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Around the Columns

A uniform look

The Missouri football program is steeped in tradition — from the touchdown cannon to the end-zone diamonds to the whitewashed Rock M. But the Tigers’ evolving helmets have featured numbers, letters, shapes and even blank space since the advent of plastic domes in the late 1940s.

Mizzou unveiled bold Nike-designed uniforms for basketball, football, soccer and volleyball during halftime of the annual Black and Gold Game April 14, 2012, at Memorial Stadium. The football helmet’s oval Tiger emblem replaces the block M, which first appeared in 1971.

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“That Tiger head is our brand, so when we are on ESPN and the logo shows up on the screen, viewers know who it is,” says Don Barnes, Mizzou’s coordinator of athletic equipment. “Our identity can never be confused with Minnesota, Memphis, Marshall or Michigan. If you go to Chicago with that oval on your hat, people aren’t going to yell ‘Go Blue!’ ”

The 18-month rebranding project, headed by Nike’s Graphic Identity Group, introduces a standard Mizzou gold for use across all sports. Mizzou had previously employed 16 shades of gold on the uniforms of its 20 Division-I teams. Fans also will recognize anthracite highlights just like the Nike Pro Combat uniforms (think Grant Ressel’s game-winning kick to beat KU in November 2009).

“Anywhere we can take grams off the weight of the uniform, we have done it,” says Barnes, pointing out thinner fabric on the football jersey’s side paneling. In all four sports, the uniforms are lighter than previous versions. “The men’s basketball uniform is a pound lighter. The old jersey weighed 14 ounces and the shorts 17 ounces, and the new jersey is 8 ounces and the shorts are 7 ounces.”

Typographically, the update showcases a new font called Mizzou Bold that features slanting serifs to mimic the attacking tiger logo’s pinned-back ears.

The contract nets Mizzou $2 million in equipment and cash, and more SEC exposure for Nike. The remaining Tiger teams will debut new uniforms when their seasons begin later in the athletics calendar. Retailers are banking on the sleek new look. 

“We are starting with a small, select sampling of apparel for the spring, and we’ll have a much larger mix of merchandise for fall 2012,” says Tiffany Anderson, assistant director of brand management at University Bookstore. “These items utilize all of the new graphic elements offered by Nike.”