The Cincinnati Bearcats should have 15 different helmets, and here’s what they should look like
Basketball illustration from the 1907 edition of The Cincinnatian. (UC Libraries)
This is something I’ve been wanting to do for a long time. Over the past few weeks, I’ve been slowly chipping away at it. This is a really time consuming project that I would have preferred to complete all at once. However, you’ll noticed I stopped at 1971. The ’70s and ’80s are a weird dead space for UC history because it’s the period after early history (which is cataloged online) and it’s before recent history (which is cataloged online). I can find every uniform starting in the ’90s pretty easily, but that dead zone will be hard to fill. If you have any photos from the ’70s and ’80s, or ideas on where to get them, feel free to let me know. I’d love to finish Part 2 of this.
If you have a question, or if you see something I’ve messed up, let me know. I’m not perfect, this was a cumbersome project, and history can get murky. I’d rather just get everything correct.
A huge thanks to the online archives of the UC Libraries. I believe every image is from them. They’re the best.
Tip: Use CTRL+F (or command+F on Mac) to quickly jump to a specific year.
[NOTE: This wasn’t even a varsity team. (The first varsity team on record isn’t until 1901–02.) It’s not listed in the basketball media guide, but the 1897–98 edition of The Cincinnatian has a photo and team roster of what appears to be the first UC basketball team. They played one game that season, and it looks like it was an scrimmage against another UC club team. The game ended in a 2–2 tie.]
They didn’t have uniforms. What you’re seeing are the football uniforms.
Solid black with a Block “C”. The turtlenecks are what was worn by the football during that time period, so it looks like they just copied those.
Solid black with subtle striping. It’s hard to say for sure what the colors were, but UC hadn’t adopted red and black as official colors yet. They really could be anything.
1904, 1905, 1906
Solid black with “UC” inside a circle. I think it’s interesting how the wide shoulders resemble the more modern cut jerseys worn in the Adidas era. I also find it interesting that the team returned to pants after wearing shorts for three seasons. I can’t imagine anyone playing basketball in shorts and deciding heavy football pants were better.
1907, 1908, 1909, 1910, 1911
Very similar to the 1904 uniforms, but now with just a “C” inside a circle. Again with heavy football pants. These even look like they have pads in them.
1912, 1913, 1914, 1915
Solid black with script “Cin’ti.” I don’t know the etymology of that, but it’s an abbreviation for Cincinnati that you see fairly often on older postcards and things of that nature. It’s the equivalent of a “Cincy” jersey nowadays.
Black and white stripes.
1918, 1919, 1920, 1921
Completely blank. Solid black and solid white. I’d like to see a team brave enough to try turning these into throwbacks. Imagine blank uniforms on ESPN.
Solid black with an elongated Block “C”. Since one player is wearing the same jersey in white, I’d assume they had home and away uniforms with the same design.
1926, 1927, 1928
1926 was the first time “Cincinnati” appeared on the front of Bearcats basketball jerseys. It was black font on a black uniform.
1929, 1930, 1931
1929 added black (or maybe even red) piping on white uniforms around the shoulders and at the bottom of the shorts. Piping around the shorts is still common to this day, and we first saw the trend on UC uniforms in 1929.
[Note: I couldn’t track down good enough photos of the 1930 team, so I can’t say for certain that they worse these uniforms. Based on the fact that they wore them in ’29 and ’31, I feel comfortable assuming.]
1932, 1933, 1934, 1935, 1936
In 1932, uniforms featured a prominent belt buckle as well as something resembling modern sneakers. Those are the only two differences separating these from the 1926 uniform, as far as I can tell.
Similar to the 1929 uniforms but without piping around the shoulders, the addition of black belts, and black-striped socks.
Same as 1937, but minus the socks.
1939, 1941, 1942, 1943
Very similar to the 1932 uniforms, but it looks like shiny (silk?) shorts were standard starting in 1939.
In 1940, at least one uniform featured mismatched jersey and shorts. I’m not sure if the black road uniforms had white shorts.
1944, 1945, 1946, 1947
Similar to the 1938 uniforms, but these don’t have black piping around the shorts. “Cincinnati” is also changed, and this new version reminds me a lot of old Reds uniforms, for whatever reason. A much more subtle arc to the word itself.
The road uniforms were black on black, and thus nearly impossible to see in photos. Additionally, you can tell in the photo below that some jerseys had a number on the front but no “Cincinnati.” This happened on and off from 1944–47.
1948 is when the uniforms started to resemble what we picture when thinking of Bearcats throwbacks. The shorts featured piping with a triple stripe (white, black, white). The warmups were really spiffy, and are adorned by my favorite version of the bearcat.
1950, 1953, 1954, 1955, 1956, 1957, 1958, 1959
These were a common version of the ’50s and ’60s era uniforms. The triple stripe piping on the shorts appears to be black-red-black. “Cincinnati” appears to be red outlined in black.
Below is a game against Cedarville in 1950 when at least one player wore mismatched jersey and shorts. I couldn’t find evidence of this being a trend, so I can’t say with confidence if this was something that happened for one game, one season, multiple season, or was nothing more than a wardrobe issue by a forgetful equipment manager.
These appear to be the same as the 1950 uniforms, but with solid black piping instead of the triple black-red-black. After a couple seasons, they abandoned that until 1966.
1960, 1961, 1962, 1963, 1964, 1965
These are the classics, in my opinion. Simple and perfect.
The shoulder piping was nothing more than a heavy black stripe. The piping along the shorts appears to be a triple stripe of black-red-black. “Cincinnati” is now a solid, flawless black.
They wore these for five consecutive Final Four appearances and back-to-back National Championship victories. The Bearcats revived these (or something based off of these) in 2010–11 and 2011–12.
1966, 1967, 1968, 1969
Starting in 1966, the uniforms were essentially a combination of the 1960 uniforms (same jersey, it would appear) and the 1950 uniforms (similar single black stripe piping on the shorts).
These seem like a half-step away from the ’50s and ’60s standards, and the next edition in 1970 completes the full step.
Another small set of tweaks to the 1966 uniforms results in a completely different set of duds than the ones worn from 1948–1965. These uniforms are fine, although nothing special. They’re essentially a standard ’70s version of what was worn in the previous 20+ years.