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The Annual Army/Navy Costume Ball: Blue Angels vs. Pando Commandos

By Phil Hecken

Today’s the day — and as they have since 1890 — Army plays Navy in the traditional end to the college football season. Navy leads the series 60-50, with 17 ties. The game is as big as ever, and over the past 10 years, the teams have gone from dressing in their traditional uniforms to something more approaching costumes. And that’s OK by me. The game kicks off at 3:00 pm (Eastern) today.

They were basically the first two teams to do this, beginning in 2008 (I’ll have more on this below), but the 2017 version of the game finds each team dressing up in special “themed” uniforms (complete with a story). Let’s take a look at Navy’s uniforms first:

As you may be able to tell from that graphic, as a tribute to the U.S. Navy’s flight team, the Midshipmen will be wearing Blue Angels uniforms. A few closeups of the details, starting with the helmets:

Obviously, the helmets are a nod to those worn by Navy Blue Angels fighter pilots. They are all hand-painted, and depict a Delta Formation. The chrome facemask will seek to replicate the visor of the Blue Angel pilots. Neck bumpers feature “Blue Angels” in script.

Jerseys and pants are both blue (in the same hue as the Navy’s Blue Angel flight suits) and Navy’s jerseys feature two patches: a blue/gold “Blue Angels” patch on the right shoulder (the same design on the F/A-18 Hornet aircraft), and an American flag on the left. The number font is “inspired” by the numbers on the tail of the F/A-18 Hornet aircraft.

The two gold stripes across the top of the shoulders are evocative of the Blue Angels’ flight suits. Those shoulder stripes are repeated down the pants legs of the uniforms:

Navy will have individual unit patches on the jerseys:

Chet Gladchuk, the Navy AD, described the uniforms thusly:

This tribute to the Blue Angels reflects the enthusiastic pride and appreciation we have for the Navy’s premier flying team and the motivation they convey to Navy football and the fleet at large. The masterminds at Under Armour are always thinking of ways to inspire our troops while still reflecting a deep appreciation for a Naval history that is so ingrained in our game day traditions. Annually, a special Navy uniform has become a statement in this game and brings with it appreciated meaning and a clear message that we are all in.

Of course, there’s a hype video as well:

Not to be outdone, Army has released its own set of excellent costumes for the game:

Army will be decked out in head-to-toe white uniforms for this game. First the story behind them:

The 2017 Army-Navy Uniform tells the story of the soldiers of the 10th Mountain Division and their birth in the winter warfare of World War II. The specialty of the 10th Mountain Division is to conquer the land. They fight on the harshest terrain, in any climate, anywhere in the world, to protect and defend the United States of America. We honor the past by re-telling the story of the “Climb to Glory.” A story of valor, courage, and sacrifice. Inspired, humbled, and motivated by the soldiers that came before us, we don their patches, adopt their mottos, and hold their deeds close to our hearts.

The helmet is white (with some apparent black flecks mixed in), and features the “crossed ski pin,” an unofficial insignia created to honor the division’s alpine origins. The back of the helmet features a “follow me bar,” which was worn by officers to help soldiers identify leadership in the heat of battle. According to Army, soldiers during WWII painted their helmets white in winter, which would chip and wear away, revealing the olive drab underneath (that detail is shown on the football helmets as well, especially around the raised portions of the helmets).

The white jerseys will feature a “Climb To Glory” insignia patch, and each player will have a featured unit patch — the 10th Mountain Division had 18 units attached to it throughout the course of the war, and unit patches will include the 85th, 86th, and 87th Mountain Infantry Regiments, and the 126th Mountain Engineer Battalion.

The number fonts are based one used on the “Weasel” (one of the first snowmobiles used to carry troops through the snow) which was used to stencil the bumper numbers on the vehicles.

Left and right shoulders will also feature patches: unit patch on the left and American Flag (note the flag appears “reversed” from current protocol — this is period correct and is not “backwards”):

So — what about that “Pando Commando” you may be asking. “The panda bear is the mascot of Camp Hale, Colorado. The Railroad stop at Camp Hale was officially Pando, Colorado. While the division was at Camp Hale, this unofficial insignia appeared everywhere on signs, buildings, and even the division newspaper. Since the design was a cartoon, it was not accepted by the Army’s heraldry office,” notes this excellent website from which much of the descriptions of the Army uniform comes. The patch will be worn on the teams undershirts and shoes:

Like Navy, Army has a hype video for the uniforms:

And there you have it — the costumes for today’s annual Army/Navy ball. It’s the only game in town, and I’m looking forward to it!

