During the course of #AkshayEye, we’ve ragged on a number of other schools for their poor tastes in athletic-wear design. But now, for Sports Jerseys Week, let’s dig back into Georgia Tech’s closet of sportswear skeletons, shall we?
In 2012, shortly before Tech played its first game of the season at Virginia Tech on Labor Day, Russell Athletic unveiled its newest outfit for the Yellow Jackets football team.
The “honeycomb uniforms”, as I have always referred to them as because of the pattern featured on one of the helmets, on the shoulders, and inside the numerals, were certainly a...polarizing...look for Tech, to say the least. In total, four versions of these infamous uniforms were produced during the only 7-7 season in NCAA football history, which ended in an ACC championship game appearance and a Sun Bowl victory. Paul Johnson had a variety of options to choose from to outfit his team every week, including a white honeycomb patterned helmet, navy and gold jerseys and gold pants. However, being the way that he is, Johnson stuck with Tech’s usual gold helmet/white jersey/gold pants combination (white pants when away, obviously) with three notable exceptions: white helmets/navy jerseys/white pants for Week 2’s home opener versus Presbyterian; white helmets/gold jerseys/white pants for Week 8’s homecoming game versus BYU; and gold helmets/navy jerseys/white pants for the ACC Championship Game versus #13 Florida State. But just as abruptly as they had arrived, the honeycomb uniforms left; Russell Athletic replaced them with two more traditional looks for 2013, save for a momentary return for Week 7’s home game versus Syracuse.
These jerseys were a watermark for Tech football (whether they represent one that is high or low is up to you). We’ve gathered a few of the staff who were on campus and around the team during the purported heyday of these infamous kits. These are their stories.
Let’s start near the beginning — before you came to Tech, what did you know about Tech’s uniforms?
Carter: Honestly, pretty much nothing. The only solid image I had in my head was of Calvin Johnson rocking the throwback Tech wore in 2006.
Levi: I knew about the white tops at home and really liked the blue tops they wore for the 2008 Peach Bowl. I even wrote an editorial freshman year about Wake Forest denying our request to wear white at home.
Nishant: I’m linking what Levi wrote because 1) it miraculously is still up on the website somehow, 2) it was roughly in line with how I felt about it at the time, and 3) as someone who was a Technique staffer at the time, it’s fun to reminisce about the hilariously angry letters to the editor we regularly received—like the one below Levi’s, in which someone named Gary Anderson said the newspaper had “failed the alumni and the student body” for endorsing a mayoral candidate. Anyway, to answer the question, I knew next to nothing beforehand. I just knew they had worn gold uniforms in the prior year’s UGA game.
Stephen: I knew about the white and old gold, and that Scott Blair (maybe? Can’t find the video evidence because our favorite Youtube Hero got the axe recently) had the sickest pair of cleats ever, which I purchased as soon as I could. I mean, look at these bad boys:
Former players: you got to see these before anyone else — what was your initial reaction to them?
Stephen: My first day on the team was the Friday before the 2012 away opener at Virginia Tech. Upon completing the physicals and signing my life away to the NCAA, I got brought to the equipment room where I first laid eyes on the honeycomb helmets. Having never seen us in another helmet, I was instantly excited about seeing what would become associated with a lot of iconic Tech wins during the Johnson era. I snapped a quick picture, but didn’t dare share it with anyone for fear of instant punishment. As for the jerseys, I didn’t see those until the rest of the world did that Monday night in Blacksburg. But when I finally got to wear one for our home opener, I think I was too excited about being in the atmosphere at all as a true walk-on to notice how God awful these jerseys were...
Former students: what was the buzz (pun fully intended) around campus about these uniforms when they were announced?
Carter: I couldn’t remember any preseason buzz around these uniforms whatsoever. A quick internet search reveals why: Russell kept these under wraps until just hours before they debuted for that year’s Labor Day game, in the same way that movie studios don’t provide advance screenings of..... certain movies.
Nishant: I hate buzz/sting puns, for the record. But yeah, I didn’t recall hearing anything about uniforms, and I’m glad Carter dug up the reason why. I went into the season expecting some minor variant on the previous year’s look, just like every other year under Russell, and then... suddenly honeycombs.
Something we’ve touched on on the site and CFB media in more recent years is the idea of a program’s brand and how uniforms are an important part of that. What did you feel these uniforms did for the “Georgia Tech” brand at the time?
Jake P.: Whether you liked them or not, I think we can all agree that they feel like a uniform Georgia Tech would wear. What other school would have their apparel provider outfit them in all honeycomb? You definitely don’t see Nick Saban letting that happen.
Levi: The biggest thing I love about the Adidas re-brand is consistency. This was all over the place. They used a different yellow that you couldn’t possibly call gold and the navy was more blue. It felt slapped together by an artsy intern who read one paragraph of lore. Russell wanted to move away from their rep as high school uniforms but these were a mess.
Nishant: They were... unique, at least? They definitely weren’t popular, which is why they didn’t survive past the one season. I remember a lot of us mocking the entire concept because we were pretty sure actual yellow jackets didn’t have honeycombs in their nests. I think there might have been broader opinions on the uniforms if the team had actually been decent that year, but going 7-7 didn’t help matters (though I suppose the nation was exposed to them in the 2012 ACC title game).
Stephen: Bees! Cool right? This was likely the result of a 5 minute brainstorming session at Russel HQ that then allowed them to focus the rest of their efforts on not providing any gear to the team that wasn’t a XXL size. I mean seriously, nobody ever got anything that was the right size. It’s almost like we were the only school in the country that they sponsored and they just didn’t care about us.
