August 17, 2011

Uniform Bracket: Stanford v. Cal

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By The Daily Axe Staff

Record voting. Record traffic. Yesterday witnessed the most traffic yet in The Great Western Uniform Bracket 2011 thanks to the enthusiasm of Washington Huskies followers and plugs from Washington reporters and fans (especially Bob Condotta of The Seattle Times). We’re glad to say that the uniform bracket has attracted fans from across the conference and is one of the most popular features we’ve ever done. With that in mind, be sure to vote in the final hours of Oregon-Washington and to vote in the two match-ups that will conclude the second round with a bang: USC-Colorado and Stanford-Cal, both of which began today. As always, commenting on any uniform bracket post or using Twitter or Facebook to interact with us makes you eligible for our bracket prize for a lucky reader.

The home team enters its first round of voting in The Great Western Uniform Bracket 2011, and it’s paired with its long-time Bay Area rival: the California Golden Bears. Cal fans gave the Golden Bears one of the highest vote totals in the first round of the tournament, so can Stanford fans counter with an impressive showing in the Cardinal’s first voting match-up? Or will Cal pull the upset and move to the North Division final against the winner of Oregon-Washington?

Stanford, the top seed and the team if not for which this site would not exist, is up first.

Overview: Stanford

Stanford uniforms stick to tradition about as closely as any Pac-12 uniform does. White pants with cardinal stripes down the legs join either a plain cardinal (home) or plain white (away) jersey, all of which falls underneath the white helmet with Stanford block S logo and stripes down the crown. In recent years, the team has adopted Stanford Axe helmet stickers awarded for big plays and the like, differentiating players based on experience and game performance.

Stanford's home cardinal jerseys (Photo via @Han Shot First on Flickr)

The Card’s uniforms are about as simple and purist-friendly as college football uniforms come, even compared to USC (pictured above) which has small stripes on the shoulders. Threatening the purists is the appearance of black alternates for Stanford, the first of which appeared last season and which will almost surely be the basis for Stanford’s Nike Pro Combat uniforms to be worn in November against Notre Dame.

But the hard-core traditionalists only have so much to complain about. After all, the outfit John Elway wore during his time on The Farm isn’t much different from what Andrew Luck wears now:

Stanford quarterback John Elway on a 1982 Sports Illustrated cover

The facemask now matches the home jersey, the pant stripe is different and numbers have been removed from the jersey sleeves. But even in Jim Plunkett’s day, the Card bore profound aesthetic similarities to the 2011 team:

Jim Plunkett appears on an SI cover of his own (this one from 1971)

Overview: California

Is Cal Stanford’s sworn rival? Yes. Would Cal fans probably bash Stanford if this bracket were taking place on a Cal site? Almost definitely. But, taking the customary Stanford high ground, let’s say this: Cal’s uniforms are suboptimal. Despite the same colors that Michigan has used to make one of the greatest uniforms in the nation, Cal has managed a strange assortment of stripes, wooshes and what are supposed to look like the swipes made by a bear paw.

Cal's yellow jersey (Image via @dankwonjr on Flickr)

Cal running back Shane Vereen at the 2009 Cal ...

Former Cal running back Shane Vereen wears the home blue jersey. (Image via Wikipedia)

Yellow jerseys tend not to look good, especially when they’re bright yellow. And when Cal goes on the road, they occasionally pair their away white jersey with white pants, giving all the swoops of the uniform design a monochromatic canvas. The blue shirts are the best of the bunch, but still have the distracting and seemingly arbitrary things around the neckline and shoulders.

The blue-on-blue jersey and pants combination–the standard home uniform for Cal–is their best look and the best opportunity for the school to show off its colors and identity as an institution. Still, the design is cluttered with the various stripes and embellishments of the uniform and distracts from the clean block numbers and Cal’s logo, which appears prominently on the helmet and subtly just below the neckline. The color scheme and the logo itself–with the classy UC script also used by UCLA–are the strengths of Cal’s football branding and accordingly deserve higher billing in the overall uniform.

But hey, this likely isn’t the place where Cal’s uniforms are going to get a positive review anyway. It’s just too bad that the team can’t turn its current ugly into throwback awesome.

In this uniform bracket Big Game, which team will you vote for to come out on top?

Voting in this match-up is now closed. Check back at on Friday for results of the voting.

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About the Author

The Daily Axe Staff
The Daily Axe is an independent Stanford sports website covering Cardinal athletics year-round. Find The Daily Axe on and on social media via the links below.


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  • Stanfordsucks

    Stanfurd sucks. 

    • Good one!

    • Tom


      • Guest


  • 5laterals

    Both schools should go back to their older designs. Stanford’s helmet should have white facemasks, and the circa Elway single stripe is better. Cal should get back to its basic solids, which are one of the best unis in college football.

    • No argument from me, 5laterals.

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  • I think Cal’s best football uniform look was in the 1990s (when I was a Stanford undergraduate). Gold pants plus dark blue jerseys at home or white jerseys on the road; no stripes or wedges or other garbage. 

    Cal has a great helmet logo, but it’s diminished by the stripe widening at the back (as shown in one of the pictures above). 

    As for Stanford, I kind of miss the numbers on the side, since I have an old #88 jersey (from when Brian Manning was catching passes, I believe) featuring those digits on sleeves. And I’m not a big fan of the Stanford Axe stickers cluttering up those gorgeous cardinal and white Cardinal helmets. But you know, if that’s what it takes to get winning football on the Farm, it’s a price I’m willing to pay. 

    Go Stanford! 

    • I don’t know the exact story behind the decision to remove sleeve numbers from Stanford jerseys, but Paul Lukas has a sort of grand historical narrative (to the extent that such a thing can apply to football and its uniforms) to explain fewer sleeve designs for contemporary uniforms. That piece is here:

      The key passage regarding numbers on the sleeves: “Football sleeves used to routinely feature stripes, but as sleeves have gotten shorter, those stripes have crept upward and been reduced to splotches of color on the shoulders. The stripes can’t encircle the sleeve anymore because there’s no more sleeve for them to encircle. So it’s no surprise that some teams have simply given up and started leaving that area blank.”

      Given the former placement of numbers on the sleeve, it seems reasonable to apply that logic to Stanford jersey design.

      I like the helmet stickers. I’m not sure that I have a rational justification for liking them, but I do like them. Regardless of my personal preference, it’s no stretch to say that Harbaugh started the sticker program to inject a little big program thrust into The Farm while creating a tasteful tribute to Bo and Ann Arbor (check out the back of the helmet):