more comfortable than the shiny silver, but it definitely hasn't helped their performance on the field! When top NFL teams like the Patriots can succeed and wear shiny silver, I think UGA can too. And Richt's two best teams (2002, 2007) wore the shiny silver. In my opinion, the uniforms have been noticeably worse with the dull grey.

edethomas said...

Patrick, good article as usual. I can't imagine McGarity approved the design of the uniforms out on the net. They are flat out uglier than anything Nike has designed for Oregon. I have a suspicion that they are closer to the classic red than anyone thinks.

IveyLeaguer said...

Good stuff. The uniforms mean a lot to a lot of people, and most of those are Dawgs who highly value Georgia's tradition. I don't like messing with our uniforms because they are iconic. So I'm with the traditionalists who say "OK, but after the kickoff game, let's get back to Georgia." From now on, we can stay with the iconic uniform and still use the new high-tech padding, helmets, and other innovations that improve performance.

I think Richt has done a fantastic job with our uniforms, with the minor touches. And I can't overstate how much those minor touches matter. Our helmets have never looked better, and is the classiest, best-looking in football, IMHO. The small bones are a great touch, and the somewhat larger white stripe.

The one thing I would pick at would the be red shade around the black numbers when we're in white. You can't shade a number with a lighter color, by definition, because it has a smearing effect from a distance. So the numbers don't look as clean for TV, and that's the main thing (check out a good quality film of the early 80's white jerseys to see what I'm talking about). In red, the black shading the white numbers works very well, it's still a very clean look, because of that principle.

Also, true silver pants would look better, but I understand if they're not available in the new, high-tech style. The gray looks OK, until we can get the pants we want in real silver.

And thanks for pointing out the Butts uniforms. They were as striking as any I've ever seen, to this day, and were iconic in their own right. Striking, and CLEAN, the silver/red (with solid white numbers)/silver with the white socks and black shoes. I've never liked Ohio State's uniforms. But these were really good-looking.

If I were King, Georgia would wear the (non-pro-combat but high-tech) Wally Butts silver/red/silver throwback uniforms for Homecoming each year. And with our current white jersey, take the red shading off the black numbers for TV ... and that's it.
~~~

sUGArdaddy said...

Great article. Some other interesting tidbits:

-Sinkwich's Heisman photo is in the black jersey, but they actually painted his helmet red in the portrait. My guess is it was done years later and they just assumed it was a red helmet.

-The 1946 Oil Bowl saw us in the most unique white jersey we've ever worn. It was the road jersey to the black Sinkwich jersey. Red numbers outlined in black with black/red/black stripes on the sleeve. It was a pretty sweet look.

-I so wish we'd go back to silver britches. However, I could live with the gray if they'd just darken it to look like the 80s color gray.

-I'd give anything if we'd go back to red pants for big road games. It...just...looks...better.

ColumbiaDawg said...

I thought I read an article where Georgia wore all black uniforms with red numbers at home in 1938 when Joel Hunt was the head coach.

ColumbiaDawg said...

If you look at Theron Sapp breaking "The Drought" against Georgia Tech, you'll see that the silver helmet and pants had a single red stripe. Butts eventually did away with the stripe and went back to plain silver helmets and pants for the rest of his tenure at Georgia.

Patrick Garbin said...

Cincinnati, edethomas, and IveyLeaguer,

Thanks for reading, your comments, and opinions.
--
Patrick

Patrick Garbin said...

sUGArdaddy,

That's interesting about Sinkwich's red helmet. I never noticed it until I just now looked online.

I know exactly what you mean regarding the Oil Bowl jerseys. There's a good photo of Rabbit Smith from that game where the jersey's colors/stripes are rather evident. And, I'm with you, I loved the red pants as a kid and would like for them to return every once in a while.

Thanks for reading and posting.
--
Patrick

Patrick Garbin said...

ColumbiaDawg,

I have some photos from the '38 season and although they are in B&W, certainly evident is that the Bulldogs dark-colored jerseys are definitely not black. The Hunt jerseys are different than what Butts introduced but they look red to me. Also, in news reports that year, Georgia was often referred to as the "red shirts."

You're correct sir...Georgia featured a stripe on its silver helmet during the '57 drought-ending season and, I believe, also had the stripe the year before and after (1956-1958).

Thanks for your post!
--
Patrick