History of NFL Team Uniforms
Are you ready for some football?
The six words, often shouted by excited fans or blasted on the TV before the start of a big game, represent an American cultural phenomenon like no other: the NFL.
As a league, the NFL generates roughly $15 billion per year, a number that has increased year over year for decades. An average of 15 million people tune in to each game, with more than 90 million watching the Super Bowl from around the world.
Cities compete for new stadiums, and passionate fans spend millions if not more on gear and apparel so that they can represent their team and city and show off their loyalty.
This is because there’s nothing quite like donning your favorite NFL team uniform on game day.
These jerseys are more than just jerseys. They’re rally starters and points of connection. And they’re also a link to the stories of yesteryear that help make the modern NFL such a compelling drama.
Let’s take a look at the history of the NFL as well as how each team’s uniforms emerged and evolved to what they are today.
With a history dating back to before 1900, one that includes countless teams from cities all across the United States, there have been hundreds if not thousands of NFL football uniforms used over the years.
Many modern football uniforms are simple updates of uniforms that have been around for decades, a tribute to the long history of the game and league. But many are brand new concepts, though even these are based on some aspect of league history.
Let’s take a look at the evolution of NFL uniforms for all 32 teams in the league, starting with the AFC:
- Hometown: Buffalo, New York
- Stadium name: Highmark Stadium — Orchard Park, New York
- Year founded: 1960
Started in 1960, the Buffalo Bills were one of the founding members of the AFL. But football has been in Buffalo for longer than that. The All-America Football Conference, which launched in 1944 as a competitor to the NFL, had a team in Buffalo, also called the Bills.
Football has a strong tradition in Buffalo, but as the team’s loyal fan base knows, it hasn’t always been fun and games. For example, the team went to the Super Bowl four years in a row from 1991-1994 (no other team has ever appeared in more than two consecutive championships) but lost all four times. To this day, a Super Bowl victory eludes the team.
Lately, the Bills have made a resurgence, making the playoffs three times since 2017. But that championship remains a dream.
Here’s a snapshot of the major changes to the Bills’ uniforms over the years:
- 1960 — Original Bills jerseys include dark blue jerseys with silver accents and white pants. Throughout the 1960s, a red stripe was added to the helmet.
- 1973 — The Bills wear blue pants for the first time
- 1974 — The Bills logo is changed from the “standing buffalo” to the “charging buffalo” still used today
- 1984 — Red helmets are introduced.
- 2004 — Jersey colors are darkened and the Bills start wearing blue pants all the time
- 2011 — The team returned to its roots and brought back white helmets and the lighter blue jerseys reminiscent of what the team wore in its first seasons.
New England Patriots
- Hometown: Boston, Massachusetts
- Stadium name: Gillette Stadium — Foxboro, Massachusetts
- Year founded: 1960
An original member of AFL, known then as the Boston Patriots, New England has been one of if not the most successful team in the history of the NFL. With six Super Bowl victories, they are tied with Pittsburgh for the most in league history.
All of this success has come in the past twenty years and is the result of the iconic coach-quarterback team of Bill Bellicheck and Tom Brady.
Throughout its history, the team has undergone several dramatic uniform changes. Here’s their story:
- 1960 — New England’s first uniforms feature red jerseys, white pants, and a white helmet with a tri-cornered hat as a logo, the type of cap the real patriots would have worn. This logo was replaced in 1961 with the iconic “Pat Patriot.”
- 1993 — Under new ownership, the Patriots make their first major uniform change in team history. The new design features blue jerseys, white pants, and the new “Flying Elvis” logo.
- 2000 — The primary color is changed to navy blue and the Patriots start wearing silver pants. This is the look they wore during their six Super Bowl-winning seasons.
- Hometown: Miami, Florida
- Stadium name: Hard Rock Stadium — Miami Gardens, Florida
- Year founded: 1966
One of the first expansion teams in the newly merged NFL, and the first professional football team in the deep south, the Miami Dolphins is one of the more storied franchises in the history of the NFL. But they’ve earned this reputation pretty much for what they did in just one season: their 1972 undefeated year.
To this day, the 1972 Dolphins, under coach Don Shula and quarterback Dan Marino, remain the only team to win all of their regular-season games and the Super Bowl.
Perhaps as a way to keep that season alive, the Dolphins have done very little to their uniforms over the years. In fact, the only noticeable change has been in the logo. Here’s its full evolution:
- 1966 — The Dolphins introduce their first uniforms: aqua jerseys with white pants and orange highlights throughout.
