I thought I would let everyone in on a conversation I have been having with Colorado’s own Klaus about Clemson’s use of purple during the Jess Neely and Frank Howard years. Of the limited amount of color photos I found, some of the uniforms appear like a dark navy instead of purple. I have found two excerpts from the book, “Clemson Tigers,” published in 1976. I am not sure if these quotes solve the mystery or not, but it is interesting reading.
“Legend has it that professor Riggs (the father of Clemson football), carefully calculating the remoteness of Clemson, S.C., from Auburn Ala., and the unlikelihood of conflict between the two, suggested that Clemson’s teams be the Tigers and the colors be purple and gold, a striking similarity to Auburn’s Tigers, who also wore purple and gold.
Purple and gold were Clemson’s colors when my family moved to the campus in 1925. There has been an evolution of the colors over the years until now they are closer to purple (or even dark blue) and orange.”
“It is extremely doubtful that anyone can tell you with certainty how the Clemson colors swung from purple (and a rather pale purple, at that) and gold to what for several years was described as “Northwestern purple and burnt orange.” But that the colors have changed, unofficially if not officially is a fact and there is story about it that is probably as good as any other explanation. It says that in the early years of Jess Neely’s tenure, he found it almost impossible to get uniforms in purple and god that would be “color fast.” In other words, between constant exposure to both weather and the washing machines, the purple and the gold faded markedly and became difficult , if not impossible, to recognize for what they were supposed to be.
A big economic factor here was the impossibility of adding replacement jerseys or pants to existing sets of uniforms. The newer uniforms made the older ones look ratty indeed. And complete new sets of uniforms were hard to finance in the mid-30’s.
So, working with professional color people in the school of textiles and with sporting goods manufacturers, Neely finally arrived at deeper colors (a slightly deeper purple and gold that became orange) that were more color fast in that they held up better under the rays of the sun, the agitations of the washing machine and the carry-over from season to season.”
During the Charlie Pell years Clemson added navy stripes to the helmets and navy outlines to the uniform numbers, which remained until Ken Hatfield tenure, but I have not found any written documentation on that so I am going on memory on that. So take that with a grain of salt. But I will keep looking. Of course your feedback on the matter is always welcomed.
Until then take a look at my Clemson Picassa gallery, and judge for yourselves.