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The Details Behind Penn State Football’s Retro Uniform

Years of planning finally culminated in Thursday’s historic announcement that Penn State will wear an alternate, retro uniform against Indiana on Sept. 30.

“This is something, to be honest with you, Spider and I started [having] conversations about from the day I arrived,” Franklin said at Beaver Stadium.

Brad “Spider” Caldwell, Penn State’s longtime head equipment manager, retired in 2014 after serving the football program for 31 years. When Franklin asked about the minor alterations the Nittany Lions have made over the past few decades, Caldwell simply headed to the Lasch Building basement and dug up old helmets and pants.

“The gray facemask I wasn’t sure about, but then when you see it, I think it looks really sharp. I think the numbers on the helmet are great,” Franklin said. “All these things were downstairs.”

Jay Takach, who took over for Caldwell, stressed the importance of maintaining Penn State’s classic simplicity.  “We’ve always been subtle. We’ve always had that iconic uniform look; so we wanted to make sure we honored that through this design,” Takach said.

“We’re concerned about Penn State, not other schools,” Franklin said. “With the history and traditions that we have, we don’t have to reinvent ourselves. It’s elements from our past, but done in a current way.”

Senior punt returner Josh McPhearson, who surprised his teammates in the squad room early Thurdsday morning, had the unenviable job of keeping the new uniform a secret. “We brought him into the circle of trust on this one. Josh was amazing with it,” Takach said.

The original design was finished 16 months ago, but no one, Takach included, saw the new cleats or socks until McPhearson put them on.

“Nike’s been working on this for a while for us to get it done,” Franklin said. “I also know we invested a lot of money into it and it would make sense maybe to use it one time a year or something like that, but we’ll see — I’m not sure what the future holds.”

The first question many fans wanted to know was whether the jerseys or socks will be up for purchase. “To my knowledge, something will be available on our website,” said Brad Keen, assistant athletic director for marketing. “I don’t know as far as vendors are concerned.”

Keen elaborated on Penn State’s plans for the “Generations of Greatness” theme against the Hoosiers, saying it won’t be limited to just the uniforms.

“Everyone does a throwback uniform. We’re gonna have the ultimate throwback game,” Keen said. “You might see a different-looking video board. You might see pennants instead of shakers in the student section. We might do something with elements on the field.”

We’ll have to wait til the last weekend of September to see whether the scoreboard turns black and white or the old stripes return to the end zone, though.

“Dress up in your favorite period attire and let’s have some fun with it,” Keen said.

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About the Author

Ethan Kasales

Ethan’s a senior journalism major who grew up in Lemont, a few minutes from campus. When he’s not covering Penn State sports, you can usually find him golfing or teaching snowboarding at Tussey Mountain. Feel free to email him at [email protected].

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