- 1983 — The dolphin logo is briefly displayed on the jersey’s sleeve but then is removed a few seasons later.
- 2009 — The Dolphins make one of the biggest changes to their uniform by adding a third jersey. It’s the same design except the primary color is orange.
- 2013 — After nearly 50 years with the same logo, the Dolphins decided to change things up and streamline their brand image.
- 2015 — Dolphins uniforms change slightly, mainly the shade of aqua used becomes a bit lighter.
New York Jets
- Hometown: New York, New York
- Stadium name: Metlife Stadium — East Rutherford, New Jersey
- Year founded: 1960
Originally the Titans of New York, the Jets were founded in 1960 as one of the original AFL teams. Once part of the NFL, they were immediately successful, winning the third-ever Super Bowl. However, since then, success has been hard to find. A brief revival in the early 2000s gave them a chance, but the team is still chasing a return to glory.
Over the years, the Jets have undergone some significant uniform changes that have led to their current look. Here’s a breakdown of how we got to where we are today:
- 1960 — As the Titans of New York, the Jets wore navy blue jerseys and gold pants, a look designed to resemble the uniforms worn at Notre Dame.
- 1978 — New green helmets feature the new team logo: the word Jets written out in white lettering.
- 1998 — White helmets are brought back and the logo is redesigned to reflect the first version of the Jets. The primary color becomes darker.
- 2019 — The logo is once again changed back to a Jets wordmark. Dark green jerseys are changed up for a brighter color, which the team calls “Gotham Green.”
- Hometown: Pittsburgh, PA
- Stadium name: Heinz Field
- Year founded: 1933
Originally a member of the NFL, the Pittsburgh Steelers were one of the teams that agreed to join the AFC after the merger. Before this time, the team had never won a championship. But since then, things have changed considerably.
Overall, the Steelers have won six Super Bowls, which puts them in a tie with the New England Patriots. Four of these came in the 1970s, but their most recent win was in 2008.
As one of the oldest and most successful teams in NFL history, and also the only one still owned by the founding family, the Steelers have had little reason to change their uniforms.
With the exception of a few modifications, they have remained largely the same for the team's 90+ year history.
- 1933 — Pittsburgh’s first uniforms feature vertical black and gold stripes and the city’s crest. The next version removed the crest and made the stripes horizontal.
- 1936 — The Steelers introduce the uniform they still wear to this day: black jerseys, yellow pants, and black helmets with the Steelers logo on just one side.
- 1966 — The Steelers attempt to change things up and introduce an all-black uniform with a gold triangle at the top. Players and fans both complain this makes the team look like batman, and so the design is scrapped and the original is restored.
- Hometown: Baltimore, Maryland
- Stadium name: M&T Bank Stadium
- Year founded: 1996
Although football in Baltimore dates back to 1953 with the Baltimore Colts, the Ravens are one of the league's newest franchises, joining in 1996. During the last 25 years, the team has earned a reputation as being a defensive stalwart, and they’ve won both Super Bowls in which they’ve appeared.
For some, the existence of the Ravens produces mixed emotions. The Colts were a beloved team, yet in 1983 the owner sold the team and it moved to Indianapolis. No one had any warning this was going to happen. The city was literally robbed in the middle of the night.
To this day, when the Colts visit Baltimore, the scoreboard reads “Indy.” For every other team, they display their nickname: Patriots, Packers, Bills, etc. It seems that writing the word Colts next to a city not named Baltimore still stings just a little too much.
Because of its short history, the Ravens have undergone few uniform changes. Here’s a summary of what they’ve done so far:
- 1996 — The first version of the Ravens uniform looked fairly similar to what they wear today: purple jersey, black pants, black helmet. The only major difference was the logo, which in 1996 was a giant “B” inside a shield with wings.
- 1998 — The Ravens introduce an all-white uniform.
- 2004 — The first all-black Ravens uniform makes it onto the field.
- 2008 — White jerseys are paired with black pants for the first time.
- 2010 — The Ravens wear six different uniform combinations throughout the year, but they remain true to the basic concept established in 1996.
- Hometown: Cincinnati, Ohio
- Stadium name: Paul Brown Stadium
- Year founded: 1966
Founded in 1966, the Bengals played their first games as a member of the AFL in 1970. However, despite being one of the older franchises in the league, the Bengals have also been one of the quieter ones. They’ve never appeared in a Super Bowl and have only made the conference championship twice, the last time coming in 1988.
