With their seventh opportunity to compete for a national title approaching, the Georgia Bulldogs have witnessed countless changes since the team’s formation in January 1892 — from the rules to the player’s clothes.
Though the red and black worn by both fans and players have remained staple colors of the Bulldogs’ wardrobe, the similarities largely end there when comparing the University of Georgia football team’s uniforms over the decades.
Paying homage to football’s rugby origins, Georgia’s first uniforms were fashioned after the popular rugby uniforms of the time. Sometimes emblazoned with a simple ‘G’ across the chest, the jerseys were made of a thick wool material to protect against the colder weather and paired with thick, sometimes quilted, work pants and leather ankle boots, according to an UGA Special Collections Libraries exhibit.
Today several safety features are required by the National Collegiate Athletic Association, but the Bulldogs’ first uniforms did not require players to wear a helmet. Optional padding included a tightly laced canvas vest, steel plates in the toes or ankles of shoes, a metal nose guard or leather helmets.
Georgia’s signature red jersey first debuted in 1911 in the form of a wool sweater and made its first appearance at a national championship in 1920, according to Saturday Down South’s Georgia uniform history and the 2017 NCAA Football Bowl Subdivision Records.
This decade saw the introduction of the silver britches, a piece essential to today’s Bulldogs look. After transitioning from thick work pants to khaki pants, head coach Wally Butts introduced the silver britches when he was hired in 1939, according to an UGA Special Collections Libraries exhibit.
1939 served as a fundamental year for the football uniform both at UGA and within college football as a whole when the helmet became a mandatory piece of equipment and the first plastic helmet became available, according to a Bleacher Report article.
In 1941, the silver helmet replaced UGA’s previously black helmet to aid in making receivers more recognizable to passing quarterbacks, according to an UGASports article.
A new chant, “Go you silver britches,” gained popularity among the Bulldogs during this decade, as fans took a liking to the silver pants accented with red and black stripes down each leg, according to a Red & Black piece written by Rachel Bowers.
As prominent as the silver britches were in the previous decade, the arrival of head coach Vince Dooley put a temporary halt to the traditional uniform. Dooley introduced white pants in an effort to clean up Georgia’s image, as he disliked students’ silver britches chant.
Dooley went on to work with artist Anne Donaldson in 1963 to redesign previous helmets’ black oval logo to the layered black, white and red ‘G’ still used on uniforms today, according to Bowers.
“The main thing about the G (she designed), it was forward looking, but the colors of black on white on red, I heard someone say they’re the most harmonious colors in existence,” Dooley said in The Red & Black article.
Today, many players on teams across the country can be found with stickers adorning the backs of their helmets to recognize athletic and academic achievements alike. For Georgia players, this tradition began in 1971 with white stars and black and white bones, according to UGASports.
Despite the decades-long hiatus from silver britches, Dooley returned to the traditional uniform in 1980 once the chant had disappeared, according to Bowers. The same year, the Bulldogs won the national championship. These coinciding events only served to further reinstate the silver britches’ prominence in Georgia football culture.
For years, Georgia football uniforms have been synonymous with the use of red helmets. However, in their rivalry game against the University of Florida in 2009, they broke away from tradition and debuted a matching black helmet and pants set. This was only the third time in Bulldogs history black pants were worn, according to Saturday Down South.
When Georgia sustained a 24-point loss to the Gators, superstitions seemed to confirm the superiority of the traditional uniform. The coordinating black uniform has not been worn since.
In 2015 when Kirby Smart became the head coach for the Bulldogs, the 15-season tradition of awarding helmet stickers was ended, according to UGASports.
In the past few years, Georgia has revealed multiple alternate jerseys throughout their seasons, including a black jersey with a red dog collar design on the neckline featuring silver spikes.
The national championship game on Jan. 10 will present another uniform to be remembered by spectators. Despite the numerous alterations made to the Bulldogs’ uniforms over the years, Georgia fans’ excitement at seeing the players in black, white and red flash across the field has remained.