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Everything you could possibly want to know about college football coach fashion

Here’s a head-to-toe catalog of what the guys on the sidelines wear.

Remember when you were starting a dynasty in the old NCAA Football video game, and EA Sports would prompt you to outfit your coach with hopelessly limited options?

Football coaches aren’t the most aesthetically gifted humans. While they get to wear whatever apparel is provided, they aren’t winning any awards for best dressed. Part of that’s just that they’re filtering out as much as they can that isn’t football.

But spring has sprung and a new season of fashion is upon us, so why not get a look at how the men who run the sport outfit themselves? Let’s start from the top down.

The hat

The headwear conversation starts with Bear Bryant, whose houndstooth lid is so distinct, they put it on his statue outside Bryant-Denny Stadium.

Wesley Hitt/Getty Images

The most iconic visor in the game is the calling card of Steve Spurrier.

Vanderbilt v South Carolina Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images

Spurrier’s visor is so influential that it’s inspired others, like current Florida coach Dan Mullen, to follow in his stead. Former Ole Miss coach Hugh Freeze sported the visor as well, and through it, developed a kinship with Spurrier.

But the more common headwear is the baseball cap. Even that can be made iconic, however. See: Miles, Leslie Edwin.

LSU v Auburn Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

And they serve a functional purpose for the more follically challenged among us — sorry, 2014 Jimbo Fisher.

There are variations. Clemson defensive coordinator Brent Venables goes with a bright neon hat so his defense can see him on the sideline. (More on this later.)

Troy v Clemson Photo by Tyler Smith/Getty Images

When college football honors The Troops, Syracuse’s Dino Babers (a military brat himself) rolls with the digital camo.

Syracuse v LSU Photo by Jonathan Bachman/Getty Images

Whatever you want to call it (straw/beachcomber/safari), the wide-brimmed member of the cowboy family is good for shade. Nick Saban wears one during practice.

Bobby Bowden would bust out the Sunday’s-best version on Saturdays.

Alabama v Florida State Photo by Marc Serota/Getty Images

When you win a game in Texas, it’s time to don a trophy. Here’s Mike Gundy after winning a Texas Bowl.

Oklahoma State v Mississippi State Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images

And who can forget Charlie Strong?

Matthew Emmons/USA TODAY Sports

The headset

The tech has come a long way from this version in the ‘80s, sported by Bo Schembechler, to the overtly branded ones we have today.

Bo Schembechler

Todd Graham’s Britney Spears derivative was an evolution, as were his colored wristbands.

Weber State v Arizona State

Coaches like Brady Hoke have come full circle. At Michigan, he wouldn’t wear one so that he could coach the kids up ...

Michigan v Northwestern Photo by David Banks/Getty Images

... but that tune changed when he got the interim job at Tennessee. Hooray for product placement!

LSU v Tennessee Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images

The outerwear

There are two variations of hoodies: Belichick and non-. Who exactly cuts the sleeves for Belichick? And why does he like this look?

AFC Championship - Baltimore Ravens v New England Patriots Photo by Jim Rogash/Getty Images

Like normal people just trying to be warm and comfortable, Mike Riley keeps the sleeves, as God intended.

NCAA Football: Iowa at Nebraska Reese Strickland-USA TODAY Sports

Never forget Mark Mangino’s letterman jacket.

Kansas v Texas Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

And when it rains, the outerwear comes into play. Here’s Dabo Swinney trying to stay dry.

Notre Dame v Clemson Photo by Tyler Smith/Getty Images

Adjacent is the windbreaker. Bill Snyder’s is the most curious. After his Wildcats won the Cotton Bowl, he wore a Cotton Bowl windbreaker for the following two seasons. When the Wildcats made the Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl, he switched. But the Big 12 forced him to ditch bowl windbreakers, because he was rocking swag from games the conference had disaffiliated with.

The shacket

There probably isn’t another article that’s as unique in a coach’s closet as the shacket. Is it a shirt or is it a jacket? This is the chicken/egg debate that keeps me up at night.

Arkansas v Auburn Photo by Wesley Hitt/Getty Images

Former Auburn head man Gene Chizik was at the vanguard of shacket chic, and he didn’t even realize it.

He smiles and laughs as the first photos pops up — the “shacket” — which was a term he was apparently unaware of. When we introduced the term to him, he deadpanned to the camera as if he was Jim Halpert.

”So what I had my equipment guy do is, I told him that I don’t like short short-sleeves. So we would get whatever Under Armour sent us and we’d cut the sleeves off of it, we’d hem ‘em,” Chizik said. Similar to Belichick’s signature look, this seems to be a more weather-versatile approach to a cutoff sweatshirt.

”Dana, our equipment guy who’s still at Auburn, would actually custom make all of my game day tops so that they would fit me the way I wanted them to fit.” Chizik liked for the sleeve of the jacket to come down right above the elbow.

Jim McElwain and Bret Bielema rocked versions in 2017.

There’s even a long-sleeved derivative, displayed here by Tom Herman.

Texas v Baylor Photo by Ron Jenkins/Getty Images

The suit

Not just for media days and TV appearances.

Step into the Saban spring catalogue. On A-Day in Tuscaloosa, you can spot him dressed to the nines.

The Grandfather of South Florida football preeminence, Howard Schnellenberger, stands in a class of his own on the sidelines.

R&L Carriers New Orleans Bowl - Memphis v Florida Atlantic Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images

P.J. Fleck goes for a more contemporary shirt-and-tie look (plus shacket), a nod to the men who influenced him.

