The first football uniforms (1892) were put together by the individual players, with many variations, but generally consisted of a black pullover jersey with a sleeveless, buttoned overvest upon which were a “U” and a “T” to the right and left of the opening. In 1902 the overvest was discontinued. Pants were gray. In 1920 players sewed padding into their pants and wore elbow pads. In 1921 the team wore black jerseys with white numbers.
Orange (wool) jerseys, with black numbers on the back, were first worn on September 23, 1922 (Tennessee 50, Emory & Henry 0). In 1935 the jerseys were white with orange stripes on the sleeves, but with General Neyland’s return in 1936, the orange jerseys also returned and included white numbers on the front, for the first time, as well as on the back. In 1963 the team wore orange jerseys with black numerals and black piping. The 1963 helmets had black numerals, replacing the orange numbers of the previous year.
In 1964 Doug Dickey brought back the solid orange jersey and added helmets with a “T” on each side. That year also marked the advent of the “TV” numbers—numbers on the top of each shoulder—designed to be more readily picked up by television cameras. In 1971, 1972, and 1973, road uniforms were white jerseys with orange shoulders/collar—the jerseys were first worn in Gainesville, Florida, a Tennessee 20-13 win, and continued until the 1974 Auburn game, when the team wore white jerseys with no orange shoulders/collars. The year 1971 also saw the addition of players’ names on the back of road jerseys, and names were added to home jerseys in 1985. In the mid-1970s, mesh jerseys replaced “tear-away” cotton jerseys.
In 1947 white pants were adopted, and an orange stripe was added in 1949. The stripe was discontinued in 1955 when Bowden Wyatt became coach but returned (as two stripes) in 1964, the year that Head Coach Doug Dickey also added the “T” to the helmet. In 1970, when called for by SEC (and later NCAA) rules, the team began wearing white for away games. Orange pants debuted in 1977 and were worn at various times, both at home and on the road, until Coach Johnny Majors’ final game in 1992. The all-orange uniform was first worn for the 1977 Vanderbilt game. Coach Phillip Fulmer removed the stripes from the road uniform pants in 1995 and added the “T” on the front left of them. He removed the stripes from all pants in 1996 (but kept the “T”). For the 2002 season, newly designed pants—both road and home—were given very thick orange stripes, with the road pants outlined in black. An orange stripe was also added to the cuffs of the jerseys, and the black and white cleats were replaced by white cleats with orange trim. For the Sunday, September 5, 2004, season opening game, the Vols wore their “throwback jerseys”—white with an orange collar—used for eight road games between 1971–73, and for the first time since the 1976 Ole Miss game, the visiting team wore its home uniform.
On Halloween night in 2009, in the game against South Carolina (Tennessee 31; South Carolina 13) the team wore black jerseys with orange numbers—no names were on the jerseys. In 2013 Coach Butch Jones introduced a “Smoky Gray” uniform first worn October 5 against Georgia and worn for the second time against Vanderbilt.