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Ranking Virginia Tech's 2011 Uniform Combinations

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For those of you who own the HokieFootball Annual (HFA) Vol. 2 (2011 edition), you may remember Chris Colston doing a similar uniform combination ranking for the 2009-10 uniform combinations (you can see my interview with Colston about the 2012 edition here). Although Colston's rankings were pretty agreeable and comprehensive, the Hokies have introduced several new uniform combinations in the year and a half since his rankings were conducted.

So, with the release of the 2012 White Out helmet Saturday (and the internet's unflattering reaction to them), and future uniform variations sure to rear their head in the near future (including the military themed camouflage helmets to be worn against Bowling Green in 2012 for Military Appreciation Day), I think it's time to rank the 2011 uniform combinations before they get swept under the rug and retired a la Oregon.

You'll find all of the Hokies' 2011 uniform combinations, as well as a tool that will have you playing around and tinkering with Tech uniforms until the end of time, right after the jump.

There are a lot of reasons to love teams introducing new uniforms. It generally excites the fan base. It excites the players. It can even be a powerful recruiting tool and sometimes gives a team a psychological advantage over their opponents. But in the last few years since the advent of Nike Pro Combat and Under Armour's foray into specialized uniforms, new uniforms have taken over the college landscape and in one blogger's humble opinion, gotten a little out of control. We have now reached a point of no return in college athletics where a team will be changing uniforms every year or two, essentially rebranding themselves in the process.

The idea of yearly or biyearly uniforms took hold in European soccer before it made its way stateside and into collegiate sports. As a soccer fan, I find it one of the most disgusting parts of the game. Teams are constantly throwing out uniforms for the newer and faddier alternatives, even if the color schemes have nothing to do with their club and have never appeared on any of their previous uniforms. Furthermore, the continuous fluttering of sponsors on the uniform (the turnover of which has slowed since the late 90's) makes it nearly impossible for fans of a team to stay in their team's current gear unless they are filthy rich.

But, as it applies to Virginia Tech, I appreciate the program for opening the door to allow some new influence and ideas in. Though during some eras of Virginia Tech football there was experimentation in regards to the uniforms, after the late 90's and early 2000's, it's nice to see that there are actually more uniform options than "what color of pants will we wear?" The uniforms we have seen over the last couple of years (and specifically the last two years) are symbolically representative of the metamorphosis that the program has undergone in that time period, and yet, in many cases true to the program's roots.

Below I rank the nine different uniform combinations the Hokies used in 2011, paying attention to the history of Virginia Tech's uniforms and the principles of design. All of the images seen below are screenshots from Clark Ruhland's Virginia Tech Uniform Builder. If you're not familiar with it, I suggest you go there now. Are you back? Okay good, now onto the rankings.

1. Maroon striped helmets, maroon throwback jerseys, plain white pants and white socks (Georgia Tech)- What is there to say about this other than this combo was absolutely awesome. The stripe on the helmet did it for me. I said that Tech fans typically grow to love the Hokies uniforms and helmets, even the ones they hated (or threw up in their mouth when they saw them) initially. This uniform grew so quickly on me, that from the time when they entered the field and I sighed "another stripe!?" and kickoff, I went from disgust to "I can't believe how awesome these things look!"

Everything else with this uniform combination is similar to the one below, but the addition of the stripe made us look slick. 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!


2. Maroon helmets, maroon throwback jerseys, white pants and black socks (Appalachian St., Clemson, Miami, Michigan)- This is currently the default home uniform combination, and surprisingly the Hokies only used it three times in 2011. When they re-introduced as their default jersey in 2010, it was met with mixed reactions around the Virginia Tech fan base. New-agers loved the 2008-09 zany, space-aged uniforms while Tech life-longs loved the look as it paid homage to the Hokies uniforms of old. I have to admit, I thought they were a bit bland at first, but certainly better put together than our early 2000's throwbacks that looked like they were made by Bike (not Nike).

Though they are simplistic, I think these uniforms represent Tech very well. In many ways Tech's football program and much of its fan base are about doing things the old way. These uniforms aren't frilly, they're not over-the-top or overstated, they just symbolize the Hokies dedication to hard work and getting things done. Simple. Traditional. Effective. That's C.R.A.P. right there!


3. White throwback helmets, white throwback jerseys, striped white pants and black socks (Wake Forest)- Looking at No. 3 and No. 4, you may realize that the only difference in these uniforms is the color of the socks the team wore, but technically, that does count as a uniform variation. So, I like the black socks over the white. Too much white is, well, exactly that. Some people like the all white look, and although I did rank it third, I think the stripes on the throwback jersey and the throwback helmet do it for me. Otherwise, this would be near the bottom.