• • •

As mentioned earlier, the Army/Navy game has featured special uniforms since the 2008 tilt. But modifying the helmets and uniforms goes back years. You can read a great recap of earlier years here.

• • •

Let’s take a quick trip down memory lane at the uniforms worn during the past nine games:


You can read more here. Army wore digi-camo helmets and pants, and Navy went with the “blood stripe” officers uniforms.

• • •


Army went back to its “normal” look, while Navy went with a blue jersey version of the previous years’ set.

• • •


Army again remained largely traditional, while Navy again went with a custom uni.

• • •


Beginning with the 2011 game, both teams (then outfitted by Nike) would really turn it up a notch. Navy went “battleship” inspired unis; Army customized but still kept a somewhat traditional look.

• • •


Things really got interesting beginning in 2012. Army went full black with gold helmets, while went full white with amazing custom helmets. You can read more about that here.

• • •


This was an awesome game made moreso by the snow. Navy went white/blue/white while Army countered with gold/navy/gray. Read more here.

• • •


By 2014, Under Armour had taken over the Navy uni contract, and they got really creative with the uniforms, while Army went for a more minimalist approach. You can read more here.

• • •


2015 almost seemed to be more about the multiple helmets than uniforms. Read more on the helmet war here.

• • •


For 2016, Navy wore lots of athletic gold, while Army took on a WWII paratrooper look. Much more on these uniforms can be found here.

• • •

It’s the only game in town folks. Should be a cold and chilly day with a chance for some snow! Just the way it should be.



And now a few words from Paul

In case you missed it on Friday: Remember my recent ESPN piece about how cartoonist Karl Hubenthal designed the Vikings’ uniforms, and how he used purple and gold because those were the colors of GM Bert Rose’s alma mater, the University of Washington?

Several Vikings fans responded to that piece with counter-narratives — stories that contradicted the one I reported. So I went back and did a bunch of additional reporting (including an interview with former Vikings coach Bud Grant, who’s now 90 years old), in an attempt to sort which stories were accurate and which ones weren’t.

The result is a new ESPN follow-up column, which I think you’ll find very interesting. Check it out here.

Also from Friday: When I recently announced that StickerYou had created a little Uni Watch shop on their website, several of you got in touch to say, “Stickers are great — but what I really want are magnets.”

I’m happy to report that your requests have been heard. If you go to StickerYou’s Uni Watch shop, you’ll see that they’re now offering three separate options: sheets of stickers, individual singles, and magnets. According to the StickerYou folks, this is the first time they’ve set up a shop like this for one of their partners. Nice!

Also, with Christmas fast approaching:

• If you want a Uni Watch membership card to be delivered in time for Christmas, I strongly urge you to order it now. (You can also buy a gift membership voucher, which your lucky recipient can redeem anytime.)

• If you want a Uni Watch mini-helmet in time for Christmas, you’ll need to here.

• Remember, our Uni Watch Ugly Sweater T-shirt has been revived for the holiday season.

Okay, that’s it. We now return you to your regularly scheduled weekend post.



The Ticker
By Anthony Emerson

Baseball News: Yesterday, the Gwinnett Braves rebranded as the Gwinnett Stripers, the AAA affiliate of the Braves. Cap closeups in this tweet (thanks, Paul and everyone else who sent this in). … The Altoona Curve, AA affiliate of the Pirates, have adopted a new primary cap and are bringing back an older design for their alternate cap (from Trey Wilson). … Absolutely gorgeous Mardi Gras jersey from the AAA New Orleans Baby Cakes, affiliates of the Marlins (from Daniel Bowen). …  Cleveland announced number changes yesterday: Catcher Francisco Mejia switches to number 17, forcing manager Terry Francona to number 47 (from Robert Hayes). … This is so cool: a circa 1965 photo of John Lennon in a baseball glove! (from @BSmile). … This might be the worst Photoshop job I’ve ever seen. That’s supposed to be Shohei Ohtani in an Angels cap (from @ThatShaneBua). … Chris J. Sodergren found a 25-year-old Milwaukee Brewers cap at a store in Milwaukee. Original tags, retro New Era logo, and even made in the USA. Excellent find.

