Retro Oakland: Pitt’s catwalk of football fashion


(Photo Courtesy of the Archives & Special Collections)

By Lexi Kennell / Culture Editor

Sporting black long-sleeved turtlenecks and dark pants, Pitt’s 1899 football team looks like a bunch of brooding postmodern writers.

But the beatnik era didn’t happen for another 50 years, making our athletic predecessors look like fashion-forward icons.

And as our school went from the Western University of Pennsylvania to the University of Pittsburgh, football fashion trends shifted. Gone were the days of our subdued, minimalist uniforms.

Touchdowns and tackles aside, Pitt will always look swankier than Penn State — even dating back to 1890 — so take a look.

1890 WUP football team

(Photo courtesy of the Archives & Special Collections)

Back when the school was still WUP, the football team consisted of only a handful of players. According to Historic Pittsburgh, only three players had ever seen a football game played, and the team lost the only game it played in its first inaugural year.

But my personal favorite thing about this photo is the guy with the bowler hat in the back grumpily holding up a sign that says “Mascot.” He doesn’t look like a panther, but maybe back then a sign was enough to boost morale.

1899 WUP football team

(Photo courtesy of the Archives & Special Collections)

Ah, the black turtlenecks. I wish the Panthers had kept these uniforms — they’re a great way to intimidate the opposing team.

1910 University of Pittsburg football team

(Photo courtesy of the Archives & Special Collections)

If you look closely, the photograph spells Pittsburgh without the “H.” In the mid-1700s, the British captured Fort Duquesne from the French and established a new settlement, naming it after Prime Minister William Pitt. On a letter General Forbes wrote to William Pitt after the capture, the postage was marked from Pittsburg, a variant of the word “borough,” according to Popular Pittsburgh.

When Pittsburgh became a city in 1816, the “H” was dropped due to a printing error. And for almost 100 years, the spelling switched between the two, causing controversy. But in 1911, the “H” was added back by the United States Geographic Board.

So the University’s football team briefly went by “University of Pittsburg Football Squad,” and was actually good — the team won nine games in a row without letting their opponents score at all.

1928 Pitt Panthers

(Photo courtesy of the Archives & Special Collections)

The Pitt Panthers of 1928 weren’t too terrible either — the team won six games, lost two and tied once.

You can also tell that the amount of students interested in football exponentially increased — I’m sure most or all of these players had watched a football game or two before signing up.

1930 Pitt Panthers

(Photo courtesy of the Archives & Special Collections)

Much the same as the 1928 team, their record was six wins, two losses and one tie. This class also had uniforms with vertical stripes, which were much more noticeable than the ones on the uniforms two years prior. So it’s safe to say they spruced up those lines to make a statement — although I’m still not sure what that statement is.

Leave a comment.