CHICAGO — When Purdue visits Kinnick Stadium on Nov. 10, the scoreboard won’t be the only place the Iowa football team will be looking to make a statement.
The Hawkeyes will be making a fashion statement as well, joining a growing number of college football teams adding to their wardrobe collection this fall by wearing alternate uniforms.
In addition to wearing throwback uniforms for the Sept. 8 game against Iowa State to honor championship teams from the early 1920s, Iowa will wear combat-style uniforms for its home game against the Boilermakers.
The Hawkeyes’ look will include silver pants, silver helmets and black-and-gold jerseys that are designed as a tribute to Iowa’s military personnel, containing a logo of branch of the armed forces on the back.
“Everybody is pretty pumped about it. Maybe not coach (Kirk) Ferentz so much, but for the players, it’s a big deal,” defensive back Micah Hyde said Friday at the Big Ten’s annual kickoff event. “We’ve seen an example and it looks pretty sharp.”
Players had a chance to select logos for the branch of the military of their choice.
“I have a friend who has done a couple of tours in Afghanistan and the logo on my uniform honors him and that branch of the armed forces,” quarterback James Vandenberg said.
Iowa altered the look of its helmets for a home game against Michigan as a tribute to the military a year ago, and both Ferentz and director of athletics Gary Barta said Thursday they were not opposed to occasional variances from the traditional Pittsburgh Steelers-style uniforms the Hawkeyes have worn in most years since Hayden Fry’s arrival at Iowa in 1979.
“You’ve seen us over the last couple years try some things,” Barta said. “We’ve dipped our toe in the water, and my guess is that we’ll continue to do that.”
Ferentz, who has repeatedly said he sees nothing wrong with Iowa’s traditional uniform, understands that it is part of a trend in the college game as well as a marketing opportunity.
“Kind of like spread offenses, everybody’s doing it. So, we will, too,” Ferentz said. “The players seem to enjoy it. I think it’s a sign of the times.”
“I have a 14-year-old son who is always showing me on the internet what our uniforms should look like because I guess there is a way you can manipulate uniforms on there,” Barta said. “We haven’t gone to his design yet.”
Iowa players weren’t the only ones talking about slipping into new uniforms on the second day of the Big Ten’s preseason preview of the upcoming season.
Nebraska will shed its usual attire of a red home jersey, white pants and white helmet with a block “N” on the side when Wisconsin visits on Sept. 29.
Instead, uniform supplier adidas has created a Cornhuskers uniform of red pants and red jerseys with a large block “N” on the front of the jersey for use in that game. Instead of white helmets, the team will wear black headgear.
“They look pretty awesome, have a real edge to them,” running back Rex Burkhead said. “We’re all looking forward to putting those on. It will be a different look for us. Everybody is pretty fired up about it.”
Wisconsin will wear an alternate uniform for the game as well, and Michigan unveiled plans earlier this week for a new look for its opener against Alabama.
Northwestern also used the Big Ten event to unveil its new uniforms, which include a broad horizontal stripe running across the front of jersey, purple on the Wildcats’ white road jerseys and black on the team’s purple home jerseys.
“Some people have accused me of being the youngest old-school person in the country, and I’m OK with that,” Northwestern coach Pat Fitzgerald said. “To see the Northwestern stripe, a tradition of our university, prominent in our jersey I think is classy.”