The Atlantic Coast Conference has a long and colorful history to its football uniforms, which feature many twists and turns. You could say the whole “alternative uniforms” trend was started a long time ago by some of the former Southern Conference members who formed the ACC.
There have been times in the past where programs completely changed school colors, like when Clemson officially went to “Northwestern purple and burnt orange” because in the 1930s head coach Jess Neely grew tired of the pale purple and gold starting to fade too fast from multiple washings. Or the time in the '40s when Pitt head coach Clark Shaughnessy switched the team to red and white uniforms because he thought it made the players look bigger. Or how Virginia Tech’s original school colors were black and grey and their athletic teams used them to form stripes that more resembled prison uniforms. Or how Virginia’s grey and red uniforms were thought not to stand out well enough on muddy football fields, so the Cavaliers adopted blue and orange to replace it.
With that colorful history, fast forward to today. Who has the best uniforms in the modern-day ACC? Find out here.
-- Rankings by Eric Sorenson, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. He is a college football, college baseball and college hockey addict... and writer. Follow him on Twitter @Stitch_Head.
The elephant in the room is that the nickname is "Orange." Yes, the color orange. The word that rhymes with no other word in the dictionary. Changing from "Orangemen" to "Orange" made any uniform decisions a bit tough, especially when it comes to dressing up the helmet on a football team. The block "S" is fine but there is just so much else you can do with these uniforms. The times they go orange-on-orange tops and bottoms with orange helmets is just so garish. Oh, and the numbers font looks like something out of the original "Roller Ball" ... the one from 1975. Ew.
13. Boston College
In the 1880s T.J. Hurley (who wrote the school fight song) and a committee of students came up with the school colors and decided to go with two of the papal colors. But I don’t think they intended for the gold part of the maroon and gold to be so, so... bland. It’s a dull gold. And when you have that dull gold on the helmet, with no logo or mascot on it. It’s easy to put BC this low on the list. By the way, BC’s top-flight hockey team wears that dull gold as a jersey from time to time. Sure they’ve won some national championships, but not in the design and appeal departments.
12. NC State
There has been nothing special about the Wolfpack uniforms over the years. They’re mostly blah. Adidas needs to step up its game with them. I do like the recent addition of the old-school wolf decal on the white helmets that we have seen on occasion. Other than that, the red, black and white could be so much better. But at least they changed the school colors from their original colors that they used for the football team in the 1890s: pink and blue.
11. North Carolina
The Wolfpack’s rivals aren’t in much better shape uniform-wise, handicapped mightily by their baby blue school colors. Yes you just can’t get that kind of blue to look tough and intimidate opponents. The interlocking “NC” on the helmet is just a tad too big (go back to the stepladder UNC if you ask me) but on the positive side, I love the argyle stripe on top of the helmet. It’s very unique, albeit not all that tough-looking. Baby blue is just better as a basketball uniform.
The old saying goes that the distance between Duke and UNC is “eight miles and a couple of shades of blue.” But boy howdy, I’d much rather have the royal blue of the Devils than the Tar Heels powder blues. The Devils do have a good thing going with the double stripes on the shoulder and on the pants. The helmets are tough to make look good, it seems like the double stripe would’ve been a nice touch there, but instead the Dookies decided to go with a single fat blue stripe.
I’ve never been a big fan of the Hurricanes and their orange, green and white. Especially since they have emphasized the orange way too much over the years. And I know this may be blasphemous, but that “U” on the helmet? Completely weak. Never liked the design of the lids. But the Hurricanes have recently incorporated more of their appealing dark green in their togs. That’s a good choice. It’s tougher looking. And that’s what the Hurricanes need more of anyway: toughness. Looks like they’ll get more of it this season.
The combination of orange, blue and white is something that could be done poorly. Look at Syracuse. But the Cavaliers have done it right, with their navy blue tops and the strong “V” with crossed swords under it as the helmet decal. Back before 1990 the Cavs went with a plain white helmet with just a stripe down the middle. Thankfully that has changed. The best thing is the recent addition of grey facemasks and the white helmet. It’s just a look you don’t see much of anymore and it’s cool. Also, they’ve put white and orange stripes on the shoulders of the navy blue jerseys. Well done Wahoos.
The Cardinals have a ton of different uniform combinations. Back in 2006 I went to a UofL game where they wore their “black out” uniforms, which were rather terrible, but it coincided with the sellout crowd to make a frenzied atmosphere. But when you go with the usual red jerseys and white pants, the Cards' unis are pretty good. The shiny red chrome helmets are personal faves, but feel free to choose your favorite Cardinal uniforms. Like Georgia in the SEC, the red, black and white combo is pretty good, even though they do it wildly different from the way the Bulldogs do it.
6. Wake Forest
It’s too bad that many college football fans don't get to see the Deacons uniforms because they are rarely on the main stage of our sport. But Wake has some really cool get-ups and they are accentuated by their school colors of old gold and black (in fact, at one time their team nickname was the “Old Gold and Black”). It’s a little difficult dealing with a mascot that essentially is a man wearing a tuxedo jacket and a top hat, so it’s easy to see why a simple “WF” adorns the helmet. But the helmets are tough looking, whether it is the matte black or the gold chrome.
Since Tony Dorsett’s days where he was tearing through defenses with the royal blue and bright gold uniforms in the mid-70s, the Panthers have long had some of the more impressive togs in the country. Although they strayed toward the navy blue in recent years, a move toward the more recognizable royal blue is a good step. The script “Pitt”, even if it’s on the blue helmets, is iconic. Even though I always thought back in the '80s that Pitt should’ve gone with the USFL-like Michigan Panthers logo. In lieu of that, the script “Pitt” is still cool enough. And I know what you guys are asking, “Who the hell are the Michigan Panthers?” Understood.
4. Virginia Tech
It almost seems like a joke. “Hey, let’s make our school colors maroon and orange.” Sounds like Halloween gone wrong, but you know what? The Hokies make it work and it is a unique and very stout look. But what would you expect from a program that walks out to a Metallica song? I don’t know why but their dark-on-dark maroon uniforms work really well for the Gobblers. The white-and-orange shoulder stripes are some of the best in the business. They’ve gone to wearing white helmets (with white pants) from time to time now, but when you have a very nice “VT” logo it matters not what color the lid is.
There are plenty of odd uniform combinations to the Tigers, but the bright orange can be a tad too over the top, especially when they go all orange in many of their home games. It just makes it look like your plasma TV screen is bleeding out. But the combination of orange and purple may sound like a terrible idea, until you see it on the Clemson uniform. And it actually works. And the best part is the every omnipresent “paw” from their helmets. It’s an iconic mark that you see everywhere, including painted on the streets into and out of campus.
2. Georgia Tech
The Ramblin’ Wreck have long had a traditional look about them that hasn’t gone through much change over the years. And there is no reason they should. True, they always wear their white jerseys, but coupled with the brushed gold helmets and pants and the navy-and-white stripes on the pants and sleeves, it’s just a solid touch. The latest addition is the incorporation of the white “honeycomb” design on the helmets. Absolutely outstanding.
1. Florida State
That kind of garnet and old gold is just too good to overlook. Sure there are a lot of superfluous additives like the “tribal markings” on the collar and the sleeves and the tomahawk stickers on the helmet seem to have no uniformity. But the garnet and gold is an outstanding partnering and the cool-looking font of the numbers is always a winning touch. The spear adorned on the helmet is something every college football fan recognizes.