The History of the
Wildcat Uniform
Page Three

1992 - mid 1994

JERSEY: When Gary Barnett came to NU, he changed the Wildcat uniform, making it look more like Colorado's-- black jerseys and all.  However, Barnett claims in High Hopes that his son is responsible for the switch: "[Clay] complained about everything, even the way Northwestern's uniforms looked.  So to get him involved and thinking positively, I said, 'Give me a better idea.  How would you do the uniforms?'  He said, 'Dad, the two hottest colors are purple and black.'  He drew up the concept of the uniform with these colors, and I had some prototypes made up.

"...I took it to one administrator who had been here a long time, and he said, 'Absolutely not.'  When I took it to an administrator who hired me, he said, 'If you've got the guts to wear them, I'll back you.'  I actually was apprehensive about the design and figured we'd eventually go back to purple.  We kept the black a secret before the [1992] season and even had our team picture taken in white jerseys.  In fact, we warmed up in purple jerseys before the game.

"When we hit the field in black just before the game I think everybody over the age of 40 gasped and almost had heart attacks.  But everyone under the age of 40 loved them, and every recruit that's walked in here has, too." [High Hopes, p. 104]

The jersey, made by Wilson, that debuted in 1992 at Soldier Field marked the first time since the early forties that NU did not use a purple jersey during a season.  The '92 jersey did bring back the northwestern striping, with a twist: the middle stripe was now purple. 

The jersey was worn through the next season, and in the first two home games of the 1994 season (the white version of the '92 jersey-- purple numbers with a black outline-- was worn for all road games from 1992 through the end of 1994).  The only difference with the 1994 version was the addition of a patch on the left breast commemorating the 125th anniversary of college football.

HELMET: No major changes.  For 1992-93, Barnett kept the purple face mask (and the grey outline on the N), then switched the face mask to black.  He also began awarding 'Cat-head decals on a game-by-game basis.

PANTS: In the 1992 debut, the 'Cats wore purple pants; however, there were several games in 1992 for which NU wore the grey pants (unlike the old grey pants of 1982-1991, the 1992 grey pants had no stripes and featured the N-Cat).  By 1993, the team wore purple pants exclusively.  They continued to wear the no-stripe purple pants for all games until 2000.

Late 1994 (Black)

JERSEY: For the first few games of 1994, the 'Cats wore the 1992-style jersey, with the addition of a patch celebrating 125 years of college football.  After the '94 Stanford game, NU abandoned the '92 jersey (and the 125th anniversary patch) and switched to the jersey above.  NU reversed the number colors (now white with purple piping) and switched the font slightly.  However, the change affected home jerseys only.  The white jersey remained the 1992 style.   The new black jersey lasted the remainder of the season, but was changed for 1995, making it one of the shortest-lived uniforms at NU.


JERSEY: With the 1995 jersey Russell Athletic dropped sleeve or shoulder numbers, added the "N-Cat" logo to the shoulders, dropped the purple piping from the chest and back numbers, and--with the death of  Marcel Price-- added the "Big Six" memorial patch to the left breast.  The jersey was worn again in 1996 and is significant because NU won Big Ten titles each year the uniform was worn.

The only deviations from this uniform were the Rose and Citrus Bowl jerseys.  Both bowl uniforms used a different jersey in the style that would become standard in 1997.  For the Rose Bowl game, Russell Athletic needed room on the chest for patches, so it dropped the northwestern striping and moved the N-Cat logos to the sleeves.  The Rose shirt featured a large Rose Bowl logo on the left breast and a large Big Ten / Pac Ten logo on the right. After the 1996 regular season NU switched from Russell Athletic to Reebok. Reebok's Citrus Bowl jersey used the same pattern as the Russell Rose Bowl jersey. The Citrus Bowl jersey had a smaller Citrus Bowl logo on the right breast.

HELMET: No changes.  After NU claimed the 1995 Big Ten Championship, Wheaties released a box that featured the Northwestern helmet.

