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What’s the best Northwestern uniform combination?

Storm Trooper, Full Grimace, Lightning Walrus...we talk all the Northwestern color combinations under Under Armour, and even break out a little math to see if the ‘Cats have a Decided Schematic Advantage in any particular chromatic choosing.

Northwestern v Duke
(hint: it’s this one, but not statistically. but almost statistically, too.)
Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images

Northwestern Week marches on!

There’s plenty of time to debate whether the ‘Cats defense can match its 2018 levels of production and to continuously rehash if Hunter Johnson is in fact the Second Coming later...let’s occupy ourselves with something trite, inane, and flashy.

Y’know, like modern college football!

Since switching to UnderArmour in 2012, my beloved Northwestern Wildcats have worn some pretty excellent uniforms...and some pretty terrible uniforms.

On the positive side, the Storm Trooper all-whites have a clean, intimidating look:

Northwestern v Duke
Complete with helmet LIGHTNING WALRUS.
Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images

On the negative side, gray:

Purdue v Northwestern
A red-and-white striped “Sculpted N” goes great with a purple helmet, too.
Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

And on the “what the hell were you thinking” side...

Michigan v Northwestern
Six years later, these uniforms are even more inexplicable.
Photo by Tasos Katopodis/Getty Images

Let’s run down the various “traditional” and “regular alternate” aspects of the Northwestern, explain the various things non-Northwestern fans regularly whine about, and get to ranking some things.

Uniform Traditions


Northwestern’s only official color is purple, though white is the de facto second color—it’s also part of the Northwestern Alma Mater (“Hail to Purple / Hail to White”). Black emerged as a tertiary color, as Northwestern historian extraordinaire Larry LaTourette has noted at Hail to Purple, at the behest of Gary Barnett in 1992. The ‘Cats wore gray pants for much of the 80s, until Barnett nixed that design in 1993, and the scourge that is “Graphite” stayed away from the program until the ill-fated “Wounded Warrior” design of 2013.

The Northwestern Stripes

Perhaps no regular part of the Northwestern uniform has been more controversial than the rugby-style striping across the middle of the jersey.

Love it or hate it, though, this style of striping is actually a Northwestern innovation. Dating back to 1928 (see HTP as well), the Northwestern stripes consist of a thick center stripe surrounded on top and bottom by two narrow stripes. Most prominently, this style has been copied by the New York Giants.

The Sculpted ‘N’

After using serifed N’s throughout the 1970s and briefing switching to a weird script-N logo—which feels like a very 70s thing to do, though I wasn’t there—in 1981 Northwestern adopted its “Sculpted N” logo. Sleek, aerodynamic—unlike Nebraska’s clunky, Bismarckian-wannabe “Iron N”—and definitely not a Z when turned sideways, the Sculpted N is a mainstay of Northwestern jerseys—purple, white, black, and even gray.

“Regular” Alternates

Gothic Jerseys

In case you haven’t been paying attention, Northwestern likes to roll with the campus-inspired Gothic jerseys for special occasions.

These are a throwback to a few different things:

  • The University’s original colors of Black and Gold (all hail the Fighting Methodists!)
  • A helmet design including the Weber Arch, an NU landmark at the intersection of Sheridan and Chicago on the south end of campus, through which new students march before classes begin. The color of the “N”
  • A jersey design adopting the stone patterns on campus buildings interlaced with ivy patterns, to reflect the campus architecture.
  • The Gothic font on the jerseys is also found on most campus signage.

Darren Rovell, intrepid Twitter doofus that he is, accidentally “revealed” (such that it could be considered a revelation) that Northwestern would once again don the Gothics in 2019. (Please let it be for Ohio State...)

‘Cat Head Helmets

Known as anything from Lightning Walrus to Air Force Lite, the ‘Cat Head Helmets are...actually pretty cool? The logo takes the old Northwestern Wildcat head from the no-longer-official N-cat design, superimposing it on the entirety of one or both sides of the helmet.

This has actually become a pretty popular one with whoever chooses the helmets—players, administrators, or Under Armour itself. Half the helmets worn during regular-season games in 2016, for example, featured the ‘Cat Head.

So what uniforms should Northwestern wear in 2019?

Funny you should ask, Bold Headings Guy. I have some thoughts:

1. No more gray.

This is a general rule, and definitely an Old yelling at the Youths. But the Northwestern grays are not only uninspiring, they’re a completely unnecessary addition—Purple, White, and Black are all unique enough colors that they shouldn’t be a problem. Gray washes out on TV, has no tie to the school besides some unfortunately choices in the Denny Green/Francis Peay years, and was done away with by Gary Barnett.

You want your offenses to be like Barnett’s, Fitz. Make your jerseys like his, too.

2. Gothics for Ohio State

Rovell, loveable Medill goober that he is, has already tweeted out a picture of the Northwestern Gothics that the ‘Cats will likely wear for either the Friday, October 18th game against Ohio State, or the Homecoming game against Iowa.

I am all in favor of black and gold for the Ohio State game, because if by some miracle the ‘Cats get it done in the Gothics, the Ohio State black-and-gold road curse will pass into the stuff of legends.

3. Storm Troopers for Stanford

Your body clocks will be thrown off, Fitz—don’t chance it in the California heat. Plus, you’re 6-3 wearing the Storm Troopers on the road (2012 at Cal, 2015 at Duke, 2015 at Nebraska, 2016 at Iowa, 2017 at Maryland, 2018 at Iowa—the losses in 2014 and 2016 at Minnesota, somehow, and 2017 at Duke) and 1-0 at home (2015 Illinois).

There’s a lesson in here about Minnesota being overwhelmingly comfortable with all-whites.

Anyways, 7-3 overall in the Storm Troopers is damn good, and it got me thinking...

What’s Northwestern’s best uniform combination?

A word on methodology: There are way too many small variations on jersey styles—a purple sculpted N versus a white one, the occasional “throwback” helmet, changes in the lettering and what have you. I charted, completely thanks to the meticulous logging of Hail to Purple, each game’s uniform combination—helmet, jersey, and pants—and outcome. The various categories for each article:

  • Helmet: Purple, White, Black, White ‘Cat Head, Purple ‘Cat Head, Black ‘Cat Head, Gothic, White ‘62
  • Jersey: Purple, White, Black, Gray, Gothic
  • Pants: Purple, White, Black, Gray, Gothic

A caveat: It’s entirely possible this has been done somewhere else before. If it’s been done like this, I can only apologize. In the meantime, let’s do some math:

Looking at that...I may have bitten off more than I can chew. I’m a history major, after all. Maybe if I wouldn’t have dropped out of Seawright’s political science methods course. But fuck R. That was the worst.

Here’s what I know, though:

Give me Black-Purple-Black over and over again. That combination—which won the Pinstripe Bowl and Music City Bowl in consecutive years—is a perfect 5-0.

Storm Trooper—my operating assumption for Northwestern’s best color combination—was actually second-best for “qualifying” data, with a .700 winning percentage (7-3), behind only Black-Purple-Black. It’s followed by the .667 winning percentages of Purple-Purple-Black (10-5) and Purple-White-Purple (4-2).

These seem like reasonable conclusions, and this is possibly the most pointless thing I’ve ever written for Off Tackle Empire dot com. I’m so sorry.