Hawkeyes unveil first gold uniform with throwback ‘wings’

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Where they rank among uniforms of the past depends on the outcome

Iowa quarterback Nate Stanley shows off the new Hawkeyes’ new gold alternate uniforms. (University of Iowa photo)

The new uniforms the Hawkeyes unveiled Thursday are striking in a couple of ways.

First, they’re gold, which is a first for Iowa football. And second, the striping across the shoulders and on the pants evoke the wings of the notorious Apex uniforms Iowa wore from 1994-95.

After a day full of teases from the Hawkeyes‘ social media team that included a players’ reaction video — they celebrated — the uniforms were unveiled in a… bold video featuring Nate Stanley, A.J. Epenesa, Brandon Smith and… the bird that played Mordecai in the Royal Tennenbaums?

I have no idea if that’s true but I have no reason to doubt Tom from Santa Monica. Plus it adds to the legend. This bird starred in a movie.

And its latest character leaves an impact, showing a range from deadly staredowns to looking as shocked as I was when I saw the gold jerseys, the gold facemasks and the Apex wings / Banana peels / whatever you want to call them.

I never thought I’d see the day those returned to the field. But it will happen on October 12 against Penn State. Look for this game to move under the lights, yet nothing has been announced yet.

Oddly enough, the game isn’t the goldout game. That’s two weeks earlier against Middle Tennessee State. The Nittany Lions come into Kinnick for the Black & Gold Spirit Game. That works when you consider the striped pattern on the shoulders will be duplicated in the stands.

The black on gold looks great with no white to muddy it up, but reactions were surprisingly mixed online. (The original winged uniforms didn’t exactly have the best track record, even if they had a track star.)

Iowa’s Tim Dwight runs with the ball during a 31-20 loss against Northwestern at Dyche Stadium in Evanston, Illinois on November 11, 1995. (Jonathan Daniel / Getty Images)

Will they stand the test of time or be better off forgotten? I love ’em, but what happens on the field will ultimately dictate how the history is written on the gold debut.

Which is why I now give you the very best of Hawkeyes uniforms, according to me and me alone. Your thoughts may vary. In fact, they probably will.

I was going to go top 5, but that seems cliché and Iowa has been pretty consistent since Hayden Fry flipped the switch in 1979. And also… Local 4.

But first … the worst:

2012 vs. Purdue

Iowa tight end C.J. Fiedorowicz (86) celebrates with wide receiver Kevonte Martin-Manley (11) after pulling down a five-yard touchdown pass during Purdue’s win over Iowa on November 10, 2012, in Iowa City, Iowa. (AP file photo)

Silver pants, silver helmets and mismatched Tigerhawks — one black and one an American flag. The numbers were a thin, sometimes Cubs-like serif font, sometimes Steelers-ish modern font. It was a radical departure at the time, but kind of a mess. More of a “Huh?” than a “Wow!”

But it drew tons of interest. Plus it was at the peak of the Iowa-Purdue protected rivalry and the Hawkeyes abandoned the black and gold dominance each team was fighting for. (Slight exaggeration there.) Yes, it was for a good cause — honoring veterans — but the buzz at the time was these were “our Pro Combat” uniforms, the heavily designed Nike looks that didn’t really arrive to Iowa for five more years.

And now the best…

4) Current: 1999-present, 1979-1993

Iowa wide receiver Kevonte Martin-Manley (11) of the Iowa Hawkeyes salutes the fans after scoring a touchdown against the Wisconsin Badgers, on November 22, 2014 at Kinnick Stadium, in Iowa City, Iowa. (Photo by Matthew Holst/Getty Images)

Full disclosure: I grew up a Dallas Cowboys fan, so I don’t like the Pittsburgh Steelers.

I recognize what the change to these knockoffs and the Tigerhawk did for the program and that the Hayden Fry coaching tree took the idea of modeling themselves after successful football programs with them: Bill Snyder with the Powercat and Cowboys-based uniforms at Kansas State and Barry Alvarez and the Motion W and a look inspired by… Nebraska? Well, I guess it’s like a game of telephone as time goes on.

The Iowa duds are timeless, but they are also very much Pittsburgh’s. The custom numbers added last year help, as did the Steelers’ divergence to italics in 1997, but the truth remains that the Hawkeyes brand is derivative in a creative era.

3) 2015 vs. Minnesota

Iowa offensive lineman Austin Blythe (63) waits to take the field before a win over Minnesota on November 14, 2015 at Kinnick Stadium, in Iowa City, Iowa. (Photo by Matthew Holst/Getty Images)

Most of the absolute best Iowa games I’ve attended ended up as losses … like the first Orange Bowl. Thank you C.J. Jones for the opening kickoff return that became the ultimate highlight … briefly … until C.J. Beathard to Tevaun Smith for 85 yards helped Indianapolis feel an earthquake during the 2015 Big Ten Championship Game. But alas, both Ls.

So when I think back to unbelievable atmospheres or big moments I’ve witnessed, I find myself coming back to the Hawkeyes hosting Minnesota in a blackout game at night that extended the dress code to the field. The “Hypnotize” mobile phone light show tradition started spontaneously that night and continues to this day and the team was on its way to its first 12-0 regular season, so it was a 40-35 celebration. Not to mention Floyd of Rosedale, the best rivalry trophy, was at stake. Plus, the opening act at Kinnick was the No. 3 Hawkeyes wrestling team setting an outdoor attendance record and taking down No. 2 Oklahoma State.

Are the uniforms creative? Not particularly. But black and gold can stand alone and boldly did that night, from the custom numbers and an updated ANF sticker to a subtle IOWA across the chest and an enlarged helmet Tigerhawk. It was their first real step into a larger world.

2) 1996-98 vs. everybody

Iowa running back Tavian Banks moves down the field during a game against Northwestern at Ryan Field in Evanston, Illinois, on November 16, 1997. The Hawkeyes lost the game 15-14. (Jonathan Daniel / Allsport / Getty Images)

Tim Dwight. Tavian Banks. This guy next to Obie at the Orange Bowl.
I said above I like the tradition of the Steelers look, but I prefer this twist that added IOWA across the chest, modified the stripes and added Tigerhawks to the sleeves and pants.

Some say they look like knockoffs of the originals, but since that’s exactly what the current Steelers-inspired uniforms are, I can easily forgive it. I realize some cannot.

1) 2017 vs. Ohio State

Fans storm the field after the Iowa Hawkeyes upset the Ohio State Buckeyes on November 04, 2017 at Kinnick Stadium in Iowa City, Iowa. (Photo by Matthew Holst/Getty Images)

These were the first genuine non-throwback Hawkeyes alternates that looked like a designer spent some quality time with. It’s all in the details, like the hundreds of I’s filling the numbers and covering the helmets that help you forgive the intrusion of gray into Iowa’s simple, classic color scheme. (Unlike the silver in 2012.)

Plus, hindsight is 55-24.

Ryan Jaster writes a weekly predictions column during football season for HawkeyeHQ.com and previously wrote and edited for CBS Sports, the Quad-City Times and the Chicago Tribune. He posted this while wearing a gold Hawaiian shirt, so clearly he knows fashion. You can follow his Hawkeye musings at @Hawkologist.

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