These uniform screenshots were from the Uniform Builder function of Clark Ruhland's (a former GC writer) website. He was kind enough to allow us to use the feature in this post and in the post last year as well. If you have never used it before, know that it is pretty comprehensive and that you will waste many an hour looking at different combinations on there that will make you dream of what the Hokies could look like and rejoice about what they have not worn...yet.
Without further ado, we present the ranking of the 2012 Virginia Tech uniform combinations:
1. Maroon helmets with orange gobbler imprint, maroon throwback jerseys, plain white pants, black socks and maroon sleeves (Rutgers)
Is it any surprise that the best uniform combination of 2012 was nearest the best uniform combination of 2011? I'd say not. That uniform from 2011, worn at Georgia Tech, was the standard maroon throwback uniforms with white pants, white socks and a standard maroon helmet, with the only difference coming in an orange stripe surrounded by two white stripes to emulate the shoulder stripes. Here is what I wrote about that combination last year:
"Being a communications major and having taken several design classes, I can state exactly why adding the stripe helped to pull this combo off. It had C.R.A.P. (yes, I know). C.R.A.P. is a pneumonic device used to represent the four principles of design: Contrast, Repetition, Alignment and Proximity. The stripe managed to accomplish all four. It contrasted by helping the helmet from being awash with the maroon jersey. It was obviously created repetition by duplicating the shoulder stripes. It definitely had good alignment, creating a "clean and sophisticated look" (not my words), and it created a triangle of proximity between the shoulder pad stripes and he helmet stripe that drew in onlookers.
I hope they use this uniform combination again in the future. In fact, as long as they're wearing the throwback jerseys, why not make this the default home uniform combination? Stripes for everyone!"
So obviously, both myself and design principles approved of this uniform combination. The 2012 iteration, the Russell Athletic Bowl uniform, was a nice little pick-me-up in a year when the Hokies sported some of their most terrible uniform combinations in program history. The differences here, though subtle, were important, and perhaps made this version even better than the 2011 combo worn against Georgia Tech.
According to the design principles of C.R.A.P. (a pneumonic device used to represent the four principles of design: Contrast, Repetition, Alignment and Proximity), the contrast is perhaps lessened from the 2011 version, as the Hokies added maroon sleeves to the equation, but also added a large orange gobbler to the helmet and changed their socks from white to black. The stripe on the helmet, as last year, does contrast by helping the helmet from being awash with the maroon jersey. By duplicating the shoulder stripes, this combination also accomplishes the second design tenet of repetition. The alignment grades well, as it is the same as last year, as does the proximity, which was created by a triangle between the shoulder pad stripes and he helmet stripe. All in all, that makes this the Hokies most superb combination of 2012.
Winner #1 - The Russel Athletic Bowl uniform combo. The old school fighting gobbler logo makes its splashy appearance before retirement. The sweet, bold orange stripe in the middle of the helmet and the maroon face mask were just perfect. Fans clamored for #allmarooneverything all season long, and this iteration got as close to it as possible. Can we petition the athletic department to make that a permanent thing for bowl games only?
2. Maroon standard helmets, maroon throwback jerseys, white pants, black socks and maroon sleeves (North Carolina, Florida State)
In 2011, the Hokies wore these jerseys four times: against Appalachian State, Clemson at home (with both white and maroon sleeves), Miami and Michigan. The only difference in the picture from last year to this year: Clark's addition of sleeve color, allowing us to show the Hokies wearing Maroon sleeves, something they did exclusively in three of the four such games a year ago and against North Carolina and Florida State this year. I ranked this combo second on the list, just behind a very subtle, but important variation of this same uniform combination.
The matted maroon helmet above with the stripes and the orange gobbler are those differences. Without them, this is still a very good look. There is plenty of repetition with the maroon, especially now with maroon sleeves as well. What is lacking however is the repetition of the stripe. There is obvious contrast where the maroon and white meet. It is well aligned and balanced, but while the orange at the top of the uniform has nice proximity, again, the lack of a helmet stripe limits the effectiveness.
3. Wounded Warrior camo helmets, Wounded Warrior white and camo jerseys, white pants, black socks and maroon sleeves (Bowling Green)
The Hokies wore these jerseys once in 2012, a first as far as military themes go at Virginia Tech (to my knowledge). There are some obvious design principles being taken care of here. The repetition is at the forefront of these with the camouflage being echoed throughout the numbers (on the front, back and shoulders) as well as the helmet. Likewise, the maroon facemask along with the maroon sleeves provide this repetition. The way they are arranged provides for both good alignment and contrast, as for the sleeves they are surrounded by pockets of white and camouflage and vice versa. The helmet and the numbers (again front, back and shoulder) make for a nice triangle or even diamond design.
As for proximity, that's where this one struggles most. Nothing is necessarily near one another (except for the shoulder numbers to the sleeves), leaving the canvas other than the numbers and nike swoosh awash with white. But hey, I can't be too critical of a uniform that gave the Hokies a 37-0 victory, can I?