In addition to not winning, the Bengals also haven’t changed their uniforms much. After establishing a basic style upon entering the league, they’ve made a few adjustments to create their current uniforms. Let’s take a look:
- 1966 — The Bengals introduce their first uniforms: black jerseys, white pants with an orange stripe, orange helmets with “Bengals” written in black, and white-orange-white stripes on the sleeves.
- 1975 — The word Bengals is removed from the helmets and replaced with tiger stripes. These same stripes are added to the shoulders of the jersey and along the sides of the pants.
- 2004 — The stripes are moved down and become parallel with the sleeve. A third orange jersey is added to the Bengals wardrobe.
- Hometown: Cleveland, Ohio
- Stadium name: FirstEnergy Stadium
- Year founded: 1946
Founded in 1946 as part of the All American Football conference, and named after the original owner and coach of the team, Paul Brown, Cleveland is one of the older franchises in NFL history. But their story has been an eventful one.
After joining the NFL in 1949, they quickly won a championship. They then went on to win seven more before the AFL-NFL merger. But they have never been to a Super Bowl.
In 1996, the team’s owner tried to move the Browns to Baltimore but was stopped in court. The resulting decision allowed the Browns owner to start a new franchise — the Ravens — but kept the rights to the Browns in trust. Three years later, under new ownership, the team reentered the league, bringing one of its original members back into the fold.
Like many of the other older franchises, the Browns have not made many changes to their uniforms. Here’s a summary of how their look has evolved:
- 1946 — The Browns debut their classic look: brown jerseys with shadowboxed numbers, white pants, and a white helmet.
- 1950 — Shadowed numbers are dropped and the helmet color is changed to orange. Numbers are added to the helmet.
- 1975 — The Browns begin wearing orange pants for the first time
- 1985 — A return to the classic look: brown jerseys, white pants, and orange helmet with no numbers.
- 2015 — Jerseys get a minor update. The most notable change is the addition of the word “Cleveland” to the front of the uniform.
- Hometown: Indianapolis, Indiana
- Stadium name: Lucas Oil Stadium
- Year founded: 1953
Originally part of the All American Football Association, the Indianapolis Colts actually got their start as a franchise in Baltimore. The first attempt, launched in 1946, failed, but the team reorganized by 1953 and has gone on to win three championships before the merger and two Super Bowls, the last in 2006.
A defining moment of the franchise came in 1983 when owner Jim Irsay decided to move the team to Indianapolis.
Talks between Isray and the city of Baltimore regarding a new stadium for the team broke down to the point where Isray felt he had no choice but to move the team in the middle of the night, leaving Baltimore without football for more than a decade.
Despite this tumultuous history, the Colts’ uniforms have remained the same for virtually its entire history.
Here’s a summary of the major changes:
- 1954 — The classic blue jerseys and white pants with a stripe down the side and a white helmet with the Colts logo is introduced.
- 1958 — The stripes previously on the sleeves are moved up to the shoulders.
- 1984 — A blue Colt logo is added to the pants but is removed by 1988.
- 2005 — The jersey’s stripes are shortened and moved up. The pants are given a blue-white-blue stripe.
- Hometown: Nashville, Tennessee
- Stadium name: Nissan Stadium
- Year founded: 1960
It’s common for sports teams to move around and change. But the Tennessee Titans have brought things to a new level. Founded in 1960 as the Houston Oilers and an original member of the AFL, the team eventually moved to Tennessee in 1997 and then two years later changed its name to the Titans.
The Houston Oilers won the AFL championship twice, impressive considering the league lasted on its own for only ten years. Since then, though, things haven’t gone as well. In its first season as the Titans, Tennessee made it to the Super Bowl but lost at the last second. Since then, it’s made just a handful of playoff appearances.
However, despite all the changes in this franchise, their uniforms have undergone relatively few updates over the years. Here’s how things have gone:
- 1960 — The Oilers' original uniforms feature light blue jerseys, white pants with a blue-red-blue stripe, and a blue helmet with a white oil rig as a logo.
- 1969 — A grey helmet is added to the mix, replacing the original blue one. Stripes were added to the sleeves.
- 1979 — After a brief switch back to blue helmets, the Oilers switch to white helmets with a blue oil rig as the logo.
- 1999 — Tennessee’s new team becomes the Titans. They keep the same color scheme but invent a whole new logo. The main color is a darker blue, but the helmets remain white, an homage to the team's history.
- Hometown: Houston, Texas
- Stadium name: NRG Stadium
- Year founded: 2002
Although Houston has had football since 1960, or perhaps even earlier, there were five years where it had none. The Oilers had moved to Tennessee, and it wasn’t until 2002 that the NFL expanded and brought football back to Houston.