PANTS: NU continued to wear the same purple pants that were part of its uniform since 1992 (no stripes, "N-Cat" logo on the right side).  During the 1995 season, however, the 'Cats also wore a Big Ten Centennial patch on the left side of the pants.  They did not wear it for 1996.  Also in 1996 the "N-Cat" logo shifted to the left side of the pants, where it remained through the end of 2002.


JERSEY: This uniform actually debuted at the 1996 Rose Bowl and was also used at the 1997 Citrus Bowl.  It was initially designed by Russell Athletic as a jersey for bowl games only, since it had space on the shoulders and chest to allow for the addition of bowl logo patches. Reebok took over as NU's uniform supplier for 1997. By the spring of 1997 NU and Reebok had decided to make this the standard regular season jersey.

The "N-Cat" logos moved from the shoulders to the sleeves and the northwestern striping was dropped (NU's famous striping would not return until 2010).  The "Big Six" patch remained in place.  The Reebok logo (not pictured) also featured prominently on the chest.

A variation of this uniform was worn for one game during the 2015 season to commemorate the 20th anniversary of the '96 Rose Bowl team.

1998-2002 (Black)

1998-1999 (White) & 2000-2002 (White)

JERSEY: With the move from Reebok to Adidas in 1998, NU changed its jersey style, adding UCLA-style shoulder stripes (not coincidentally resembling the Adidas logo) and shrinking the "N-Cat" logo on the sleeve.  The purple piping returned to the white numerals, and the numeral font changed to a narrower style.

The "Big Six" patch remained on the jersey until the end of the 1998 season.  The jersey had no patches at all during the 1999 season.  NU wore a white Alamo Bowl patch on the right shoulder during the 2000 Alamo Bowl only.  During 2001, NU wore a memorial patch for Rashidi Wheeler (a white rectangle marked with the letters "RAW" in black) on the left breast.  They wore a U.S. flag on the right breast, starting with the September 22, 2001 Duke game.  For the 2002 Spring Game, the Wildcats had retired the "RAW" patch, but retained the flag.  For the 2002 season, NU removed the flag (a smaller flag image was instead placed on the back of NU's helmets) and had no patches on the jersey.

The numeral font changed again slightly in 2001, back to a wider style.  Strangely, not all players wore the wider font  (Damien Anderson's #20, for example, stayed narrow).  This mix of fonts remained in 2002.

The white jersey included the same striping pattern as the black jersey until 2000, when the white jersey striping switched to the pattern shown above.  

HELMET: No major changes to the 1981 helmet.  In addition to the 'Cat-head decals that Barnett started, Randy Walker began handing out an array of other helmet decals, including stars (for big plays) and paws (for special teams).  The purple paint also changed slightly, becoming darker and more metallic.

PANTS: In 2000 NU began using black pants for most road games, in addition to the purple pants still used for home games.


(2003 Font)
(2005-2006 Font)

JERSEY: Adidas and NU ended their relationship at the end of 2001, and the 'Cats used surplus Adidas uniforms during the 2002 season.  Adidas returned to sponsoring the Wildcats in 2003, and NU decided to change the uniform jersey and pants completely.  The uniforms were made for Adidas by Betlin Manufacturing.

For the first time in over a decade, the 'Cats wore purple jerseys.  They featured white USC-style shoulder sections (a style Adidas calls "Fang"), a black collar with an Athletic N logo shield, and black sleeve ends.   The jerseys retained the 1998-style N-Cat logo on the sleeves.

Since its inception in 2003, this was The Jersey of the Everchangin' Font
The numeral font in 2003 was Celtic and, according to Keith Simpson, the '03 jerseys featured two-color Tackle Twill sewn-on numbers.  The white numerals had a black shadow.  In 2004 NU made the Celtic numeral font wider and eliminated the black numeral shadow (the 2003 font style is illustrated above).  For 2005-2006 NU used a modification of a Crillee font.  The black outline returned to the numerals. 