Nebraska v Minnesota Photo by Adam Bettcher/Getty Images

One is Mike Nolan, who coached Fleck in San Francisco.

Detroit Lions v San Francisco 49ers Photo by Jed Jacobsohn/Getty Images

The sweater vest

Fleck’s other mentor is Jim Tressel. Few coaches are as synonymous with a piece of clothing.

Allstate Sugar Bowl - Ohio State v Arkansas Photo by Matthew Stockman/Getty Images

Gus Malzahn has been known to don vests, with some performing better than others.

Saban has a gray vest that’s a staple of his practice look.

NCAA Football: CFP National Championship-Alabama Practice Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports

The full sweater

A vestige of a bygone era when the Vs were deep and the collars were starched. Look at this Snyder fit from 1992.


Former USC coach Larry Smith:

Michigan St v USC


Bobby Bowden Photo by: Bill Frakes/Getty Images

Former Michigan head man Gary Moeller:


And former Ohio State/Arizona State coach John Cooper:

John Cooper

The turtleneck

Charlie Strong has mastered the art of the mock.

Birmingham Bowl - Texas Tech v South Florida Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images

But former USC coach Pete Carroll nailed the actual turtleneck.

The Tonight Show With Jay Leno Photo by Paul Drinkwater/NBC via Getty Images

The crewneck

Between turtleneck and polo lies the crewneck. Of its devotees, the most notable are Jim Harbaugh ...

NCAA Football: Outback Bowl-Michigan vs South Carolina Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

... and Kliff Kingsbury.

NCAA Football: Texas Tech at Texas John Gutierrez-USA TODAY Sports

Lincoln Riley can play ball in the crewneck game.

NCAA Football: Big 12 Championship-Texas Christian vs Oklahoma Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports

As can Ed Orgeron.

Florida v LSU Photo by Jonathan Bachman/Getty Images

Same deal with Gary Patterson, if he’s not wearing the long-sleeve version of the most common option.

TCU v West Virginia Photo by Joe Sargent/Getty Images

And Patterson’s clothing choice is known to have a bearing on on-field performance. In the 2016 Alamo Bowl, Patterson started the game in black, then switched at halftime. The results speak for themselves.

The polo

As promised, here’s Patterson in a long-sleeved polo. He’s in black here, but briefly swore off the color after that Alamo Bowl.

Big 12 Championship - Oklahoma v TCU Photo by Ron Jenkins/Getty Images

These days, polos are cookie-cutter. Almost every coach wears them at various points in the year. Nike, Adidas, and Under Armour debut slightly updated versions of their coaches polos in the offseason, and then they’re sported by the coaches all season. You can have one yourself for like $80.

But they do serve a functional purpose. Check out the guys behind Urban Meyer here:

NCAA Football: Cotton Bowl-Ohio State vs Southern California Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports

Those are assistants who signal plays in. To make it easier for the Buckeyes on the field to pick out signals, these coaches are wearing colors that pop in a sea of scarlet.

But, my goodness, was the polo game strong back in the day. Frank Solich:

Frank Solich

Bowden yet again:


Bill McCartney:

Colorado Buffaloes Photo by:Stephen Dunn/Getty Images



Fisher DeBerry:


Bob Toledo:

Bob Toledo

Fred Goldsmith:

Fred Goldsmith

R.C. Slocum:

R.C. Slocum

Bill Curry:

Bill Curry

The pants

We’ve arrived at the legs, so thank goodness I have an excuse to use this photo of former Georgia coach Jim Donnan:

Virgina v Georgia X Donnan

Sure, he’s in shorts, but just feast your eyes on this magnificent Hawaiian shirt he sported when the Dawgs played in the 2000 Oahu Bowl. (Some coaches of Pacific Island descent wear island accents to their coaching uniforms that are much less forced. Navy’s Ken Niumatalolo is famous for his lei.)

Besides that, you won’t see shorts in-game too often. Northwestern’s Pat Fitzgerald is an exception.

Illinois State v Northwestern Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

You will almost always see a coach wearing long khakis (obligatory Harbaugh reference). But now that Derek Dooley’s at Missouri, he can dye his pants yellow and give us a redux of his Volunteer orange slacks:

Tennessee v Vanderbilt Photo by Frederick Breedon/Getty Images

Check out these puppies on Lou Holtz ...

... and Tom Osborne.

And Temple’s Geoff Collins with the capris-style:

The point of contention is pleats. Many a head man has shackled himself to this style. Paul Johnson exhibits the look here, as if wearing Russell Athletic isn’t bad enough.

Georgia Tech v North Carolina Photo by Grant Halverson/Getty Images

Jeff Monken and others give me hope that sensibilities are changing and flat-front is en vogue.

NCAA Football: Armed Forces Bowl-San Diego State vs Army Ray Carlin-USA TODAY Sports

The shoes

It’s mostly the stock athletic shoe provided by the school.

Some coaches take that to the extreme, like Mullen. At Mississippi State, an Adidas school, he leaned heavy into the Yeezy wave.

Dan Mullen's shoe and sock game at #SECMD17 #HailState #SEC

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Now he’s at Florida, a Jordan Brand school soon. His feet remain a tool to appeal to The Youths on the recruiting trail.

Coaches who don’t go sneakers can pull a Harbaugh and wear cleats.

NCAA Football: Outback Bowl-Michigan vs South Carolina Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Sideline swagger is an overlooked subculture of the coaching profession.

But even on Saturday afternoon, clothes still make the man.