In 2013, Tech’s uniforms were refreshed, but not before EA Sports’ NCAA 14 video game was released with the honeycomb uniforms preloaded. What are your thoughts on them in-game?
Jake P.: The actual gameplay takes place from a distance, so they aren’t too bad while running the triple option up David Cutcliffe’s throat. However, when you score or there’s an up-close shot, it’s not a pleasant experience. The honeycomb pattern just doesn’t look good in video game graphics.
Levi: I always always always change them. I never wear the Honeycomb tops and I’ll put the white helmet on ‘09 whiteout jersey’s for away.
Nishant: So about a year after NCAA 14 came out, they released some $1 uniform kits, one of which included GT’s 2013 look and made that the default uniform for them. Best dollar I spent that year. I think in my original GT dynasty I would manually switch the uniforms to the 09 or 11 looks just to avoid the honeycombs, though I’d sometimes use the white helmets. More on that later.
Stephen: I rarely played with Tech just because there are so many other absolutely stacked teams in that game. I was a huge fan of just steamrolling everyone with Wisconsin. I could run Power with the best of them I tell you. Monte Ball forever.
Given it’s been the better part of a decade since these uniforms were worn, what are your opinions on them now?
Jake P.: They were gimmicky, and a bit of an eyesore. I wouldn’t bee (get it?) surprised to see Geoff & co. bring something that looks like them out in the next couple of years. It would be fun for a game or two, but anything more than that would be excessive.
Carter: The standard hex pattern is just as simple as the standard square pattern, but a huge step up in appearances. As far as simple patterns go, it’s one of my favorites. Russell Athletic managed to make it look horrid. That takes true talent.
Levi: Echo-chamber alert. It was a project started in good faith but the litmus test is that they were replaced the next year. Universally hated.
Nishant: I’m extending my hatred for buzz/sting puns to what Lil’ Jake said. As for the uniforms... yeah they were bad then and aren’t remembered any more fondly now. Honeycomb patterns weren’t a terrible idea in principle, but I think they would only have been good as a subtle touch. Russell made the mistake of putting them on absolutely everything, and it just became oversaturated to a comical extent. The helmets were the one thing that worked really well, and I’m glad they were the one piece of the 2012 look that Russell kept in subsequent years.
Stephen: They didn’t age great. The release photos crack me up in hindsight just because they look so incredibly forced and not exciting in the slightest. He looks like he’s got a stick shoved straight up through the center of his body. SO UNCOMFORTABLE.
Having lived through the Russell Athletic era, where do you feel these uniforms rank in the pantheon of what the company put out for Georgia Tech?
Jake P.: After consulting the ACC Uniform Tracker, I can safely say that these were at the very bottom of the Russell Athletic pile. At the top, of course, are either the 2008-09 uniforms or the 2014 uniforms.
Carter: Unquestionably the worst. The MAC-level trash Tech wore in 2010 and 2011 looks great in comparison. 2014 remains the top, and Russell (to their credit) never failed to deliver on a killer throwback.
Levi: Dead-last, especially since we have re-used the honeycomb helmet with less obnoxious tops.
Nishant: I find myself wondering how the white helmets would have looked with those 2014 throwback unis. But yes, all the 2012 uniforms would all be down toward the bottom of the rankings. If we’re ranking within the different variants that appeared in 2012, the two jerseys that had gold nameplates would be at the absolute bottom. Those were just... no.
Stephen: I’ll say the navy ones were by far the best of the three designs in this year’s jerseys. But as a whole, these were the worst by far. These were the Bennie Cunningham jerseys... Also, the only 7-7 team in the modern era jerseys. Yay technicalities and cheating putting a 6-6 team in the ACCCG!
Tech transitioned to Adidas back in 2018. Obviously, the designs have been very different from the Russell era. What have you liked and disliked so far?
Jake P.: So far, they’re not too bad. My biggest issue was with the gold jerseys. They would’ve looked incredible if the shade of gold on the helmets and the shade of gold on the jerseys would’ve matched. I know they were a rush job, but consistency helps. Also, Adidas doesn’t need to use sketchy historical background information to sell us jerseys. Just give us the [Foreigner] jerseys without trying to justify them. We all know it’s only about the profits.
Carter: The first thing they did was get WWE superstar and four time world/universal champion Roman Reigns to unveil the new uniforms, which is a damn flex. Don’t have any complaints about the design, other than the nameplate fonts.
Levi: Brand unification, clean look, combos that match. You can hit me with a ton of combos, but only if they are on-brand. Our new brand is flashy, deal with it.
Nishant: Like Carter said, the nameplate font is bad. It feels super out of place, like they forgot about it and just threw something on there at the last second in the program’s default font.
Stephen: please no blackwatch... please no blackwatch... please no blackwatch...
What do you want to see from future Tech uniforms? Would you bring back any of the elements of the 2012 uniforms?
Jake P.: All I need are white honeycomb-patterned helmets.
Carter: Yeah, bring back those sweet honeycomb helmets.
Levi: Blackwatch is coming. Like it or not. I hope it looks mean. Otherwise, I’d love to see a Gold/Silver permutation of the Heroes Jersey. Navy kit needs some white trim, Gold on navy looks cheap.
Nishant: I wish the Russell white helmets had lived on. My other frustration over the years has been that my favorite uniform combos have proven wildly unlucky. That held true this past year, when the white/gold/white look—which I was looking forward to seeing and actually really liked—debuted in a loss to an FCS school. Can you really bring it back after something like that?
Loved the 2012 uniforms? Hated ‘em? Let us know what you remember about them in the comments below!