History of the
Inexplicably, in 1934 NU reverted to wearing the 1928 style white
with no shoulder panels and no numbers on the front.
PANTS: The team again
wore purple pants.
The purple jersey remained the same style as it had since 1929, but
in 1935 the white jersey had regained the front numbers and now had a
collar. This white jersey would be a staple for the Wildcats for
decades. Occasionally, however, some players wore a jersey with a
HELMET: For only the
1935 season the front panel of NU's helmets was painted white.
For the rest of
the Thirties NU wore plain dark leather helmets.
JERSEY: Finally, in
1937 NU's purple jersey joined its white counterpart and featured
sleeve stripes. Along with the white version, this jersey would
a classic, and was used for 20 years.
NU used both the white and purple jerseys during this time except for
through 1943 and 1946 through 1947. During these years NU wore only
white jerseys. Though he may have worn a purple jersey in
practice, NU star Otto Graham never wore one in a game.
Wildcat legend Ed Tunnicliff, at the 1949 Rose Bowl tribute before the 2019 UNLV game.
Tunnicliff is wearing his Rose Bowl game jersey! [BTN screen capture]
HELMET: NU wore
black leather helmets through 1939. In 1940 NU became the first college team to wear a modern plastic helmet (click here to read more about NU's experimental helmet). The dark purple shell helmet had a black attached strip
vertically and a white strip that ran across the forehead,
covered by the black vertical strip. The 'Cats wore the dark
helmets through 1944.
In 1945 NU switched back to leather helmets with the cross-hatch style.
the late Forties through 1953 NU's players used both leather and
The 'Cats switched for good to modern shell helmets in 1954. The
helmets were white, had no face guards, and had a purple stripe pattern
to the northwestern sleeve stripes. This helmet was also worn in
PANTS: Pants used
during this period started with purple in 1937. In 1938 the
team switched to tan, and used tan through 1942. During 1942, the
wore tan for non-conference games with the service schools and (for the
time) white pants for Big Ten opponents. The 'Cats added a purple
to the white pants in 1943 and used that style through 1951, when, mid
they switched back to tan. The tan pants lasted three seasons.
went back to white pants in 1954 and added two stripes to the pants in
JERSEY: By 1956, NU's uniform
had changed very little in over twenty years. Parseghian's first
years saw continuous changes to the uniform, starting with the white
in 1956. The jersey numbers changed to a rounded font similar to
used by UCLA. Strangely, the numbers on the purple jersey did not
HELMET: NU's white
helmet now had a completely rounded, modern shape and also featured a
The stripe pattern changed to two stripes, as shown.
and white jerseys now shared the same new style. Not only did
sport UCLA-style numbers, they featured UCLA-style stripes as well,
the shoulders. The style lasted just one season.
HELMET: Same style as
1956, now with players' numbers on the side, in black.
white, with two purple stripes.
1958 (Purple); 1959
After a year using the same
style for its purple and its white jerseys, NU went back to using
styles for each. It also went back-- way back-- for its jersey
The purple jersey was absolutely plain, with white block numbers
the front and back, the same jersey worn in 1929. The white
however, returned to using northwestern stripes on the sleeves.
1959 the white jersey lost its stripes, and both were identical and
plain, with plain block
HELMET: In 1958 the
helmet lost its stripes. This helmet would last nearly a decade.
PANTS: NU lost the
purple stripes on its white pants as well in 1958.
Parseghian's final changes to the jersey would last for well over a
decade. For the first time numbers were put on the shoulders,
between the shoulder pad and the sleeve. This style would
remain throughout Alex Agase's period as coach.
HELMET: The 'Cats
to wear plain white helmets with player numbers on the sides through
(the numbers were larger during 1966-1967 than they were during
In 1968 NU changed to an all-purple helmet that, for the first
featured a logo-- the connected "NU" design.
PANTS: In 1962 the two
purple stripes returned to NU's white pants (for the
1963 season only, NU wore purple pants on the road).
Pont administration made one minor change to the uniform during its
year at NU. Stripes returned to the sleeve for the first time
1956; however, it was just one stripe, an elastic stripe at the end of
HELMET: No major
change. For the 1975 season only, the white faceguard was altered, and
NU used an oversized plastic faceguard.
JERSEY: In 1976 Pont brought back the
northwestern striping to the jersey sleeve.
Together for the first time with shoulder numbers (now higher on
shoulders), the striping produced what is THE classic Northwestern
Classic or not, it was used for just two years.
1976 was the
and final year for the purple "NU" helmet with no stripes. When
the 'Cats opened the 1977 season at Iowa, the players decided to take
the logos off their helmets, spiritually disassociating themselves from
the 1-10 NU team of 1976, and called themselves "Phantoms." After
the game (a 24-0 loss), the players abandoned the Phantom look and the
plain purple helmet. For the rest of the 1977
the 'Cats wore a purple "NU" helmet that featured two white stripes.