However, this uniform combination works with C.R.A.P. for several reasons, not the least of which is it has some pretty obvious contrast (black socks) and repetition (a lot of white, duh!). I like it for the same reasons as I like the default home uniform above. It's simple, it's effective and it doesn't pull any punches.


4. White throwback helmets, white throwback jerseys, striped white pants and white socks (Arkansas St., Virginia, Clemson (ACC Championship Game))- Again, these uniforms are almost identical to those above, but they include one subtle uniform change: white socks. I swear I'm not trying to play "how many differences can you find between these two pictures?" At any rate, I still like these uniforms, but at the risk of sounding a bit ridiculous, I must say that I enjoy the uniforms above more because of their lack of total and absolute uniformity. When there is no contrast, it's no fun, i.e. the uniform displayed below that was used against Arkansas St., UVA and Clemson in the ACC Championship Game.


5. Maroon helmets, white throwback jerseys, white striped pants and black socks (East Carolina)- I was not a big fan of this uniform combination live, but looking at it in pictures I came to a different conclusion. First off, there is excellent repetition and proximity with the stripes running along the shoulders and down the side of the pants. You can almost imagine the stripes running straight down the uniform to meet at the pant-line. Of course that doesn't happen, it's a play on your mind. But it's cool to imagine. As for contrast, this uniform has the perfect amount. A maroon helmet helps to prevent the uniform from being bland, breaking up a sea of white. Additionally, black socks give it just enough color at the bottom of the uniform to do the same. That's mostly C.R.A.P.!


6. Maroon helmets, orange throwback jerseys, white pants and white socks (North Carolina)- Keep in mind when looking at this uniform combination that the Hokies wore their long white socks, giving their entire legs coverage (Because it was cold dammit!) and creating a continuous white blob from waist to toe. But, the repetition there is obvious. Unfortunately they wore plain white pants, which renders the shoulder stripes all by their lonesome. As for the helmet, it's nice that they were able to add a touch of maroon to the top of the uniform to go with the maroon stripes. All in all, this is not a terrible uniform combination, but I would prefer for them to continue to use it when it's too cold to care about such things.


7. Orange striped helmets, white throwback jerseys, orange striped pants and black socks (Marshall)- Now we enter the realm of bad uniform combinations. One of the main tenants of design is to keep it simple and not cluttered. This is the opposite of that. Where to start...okay, so the Helmet and the pants/stripes match, but they are not aligned with or in proximity to one another. Complicating this is the white jerseys with maroon and orange stripes that are vertically symmetrical to the pant stripes are different colors, bringing out a clash between the two. And to top it off, we've got black socks ladies and gentlemen. I like the black sock look ordinarily, but when there is already too many different colors and designs going on around it, stick with repetition.


8. White throwback helmets, orange throwback jerseys, white pants and black socks (Boston College)- Okay, so there is a lot going on here. You have the connection between the white helmet and pants, but again, black socks here serve to disrupt that. There is a little repetition and proximity going on between the coloration of the VT logo on the helmet and its white background and the white/maroon shoulder stripes and the orange background. Again though, there is a disruption of the stripes, as they just seem to disappear into space with the plain white pants. The only uniform combination I have seen used where this is not an issue would be the maroon top with plain white pants. Perhaps the stark contrast between the much darker maroon and white serves as a visual cutoff and complete separation of the two elements at the waistline.


9. Maroon helmets, white throwback jerseys, orange striped pants and black socks (Duke)- Wow...okay, well we're here. Finally I unveil the worst uniform the Hokies trotted out in 2011. Again we have the mismatch of colors between the shoulder stripes and pant stripes, but at least the helmet is a little less busy. The problem is, the helmet only matches the maroon stripes on the shoulders, but is otherwise unrelated to rest of the uniform, appearing out of place. Furthermore, this uniform combination could've really used white socks. With the orange and white theme going here, I will lodge the same complaint I did with the Marshall uniform (No. 7).

Overall, there is just too much going on here. It's cluttered, lacking repetition and alignment, though the maroon helmet/shoulder stripe triangle is again present, it lacks the staying power of the Georgia Tech helmet stripe/shoulder stripes combination (No. 1). While there is incredible color and design contrast, it is too much. This is the kind of jersey your eyes look at and say "I don't know where to look first (or next)." It's bold in all the wrong ways. This uniform is proof positive that you can have too much of a good thing.


Again, thanks to Clark Ruhland for permission to use images from his Uniform Builder. If you have extra time or just want to see what kind of uniform combinations you can make (good or bad) go to town.

For complete coverage gearing up for the 2012 Virginia Tech football season, Gobbler Country is your way to go. Keep checking back with us as we've got more ideas kicking around the think tank.