Army and Navy have a storied college football rivalry, but that doesn’t mean it can’t be spruced up. That’s exactly what Nike started doing in 2008 — right around the time it introduced its Pro Combat uniform — with some special threads.
The addition of various alternate uniforms to the traditional pageantry has brought another unique aspect to an already unique game.
2018’s uniforms are pretty sweet.
Army will be sporting all-black threads to commemorate the 1st Infantry Division, which fought for the Allies in WWI and helped end that conflict 100 years ago.
Navy’s this year honor Bill the Goat, the school’s live mascot since the late 1800s:
The dueling alternates weren’t consistent at first.
Army wore digital camo pants in 2008, while Navy wore uniform patches with a nod to the Marine Corps:
It was just the start of what would become tradition. In 2009, Army stayed with its normal look, and Navy brought back its 2008 set for the game:
Again in 2010, Army stayed traditional while Navy did its own thing:
As with everything Army-Navy, it’s about competing. So let’s pit the uniforms against each other.
In 2011, Nike started giving both teams a Pro Combat set for the game.
The ‘11 designs weren’t too outlandish, particularly for Army, which had piping added to the sleeve as the most ostentatious part of its look along with a stencil patterned design to the uniform number:
Verdict: Navy. The Midshipmen’s full blue look really made the patches pop, outweighing the meh helmets.
In 2012, Army being able to wear black as the designated home team was big.
It gave their uniforms some added pop because black and gold always looks so good as a uniform combination. The contrast of the gold on the black really made the Black Knights’ set shine that day:
Verdict: Army. This particular black and gold is hard to pass up on. Edge to the cadets.
The 2013 game featured snow, so the uniforms were always going to look cooler because that’s what happens when you play ball in the snow.
It does seem that Navy’s uniforms always had a bit more going on with their sets than Army’s did. More piping, louder colors, and even a three-tiered helmet. Army’s are cool, but what’s going on with the gray?
Verdict: Navy. The helmet was great in 2012, and without a black-and-gold combo to compete against, it wins.
The 2014 game had a new variable in the equation.
Hello, Under Armour. UA was able to sign the Midshipmen athletic program to a 10-year deal, and the Maryland-based apparel giant pried them from the swoosh:
Verdict: Navy. The stripes. We are not gonna sit here and ignore those stripes.
In 2015, Army and Navy started getting wild with the helmets.
And we were all the better for it. Navy patterned its lids after different naval vessels and, woo buddy, am I ever in love with these bad boys:
Army went with a matte finish. One side had a uniform number, and the other side had the division of the Army each cadet would serve in upon leaving school:
Verdict: Navy. Army’s matte is cool, but Navy’s helmets just pop.
In 2016, Navy went all in on the yellow.
The semi-throwback to 1963’s team unis was a curious choice, and the color was loud on the uniform.
The one awesome thing about the uniforms was the stars on the helmet, signifying each year Navy had beaten Army on the field consecutively. A light flex over your rival is always appreciated:
And Army leaned heavy into the all black as a nod to paratroopers:
Verdict: Army. That blacked-out Army look is too good. And the Black Knights won the game in epic fashion to end the streak and knock the stars off those Navy helmets, to boot.
The 2017 set was gorgeous.
”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,” Navy AD Chet Gladchuk said. “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.”
And Army’s drew from the World War II Pando Commandos. Those dudes were badasses:
These soldiers trained at 9,200 feet to learn to fight, and survive, in the most brutal mountain conditions. Bill Bowerman, who would eventually go on to co-found Nike, organized the supplies and maintained the mules for the 10th Mountain Division as a Major in the Army, serving at the time as the commander of the 86th Regiment’s First Battalion.
Verdict: Army. You can’t go wrong with all-white unis that have A SKIING PANDA ON THE CLEATS:
These were even cooler because the 2017 game featured a snowy white out:
So, what about 2018?
Army’s in all-black to commemorate a pivotal infantry division in World War I. Navy is wearing goat uniforms (but not G.O.A.T. uniforms, as kids might say today).