Winner #2 - The Military Appreciation Day uniform combo. The first time I saw the helmet tease, I hated it. I didn't like the old jungle scheme, and wanted the Digicam scheme. However, when I saw the complete uniform combo, and it was for Military Appreciation Day, I softened my stance and it grew on me. Any time we can honor our brave men and women in uniform, who am I to judge? Salute!
4. Maroon helmets, white throwback jerseys, white striped pants, black socks and maroon sleeves (Pittsburgh)
The only difference between this combination and the one below is the color of the sleeves.The Hokies also wore this uniform combination against East Carolina on the road in 2011. I ranked it No. 5 out of 9 a year ago. The stripes provide nice alignment and repetition down the outside edge of the uniform. So too do the helmet and matching sleeves provide good repetition, especially through the maroon numbers, which are the focal point of the two.
As for the mass of white, it's lessened by the maroon sleeves and the black socks. So there is contrast here. Obviously the proximity of the jersey is good. All in all, it's a very simple and understated look that does a lot for me. Maroon where it should be and not a bunch of mismatched, overpowering colors that don't belong.
5. White standard helmets, white throwback jerseys, white striped pants, white socks and maroon sleeves (Clemson)
This is truly a beautiful uniform that was probably not very well appreciated at the time. First off, you have the repetition of the stripes from the shoulders to the pants and since they're both white and the stripes are the same colors/patterns, they enhance the repetition. Sure, there is a lot of white, which is one of the things I'm most critical of, but look at what a good job they did to break it up. The stripes, the sleeves, the v-neck and the numbers (including shoulder numbers) make the white give way to a current of bold maroon. The contrast however, is also there, with each element serving its own purpose and easily identifiable from another element.
The alignment again is very good. The Z principle is definitely in play here (which is where you essentially follow the design of a product in an imaginary z which is created by where your eyes are drawn to). Proximity is also good, though you could argue that the top is a little too cluttered, which is not good design-wise. The only adjustments I would make is either a helmet stripe (which, if you've seen my reviews of the other uniforms, you should know), something I think should be standard on all Tech helmets. If they were able to use the stripe and match the VT logo on the helmet to the one on the v-neck collar, which I believe they have done for this year on away jerseys too (they have for sure on home jerseys), this one would be above the military combo above.
6. Maroon helmets, white throwback jerseys, white striped pants, black socks and white sleeves (Miami)
The Hokies also wore this uniform combination against East Carolina on the road in 2011, minus the white sleeves (wore maroon instead, or the exact combo two ranks above). I ranked it No. 5 out of 9 a year ago, though there are now 12 combinations. While I don't enjoy the white sleeve look here as much as the maroon sleeve one (see the difference two previous combos), it's okay. It does however create a cavalcade of white on the jersey that doesn't stop until you reach the black socks. That's a nice touch, but otherwise there is just too much repetition going on. And because of this (the white repetition and lack of maroon sleeves), the maroon contrast is also too powerful. That said, I prefer the maroon helmet to the white one above if they can make that connection with another major maroon focal point...which has not been achieved here.
The stripes again are the best part of the repetition and the proximity and alignment are generally good, but again, I have to harp on the lack of maroon in the sleeve area which is where it would be natural to look for it. This one is just okay for me. It's certainly better than some of the white uniform options the Hokies sported in 2012. Keep reading to see which ones I'm talking about.
7. Maroon helmets, orange throwback jerseys, plain white pants, black socks and white sleeves (Georgia Tech)
I rated this exact combination, minus the sock color (it was white) No. 6 out of 9 on the list last year. The Hokies wore that combination against North Carolina. Why is this one better (based on the fact that there were 12 uniform combos this year)? Well, two reasons really; 1. The uniforms in 2012 generally were much worse, and 2. That sock color change makes a substantial difference in breaking up all that white at the bottom of the uniform and providing contrast. The white sleeves look good with the other white elements on the jersey, but with so much white below, again, it's awash with white and makes your eyes bleed. Too much repetition IS a bad thing. ALL TOGETHER NOW!
While it is still far from my favorite combination, it's not as bad as the white jersey/orange pants combo that you'll see later on this list.
8. White standard helmets, maroon throwback jerseys, white pants, black socks and maroon sleeves (Duke)
These next two were perhaps the two toughest decisions to make. Both are poor looking combos by my estimation and as I will show, by design principles. The benefit of the doubt goes to the home uni, which although it has this ghastly white helmet (when considering it goes with the maroon uniforms), also has maroon uniforms which means it's not basically ALL white. While the helmet does a good job of repetition with the coinciding shoulder stripes, the white stands out too much and actually detracts from the maroon jersey and sleeves. There's nothing other than those white shoulder stripes and the front and back numbers to connect with. That's too much of a contrast.
As for repetition, the uni top is good. The bottom is also okay, with a decent black sock contrast. The pants, however, don't have the stripes linking them to the top. The alignment doesn't have any issues, and neither does proximity (aside from the helmet which feels all alone on the top half of the combo). Perhaps a white-sleeved, striped version of this uniform would do better. Or, if you've read this far, you'd know that pant stripes and a helmet stripe would immediately rectify this uniform's problems.