NFL News: From Blake Sjerven: “on ESPNs Playoff Machine the Dolphins logo is their old logo until you hover over it.” … Here’s a full set of mid-70s NFL helmet magnets. Great find. (from @OptimusDiabetus). … Brown-white-brown for the Browns this Sunday against the Packers (from Robert Hayes). … The Bills are going all-red this Sunday against Indy (thanks, Phil). … The Dolphins are throwing it back against the Pats on Monday night (from Robert Hayes). … Great shot of the sign the Minneapolis Chamber of Commerce had made to welcome the Vikings (from Mark Wilkes).

College/High School Football News: This mug from Lou Holtz’s brief time as Minnesota head coach features some of his most memorable quotes as Gophers head coach (from Jeremy Formo). … You don’t see this everyday: Snow on an LSU helmet (from Benji King). … FIU has affixed their Gasparilla Bowl patches to their jerseys (thanks, Phil).

Hockey News: Tyler Stewart, who served as the Blues’ emergency backup goalie a few nights ago, didn’t get the NHL 100 patch on the sleeve on his emergency sweater (from Jeff Jones). … Here’s a great photo of John Lennon holding a Habs jersey in Montreal with Yoko. We’re on a bit of a John Lennon kick today, aren’t we? (from @BSmile, who also seems to be on a John Lennon kick). [That’s because yesterday was the 37th anniversary of his assassination — PH] … The likelihood of Seattle getting an NHL team in the near future increased exponentially this week. Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan is seen in this photo holding a generic Seattle-NHL jersey while Concillor Debora Juarez wore an Ebbets Field Flannels replica Seattle Metropolitans jersey (from Jimmy Wong). … The Idaho Steelheads of the ECHL unveiled new alternate jerseys with a new alternate logo as a fundraiser for the local children’s hospital. Submitter Brett Thomas adds, “I’d love to see these become their primary jersey — they’re a huge improvement.”

NBA News: The Nikefication of the NBA continues: a huge Nike logo at center court during Thursday night’s Nets/Thunder game (thanks, Paul). … Jay Bilas tweeted out this picture of Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (then Lew Alcindor) in some snazzy mid-70s Bucks warmups (from Jeff Ash). … Speaking of the Bucks: Milwaukee Area Technical College built a gingerbread Bradley Center (from James Lee Gilbert). … Did Nike add more stitching to LeBron’s jersey after his well-publicized tears? (from Renick Bowman).

College/High School Hoops News: Big news yesterday: the 2019 Final Four logo has been released. More info here (from Tyler Mason, James Lee Gilbert and everyone else who sent this in). … Lower Columbia College’s men’s basketball team has only seven pairs of red shorts, so subs have to swap out shorts when they come in. “Most community college thing I’ve ever seen” says Will Lead. … Stripes and more stripes! A photo of the warm ups for the boys’ basketball teams from Homewood-Flossmoor High School and Lincoln-Way East High School in Illinois (from Steve Johnston).

Soccer News: Juan Pablo Sabines sends along this retrospective of every jersey worn in the MLS Cup Final since its debut in 1996. … São Paulo FC is breaking with their Under Armour kit deal two years early (from Ed Żelaski‏). … Footy Headlines has the best look yet of the USMNT’s 2018 kits.

Grab Bag: So these Netherlands curling unis are the coolest thing I’ve seen all week (many thanks to Andrew Hoenig). … The South African SuperRugby team Sharks have unveiled their new kits (from Eric Bangeman). … Paul, avert your eyes! Pantone has named a shade of purple (formally, PANTONE 18-3838 Ultra Violet) as the color of the year (from Chris Pika and Brandon Veale). … Good piece here on the politics of what potential independent Olympic athletes from Russia will wear during the Pyeongchang Olympics (thanks, Paul). … The Toronto landmark “Sam the Record Man” sign has been reinstalled over Yonge Square and will have its neon lights lit up for the first time since reinstallation to celebrate the Holidays (from Ted Arnold). … New York Times writer Ruth La Ferla has noted that fashion got a lot more “astral” in 2017 (from Tom Turner).



Comments (32)

    All the NFL jersey patches and the way the captaincy patches upgrade with stars and colors reminds me of patches on Boy Scout uniforms. Not in a good way.

    That 25-year-old Brewers cap is absolutely baffling. I’ve never seen such a botch job on the ball-in-glove. Beyond that, the cap seems to be navy, like the current spring training/alternate caps.

    How did this cap get made? Is seems the most likely answer is that the New Era designers simply screwed up both the logo and color choice.

    The MLS Cup infographic has one oddity:

    The winning team is on the left every year — except 2016, which Seattle won.