Since its inception, the Texans have struggled, making the playoffs only a handful of times and never getting past the championship game.
In addition, because it’s such a new franchise, its uniforms have undergone few changes. Its home jersey is blue with white pants, and the aways are the exact opposite. Here are a few changes that have taken place since then:
- 2003 — The Texans add an alternate third uniform that features red jerseys and white pants.
- 2007 — To mix things up, Houston adds three new uniform variations: all red, all blue, and all white.
- Hometown: Jacksonville, Florida
- Stadium name: TIAA Bank Field
- Year founded: 1993
Together with the Carolina Panthers, the Jaguars joined the league as part of the expansion that took place in 1992. Right off the bat, they made noise in the league, making it to the AFC Championship game in the second and fifth seasons of their existence.
Beyond that, though, the Jags haven’t made much noise. A brief return to prominence came in 2017 when the team made it back to the AFC Championship, but they were bested by the Patriots and denied their first trip to the Super Bowl.
Since the team’s founding, they have used teal, white, and black as their main colors.
Here are some of the more notable variations of this:
- 1995 — The Jaguars make their debut in the league with teal jerseys, white pants, and black helmets sporting the team logo.
- 2002 — An all-black uniform is added to the mix, and the primary home uniforms begin being paired with black pants. White pants remain as an alternate.
- 2013 — Uniforms are completely revamped. Black is made the primary color and teal is left to the sleeves. The helmets are redesigned and colored with a black-gold gradient.
- 2015 — The team introduces gold uniforms, often worn during color-rush games.
Las Vegas Raiders
- Hometown: Las Vegas, Nevada
- Stadium name: Allegiant Stadium — Paradise, Nevada
- Year founded: 1960
As a founding member of the AFL, the Raiders franchise is one of the most storied in the league. The team, however, has undergone a lot of changes. It started out playing in Oakland but then moved to Los Angeles in 1983. Then, in 1995, it went back to Oakland for another 24 years before moving again to become the league’s first franchise in Las Vegas.
Throughout its history, the Raiders have been one of the league’s more successful teams. They won one AFL championship before the merger, appeared in the second-ever Super Bowl, and went on to win titles in 1976, 1980, and 1983. Along the way, its fanbase has earned a reputation as one of the most passionate in the league.
However, despite all of these changes, the Raiders’ uniforms have changed very little if at all over the years. Here’s how things have gone down:
- 1960 — In its first season, the Raiders wore black jerseys with gold stripes, white pants also with gold stripes, and a plain black helmet, uniforms that somewhat resembled those of the Steelers at the time.
- 1963 — The Raiders unveil their classic logo and put it on their helmets, which by 1963 are silver.
- 1967 — Oakland’s jerseys are changed to be black with silver letters and numbers, the pants become silver with a black stripe, and the helmet remains the same. This look remains until this day.
- 2020 — The team moves to Las Vegas but keeps the same uniform style it’s had since the 1960s.
Los Angeles Chargers
- Hometown: Los Angeles, CA
- Stadium name: SoFi Stadium — Inglewood, CA
- Year founded: 1960
The Chargers came into existence as the Los Angeles Chargers in 1960 as original members of the AFL but moved to San Diego the following year. There they would remain until 2017.
Over its history, the Chargers have been good but not great. They’ve won their division sixteen times, but they have only won the AFC once, which led to a Super Bowl loss.
However, Chargers uniforms, with their unique colors, are some of the most iconic in the league. Here’s a summary of how they have evolved over the years:
- 1960 — The Chargers debut their uniforms, which feature lighting bolts for stripes on the jersey and pants, as well as on the helmet. This first uniform put player numbers on the helmet.
- 1966 — The San Diego Chargers adopt their signature powder blue uniforms for the first time.
- 1974 — The powder blue is dropped for a darker shade, and the helmets are no longer white but dark blue.
- 1985 — White pants, not yellow, became the standard.
- 2002 — The powder blue jerseys are brought back to complement the darker colored shirts. They quickly become fan favorites and the team’s primary jersey.
Kansas City Chiefs
- Hometown: Kansas City, Missouri
- Stadium name: Arrowhead Stadium
- Year founded: 1960
Another founding member of the AFL — though as the Dallas Texans — the Chiefs have been a mainstay in the league for decades, returning to glory just a few years ago with a remarkable comeback victory in Super Bowl LIV (2019).
They were the first AFL team to play in a Super Bowl, losing to the Green Bay Packers. They went on to win Super Bowl IV, which took place in 1969.
