Uniforms have become a huge talking point around the college football landscape. They used to simply be just that, uniforms, but that has changed and today they are key factors in branding for athletic programs and recruiting.
The Fighting Illini have worn many and, well, let’s just be nice and say inconsistently designed uniforms over the course of their history. I combed through that history of Illinois Football uniforms — from this ugly one to this crime against humanity — in order to answer the question: what is the best Illinois Football uniform of all time? Let’s kick off this party with number 10.
10. 2006-2012 Orange-Blue-Blue
Even though Illinois’ first color will always be orange, it’s great when the team mixes up the uniforms and brings out the blue. Back when I played EA Sports NCAA Football (RIP) I wore these uniforms in all five Illinois National Championships I won in Dynasty mode, which alone makes this combo worthy of being on this list.
9. 2006-2012 Orange-White-White
This is the uniform combo that Illinois wore when they beat No. 1 Ohio State on the road in 2007, which gives them sentimental points. This was the default road look for Illinois for their last generation of uniforms. While they could have used a little more blue, they were always a solid look.
8. 2014-Present All-Orange
This looks similar to Clemson in some respects, who has really owned the all-orange look in college football, but Illinois puts out a solid set here that is fantastic for big games as Illini fans make every game an orange-out regardless of what the team is wearing.
7. 2006-2012 Orange-Blue-White
This was for the longest period of Illinois football history, the default color pattern. Orange helmet, with a blue jersey and white pants. It looked the best in the last era of uniforms mostly because of the superiority of the helmets.
6. 2014-Present Orange-Orange-Blue
Illinois only brought this out for one game, a 14-13 night win over Nebraska on a Geronimo Allison TD catch with 10 seconds remaining. Hopefully we will be seeing more of these in the future as the sharp contrast between the orange helmet and jersey, and the blue pants is great and unique.
5. 2006-2012 Orange-Orange-White
This look gets some points knocked off for not having enough blue in it, but it was always a solid look that Illinois used for big games in this uniform era. This shade of orange is also much better than the current “red-orange” from Nike, but to be fair the new “red-orange” matches the navy blue better.
4. 2014-Present All Blue
I usually hate when people use the word ‘clean’ to describe designs today. It’s used often to give credit to boring, uninspired designs — like Penn State — but this look is clean. It’s simple, but extremely impressive. The Orange collar really stands out with this uniform along with the other highlights, and as mentioned before, it’s great to break out the blue sometimes.
I think we may see this look once or twice as Illinois will be facing 6 teams at home with red as a primary color. At least I hope. I never want my eyes to take in another Illinois vs Nebraska 2014 uniform matchup.
3. 2006-2013 Orange-White-Blue
The classic Illini road look that still looks good today. Sadly, this uniform combo is no longer the same in the current issue of uniforms as the white set now uses Orange numbers instead of blue, which ruins the classic design.
2. Dick Butkus Era Uniforms 1962-1964
These are definitely of their time. A classic football look. The helmets are for sure the highlight and this design looks fantastic. These are such a timepiece, but they aren’t just No. 2 on the list for nostalgia. They are incredibly handsome uniforms. The Illini did wear throwbacks that weren’t as impressive, but I still think they are worth rolling out again for when the Illinois Athletic Department finally builds the long overdue statue for Dick Butkus.
1. Current Orange-Blue-Orange
Now this, this is how the Illini should look. The perfect mix of orange and blue, with tremendous contrast between the colors. It screams I-L-L, just begging for you to respond I-N-I. Say what you will about the Nike’s “cookie cutter” uniforms and the underwhelming Illinois rebrand, but they nailed it on these, and that’s why they are the best uniforms Illinois has ever worn.
What are you favorite Illini uniforms of all time? How wrong was I on this list, and how angry did it make you feel? Let us know in the comment section!
Bonus Two Worst Illinois uniforms of all time
2. 2014-Present All white
Ah yes, the “stormtrooper” uniforms. So many recruits and fans love them, so much so they almost every school in the entire country wears some version of All-White uniforms. They are not unique. They are cookie cutter and it’s a shame that a school with a unique color pattern of Orange and Blue has now made these their most used road uniforms of the rebrand era.
1. Gray Ghost
I will concede one thing about the Gray Ghost uniforms, they do look OK. It’s a fine design aesthetically. That being said, they are awful. They are awful because it’s Nike doing what Nike does and making every one of their schools wear gray. It’s a trend. A fad that will soon fade. But Nike had the audacity to make Illinois wear these uniforms that have absolutely no orange in them on Homecoming. And not just for one Homecoming. We will have to see these again this season.
How can a school that has a primary color of orange, and whose fans show up and make a sea of orange each game, not wear orange on Homecoming. Furthermore the idea that these were worn to honor the greatest player in Illinois Football history, Red Grange, is a nice attempt of an excuse, but it’s obvious that Nike just wanted to make gray uniforms, and then made up the story of the inspiration behind them after.
/end of rant
What is the best Illinois Football uniform ever?
This poll is closed
Dick Butkus Era
Other, let us know in the comments.