    Navy’s shoulder stripes look great. I wonder why more teams don’t have stripes that direction? No disrespect to Northwestern or UCLA stripes, but this style seems underutilized. Texas A&M has gone this direction, but there stripes are longer and, in my opinion, not as attractive.

    In an era of ridiculous alternate unis, Navy almost always gets it right (I also love their regular uni).

    In the video, the gold of the Navy uniforms appears to look bright yellow, like the Blue Angels. In the pictures, the numbers and trim look like muted gold. Looking forward to seeing how these look on TV. This is my favorite CFB game. I remember as a kid watching this game with my Dad, who was an ensign in the Navy during WWII. The midshipmen and cadets are playing for their brothers, and will soon be deployed to serve our country. At the conclusion of the game, when each team backs up the other during the singing of their school songs, my damn allergies always seem to kick in.

    Shouldn’t it be “John Lennon WEARING a baseball glove” than “…IN a baseball glove”? The link to the photo makes you think that you’d see Lennon in a glove.

    All you need is glove. All you need is glove. All you need is glove, glove. Glove is all you need.

    Altoona Curve primary home cap is an upgrade over the cartoonish engineer. The turn-back-the-clock cap is also nice.

    It’s weird that Gwinnett Stripers have so much red in the cap, but no red elsewhere in the uniform.

    Proofreading (I think, but maybe I’m missing something): 2013 – shouldn’t that be Army went gold/white/gray?

    That’s not the Bradley Center in gingerbread. That’s it’s under-construction replacement next door. (MATC is across the street from them as well)

    Best Army-Navy uniform was in 1963 or 1964, when Staubach was still there.

    Navy put a Jolly Roger flag decal on the front of its helmets. On the sides, the Middies played off Army coach Paul Dietzel’s “Chinese Bandits” defense, a gimmick he first used at LSU. Navy had “Beat Army” translated into Chinese characters and put on the sides of its helmet.

    Seems inaccurate (and a little disrespectful) to refer to these uniforms as “costumes”.

    Not that I think Phil was trying to be, but even a uniform designed to be used once is still a uniform.

    Please. They’ve taken uniforms for football and put in all kinds of gimmicks with “cool” backstories to justify the gimmicks. To refer to them as costumes is not “disrespectful” but accurate. And they are football uniforms, not service uniforms, in a football game, not a military exercise.

    No, it’s not “accurate”. Football teams wear uniforms. A costume is something you wear when you’re pretending to be something else, like on Halloween, or if you’re an actor.

    When you call a uniform a “costume”, you’re making fun of it. Which is disrespectful, by definition.

    Love that (nearly) full set of old NFL helmet magnets.

    Some analysis…of the 26 helmets:

    – eight teams have stuck with same design throughout the years
    – two teams (Jets and Bills) changed designs and then returned to the ones pictured
    – four teams currently use slightly modified versions of the same design (49ers, Cardinals, Vikings, Lions)
    – two teams (Rams, Chargers) use the same basic design with different color schemes
    – ten teams currently use different designs, but only one (Titans) have a different nickname
    – missing from the set are the Browns and Colts, who wear the same designs now as then

    – Not in existence at the time were the Ravens, Panthers, Jaguars, and Texans

    Now I see the true genius of this column after all of these years; All that background work and rechecking made that Vikings’ piece one of the best articles I have seen in years from any journalism. Well done, Paul.

    Big gym corporation in Germany (and Europe?) has relaunched its brand. Feels like the actual new Formula 1 Logo. Live Logo Transformation on their Website: link

    Best, mblpz from Hamburg, Germany

    Not a fan of those new USMNT kits. Sometimes I wish they could get away from Nike. I liked the understated shirts they used in 2014. Those were great.

    Phil called it the only game in town not once bit twice….while for the 3 FCS quarter-final games are today

    That Photoshop job may be the worst I’ve seen, not because they did a bad job, but because they clearly had the ability to accurately make a uniform but instead thought no one would notice that he had apparently signed to the pre-2002 Angels.

    A day late, so no one will read this.

    Anyway, it’s nice to see the manager changing his number to accommodate a player. I wish this had happened in 1979 when the Yankees reacquired Bobby Murcer. The egomaniacal Billy Martin would never have considered giving up his no. 1; so Murcer had to switch to no. 2.

    At Old-Timers’ Days, Murcer initially wore no. 2, but eventually started wearing no. 1.

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