Tennessee Volunteers: Evolution of the Smokey Gray Uniform

Now that Nike and The University of Tennessee have officially joined forces, fans have been quick to grade the new style that Nike has injected into all of the athletic programs, especially football. Everyone knew the transition from Adidas to Nike was coming for quite some time and the fan reaction has been positive with the recent unveiling of the new digs.

It is worth noting that Nike came up with their own version of the “Smokey Gray” alternate uniform, something that Adidas introduced during the 2013 season which, for the most part, received praise amongst players, coaches, and fans. It was a fresh, new look; something that veered away from the traditional orange and white color combination.


First of all, fans either really hate or really love when their team gets a new uniform. Ever since the emergence of alternate uniforms began, almost every team in America has experimented with something. The Tennessee Volunteers haven’t steered too much away from their iconic colors, ever.

In 2009, during the Lane Kiffin era, the Vols wore black jerseys with orange pants on Halloween night in a home game against South Carolina.

RELATED: Surprise! It’s Black Jerseys For Vols

In 2013, Adidas created the first ever “Smokey Gray” alternate uniform:

At first glance, the smokey, charcoal gray color is a sharp look. That’s not the only thing that made these unique.

These jerseys contained the outline of the state of Tennessee above the player names on the back as well as the jersey numbers featuring a tonal orange checkerboard pattern inspired by Tennessee’s iconic checkerboard end zones.

The gloves were also pretty neat:

Photo: Adidas America

During the 2013 season the Vols wore these twice, both were home games versus SEC foes Georgia and Vanderbilt. Tennessee lost both of the those games, leading the superstitious to lose faith in the alternate jersey.


Prior to the 2014 season there was a slight uproar going on in Vol Nation. A new Smokey Gray alternate  was making its rounds on the internet and apparently on shelves at some Vol apparel shops.



Photo: Alumni Hall

Nice try Adidas, but these were pretty ugly. Clearly you can see what they are trying to do with the checkerboard shoulders but it’s not working out. Fans were terrified that these could be real. This alternate was never worn, and rightfully so. As the news broke on these, Twitter agreed with the not-so-good design:


Out with the old and in with the new. In typical Nike fashion, Nike came in and made a statement with it’s new Tennessee football product line.

Sleek but traditional. The new Mach Speed uniforms offer up a new number font with the helmets featuring a stripe that is half checkerboard:

The most anticipated jersey of the new Nike era was the alternate. The Vols will be decked out in Smokey Gray from head to toe – including the helmet.

Nike unveiled a gray helmet with an orange half-checkerboard stripe.  This particular helmet also features a slick outline of the Smoky Mountains, a nod to Big Orange Country in East Tennessee:

Overall, Nike did a great job with these uniforms by adding a fresh twist to an already classic look. It also successfully walked the thin line of tradition by not overdoing the new look. These should go over well with most college football fans.