Bleeding Purple and Gold: A History of the LSU Football Uniform
Erik Aguillard, Sedona Essert, Emily Langlinais, Austin Lipari, Jacob Schaefer, Sutter Sharp
Figure 1 Leonard Fournette wearing the standard jersey
LSU’s uniform is one of the most iconic and recognized uniforms in the NCAA. In a time where many schools use their flashy uniforms with strange colors and patterns as a recruiting ploy, the white jersey and yellow-gold pants plus helmet has been the uniform for most of LSU’s matches. However, LSU has occasionally switched it up for special occasions like when they wore they wore the purple jersey, shown below on LSU legend Patrick Peterson. They have also had to make a few other minor updates to keep up with the continuing advancements made for player safety. This post will go over each major change made over time to the uniform since its inception.
(Figure 2: Patrick Peterson wearing the LSU purple jersey
In the beginning football was much more like what we would call rugby today, and the uniforms were much more like it as well. Players were required to wear “shin guards, rubber noses, head bands, ankle protectors, elbow and hip pads, and ear guards and mouth pieces.” (Daughters). The players also wore grey jerseys with purple trim on arrival to their games at Sportman’s Park. The first uniforms looked very similar to those pictured below (Fig. 3), when the team was led by Coach Charles Coates. (“LSU Uniform History”).
LSU gained the purple and gold colors to represent their team because of a mere accident. When Coach Coates contacted a store to get some ribbon to decorate their uniforms LSU had not officially adopted any colors. He contacted a local store who had been stocking up on ribbon for the upcoming Mardi Gras Season, but had not received green yet. By default Coach Coates was left with Purple and Gold to decorate his team, but he did note that purple and yellow-gold or “old gold” as he calls it both look good together and are indicative of the unique culture of southern Louisiana by being Mardi Gras colors.
The first changes to come were due to forced adherence to the new safety policies of their league. Knee pads were added and the uniform padding was standardized as shown below in Figure 4.
Not pictured in Figure 4 is the original old-school leather helmet that did not have a facemask. The next changes made to the uniform would go on to set the standard for the next 75 years and beyond.
In the 1950’s under Paul Dietzel LSU originally dawned the gold pants and white jerseys that have been the standard and sign of the simple, but elegant football LSU played on the field. After using it to win a national championship in 1958 LSU kept the look pictured below in Figure 5 on Heisman-Winner Billy Cannon for good luck.
This jersey was used in every game LSU played until a sudden NCAA rule change in 1983 that prohibited any home team from wearing white jerseys. This was the beginning of an era of what the more superstitious fans call bad luck. In LSU’s purple home jerseys during the Curley Hallman Era (1991-1994) LSU has a 2-9 season which was the worst ever. It was the worst period since the program’s inception. However, some positive LSU moments came in the purple jerseys including 2 SEC championships (1986 and 1988) and the “earthquake game” (“LSU Uniform History”).
In 1995 Coach Gerry Dinardo was hired and immediately began efforts to lobby the NCAA to revert the new uniform guidelines regarding white jerseys. After multiple attempts, he was successful and in the home owner the next season unranked LSU upset number five Auburn 12-6. Later on in 1997 LSU with its original swagger back took down number one ranked Florida in Baton Rouge and made the cover of Sports Illustrated with their classic look.
The only other changes recently have been to continue with the small updates for player safety. The NCAA’s most recent new rules included banning overbuilt facemasks as they were cited as being a hazard to players on the field. The NCAA also banned players from wearing undersized jerseys before the season last year (Puryear). However, while LSU’s looks still remains the classic style they have begun to successfully experiment with alternate uniform options to add a new twist for special occasions.
The most used alternate was the sleek look of the deep purple jersey with the white or gold pants and helmet as shown at the top on Patrick Peterson, but LSU also has an alternate version of their pants not many people remember, pictured below in Figure 6.
In 1995 LSU tried out new purple pants in a match they were heavily favored in versus Kentucky. LSU went on to get upset 16-24 and have never worn the pants ever again keeping with the superstitious nature of the uniforms history (“LSU Uniform History”).
Even though there have been a minor number of changes or alternates, LSU’s history of the uniform is more interesting than many people think. While the actual changes may have been minor and mostly due to updating rules of competition, there is still a rich history around how we got our original colors and fought for the right to wear them more than once. From the classic sports superstitions to lobbying rule changes for the NCAA the place of the tiger’s classic uniform will forever be cemented in the memories of college football.
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Daughters, Amy. “The Evolution of Football Equipment.” Bleacher Report. N.p., 12 Apr. 2017. Web. 23 Apr. 2017.
Fig. 1 Ryan Wright. Leonard Fournette 10/15/15, 11:30 AM EDT. “12 Amazing Facts About LSU RB Leonard Fournette After Five Games in 2015.” AthlonSports.com. N.p., 15 Oct. 2015. Web. 26 Apr. 2017. <https://athlonsports.com/college-football/12-amazing-stats-about-lsu-rb-leonard-fournette-after-five-games-2015>.
Fig. F. Loede, Matt. Patrick Peterson. Digital image. 49ersgab.com. N.p., 22 Apr. 2011. Web. 25 Apr. 2017. <http://www.49ersgab.com/2011/04/22/lsu-cb-patrick-peterson-pays-the-49ers-a-visit/>.
Fig. 3. Finney, Peter, and Dan Hardesty. LSU. Digital image. Golden Rankings. N.p., n.d. Web. 25 Apr. 2017. <http://goldenrankings.com/lsu1908.htm>.
Fig. 4. Martin, Mark, and Barry Cowan. LSU Historic Photos of LSU Football. Nashville: Turner Publishing Company, 2009. Print.
Fig. 5. Cannon & Dietzel. Digital image. Diamonds in the Rough. N.p., n.d. Web. 25 Apr. 2017. <http://www.diamondsintheroughauctions.com/diamondsintheroughauctions/content/1926562/Billy-Cannon-Collection>.
Fig. 6 . Lopez, Andrew. Purple Pants. Digital image. NOLA. N.p., 16 Sept. 2016. Web. 25 Apr. 2017. <http://www.nola.com/lsu/index.ssf/2016/09/gold_jerseys_and_purple_pants.html>.
“LSU uniform history.” Saturday Down South. N.p., 08 Apr. 2015. Web. 25 Apr. 2017.
Puryear, Natasha. “How Did Football Get Started in America?” LIVESTRONG.COM. Leaf Group, 19 Dec. 2010. Web. 27 Apr. 2017