Fun With Team Photos: A History of Headwear

It’s the fifth of July. By Brady Hoke standards, Michigan has gone aeons without landing a recruit (though that has a good chance of changing in the very near future). Besides updates on Austin Hatch and (probably premature) season preview content, there’s not much to write about around these parts. Luckily, I’ve had this post saved as a draft — just the title, of course, without doing any actual work — for over a year, so today, the Fun With Team Photos/offseason boredom series continues into its third offseason. So far, we’ve poked fun at a geeky ’70s player who may not have actually been a player, looked at Michigan greats during their awkward freshman years, caught a couple players napping, done photo montages of former Team MVPs and Bo Schembechler, and of course, judged who sported the greatest facial hair in Michigan football history. Today, we look at silly hats, because it’s come to this. As always, these photos are from the incredible Bentley Historical Library.

We begin our journey through the history of headpieces with the inaugural season of Michigan football, 1879, when the team sported striped caps that may have been lifted straight out of the state pen:

Rusher (that was a position, I guess) Richard DePuy looks somewhat less than pleased with the selection, though that may be because he appears to be wearing his pajamas instead of a football uniform.

As you’ll see, the 19th century was the golden age for goofy hats, and we only have to move forward one season to get this gem from 1880:

E.H. Barmore, much like DePuy, looks quite ready for bed, thank you, though he’ll have to wash that dirt off his lip first. Also, the Wolverines are two years into having a football program and have yet to figure out they’ve been playing with a deformed basketball.

As we move on to 1883, we start to see a variety in headdress among the squad, and a couple players decided to spice things up with a decorative pom-pon:

I’m sure these two gents in the bottom row struck fear into the hearts of opponents with their hand-knit PJs and poofy crownpieces.

In 1885, Michigan still did not have a football coach, instead following the instructions of the team captain, but one dapper — and unfortunately unidentified — fellow chose to dress his Sunday best:

This says: “My hat is far superior to yours, and if one disagrees, I shall beat the scoundrel with my whip.”

In 1888, the puffball joined forces with the stripe, and the football finally started looking like a football:

I’d make a joke here, but I’m afraid of any man who can sport such a lustrous beard, alive or dead.

1896 was a banner year, bringing you the photo at the top of the page, which I’ll reproduce below for laziness’s sake:

The hats, from left to right: Sad crumpled cowboy, newspaper delivery boy, cult member and/or a native of Planet Remulak.

From this point forward, the hat made a sudden and disappointing disappearance from Michigan team photos for the better part of a century, save for this photo taken at the 1902 Rose Bowl practices prior to Michigan’s 49-0 defeat of Stanford:

Clearly, the bowler carries great power, especially when combined with the mustache. So great, in fact, that the Rose Bowl would not be played again for another 15 years, during which time Stanford disbanded their football team in favor of rugby. The cowards.

As mentioned, no hats appeared during the rest of Fielding Yost’s tenure, nor those of any subsequent coach until reintroduced in 1980 by the legendary Bo Schembechler, whose head was so powerful that his hat meekly lay at his feet, awaiting marching orders from the Wolverine general:

Why yes, Bo is wearing cleats, and he will happily use them to stomp on any insubordinate headwear — how did you think that brim got so flat?

One decade later, Gary Moeller would finally bring the hat back to its rightful resting place, proudly displaying the Block ‘M’ atop his head:

Sweet Nikes, Coach.

So there you have it, a semi-thorough history of the hat in Michigan football team photos. This was obviously not an enormous waste of your time, nor am I at all concerned about the boredom brought upon by hours upon hours of baseball highlights and lockout talk on Sportscenter and AUUUUGGGGGGGGHHHHHH I NEED FOOTBALL NOWWWWWWWWWW.

Um, sorry, this could be a rough couple months. Actual, real football content will be on its way tomorrow.

  1. Paul Shea said:

    The fact that there are several individuals in several photos wearing are several different ridiculous hats is ridiculous!

  2. Dale Winling said:

    An excellent use of the resources of the Bentley Historical Library, I must say.

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