JERSEY: In 1978, as Rick Venturi took
over the team, the jersey lost its
stripes and reverted to the 1960 style.
introduced a new helmet: white, with one purple stripe and the "NU"
logo in purple.
PANTS: The white pants
in 1978 also
changed, with just one purple stripe used down the side. For a
of games in 1978, including the last two home games, NU wore purple
with a white stripe. It was the first all-purple uniform for NU
1979 (Purple); 1980
JERSEY: Venturi, in
his second season, introduced one of the boldest changes to the NU
In 1979 the purple jersey featured white sleeves with a wildcat
image. The white jersey, however, remained the same as 1978:
white, no stripes, purple numbers on the front and low on the
The 1980 purple jersey was the same as 1979, and NU made the
white jersey consistent,
adding the wildcat head image on purple sleeves.
HELMET: Two more
under Venturi, two more helmets: both kept 1978's white shell with one
stripe. The 1979 helmet featured the short-lived "Script n" logo.
1980 version had the even shorter-lived "Script Cats" logo.
PANTS: Pants for both
years were the same as before-- white, with one purple stripe.
However, for some (but not all) road games in 1979-80 the 'Cats
With Pont and Venturi's exit, the two-toned uniform left as well.
1981, Dennis Green's first team wore jerseys identical to the 1960
purple, no stripes, white numbers on the front and low on the shoulders.
HELMET: For the fifth
in a row, NU wore a new helmet onto the field. However, unlike
others, the 1981 design would not only stick around, it would become
of the all-time defining images of the team and of the University.
was the most important uniform change since "northwestern striping" was
to the jerseys in 1928.
NU went with a plain purple helmet, no stripes, and a white face mask.
logo, in white, was a brand new design, created for Northwestern by
Stromberg. The design (variously called the "Athletic N,"
N," or "Sculpted N") was distinctive and modern; however, by its
and its placement on a plain field of purple, it harkened to NU's
athletic letter designs and tied in school tradition. The variant
design, with interlocked 'Cat-head, would take its place alongside the
N" logo a couple of years later, but the helmet's simple, flaired N
remained the more formal and elegant of the two, and remained on the
For NU's intercollegiate
centennial celebration, the Wildcats decked out in a new uniform.
returned to using northwestern sleeve striping. Now the stripes
numbers had a grey outline.
The jerseys were initially made in Wisconsin by
Medalist (and, by 1985, by MacGregor, once MacGregor bought out
Medalist). In 1987, the supplier switched from MacGregor to Wilson.
This uniform would continue to be used through 1989, with the following
- In 1982 only, the
team wore a commemorative patch on their left shoulders, celebrating
100 years of NU football.
- For 1987 - 1989, after Wilson became the supplier, the middle sleeve stripe narrowed, so that the three stripes
were almost equal in width.
HELMET: The 1981 helmet
not undergo any major changes. Early during this period, the
"Athletic N" logo had a thin grey outline.
PANTS: For 1982 through 1989, NU changed the pants for its
uniform constantly, sometimes
mid-season. With the shift to grey accents on the new 1982
the 'Cats switched to grey pants for the first time in many years.
used the grey pants until 1985 when it started using white pants with a
striping. This look lasted a couple of seasons, then in 1987 NU
using white or grey pants practically on a game to game basis, with
pants being worn usually on the road. By 1989 the 'Cats were
wearing grey pants with a white-purple-white striping.
For at least one game during this period (the 1989 game at Purdue), NU wore purple pants, for the first time since 1980.
JERSEY: The 1990 Wildcats
sported new jerseys from Wilson. The new unis had a new sleeve stripe style, with
an elastic band at the end of
sleeve that featured small, equally sized grey and white stripes.
grey outline around the jersey numbers now did not touch the white
but had an outline from the purple jersey between it and the numerals. On November 16, 1991, NU hosted Iowa and
wore purple jerseys in a game for
the last time until 2003.
HELMET: The 1981
helmet, with one small change: in 1991 the 'Cats dropped the white faceguard
in favor of a purple one. The front sticker (CATS) remained the same. The grey outline was used for the N logo.
NU kept with
light grey pants with the white-purple-white stripes, with a couple of
For the 1991 Illinois game at Dyche Stadium, NU wore purple
along with their standard purple jerseys and helmets. The 'Cats
also used purple pants for several road games. The purple pants were unlike the grey
pants: the purple pants had no stripes, and featured the N-Cat on the
right hip. The 'Cats would wear these pants as standard issue
beginning with Barnett's 1992 team.