This post is sponsored by Homefield. New customers receive 15% off their first order with the promo code: HAILVARSITY
I’m a jerk when it comes to the intersection of sports and design. There’s an “athletic pursuits” circle over here, which I have spent most of my career on, and an “aesthetic concerns” circle over there, which is mostly a hobby. Where they intersect should be where I excel, but the problem is they’re basically the same circle in my mind. I can’t bring myself to believe in “look good, play good,” but I definitely enjoy sports more when they look good.
If you’re the kind of person who enjoys discussing stripe widths, color combos and historical accuracy, we can talk for hours. If you don’t care about any of those things, I might come across as the worst conversation partner in the world. So it goes in a world where two things, sports and design, intersect frequently, but are viewed as distinct disciplines.
As evidence of my potential annoyingness, please see piece-by-piece grades of Nebraska’s alternate uniforms in 2016, 2017 or 2018. Or this story entirely on overalls (and Herbie Husker). Or this one on the origins of the Blackshirts logo, a pretty good story, I thought, that only came about because I’m unhealthily interested in this stuff.
There’s no authority to be established on these topics, just a history of obsession with something that comes down to taste. That history has led me to believe that Nebraska’s archive of vintage designs isn’t the richest. It’s not meant as a slight, just how it worked out. For a long time, visual branding didn’t matter a ton to football-playing schools, even the big ones. It was way more practical than that. Does the team have uniforms? Great. Are they the school colors? Excellent. A program didn’t need much more than that.
Yet, plenty of schools churned through logos quickly, leaving a trove of old logos. Nebraska football, prior to the alternate uniform era, only ever had numbers on its helmet or the plain “football N”, either stacked with a “U” initially or on its own since then. It had Harry Husker in the 1960s, an adopted logo created by Bill Goggins, an illustrator for Nebraska Farmer. It had Herbie Husker, an adopted logo created by Texas cartoonist Dirk West for a bowl program in 1974. There’s the football N—plain, sans-serif—and the iron N—bold, block font—as primary marks, and then the Harry-to-Herbie-to-new-Herbie evolution. Nebraska hasn’t changed a lot, unlike some other schools.
Point is, when I learned Homefield was releasing a Nebraska collection featuring 15 new designs, I thought, “good luck.” Homefield, based in Indiana, has made its name on sourcing not just popular vintage logos, but totally forgotten ones. I’d seen their designs for plenty of other schools and came away impressed. They really did find stuff I didn’t expect to see, which is all I want to see.
But the Huskers would present a unique challenge. I can report that I was surprised by Homefield’s Husker collection, available July 2. I didn’t think there was much there to mine, but Homefield found some stuff. You can listen to an interview with Homefield co-founder Connor Hitchcock on this week’s Varsity Club Podcast to hear the story of how the brand started and how it digs up the vintage logos that have become its stock and trade.
Full disclosure, Homefield and Hail Varsity partnered on the release of this new collection. I got an early look at the designs ahead of their release––though two designs were not part of the preview I saw––but beyond that nobody told me what to write or even asked to see what I was writing. Homefield sponsored this post, and then said have at it, which is pretty cool.
So, here’s my buying guide to the new Homefield Nebraska collection. If I, an admitted snob when it comes to this stuff, could buy just one shirt, it would be this top pick. If I could buy two, I’d take one and two, and so on. This is my order. Yell at me if you wish.
(Also, you’ll want to get over there in a new tab as we go along.)
- 1970–71 National Champions – It’s a farm guy, customary wheat stalk in his teeth, with a nice hand-drawn N on the hat, the sort of thing you could do when brand guidelines didn’t exist. Chronologically, this farm guy would have to be a take on Harry Husker as Herbie wouldn’t exist for a few more years, but you’ll see the resemblance to Herbie. We may be dealing with non-linear timelines here, and that’s fine because this wasn’t a farm guy—Harry, Herbie, whomever—I hadn’t seen before and it feels like this could’ve been a design hot of the local presses in January of 1972. The oranges, signifying Orange Bowl wins over LSU and Alabama to deliver Nebraska’s first two national titles, are the cherry on top in this case.
- Nebraska Volleyball ’95 National Champs – A fairly straightforward design, but what really sells this one is the circa-1995 light-gray heather fabric. I remember this heather from when I was an impressionable high schooler developing an athletic-aesthetics problem.
- Herbie Husker – If someone says “play the hits” when it comes to Nebraska and logos, it undoubtedly involves classic, overalled Herbie. He’s here, but it’s the type that makes this sing. And another good gray, this one of a more vintage variety.
- Der Viener Schlinger – Maybe Nebraska’s trove of vintage logos isn’t the deepest, but there’s a ton of daylight to run with things that are adjacent to classic university traditions. “Der Viener Schlinger” is one of those, a part of Husker game days but something few others may have thought of. I certainly didn’t. This is the most “if you know, you know” design of the bunch.
- Bugeaters Football – This one is a bit of a mashup, but it works well. You get the callback to one of Nebraska’s former nicknames, another illustration you don’t see just anywhere, the football N makes an appearance (which I will defend until my dying day as the most unique aspect of the Huskers’ visual identity, just ask me about it sometime) and you get the rarely seen “Nebraska U.”
- Rollin’ with the Huskers – Hey, bowling. The 11-time national champions deserve inclusion here. I haven’t done a complete look at every school Homefield has partnered with—there are so many at this point—but I feel like this is the only bowling shirt in the collection.
- Harry Husker – Here’s Harry. He always looks so put together, but in a rural-formal sort of way—slacks and blazer, yes, but also cowboy hat and boots. It’s true to life, and particularly true to the nostalgic view most born after the 1960s have of the era. Harry Husker could be a cattle baron Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce flew to New York to wine and dine at some point. Harry had a helluva time, probably gave Don Draper a “no” despite that and then got back to Lincoln for the Nebraska game on Saturday.
- Cornhuskers – In Nebraska circles, we’ve all become so accustomed to “Huskers” that those of us most invested in including the “Corn” rarely notice any longer. That said, it’s nice to remember the corn every now and again, and it’s impossible to forget here because there’s an anthropomorphized ear of corn running towards something while shrugging its shoulders as if to say, “Yeah, I don’t know either.” Weirdness works.
- There Is No Place Like Nebraska – Ask anyone who has detasseled corn before about detasseling corn. They’ll have a story about it, I promise. It’s not an experience anyone soon forgets. Google the topic, go to the videos tab and watch the first one that shows up. It explains that “You will need” a field of corn and strong hands. “Optional: Work Gloves.” Add an unbending desire to be miserable, and that pretty much sums it up. The gentleman on this shirt is technically shucking corn, but his apparent zeal for the task will always remind me of the enthusiasm with which those who have spent time between the rows discuss their experience. You have to care that much.
Buy all of the shirts. Pick and choose. Your choice.
If it were up to me, that’s my draft order, but it’s tough to go wrong.
See the new Nebraska collection at homefieldapparel.com and receive 15% off your first order with the promo code: HAILVARSITY.
Brandon is the Managing Editor for Hail Varsity and has covered Nebraska athletics for the magazine and web since 2012, Hail Varsity’s first season on the scene. His sports writing has also been featured by Fox Sports, The Guardian and CBS Sports.