Uniform Fonts, 2003-2006

The only deviations from the standard jersey were the following chest patches.  For the 2003 Motor City Bowl the 'Cats wore a Motor City Bowl logo patch on their left breast.  For the 2005 Sun Bowl NU wore two patches: a Sun Bowl patch below the right shoulder and a Big Ten patch below the left shoulder.  For the 2006 season NU honored Coach Randy Walker with a memorial patch over the left breast of the uniform.  The patch is similar to the one the team wore for Rashidi Wheeler: a white rectangle with the word "WALK" in black:

And for the final game in 2006, the Wildcats celebrated the 100th meeting with Illinois by wearing this commemorative patch on their right shoulder:

HELMET: No major changes.  NU's classic helmet design enjoyed its twenty-fifth season.  For just the 2003 Motor City Bowl, players wore the word "OTTO" on the front of the helmet (in place of the Big Ten logo) to honor the late Otto Graham.  By 2005, the Big Ten logo on the front of the helmet had switched from white on a black background to white on a purple background.
For just the 2006 season opener, players from both Northwestern and Miami (Ohio) wore a helmet decal displaying a red “41,” Walker’s uniform number at Miami, and “WALK” in purple lettering.  Also for 2006 the US flag returned to the back of the helmet; it had been absent for a couple of seasons.

In 2003 the team dropped the N-Cat from the pants and added a stripe section at the bottom of the leg, similar to the curved section on the shoulders.  The purple home jerseys were worn with purple pants at home (the first all-purple look for the 'Cats since the '91 Illinois game), and for road games NU used all-white unis (jerseys and pants) that were the same style as the purple. 

There were, however, several exceptions to the purple at home / white on the road uniform pants:
  • 2003 vs. Minnesota: home game, NU wore white pants.
  • 2004 vs. Minnesota: road game, NU wore 2000-2002 style black pants.
  • 2005 vs. Iowa: home game, NU wore white pants.
  • 2006 vs. Ohio State: home game, NU wore 2000-2002 style black pants (this is believed to be the first time in Northwestern history that the team wore black pants at home).
  • 2006 vs. Illinois: home game, NU wore white pants.


JERSEY: In 2007 the team changed the jersey font yet again, but this time it dumped the Celtic / Crillee look altogether and used a more standard collegiate block font (Pro Fullback), with iron-on numbers.  Other than a change to the jersey collar (making the black shield around the "N" larger), there was no other change to the 2003-style uniform.  There were no significant changes to the uniform in 2008 or '09.

For the 2008 Alamo Bowl, an Alamo Bowl logo patch was added below the left shoulder of the purple jersey.  The 2010 Outback Bowl featured NU's white road jersey, with an Outback patch on the right shoulder.

HELMET: No change in 2007. 

For 2008, Coach Fitzgerald fundamentally changed the helmet sticker system, eliminating the good play stars and other stickers that Coach Walker implemented.  The 'Cat heads remained, but were given to every player for a win.  So, every playing member of the team had the same number of 'Cat heads. 

For the 2008 Alamo Bowl, the 'Cats wore a sticker on their helmet with the initials "CRB," honoring Alamo Bowl chairman Charles Robert Brincat, who died November 13.  In the 2010 Outback Bowl NU wore a helmet sticker with the initials "ML."  D-line coach Marty Long was recovering from surgery and was unable to travel with the team to Tampa.

As opposed to the 2003-'06 uniform, which featured purple pants at home, the 2007-'09 'Cats wore white pants both at home and on the road, dropping their all-purple at home look. 

The one exception was the 2007 Duke game at NU, in which NU wore the 2000-2002 style black pants again (similar to the uni for the 2006 OSU game).


JERSEY: The Wildcats made their first major uniform change since 2003, and the uniforms featured northwestern striping for the first time since 1996.

The striping pattern, which NU made famous in 1928, had for the first time black narrow stripes surrounding a white wide stripe.  The striping pattern was similar for the white road jerseys (black narrow stripes surrounding a purple wide stripe).

NU kept the "N" logo on the collar, but dropped the "N-Cat" logo from the jersey for the first time since 1994 (it had been featured either on the jersey's shoulders or sleeves).  NU kept the Pro Fullback font.

Early reports indicated that NU had considered returning to a black jersey for selected games in the future.  This no longer appears to be the case.  Whoops: I guess these rumors were true.

