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Ranking Illinois uniform looks since 2000

Which are the best uniforms this century?

Big Ten Football Media Days Photo by Michael Hickey/Getty Images

On Monday, the Fighting Illini dropped their new Nike jerseys, highly anticipated for more than a year. The jerseys were met with mixed reviews.

It gave me an idea: Just how do these jerseys stack up with other jerseys Illinois has worn throughout this century? Let’s take a look:

5: 2023

I don’t think the jerseys are bad. I really don’t. I like the gloss on the helmets to make it pop more. But the jerseys themselves leave a lot to be desired.

The stripes are something new, definitely a reminder of the New England Patriots jerseys. The shirts are solid, I like both the white and the navy. The shorts are fine, though I really don’t like the all-whites.

The main problem is two-fold; first, they look just like Syracuse. They just flipped the stripes. And second, it just makes Illinois less unique. Where is the orange jersey that really shows this is the Fighting Illini and not another orange college team?

With 130 FBS teams you’re bound to have some overlap, but still there should be something unique. Besides the I on the helmet, these are not unique enough.

4: 1989-2004

The last Illinois team to win the Big Ten wore these jerseys. That probably gives a lot of fans a nostalgic feel towards them. I think overall they’re kind of boring, just simple navy and orange mostly, but that’s how most jerseys looked back in the day.

I really do miss the Illinois helmets. Not that the ones we have now are bad, but those were amazing.

Plus, they at least had orange jerseys and you knew this was Illinois you were playing, not Syracuse.

3: 2018-2022

The jerseys Illinois has worn the past few years have been pretty good. The chrome orange helmets with the blue Block I is a sleek look that is unique only to Illinois. The orange jerseys, at least when not worn as a color rush, also are unique.

The blue jerseys are a classic, pretty similar to the alternate Bears jerseys of the 2010s.

The white jerseys are also good, and works as a white-out. These jerseys are their own thing, unlike 2023’s, and are doing more than the boring early 2000s jerseys.

2: 2014-2017

Illinois had a lot of looks over these years. I’d say all of them looked good except for the gray jerseys (whose idea was that?). You had a number of helmets, jerseys, and shorts that were mixed and matched to success.

It may have not led to many wins on the field, but they at least looked stylish. While I think the helmets Illinois now wears are an improvement, I think the overall combination was better in these years. Again, both unique and fashionable, in orange, navy, and white.

1: 2005-2013

Mark Cowan

Illinois’ jerseys from 2005 until 2013 were some of the best ever. They balanced subtlety with splash. The knife of orange from the bottom of the jerseys to the shorts was something not really done before. It worked on both the navy and white jerseys.

Color rush for navy and white both worked.

And the helmets were as good as they got.

The only negative of this era was the orange jerseys were not as clean as the ones of the last decade, and seemed a little off from Illini orange. Nonetheless, these looks get the top nod.