132 years. That is how long Missouri football has graced the Midwest with their black and gold gladiators, entertaining the people of Columbia, Kansas City, St. Louis, and everywhere in between.
Through it all, the Tigers’ uniforms have largely looked the same. The “Block M” that is so synonymous with the university has been a staple of the football team for decades. The helmet decal underwent many minor changes throughout the 1900s, mainly with a thinning or widening of the letter or changing of color. The base uniform set was consistent as well, with the Tigers donning some form of black at home and white on the road.
Then, in the 2000s, real change began to take place. The oval tiger made an appearance, and eventually would take over as the main helmet decal for a period of time. The uniform remained traditional, but the “Block M” was in jeopardy. When the Tigers made the full switch away from it in 2011, head coach Gary Pinkel feared backlash.
But, when the Tigers made the move to SEC, they put those concerns to bed. Both Nike and the university saw a chance to make a statement upon entering the new league, and they made a splash indeed. Black and gold is already a great color scheme, but the program added in splashes of silver (chrome), anthracite (darker gray), and whiteouts that really took the look of this team to the next level. On top of that, an oversized, uncontained Tiger logo made an appearance and became a mainstay on the helmets for a period of time.
As the Tigers settled into the conference, they did so with some of the premier uniforms in the country. Pinkel and then Barry Odom moved on, and Eliah Drinkwitz was hired as the new head coach prior to the 2020 season. While it is unclear how much say he had in the matter, there was a marked change in the look of the team upon his arrival.
The Tigers opted for a more modernized “retro” look with classic shoulder stripes, the return of the “Block M” and oval tiger as main decals, and kept the uniforms to black, gold, or white exclusively. Some of the Tiger faithful enjoyed the change, while others considered it a sizable step back in the uniform department.
This is a trend that has been sweeping across college football. In the late 2000s, Oregon inspired the landscape of college football with their wide assortment of uniforms and up-tempo style of play. Programs such as Baylor, TCU, Texas A&M, Memphis, Oklahoma State and many others followed suit in the early 2010s, aiming to catch everyone’s eye on the field. Chrome accents and helmets became a major trend, and virtually every team seemed to have their own version of a blackout or whiteout. Mixing and matching different colors of jerseys and paints became normalized, and it got to the point where uniform reveals became just as anticipated as the depth chart.
However, in recent years, the pendulum has swung in the other direction. Programs have been going to back to their roots with a modern touch, straying away from the bold uniforms of the past. Missouri followed that trend to a T.
With all of the background out of the way, now it is time for what I think fits the Tigers the best. Of course, uniforms will always be a highly-opinionated topic, so I fully expect there to be plenty of disagreement.
For starters, the first thing that needs to be hashed out is the helmet decal. Switching from the “Block M” to oval tiger every other week is not the best option, which is what has occurred in recent years. The oversized tiger that Mizzou donned from roughly 2012-2019 has always been the most appealing to men. (Editor’s note: me too) It can be colored in any way, works well with any helmet shell color, and is by far the most intimidating and clean look for a helmet Missouri has ever had.
The oval tiger is classic but does not have the flexibility of its younger brother. It should remain a part of the program, but just not on the helmets.
Now, by no means am I saying the “Block M” should go extinct. It is a pivotal symbol of this university and has a place on the field, but I would opt for it to be used 2-3 times a year for the team’s more classic looks (same with the Sailor Tiger decal from 2019). At the end of the day, that logo looks out of place on any modern era uniforms.
Next up, let’s discuss the color scheme. At times, the Tigers have mixed and matched to perfection, as black and gold compliment each other well. However, there are times in which they have done too much, such as the picture below.
Within reason, I am fine with the jersey and pants being different colors. However, the default for this program should always be one solid color. Blackouts and whiteouts for this program have always looked great, and doing gold rushes would also be plausible. And while we are at it, let’s bring back some of the chrome accents from year’s past. When they debuted some of those uniform sets, they were among the best in the nation.
The bottom line is this: While Missouri has a long-standing history of playing football, they are not recognized nationally as a traditional football power (some would argue basketball has been the far more meaningful sport). So, why do they try to act like it with these uniforms?
Unlike the Alabamas and Penn States of the world, Missouri is not constrained by immense tradition with their uniforms. They have the freedom to do what they want, and when they have experimented, it has generally gone well.
There is also the aspect of the nostalgia some older uniforms can bring fans. There’s an easy fix for that. As we have seen a plethora of teams do in recent years, one-off throwback uniforms are very well received and make it more special when they are not worn every week. There would be plenty of fans that would love a complete 1980s throwback with the “Block M” and classic jersey and pants.
Missouri is the type of program that should push the boundaries with their uniforms. The color scheme and mascot is too appealing not to. Many young fans can be inspired by good-looking uniforms, as can recruits. People want to analyze it so much, we devote a weekly post to it on the site. Uniforms have become a major part of appealing to high school football players, and recruiting photo shoots have become a way for both a player and football program to expand their presence online.
Again, for some programs, the traditional look is best. Missouri is not one of those programs, and they have the freedom to catch people’s eyes with their uniforms. In 2020 and 2021, Mizzou was underdressed. It’s time to get back to being one of CFB’s best-looking programs.
Here are the 3 uniforms I would most like to see make a comeback, or at least something similar: