Ranking The Top 5 Buckeye Football Jerseys of All Time

By Jeff Beck on January 17, 2014 at 11:30a
The modern alternates.

It started with Oregon. The Ducks began to switch up their uniforms in an effort to appeal to recruits while stroking the ego of mega booster and Nike chairman Phil Knight.

It wasn’t long before a number of other schools followed suit, and before you knew it we had alt-jersey-palooza at nearly every major school across the country. Nike and Adidas have doubled down in recent years, helping to multiply teams’ kits while lining their own pockets with a little skrilla. 

Alternate jerseys aren’t the worst thing to happen to college football. In fact, a couple of Ohio State's recent alternates have actually looked pretty damn good. But, it’s important to remember life before the alternate. Back when there was simply home and away laundry. Over the years the Buckeyes have sported some of the best threads in college football, making minor tweaks to their kits as the seasons rolled on.

With that said, those minor tweaks have resulted in some different looks over the years, so let’s take a gander at the top five Ohio State football jerseys in history.

#5: 1939

Dinner Party Swag

The 1939 squad went 6-2 losing only to No. 7 Cornell and unranked Michigan in Ann Arbor.

The loss to the Maize and Blue was the second straight for head coach Francis Schmidt – he of "Those fellows put their pants on one leg at a time, the same as everyone else" fame – but his Buckeyes managed to win the B1G and finish the season No. 15.

I’d like to think their success had a lot to do with the players’ confidence when they looked in the mirror. Sporting a long-sleeved scarlet jersey with a red leather helmet, the 1939 team was dressed to impress.

I’d probably wear this to a dinner party. And look amazing doing so.

#4: 1890

Old-School Swag

The 1890 team was the first squad ever fielded by the Buckeyes.

Coached by Alexander S. Lilley and playing in Recreation Park in Columbus, the Scarlet and Gray went 1-3 winning their first game against Ohio Wesleyan but falling short in their final three contests.

While they may have had a losing record, they looked like winners in my book. These gentlemen pre-dated helmets, opting instead to don candy-striped caps while they clubbed opponents into the turf.

I’m giving them extra style points for figuring out how to put on this top. It looks to me like it was sewn onto their bodies before each and every game.

Either way it was a good look, and the block O-S-U lives on in Columbus to this day.

#3: 1954

1954 swag

The 1954 team was historic on a number of levels. They were the second Ohio State team to win a national championship, the first Ohio State team to win it all under Woody’s watch and they were one of the first teams to incorporate gray stripes on the sleeves.

The team started the season unranked and slowly but surely clawed their way up the polls. By October 30th they were No. 1 in the country and didn’t fall below No. 2 for the remainder of the season, ultimately finishing with a 10-0 record and a Rose Bowl victory against USC in Pasadena.

Howard “Hopalong” Cassady (Ohio State’s third Heisman trophy winner) rocked this jersey day-in and day-out.

If it’s good enough for him. It’s good enough to be on this list. Ohio State certainly thought so, as they gave a nod to the ’54 team with the throwback jerseys they wore against Michigan in 2009.

#2: 1968

Green Buckeye Leaf Swag

I think a lot of people are going to disagree with me here, but hear me out.

The jerseys the team wore in 1968 are fresh-to-death, and there’s really no argument to be had.

The jersey was one of the first to incorporate black into the scheme with dark numbers on the sleeves.

It also featured green Buckeyes leaves, a color that truly made the wearable merits pop. I can only imagine opponents feared the Buckeyes when they rolled out of the tunnel wearing these duds, and it didn’t help that the ’68 team was damn near unstoppable.

The squad boasted 11 All-Americans and six first-round draft picks. Led by the “Assassin” Jack Tatum, QB Rex Kern and RB Jim Otis the team rolled up a 10-0 season, a victory over No. 2 USC in the Rose Bowl and a national championship (Woody Hayes’ third). The squad won and they looked good doing it.