While fairly basic, the Chiefs have some of the most recognizable uniforms in the NFL. Here’s a little bit about how they have changed over the years:
- 1960 — The first version of the Chiefs' uniforms look almost identical to what they wear today, except instead of a KC logo and an arrowhead on the helmet there is an outline of the state of Texas since they started as the Dallas Texans.
- 1963 — The Dallas Texans moved to Kansas City and became the Chiefs. The uniforms remain the same except the helmet logo changed to what it is today.
- 2013 — All-red and all-white versions of the classic Chiefs uniforms are introduced to participate in the league’s color rush campaign.
- Hometown: Denver, Colorado
- Stadium name: Empower Field at Mile High
- Year founded: 1960
Like the other teams in the AFC West, the Denver Broncos were one of the original AFL teams. Founded in 1960, the team did not have a winning campaign for the first 13 years of its existence. Since then, though, the Broncos have been a top team in the league.
In total, Denver has been to eight super bowls, winning three of them, including two in a row under John Elway from 1997-1998.
However, while success has been consistent in Denver, uniform design has not. Here’s how things have evolved over time:
- 1960 — The first Broncos uniforms have yellow jerseys, brown pants, and brown helmets with numbers on them.
- 1962 — After just two years with their original uniforms, the Broncos changed up their colors and started wearing orange, blue, white, and brown, with orange featuring as the primary color. The helmets are orange and feature a bronco for the first time.
- 1968 — The Broncos ditched brown altogether in 1967 and then in 1969 introduced the iconic “D” logo to the helmet while switching its color to blue. Their primary jersey color remains yellow.
- 1997 — After nearly three decades with the same uniforms, the Broncos switched things up, adopting a new logo that looks more like a horse and changing their primary color to a much darker blue. Orange is still involved but it becomes secondary.
- 2012 — The uniforms stay the same but orange is brought back as the primary color.
Let's check out uniforms from NFC teams:
New York Giants
- Hometown: New York, New York
- Stadium name: MetLife Stadium — East Rutherford, New Jersey
- Year founded: 1925
Founded in 1925, the New York Giants were on the ground floor of the NFL. This makes them one of the oldest franchises in the league. They are also one of the most successful having won a total of eight championships, including four Super Bowls.
With such a long history, the team has certainly had its ups and downs. And while it’s changed its uniforms here and there, the basic concept has remained the same since the early days.
Here’s a timeline of how Giants uniforms have changed over the years:
- 1925 — The first Giants uniforms were primarily red with one blue horizontal stripe. Their helmets were brown because they were made from leather.
- 1937 — The first version of the Giants classic style hits the field: solid blue shirt, gray pants, and a blue helmet. Their away jerseys are red, much like the 1925 originals.
- 1961 — The red jerseys were ditched in 1956 in exchange for white shirts, and then in 1961 the previously blank blue helmets were upgraded with the Giants’ signature “NY” logo.
- 1967 — Grey pants are replaced with white ones.
- 1976 — The basic design of the uniform remains the same, but the logo is changed from “NY” to “GIANTS”
- 2000 — The Giants bring back the original “NY” logo and switch back to grey pants, making their uniforms look almost exactly like the 1937 version.
- 2004 — The red jerseys are brought back as an alternate third uniform.
- Hometown: Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
- Stadium name: Lincoln Financial Field
- Year founded: 1933
Known for having a ferocious fan base, the Philadelphia Eagles became a team in 1933 and joined the NFL after the Frankford Yellow Jackets went bankrupt. They won their first of three NFL championships in 1948 but didn’t return to the big game until 1980, which they lost.
Another Super Bowl appearance in 2004 produced more heartbreak before the City of Brotherly Love finally got its title in 2017.
Since its inception, the team has undergone several uniform changes. Here’s a summary of how things have unfolded:
- 1933 — The Eagles first jerseys sport the official colors of the city of Philadelphia — sky blue and yellow
- 1936 — After a few years with the blues, the eagles switched to green uniforms with white pants. By 1942, the pants were gray.
- 1954 — The iconic “eagle wing” gets added to the green helmets.
- 1974 — The first major change in decades, stripes are added to the sleeves and the jersey color is darkened.
- 1996 — The Eagles adopt yet another color of green for their jerseys, this time even darker.
- 2005 — An black jersey is added and quickly becomes a top uniform voice for the Eagles.
Washington Football Team
- Hometown: Washington, D.C.
