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Things People Forget About Notre Dame Football: Uniform Edition

Forgotten stylistic minutiae

Notre Dame v FSU Photo by Craig Jones/Getty Images

This was a big week of uniform news for the Notre Dame Fighting Irish, so in this week’s edition Things People Forget we’re going to talk about some less-remembered looks the Irish have worn over the course of their history. In my view there are good and bad details here, but of course beauty is in the eye of the beholder. People forget...

The Atomic Irish

Notre Dame’s gold helmets are among the most iconic in college football - probably the closest thing to a true long-standing tradition in Notre Dame’s style catalog. But even those lovely golden domes have borne some symbols from time to time, and I don’t just mean the occasional Shamrock Series game. In the late 1950s, the Irish sported some unusual-looking shamrocks on the sides of their helmets. Debuting in the midst of the nuclear age, uniforms were christened the “Atomic Irish” because they resembled the international radiation symbol more than the three-leafed emblem of the Irish people.

Notre Dame Fighting Irish v Michigan State Spartans Photo by Hy Peskin/Getty Images

While they disappeared soon after arriving, these uniforms were revived more recently as they were essentially the basis for the awesome-but-trauma-inducing “Under the Lights” look the Irish sported at the Michigan Wolverines in 2011, although Adidas took care to make the shamrock less reminiscent of a 3.6 roentgen warning.

The Gold Piping Experiment

Because it is already present in the pants and helmets, gold is seldom used in Notre Dame’s jerseys apart from once-a-year alternates. Back in the Ty Willingham era, however, there was an attempt to bring some gold into the jerseys in an understated manner, with piping that ran up the side of the away jerseys.

Notre Dame v FSU Photo by Craig Jones/Getty Images

I don’t love these from an aesthetic standpoint, but I am fascinated by them. It’s like Elaine’s fascination with stuffed-crust pizza in Seinfeld - “it’s going to be years before they find another place to put cheese on pizza!” It has been years, and they still haven’t found another place to put gold on Notre Dame’s regular uniforms.

The Irish Heart

One of my favorite Notre Dame uniform tidbits - which I don’t know why the Irish eliminated - also comes from the Willingham era. It was a small detail, but it was a really nice one: the inclusion of a neat little shamrock emblem at the center of the chest collar on the jerseys in 2003.

Carlyle Holiday looks for an open man Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

Maybe it’s just because I owned a Justin Tuck jersey from this season that I wore throughout my childhood, but I love that little shamrock and for the life of me I don’t know why Notre Dame took it out. Granted, they were worn by the 2003 team so it’s possible that Notre Dame simply never wanted to see them again, but I think they were fun and I would forgive the Under Armour deal if they brought them back.