HELMET: No major change to NU's classic helmet. 

Starting in 2011 the old Big Ten logo on the front was replaced by the conference's new "B1G" logo, in white with a purple background.

PANTS: The team consistently wore black pants at home and white pants on the road.  Both pants had a traditional set of stripes (though not technically northwestern stripes).  The white pants had a black-purple-black stripe, and the back pants featured white-purple-whilte stripes.

    2010-2011 Alternate Uniform Components

    Beginning in 2010, college football teams began using alternate uniforms far more frequently. The Wildcats wore so many alternate versions of their standard uniform that an entire section is needed to list them.  As the influence of the Nike Oregon / Pro-Combat Era spread, and as Adidas joined in the fray, the alternate uni trend increased, sweeping up NU as well.


    NU added patches to the standard jersey for both bowl games during the 2010-2011 seasons.  For the 2011 TicketCity Bowl, NU's standard white jersey featured a TicketCity Bowl logo on the left breast.  For the 2011 Texas Bowl, NU wore a bowl patch on the left breast of its standard purple jersey.


    For the November 20, 2010 game against Illinois at Wrigley Field, NU sported, for the first time ever, an alternate jersey during the regular season (along with alternate purple pants).  For the first time since 2002, the 'Cats wore black jerseys.  However, the jerseys were not throwback unis, but an alternate version of the current uniform. 

    The black jersey featured the same numerals as the current uni, but with purple piping instead of black.  The northwestern striping on the arm, for the first time ever, was purple-white-purple.  The black collar and black shield around the "N" (present on the 2003-2009 unis) returned.

    The 'Cats wore the alternate black jersey again in the 2011 game vs. Michigan.  Together with the standard black home pants, the 2011 Michigan unifiorm was the first time in its history that NU wore black / black in a game.


    • On October 9, 2010, for the game vs. Purdue, NU wore a helmet decal expressing support for former NU quarterback Zak Kustok and his sister Sarah.
    • For the 2010 Iowa game, NU replaced the helmet's Big Ten logo on the front with the phrase "JARV" in purple, a reference to NU's longtime equipment manager Bill Jarvis, who had retired.
    • In the 2011 Texas Bowl, NU wore a decal on the back of its helmet to honor Texas A&M player Joseph Villavisencio (who was killed in a car crash before the game).

    • On September 10, 2011 vs. Eastern Illinois, NU employed an alternate helmet for the first time since the 1977 Iowa game.  The alternate helmet had the N logo patterned with the American flag, commemorating the tenth anniversary of 9/11 (the same logo appeared at midfield).  The "9/10/11 Helmet" also featured a commemorative ribbon on the back.


    • For the 2010 home game at Wrigley NU wore purple pants (for the first time since 2006).  The alternate pants were the same style as the standard ones, with three stripes down the sides.  The Wrigley pants' stripes were white-black-white, with all three stripes nearly equal in width.
    • For the 2011 TicketCity Bowl, NU wore black pants with a white jersey.  Also, for the 2011 Army game at West Point NU wore black pants with its road jersey.

    2010-2011 Alternate Total Uniforms

    2011 Homecoming Uniform

    Adidas provided an entirely new uniform for NU's 2011 homecoming night game vs. Penn State.  The uniform was to be worn only in this game.  The postmodern uniform featured a silver helmet, purple jersey and purple pants.

    HELMET:  The helmet was "back to the future": retro-style black numbers (similar to the larger numbers on NU's 1966-'67 hemets), but with a silver shell-- something NU has never before worn.  The helmet had the B1G logo in purple on the front.

    The purple jersey was a different shade from the standard 2010-2011 jerseys.  Numbers were in black, with a silver outline.  Unlike the standard jerseys, there were no names on the back.  Instead of a small N logo on the collar, the jersey featured a larger N on the left chest.  Northwestern stripes were dropped; instead, the jersey had claw marks or "cat scratches" on the sleeves.

    PANTS:  Same purple as the homecoming jersey, with the word "WILDCATS" printed (in black, with silver outline) down the left side.