End of story.

#1: 1986

Huge number swag

I once heard former Ohio State coach Earle Bruce wanted to make his players look as large as possible. So, he blew up the numbers on the shoulder pads to double the normal size.

Whether that story is true or not, there’s no denying the ’86 Buckeyes had a surplus of swag. The uniform is pretty understated: a lightweight mesh jersey with a white, scarlet and black sleeve, but those huge numbers on the front, back and shoulder pads are everything. It made every player look like a linebacker and made linebackers look like your worst nightmare.

While the look didn’t do a ton for the Buckeyes on the field, with losses to Alabama, Washington and Michigan, the ’86 squad is a winner for making big mesh look cool.

Bring those huge numbers back Urban and Co. At least for one game.



osu07asu10's picture

The uniform is pretty understated a lightweight mesh jersey with a white, red scarlet and black sleeve, but those huge numbers on the front, back and shoulder pads are everything. It made every player look like a linebacker and made linebackers look like your worst nightmare.

Nice list. 86 through about 96? I think that is when we started with Nike. I absolutely love the big numbers on the shoulder pads. Two guys that stuck out to me with those jerseys were Eddie and Katz.


Jeff Beck's picture

Nice catch there. Men have been flogged for less. Corrected.

Baroclinicity's picture

Totally agree with #1.  Bring them back.  Now.

When you're holding a hammer, everything looks like a nail.

aphill89's picture

I remember there was a photo in the background of Urban's office showed a Nike a prototype with bigger shoulder numbers.  Maybe a nice ode to Coach Bruce, but I hope that plan comes to fruition. 
I reacted to it like seeing an Easter egg in a Marvel movie.

"The will to win is not as important as the will to prepare to win." - Wayne Woodrow Hayes 

harleymanjax's picture


"Because I couldn't go for 3"

Frankly Scarlet's picture


"Buclkle your chinstrap, we're gonna grind meat!" - Woody Hayes  

klawsite's picture

Yep.. those jerseys from the late 80s to early 90s get my vote. Without a doubt they are my favorite ones. 

buckeyepastor's picture

Ah, the 1980s.  The decade of the enormous shoulder pads.   

"Woody would have wanted it that way" 

klawsite's picture

Least favortie jersey was the white-outs from this year's Michigan game.. Absolutely hideous in my book.

RunningFree's picture

I know they'd probably look horrible on modern uniforms, but I'd love to see one inspired by the 1890 outfit. (who needs numbers anyway?)

steveoz49's picture

#4 gets my vote.  There's something to be said about the historical beauty. 

kmp10's picture

If I were a magical king of the world for a day the first thing I'd do, yep the first thing, is to change the Ohio State football uniform to exact replicas of the 72-78 uniform... with the minor exceptions of using the current buckeye leaf size and current state of the art materials. The Earl Bruce era uni, while still a good looking uniform, is my least favorite of the past 45 years as it de-emphasized the black on the pants and the gray on the jersey stripe... and the 2013 uniform is, essentially, an exact replica of the Bruce era uni's (plus or minus a few minor changes).
Once I got this uniform thing outta the way I'd move on to restoring my 1970's Eddie Van Halen like hair that's been missing in action since the mid 90s, and once that was complete I'd move on to my date with Carmen Electra...

fear.the.nut's picture

I'd like to see the sleeve stripes from #2 & #3 make a comeback to our regular unis.
I think I'll be getting #3 as a birthday present to myself this year.


Baroclinicity's picture

I like the patches on the elbows.  Seriously.

When you're holding a hammer, everything looks like a nail.

BuckeyeMark's picture

where is the upvote "eleventy bazillion" for this post?  that is pure genius.

Poison nuts's picture

*/Opens 11W, sees jersey, places order./

"Do not pass me, just slow down - I can move right through you" Superchunk - Precision Auto.