- Stadium name: FedEx Field — Landover, Maryland
- Year founded: 1932
Originally founded as the Boston Braves and then moved to Washington where it became the Redskins, today’s Washington-based football team has the most generic name in the NFL. This is because, after years of pressure from various groups, the team has decided to drop its Redskins nickname on account of it being super offensive to indigenous people.
As a football team, Washington is one of the more storied franchises in the league. It won the NFL Championship twice before the merger and has since won three Super Bowls, the last coming in 1991.
Since moving to Washington, the team has had more or less the same uniform for its entire history. Here is a recap of all the changes throughout the years:
- 1933 — Original Boston Braves uniforms are blue with gold pants and gold helmets.
- 1934 — The Boston Redskins change their jersey color to red and keep the gold pants. The helmet color is changed to red.
- 1936 — The red is changed to be more of a maroon, similar to the color the team uses today.
- 1937 — In its first season in Washington, the team switches to gold helmets for a year, but then switches back to red for the following season.
- 1965 — A tomahawk is added to the helmet
- 1972 — The Redskins logo, the source of so much controversy, debuts on the team’s red helmets.
- 1979 — Gold pants are replaced with white, a style that remains until this day.
- Hometown: Dallas, Texas
- Stadium name: AT&T Stadium — Arlington, Texas
- Year founded: 1960
Today, the Dallas Cowboys, often called America’s Team, are almost synonymous with the NFL. But the team didn’t join the league until its 1960 expansion. But since then, the Cowboys have become one of the most well-known and successful of all NFL franchises.
After not appearing in a single championship game throughout the 1960s, the Cowboys won their first Super Bowl in 1971. They would go on to win again in 1977, and then they won three in the 1990s, giving them a total of five.
In addition to being one of the most successful teams, the Cowboys also have some of the most recognizable uniforms in the league. Little has changed over the years, but here’s how we got to where we are today:
- 1960 — In their first season, the Cowboys wore white shirts with blue shoulders that featured the Texas star on each side. Pants were also white, and the helmet, which had a big blue star in the middle, was also white.
- 1971 — Ten years later, the Cowboys simplified their uniforms to just a blue shirt with white numbers and white stripes on the sleeves. By now, though, they were wearing gray pants.
- 1984 — The first year with their modern uniforms: white shirt with blue numbers, silver helmet with the star, and silver pants with a blue-white-blue stripe down the side.
- 1995 — The Cowboys briefly brought back the stars on the shoulders, introducing their loudest look yet. By 2005, they were back to their classic look.
Green Bay Packers
- Hometown: Green Bay, Wisconsin
- Stadium name: Lambeau Field
- Year founded: 1960
Formed by employees of the Acme meatpacking plant in Green Bay in 1919, the Packers are not only the third oldest football team in the league, but they are also one of the most storied and interesting franchises in the NFL. With no majority owner, the team instead belongs to shareholders, made up of fans, who appoint a general manager to run the team.
In addition, Green Bay, with a population of just a little more than 100,000 people, is the smallest market in the league. Yet every game is sold out, and it takes an average of 130 years to get off the season ticket waiting list.
With 12 total NFL championships, including four Super Bowls, the Packers are also one of the league's most successful teams. Their iconic green and gold uniforms have changed little over the years, but they weren’t always that way.
Here’s how things have developed since the early days of Green Bay football:
- 1921 — As the Acme Packers, the team wears blue jerseys with gold pants and brown leather helmets.
- 1935 — The Packers ditch the blue and gold and switch to green.
- 1940 — The team goes back to blue uniforms for the next 10 years.
- 1961 — With yellow helmets that sport a big “G,” green home jerseys, and yellow pants, the Packers settled on their look that remains to this day. Little has changed. Some stripes, and not much else.
- Hometown: Chicago, Illinois
- Stadium name: Soldier Field
- Year founded: 1920
Originally the Decatur Staleys, the Bears, who moved to Chicago in 1921 and have become a quintessential part of Windy City culture, are one of just two remaining teams that formed the original NFL.
Winners of eight NFL championships, most of the Bears' success came before the merger, though they did win Super Bowl XX in 1985 and returned to the big game in 2006. Famous Bear players include Walter Payton, Gale Sayers, Dick Butkus, and Mike Ditka, among many others.
Like many of the other older teams in the league, the Bears haven’t done much to their uniforms over the years, with a few noticeable exceptions:
- 1920 — as the Decatur Staleys, the Bears wore red jerseys with gold pants and brown leather helmets.
- 1923 — Orange replaces red and blue is introduced, bringing about the color scheme still used by the team today.
- 1941 — The Bears introduce their dark blue jerseys with orange letters and white pants. The helmet is blue and blank.
