Welcome to the MVictors Uniform Timeline where below you will find a descending timeline of changes to the Michigan football team uniforms over the years.
Note: For all uniform changes prior to 1970, the rules change a bit. If I have a compelling photo of an actual jersey (or portion of a jersey) over this period, I will include it in the timeline even if it didn’t mark a particular change in design or new feature:
1969 Season | Ann Arbor, MI
Bo Schembechler arrives as head coach and performs a massive overhaul of the uniform:
HELMET: Maize numbers are removed from the sides of the helmets (they return for the 2011 season and the first game for the 2012 season).
HELMET: Award stickers are placed on helmets in the form of solid maize football-shaped decals.
Don Moorhead’s 1970 helmet via Helmet Hut:
SHOES/SOCKS: Team adopts new style of shoe and cleat for use on the newly installed artificial turf in Michigan Stadium. Black trim added on socks.
JERSEY: Block ‘M’ removed from sleeves on home and road jerseys, replaced with numbers:
1968 Season | Ann Arbor, MI
JERSEY: Block ‘M’ added to home (blue) jersey sleeves (now on both home and road).
SHOES/SOCKS: Black block ‘M’ on white socks. Players are primarily wearing Riddell (black shoes with white & black trim around ankles) and Spot-bilt cleats, but some are adopting the “new” shoe – adidas.
November 10, 1962 | Ann Arbor, MI | vs. Illinois
TRADITION: The roots of the coveted GO BLUE banner:
In 1962, the Wolverines lost five of their first six games, including four straight Big Ten losses– three of them, shutouts.
The head hockey coach, Al Renfrew, had been a classmate of Elliott’s, and the two had remained good friends. So Renfrew and his wife Marjorie decided to do something to help boost the football team’s morale. Marjorie went to work in her sewing room, stitching a yellow block “M” on a blue sheet, about six feet across.
The players liked it, so Bump Elliott let the boosters hoist the banner the next day – IN the tunnel– for the players to touch on their way out.
It worked. The Wolverines won, 14-10.
The next year, the boosters moved the banner to mid-field, and the year after that, 1964, the Wolverines won the Big Ten title and the Rose Bowl.
October 13, 1962 | East Lansing, MI | vs. Michigan State
JERSEY: Away (white) jerseys feature a wolverine “wolverbear” logo just under the left shoulder. Note: It’s not clear whether this was a one-game design change or whether these were worn all season.
1960 Season | Ann Arbor, MI
HELMET: Team MVP Dennis “Denny” Fitzgerald becomes the last Michigan player (and many suggest the last player of any college team) to wear a leather helmet. Photo via the Bentley Historical Library.
1957 Season | Ann Arbor, MI
HELMET: Mild change – the center stripe is extended; it now goes to very bottom of the rear of the helmet. (Pics and notes via Helmet Hut).
1956 Season | Ann Arbor, MI
HELMET: The team added face masks to their helmets for the first time and identified the players with two-inch Green Bay gold numerals on each side of the winged and striped navy blue helmet. While the appearance of the helmet numbers is commonly associated with Bump Elliott’s arrival in 1959 here’s a shot from the 1957 Michiganensian pg.354 of Ron Kramer during the 1956 season:
Here’s the photo of Tom Maentz and Kramer used for the cover of the November 12, 1956 edition of Sports Illustrated. While helmet numbers are not visible, this was a press photo and not sure exactly when it was taken:
JERSEY: Following the 1956 season, Michigan retires the #87 belonging to Ron Kramer. (In 2012 Kramer and the #87 officially entered the Michigan Football Legends program and returned to the field. In 2015, Kramer’s #87 is retired once again after the Legends program is canceled.)
October 15, 1949 | Evanston, IL | vs. Northwestern
JERSEY: Michigan wears white jerseys for the first time while playing Northwestern on the road. (Source: Champions of the West). Photos via the U-M Bentley Historical Library:
1947 Season | Ann Arbor, MI
Via the U-M Bentley Historical Library: Bob Chappuis (and fiancée Anne Gestie) appeared on the cover of LOOK magazine just before the 1948 Rose Bowl game. It is one of the earliest known color photos of the Michigan Uniform:
1946 Season | Ann Arbor, MI
HELMET: According to the U-M Bentley Historical Library, the first Michigan facemask may have appeared this season on the helmet of Gene Derricotte. More from the Bentley here.
November 23, 1940 | Columbus, OH | vs. Ohio State
JERSEY: Following his final game at Michigan, Tom Harmon’s #98 jersey is retired at the direction of longtime equipment manager Henry Hatch. Harmon later wins the 1940 Heisman Trophy.
Note: The #98 jersey appeared again in 2013 (on QB Devin Gardner – see above) as Tom Harmon entered the Michigan Football Legends program. In 2015 the Legends Program was cancelled, and the 98 returned to retirement.
1940 Season | Ann Arbor, MI
PANTS: According to the Michigan Daily, U-M introduced “Yellow, Lightweight Pants” this season. Via the 10/1/1940 M Daily:
Those drab colored pants of last year have been abandoned in the light of this style wave. And what a ‘light.’ They’re a brilliant yellow now…and knitted at that. This material is supposed to eliminate binding and, of all things, assures a form fit
- Current Timeline is here (2010-current)
- Uniform changes 2000-2009 – Click here
- Uniform changes 1990-1999 – Click here
- Uniform changes 1980-1989 – Click here
- Uniform changes 1940-1969 – above