Tennessee Orange is a Rocky Top staple. A classic in the college football sense of the word, the duo of UT orange and white is legendary in its own right. But even an icon like the orange-and-white combination can use a refresh every once in awhile. Through the years Tennessee has debuted a number of uniform changes and in 2022, a fan favorite is making its return: the Vols will revive Nike’s smokey grey alternate uniform.
Dressing the Vols: A History
The Vols’ uniforms are iconic in themselves, and they’ve gone through a number of changes throughout history.
From 1911-1920, the primary uniform color for the Vols was black adorned with Tennessee orange accents. In 1927, the Vols decided to get loud by replacing black jerseys with orange ones which had white accents. In 1936, white numerals were added to orange jerseys and a star was born.
Orange and white uniforms reigned supreme in the rotation of colors until 2009’s showdown against South Carolina. For that game, the Vols sported the black-with-orange-accents jerseys for the first time since 1920.
The first smokey grey uniforms Tennessee debuted were actually designed in 2013 when Tennessee was in partnership with Adidas. The design was busier than anything the Vols had worn before, and when Adidas introduced a second (awful) smokey grey design for 2014 the Vols refused to wear it. The unworn 2014 uniforms were donated to a youth team in Israel in 2015.
In 2015, the Vols’ partnership with Nike began and Nike released its own smokey grey design. A simpler design more in line with uniforms of seasons past, this uniform was worn a handful of times before its retirement in 2017.
Vols Revive Grey Uniforms
Enter: 2022. Some of the year’s fashion revivals are fads no millennial wants to relive. Some are worth a slight consideration, and some deserve a proper comeback. For the Vols this is the beginning of the Smokey Grey era.
The fan-favorite smokey grey alternate uniform introduced by Nike in 2015 will return to Rocky Top this year for the first time since 2017. This will be the first in a smokey grey series of designs by Nike. Right now, a new design is set to be released every season from 2023-2025, with potential to extend the series further at a later date.
The original Nike smokey grey jerseys are two-tone grey with numbers in UT’s signature orange. In true Vols fashion, the pants are also grey and sport an orange stripe-into-checkerboard down the side. The grey helmets feature an orange Power T, a mountain design in shades of grey, and an orange stripe-to-checkerboard down the middle of the helmet.
These uniforms are slick. And the Vols have posted a 3-1 finish in them already.
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Smokey Grey In Action
In 2015, the Vols rocked these uniforms during their 21-point comeback against Georgia. Then in 2016, the Vols notched another 21-point comeback against Florida while wearing the smokey grey alternate uniform. The Vols sported the grey again during their 38-24 beatdown of Nebraska in the 2016 Music City Bowl. The only loss recorded in these uniforms was 2017’s 41-0 loss to Georgia.
Sadly, Nike’s smokey grey design was retired after 2017 by 2018’s then-incoming head coach, Jeremy Pruitt. Favoring a traditional orange and white look, Pruitt’s Vols had three lackluster seasons following the retirement of the smokey grey look. Superstitious minds might call that an interesting coincidence.
2021 saw Josh Heupel’s Vols reintroduce the teams “Dark Mode” black alternate uniforms and, a fan of alternate uniforms, 2022 will see his Vols revive grey uniforms.
Over the course of several seasons, The Vols will embark on a series of performances in smokey grey designs by Nike. The new designs released from 2023-2025 will “honor the past, celebrate the present and embrace the future of Tennessee football.”
Tennessee Orange: An Icon
“Tennessee Orange” is practically its own color. It is a shade synonymous with one of the most hyped college football programs year after year. It’s a color whose most iconic fan wear is a pair of orange and white checkered overalls. It’s bold, it’s loud, and a sea of it can be overwhelming. But, it looks great with grey.
Smokey Grey, The Reboot
The Vols have looked great and played well in Nike’s smokey grey uniforms. Though it hasn’t been announced yet when the Vols will be suited up in grey for 2022, expect the moment to be met with great fanfare and even greater play action.
With this year’s roster and this design making a comeback, whatever game the Vols choose for this uniform will be one for the cameras.
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