- 1962 — After two decades with essentially the same uniform, the bears add the “C” logo to their helmet, solidifying the uniform design they still use today.
- Hometown: Minneapolis, Minnesota
- Stadium name: U.S. Bank Stadium — Eagen, Minnesota
- Year founded: 1960
Unlike the other teams in the NFC North, the Vikings entered the league as part of the 1960 expansion. But unlike their division rivals, the Vikings have done very little to their uniforms over the years.
Purple has always been the primary color. White pants with purple-gold-purple stripes down the side, as well as a purple helmet with a white viking horn, have also featured in Minnesota’s uniform since they joined the league.
However, while their uniform design has been consistent, their play has not. They’ve played in just one championship game, in 1969 before the merger and have never won, despite making the playoffs in 30 different seasons.
No need to run through the changes in Minnesota’s uniforms since there have been so few.
- Hometown: Detroit, Michigan
- Stadium name: Ford Field
- Year founded: 1930
Originally founded as the Portsmouth Spartans, the team became the Lions in 1934. In its first 20 seasons, it won four NFL championships. But since 1957, it has won just one playoff game, leaving this historic franchise desperate for victory.
In general, the Lions’ uniforms have remained true to their original concept, though there have been some major changes throughout the years, such as:
- 1930 — Initial Portsmouth Spartans uniforms are purple and black with vertical stripes and black leather helmets.
- 1934 — The Lions introduce their signature blue and silver color scheme.
- 1948 — For one season, the Lions decided to wear red and black. But by 1949 they were back to their traditional colors.
- 1961 — The lion logo is added to the team’s helmet, creating the version of their uniforms still in use today.
- 2005 — For the first time in its history, Detroit introduces black jerseys. The traditional blue remains but these new ones become more common.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers
- Hometown: Tampa Bay. Florida
- Stadium name: Raymond James Stadium
- Year founded: 1974
Tampa Bay got a football team during the NFL’s first post-merger expansion, joining the league alongside the Seattle Seahawks in 1976.
As compared with other teams, the Bucs have gone through some of the more dramatic uniform changes. However, they’ve really only ever made one switch. But it was a big one.
Since joining the league, the Bucs have been to two Super Bowls and won them both, the last coming in 2020 under legendary quarterback Tom Brady, who previously won six championships with New England.
Here’s how the Buccaneers have changed their look over the years:
- 1976 — In their first season, the Buccaneers sported burnt orange jerseys, white pants, and white helmets with an orange logo designed to look like a pirate.
- 1997 — The Buccaneers decide to ditch their original uniforms, bringing in a new logo and a whole new color scheme. No more burnt orange. Instead, the team began wearing red, white, and bronze, a combination it still uses today.
New Orleans Saints
- Hometown: New Orleans, Louisiana
- Stadium name: Caesars Superdome — New Orleans, Louisiana
- Year founded: 1966
Today, the New Orleans Saints are regularly one of the best teams in football. But this has not always been the case. In fact, they didn’t have their first winning season until 20 years after joining the league.
However, things changed dramatically in the early 2000s, and although the team has only ever won one Super Bowl, it is regularly in contention, reminding other franchises that there is always hope of turning things around.
In general, though, the Saints have kept the same uniforms since they joined the league. Their classic look of black home jerseys, gold pants, and a gold helmet with the fleur-de-lis logo has been the main design since 1966.
From 1975-1985, the team dropped the gold pants and went to white. But they brought their traditional look back in 1986 and have stuck with it since.
- Hometown: Charlotte, North Carolina
- Stadium name: Bank of America Stadium
- Year founded: 1993
Established in 1993 as part of an expansion that also brought a team to St. Louis, the Panthers have had a short yet relatively successful time in the NFL. They’ve made it to the playoffs eight different times, making two Super Bowl appearances, first in 2003 and then again in 2015. Unfortunately for them, they lost both times.
Because they’ve only been in the league for a few decades, the Panthers haven’t really done much to their uniforms. Their signature blue color — Panther blue — has been around since the beginning.
In the early years of the franchise, this blue was their primary color. Since then, black has become more prominent. But the teal-like shade still features prominently in their uniforms. Other than that, the only major changes that have taken place include moving stripes around and switching up the color scheme.
- Hometown: Atlanta, Georgia
- Stadium name: Mercedes-Benz Stadium
- Year founded: 1966
Another team that joined the league as part of the 1966 expansion, the Falcons have had an interesting history. With 14 playoff appearances in their history, as well as two trips to the Super Bowl, they have been relatively successful.
