The dynamic, ever-changing innovation wave of college football uniforms

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Nothing brightens a boring, football-less summer day better than scrolling through your newsfeed and seeing something that reminds you of just how excited you are for the upcoming season.

In this case, you pull up a post with thousands of likes. It’s a football team in a meeting room, and the coach says something along the lines of “we have something to talk about.” He then cues a video, in which an entire football program watches a player emerge from a cloud of smoke. In a mere few seconds, the ominous tone turns into an eruption of cheers and high-fives, as the team’s new threads for the year are revealed.

For Cal, this happened last year along with a 10-year partnership with Under Armour. And for Oregon — well, it happens pretty much every week thanks to Nike founder Phil Knight.

College football programs, especially ones without the best on-field success, are stuck with the never-ending dilemma of keeping fans engaged and selling tickets. While some teams still tend to opt for a much more historical, traditional look (see Penn State and Alabama), many are unveiling flashy threads with the hopes of generating buzz from fans and student-athletes alike.

Perhaps as a direct influence of the staggering amounts of attention that Oregon uniforms get from the media, teams are rolling out alternate jerseys and helmets more often than ever.

Every week of the college football season, seemingly hundreds of companies and fans post their “weekly uniform rankings.” Bigger names, such as ESPN and Bleacher Report, do season previews dedicated to picking the best looks that teams will sport Saturday afternoons. Fans, younger ones in particular, are suckers for revamped uniforms, and a fresh fit can go miles in racking up attendance and viewership.

Additionally, any special occasion is an opportunity to release new outfits, thus attracting attention and adding more merchandise to the team store that young fans will beg their parents for.

A couple of my favorite special-editions over the past few years were worn by the two teams competing tonight in Berkeley. In 2014, the Ducks wore sleek black uniforms, accentuated by pink and silver highlights to raise awareness for breast cancer, which went viral and received enormous praise. Last season, the Bears took the field in a different shade of blue and gold, wearing their Joe Roth throwback threads in commemoration of the former quarterback who died of melanoma decades ago.

Tonight will not feature any special celebration, but the two rivals are guaranteed to look sharp on the field — at least in a fashion sense. The first word that comes to mind when people think of Oregon football is “flashy.” While the word is often in reference to the program’s array of uniforms, it is also reflective of the team’s playstyle and the overall innovation of Nike, whose world headquarters are a mere two hours away from Eugene’s Autzen Stadium.

On any given Saturday, fans will see a different combination of black, white, silver and about 20 different shades of green, yellow and orange adorning the Ducks’ uniforms. Oh, and don’t forget about the infamous winged helmets that now come in matte, chrome, gloss and just about any other possible iteration to differentiate them from the rest.

While Cal’s new Under Armour threads might not stand out quite as much, they are more a reflection of the campus’ history, with a modern twist splashed in. The gold jerseys that the team will sport feature the “Sather Stripe” on the shoulders and pant sides, a design inspired by the university’s landmark, the Campanile.

Regardless of the game’s outcome, people will be talking about the uniforms throughout the night, as they will be around the country and all over the internet. Over the next few weeks, keep your eyes peeled for the multitude of innovative color schemes and patterns waiting to be featured on the big screen.

Shailin Singh is an assistant sports editor. Contact him at [email protected].