While most of the college football world has been rolling out wacky uniforms for years, South Carolina is very much a latecomer to this trend. The ever-idiosyncratic Steve Spurrier was loathe to stray beyond the team's basic options — and also notoriously superstitious, as some combinations vanished after tough losses while others were worn on repeat during the 11-win seasons. Upon Spurrier's departure in late 2015, interim coach Shawn Elliott started to experiment because why not, and new coach Will Muschamp took the baton with gusto, letting the players choose before each game in 2016. The result was the most uniform creativity South Carolina fans have seen in years, albeit a bit of a mixed bag.
As a new season approaches, here's a review of the best and worst uniform combinations the Gamecocks wore in 2016.
Combo: black helmet/black jersey/black pants
Game(s) worn and result: East Carolina, W; Tennessee, W; USF, L (bowl)
Finally, an all-black South Carolina uniform that's actually all black and not ruined — er, topped — with a white helmet. Speaking of the helmet, the matte finish is another overdue addition to the team's wardrobe. This combination also gets extra points for legitimate usage of a school color, unlike 90% of the other black uniforms in college football. This set was the only one that had the honor of being worn twice in 2016 (three times, if you count the bowl game), and there's a very good reason for that.
Game(s) worn and result: at Mississippi State, L
This should absolutely be the default road uniform, should such a concept take hold again. Football uniforms tend to look their best when the helmet matches the pants, and the use of garnet here really sets off what is otherwise your typical, plain white jersey. This is a more understated set that has a modern yet timeless feel.
Game(s) worn and result: Georgia, L
Ah, the classic "big game garnet" from the Spurrier era (though again, with a white helmet as a bit of a fly in the ointment). I'll give this a good rating because of its legacy and because the garnet jersey and pants together really is a great look, but as we saw in 2015 against Clemson, a garnet helmet takes this to the next level.
Game(s) worn and result: UMass, W
Another legacy combination from the Spurrier era that was the team's go-to for lower-tier opponents at home. Nothing flashy, but a classic and distinctly South Carolina look that should be kept in the rotation.
Game(s) worn and result: at Florida, L
This doesn't pop as much as the garnet/white/garnet combination, but it's a good compromise between the folks who love the all-whites and the folks who don't. All the pieces compliment each other without being too loud or getting lost -- the helmet starts it off with just enough of a visual spark that leads into a clean white finish.
Game(s) worn and result: Missouri, W
This might be an unpopular opinion, but I loved this set. It took me a minute to get used to it when the team took the field, but by the end of the game, I was convinced it was one of the better combinations of the season. It's a little odd because football uniforms often pair light and dark elements, but there's still some nice contrast on display and it incorporates both school colors. Like the set worn against Vanderbilt, this one is outside the box, but it's more cohesive.
Game(s) worn and result: at Kentucky, L
This is definitely an unpopular opinion, but here it goes: I think these are really boring. I know the "Stormtrooper" look is beloved by many in the South Carolina fanbase, and I wouldn't go so far as to say I hate it, but it just doesn't do a whole lot for me. It's devoid of any distinguishing features, which doesn't help since every other school has an all-white combination as well. I think this uniform acquired a bit of a cult status because of its usage during the high points of the Spurrier era, and also because it was the one monochrome scheme where the helmet actually matched. But seeing as the Gamecocks took their third straight L to Kentucky in this getup, I'd be perfectly happy to retire it for a while.
Game(s) worn and result: Western Carolina, W
This is a decent combination that hadn't been consistently worn since the early Spurrier years. It's more understated than the white/garnet/white, and if the team's wearing black, it might as well go the full nine yards now that an excellent all-black combination is available. But since that all-black seems reserved for more special occasions, this is at least an OK option to have against a non-Power 5 opponent.
Game(s) worn and result: at Vanderbilt, W
This was a bold statement right from the get-go, a definitive signal that the team was no longer bound by arbitrary uniform rules. I welcomed the change and appreciated this idea in theory, but not as much in execution. For a team that has kept it simple for so long, there's just a bit too much going on here (he says, as Oregon and Maryland fans laugh uproariously).
Game(s) worn and result: at Texas A&M, L
As previously mentioned, I think football uniforms flow best when the helmet matches the pants (or when all three elements are in unison), so this is a bit of an odd one. The top half looks great, but the pants are a visual roadblock and throw the whole set off. Pass.
Game(s) worn and result: at Clemson, L
Unlike the garnet/white/white set, this really just doesn't do it for me at all (and I promise it has nothing to do with the final score of this game). Black and white combinations run the risk of looking too grayscale or boring, and I think that's exactly what happened here. If they had worn black pants with that white jersey — which, geez, I don't think has been done since South Carolina lost to Kentucky in 2010 — it's a different and slightly better story. This is still a forgettable look, though.