Buckeyevstheworld's picture

My favorite:

"YOLO" = I'm about to do something extremely ignorant/stupid & I need an excuse to do it.

Buckeye in Illini country's picture

Probably closer to one of my least favorite, but to each his own.  I'm not a huge fan of our current "rivalry" uniforms.
Our two most recent Heisman winners donned the scarlet and grey pretty well.  Top two uni's in my book.

Columbus to Pasadena: 35 hours.  We're on a road trip through the desert looking for strippers and cocaine... and Rose Bowl wins!

Buckeyevstheworld's picture

Never was a fan of the big numbers on the shoulder .

"YOLO" = I'm about to do something extremely ignorant/stupid & I need an excuse to do it.

cplunk's picture

Don't mind most the uni, but really can't stand the greenish tint on the helmet stickers. Looks cheap and chintzy to me.

Gametime's picture

I'm with you BVTW, I much prefer the "Block O" stripe on the sleeves rather than the old gray with white and black stripes that don't really match anything else on the uniform.
I'd say we should ditch the truncated stripes on the pants or at least situate the "Block O" logo patch in that space if we keep it and always keep the gray pants to make sure we meet our gray quota. The gray backlit numbers on the new scarlet jerseys is enough and we should always wear the gray pants IMO.
I just find the argument for needing more gray on the jerseys backwards. 2 of the 5 jerseys listed have no gray on the sleeves (including the #1). Some fans use tradition as a cop out. These same fans who complained when OSU made the change to the current jerseys saying: "We're not Wisconsin..." and giving their general disapproval: well did any of you realize that that our current jerseys are just an updated version of the '80s jerseys?

I think a lot of fans just mistake nostalgia for tradition.
Even with the complaints about the helmet stickers. Before they were subdued most recently they were a brighter green like actual buckeye leafs are:

I understand people being resistant to change and deviation from our nostalgia - I really do, but can we PLEASE stop the division between us because it under the false pretenses of tradition
Thank you. Go Bucks!

Between goals and achievement is discipline and consistency. That fire you have inside to do whatever you love is placed there by God. Now go claim it. ~ Denzel Washington

niblick's picture

anything that does not contain BOTH scarlet AND grey, should be burned and never worn again, period.

andretolstoy's picture

What? That one is #1?

Hovenaut's picture

Those '68 jerseys and the black sleeve numbers (that Jack f'n Tatum wore) left the first impression on me.
The '86 design re-lit the fires. Especially after seeing Spiels make nearly every tackle against M...igan that year:

I like the new gear - used to hanker for a return of the gray stripes on the sleeves, but I like the uniformity now of the sleeve and pant stripes.


We have filled the Braxton Miller position.

Baroclinicity's picture

I like the new gear - used to hanker for a return of the gray stripes on the sleeves, but I like the uniformity now of the sleeve and pant stripes.

How do we get you removed as Moderator???

When you're holding a hammer, everything looks like a nail.

Hovenaut's picture

A long term assignment, incognito, on MGoBlog?
But I can't travel.....my lounge tab has exhausted this year's expenditures.


We have filled the Braxton Miller position.

BuckeyeInOrlando's picture

I know everyone doesn't want to hear this, but I believe we are slowly being transitioned into having the "rivalry" uniforms as the regular, every week uniforms...

buckifishr's picture

I fear this as well.

CC's picture

That would suck.  While I don't want to get into the new vs. old uni thing, I just think these don't look good. 
That said I LOVED the white throwbacks we wore at UM 3 years ago!  Numbers on the helmets!

Deano's picture

I think I read somewhere that the current rivalry uniforms (at least the "home" variant) were going to be our regular night-game uniforms.

kevdale86's picture

Well let's see....I was born in 1968 and graduated high school in 1986. You're welcome.

ITWASME's picture

Damn I don't know why but those 1954s, damn those look sweet!!!

Jason Gruber's picture

I would like to see the return of the black numbers on the sleeves. That look, with some type of Pro Combat flair, would be awesome. 