9. White turkey track helmets, white throwback jerseys, white striped pants, white socks and maroon sleeves (Austin Peay)
While I'm a fan of the charity Frank Beamer started in his mom's name, Herma's Readers, I've never been a big fan of the uniforms they wore in those games for several reasons. One, I've really never been keen on a home team wearing white. It's just not a good look in football. Basketball teams pull it off, so whether it's just some kind of historically accepted difference or not, it doesn't play well in football. The other main reason I've never liked the Herma's Readers day uniforms is that the Hokies usually play against lightweights (often FCS teams) and either lose or play poorly against them. So I am relating them to those experiences to a degree.
These uniforms are almost exactly the same as the ones the Hokies wore against Clemson, but I think the idea behind wearing these jerseys at home with a fairly unidentifiable helmet logo to establish brand name and wearing those worn on the road at Clemson with the same VT symbol that always appears on Tech helmets (though these are white) makes the difference. Therefore, these find themselves near the bottom of the list. While I won't pout if they're worn only once, and I'll admit it was a neat idea that gets uniform combinations (which can be an effective recruiting or even motivational tool) outside the box, with the way the most recent outside the box uniform combos at Virginia Tech have gone, maybe we just need to keep it simple.
Loser #1 - Ugh. Where to pick? How about the bird track and the Foghorn Leghorn helmets? I mean, that is just insulting. The bird tracks should never happened, and I wonder if the equipment manager had to run to the nearest Wal-Mart and buy up everything in stock for the bird tracks. That's the crap folks put on their car, and it shouldn't be on the helmets. The Foghorn Leghorn helmet was just barf-worthy. No wonder the team tanked in their performances against Boston College and Virginia, beating them both barely. If they bring that up again, I'm going to read somebody the ride act!
10. Maroon helmets, white throwback jerseys, orange striped pants, black socks and maroon sleeves (Cincinnati)
Tech wore this same combination a year ago against Duke, and I rated it the very worst of any of the nine uniforms Tech wore in 2011. Why is it so bad? Because of the pants. It's great to look at the top of the uniform and see the synergy of the sleeves, helmet and numbers which gives a powerful maroon base. It's not even bad to see the stripes having a complement with the orange pants below. But then as you scroll down the pants you realize just how orange they are and how much that detracts from the beautifully put together top half and you want to never see it again. Also, while the stripes would otherwise be repetitious, they are a different color, which throws the eye off and creates more contrast. There is just too much contrast. Alignment and proximity again are spotless within the top of the uniform, but the whole combo is overpowered by the orange pants.
So why, if this uniform combination is so bad, is it not last again? Well, there wasn't a flexing Hokie bird helmet worn in 2011. And sadly, there was in 2012...twice. Which you will find below.
11. White helmets with cartoon Hokiebird, white throwback jerseys, white striped pants, white socks and maroon sleeves (Boston College)
This uniform, along with the one below it, is ruined by the Hokiebird on the helmet. It's too over the top, and the Steelers-esque one-side of the design with numbers appearing opposite it is fake old-school. If you're going to go all out with the logo that is modern (albeit poor for a helmet), go that way. If you want to go numbers on the other side, slap a standard VT (either retro or current) on the other side. That would be a helmet.
This combination only has a slight advantage over the one below: with the exception of the helmet, it's exactly the same as the one the Hokies wore against Clemson. While there is plenty of repetition on top, the white helmet again provides too much as it carries white straight down the entire combination. The maroon sleeves only match with the numbers, while the turkey itself stands alone. Basically, it would be quicker simply to look at the Clemson combo and my analysis of it and then come back and just look at how the helmet tears everything else apart.
12. White helmets with cartoon Hokiebird, orange throwback jerseys, white pants, white socks and maroon sleeves (Virginia)
It's hard to have a complimentary thing to say about this one. While very different from the combo above in several areas, it's perhaps even worse by failing to have one single identifiable feature outside the helmet...and that's not good. There is very little repetition and far too much contrast, making this one a veritable "what in the hell were they trying to do?" case. Seriously, this one just looks like it was thrown together by a child who is dressing themselves for the first time.
While it's more of a 1a and 1b case for me between 11 and 12, design-wise, 12 is by far the more egregious combination. Whichever is worse, I can honestly say that these are the two worst uniform combinations the Hokies have worn in the last decade and a half.
Loser#2 - Can we please, please stop the orange madness?! We are the fans of Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University. We are not Syracuse or Clemson! The white helmet with the orange-ish VT logo was not too shabby, but come on! Give me #allmarooneverything or give me a barf bag.
For more uniform-related news and analysis, including the recently-released uniforms which the Hokies are likely to open the season in tomorrow, Gobbler Country will attempt to keep you covered throughout the 2013 season and beyond. Thanks again to Clark Ruhland for allowing us to use these helpful screenshots of the Hokies uniform combinations.