"You win with people." Woody Hayes

"If winning isn't everything, why do we keep score?" Vince Lombardi

"¯\_(ツ)_/¯" Joey Bosa

tcm1968's picture

Great list. How about a follow up... Top Five Helmets...

wilkins0802's picture

Is there any chance the Scarlet (home), and White (away) Nike Rivalry uniforms could become permanent? I think we need a uniform update, and they look amazing. The White Rivalry uniform impresses me the most. I've been dying to ask..

Truth & Courage, 1-17IN, 5/2 SBCT


thorvath22's picture

2005 was my personal favorite uniform year. Love the big numbers and gray in the sleeves.

rhutchjr's picture

I like em all BUT I would love to see an all black uni with scarlet, white & silver trim. Chrome plated helmets, just one time, maybe against _ichigan State (most boring uni's). I am old enuff to remember Paladin :) and he made black popular along with Johnnie Cash.

Toledo, a good place to be FROM

gm3jones's picture

I dont know about black, Rhutchjr. That would offset the scarlet, IMO. Wouldn't mind maybe seeing it drawn up just for shits and giggles. I think we have pushed the limits as far as we should.. the past few years throwbacks were ok (05 was my favorite), but I wouldn't be going all crazy and put mostly black coloring on our jerseys. Would be awesome if I was artistic and could tinker with some of the coloring scheme and what not with some sort of editor, because i would start a blog with all different types of uni's. That is messing with fire there lol

There is nothing more remarkable as learning to think better.

andretolstoy's picture

These new rivalry uniforms are ridiculous...atrocious. They're alright ...

BuckeyeMark's picture

I am okay with almost anything in the jersey department (esp if we could get some grey back on the sleeves so we don't look like we borrowed jerseys from Wisky) if we would just LEAVE THE HELMET ALONE.  We have the greatest, most recognizable, most amazing helmet in all of college fb.  Then we roll out in the biggest game of the year in a helmet that is ... just not as cool as what we wear all the time.  LEAVE THE HELMET ALONE.  BRING BACK GREY.  NEVER WEAR BLACK.
It's not complicated.

wilkins0802's picture

Could you see them changing the jersey's to the Rivalry style full time?

Truth & Courage, 1-17IN, 5/2 SBCT


Crumb's picture

I liked the 2010 unis we had against *ichigan. The all scarlet helmet was a cool change as an alternate. Truth be told as long as it's scarlet and gray and has no blue or yellow and our guys win while wearing it I'm cool with it.

"The only good thing about it is winning the d*** thing" - Urban Meyer on The Game The War

hetuck's picture

As long as the home uniforms forever look like the stained glass in the rotunda, I'm good. That said, prefer #2.

Winning is a habit. Unfortunately, so is losing.

Vince Lombardi

BoFuquel's picture


I wish I didn't know now what I didn't know then.

Seattle Linga's picture

As long as we beat ttun - I don't care if we wear Barney costumes.

buckeyemike 45's picture

only barney unis if they are scarlet and grey with black numbers on sleeve along with grey stripes

OhioKris's picture

i always liked the mix up with the numbers on the helmets, maybe with buckeye leafs on the other side could have made them even better. but these were great i thought. IMO. 

a.buck's picture

One thing that I think would be cool is a stitched buckeye leaf on the jersey for each win the player has been a part of during their tenure. Seniors would have more than freshmen, you get the idea. I think is would be a real honor to players that stay all four years. I could be wrong but I think it would be unique to Ohio State, which in a sense would be a tradition because I think they were the first to have stickers for their helmets right?

Crumb's picture

That's a really good idea A.Buck. Something along those lines, some way to honor guys who've been there and contributed longer than others.

"The only good thing about it is winning the d*** thing" - Urban Meyer on The Game The War

ARMYBUCK's picture

With you on that OHIOKRIS!  Love those uni's!