However, they have yet to win the Big Game, and their 2016 loss to the Patriots came when they were winning 28-3 in the second half. It’s remembered as both the biggest comeback and biggest collapse in the history of the NFL.
Currently, the Falcons stadium offers fan-friendly pricing, which means affordable concessions for all, a strategy 100 percent unique in all of professional sports. Let’s take a look at what’s happened to their uniforms over the years:
- 1966 — The first version of the Falcons’ uniforms consist of black jerseys, white pants, and red helmets with a black falcon on the side.
- 1971 — To switch things up, the Falcons began wearing red jerseys instead of black.
- 1990 — New decade, new look. The Falcons switch to wearing black helmets for the first time in their history
- 2004 — After nearly 40 years with the same look, the Falcons completely redo their uniforms. Using the same style, this version features a new logo and home jerseys that are red, black, and white, not just one color.
San Francisco 49ers
- Hometown: San Francisco, California
- Stadium name: Levi’s Stadium
- Year founded: 1944
As one of the two teams west of Chicago played in the pre-merger NFL, the 49ers have played an important role in helping spread the game of football across the country. But in addition to that, they’ve also been one of the league's most successful franchises, winning a total of five Super Bowls, and producing stars such as Joe Montana, Steve Young, and Jerry Rice, to name just a few.
It was originally a member of the All America Football Conference but merged with the NFL in 1949.
The 49ers’ current uniform design debuted in 1964 and has changed very little since. Before that, the design was the same except the helmets and pants were silver and not gold. Strange considering the team is named after the year in which the nation’s largest gold rush took place.
Since 1964, stripes have been added and taken away, and the shade of red used was darker in the 1990s. But other than that, the 49ers have worn the same uniforms for the better part of the last 60 years.
Los Angeles Rams
- Hometown: Los Angeles California
- Stadium name: SoFi Stadium
- Year founded: 1936
Founded as the Cleveland Rams, the LA Rams have a long, winding history. They moved to Los Angeles in 1946, just ten years after starting, and then moved again in 1994 to St. Louis.
Despite all of this, the Rams have been rather successful. They’ve made the playoffs in 30 different seasons, been to four Super Bowls, and won one. They also have two NFL championships from before the merger.
Interestingly, they are the only NFL team to win championships representing three different cities. Their first came from Cleveland, then one in LA, and then another in St. Louis.
In 2015 the team moved back to Los Angeles, leaving St. Louis without an NFL franchise. With such a long history, there have been some considerable changes to the Rams uniforms over the years, such as:
- 1937 — In their first season as the Cleveland Rams, the team wore red and black. This lasted just one year; yellow and gold were introduced in 1938.
- 1948 — The signature “ram spiral” appears for the first time on LA’s helmets.
- 1965 — LA removes yellow from its uniform and goes with a blue-white look for the first time in its history.
- 1973 — Yellow is brought back to LA’s uniforms.
- 2000 — A few years after moving to St. Louis, the team adopts new uniforms. The blue is darkened and gold replaces yellow. This lasts until the team moves back to LA in 2015.
- Hometown: Seattle, Washington
- Stadium name: Lumen Field
- Year founded: 1974
Football came to the Pacific Northwest as part of the NFL’s first post-merger expansion, which took place in 1974. After initially struggling, the team became more relevant in the 1980s. But since 2003, they have missed the playoffs only four times, winning one Super Bowl and going to two more. This makes Seattle one of the most successful NFL franchises of the past 20 years.
The Seahawks are famous in part because of their fans. Known collectively as the “Twelfth Man,” they have broken world records for sound inside a stadium, turning the Seahawks into a tough out at home.
As a relatively new franchise, the Seahawks have changed their uniforms only once. Their initial style lasted until 2001. Then, in 2002 they adopted a new color scheme and a different logo, which remains until this day.
Starting in 2009, the Seahawks started wearing bright green jerseys from time to time. But, in general, not much has changed in their 40+ year history.
- Hometown: Glendale, Arizona
- Stadium name: State Farm Stadium
- Year founded: 1898
Founded just before the turn of the 20th century, the Cardinals are actually the oldest franchise in the NFL. Along with the Bears, they are the only team from the original NFL still remaining.
They actually got their start in Chicago before moving to St. Louis in 1960. Then, in 1988, they moved again, this time to Tempe, Arizona.
However, despite such a long history, the Cardinals have not had a lot of success on the field. The last time they won a championship was 1947, and they have only ever been to one Super Bowl, which they lost.
In total, the Cardinals have only ever made ten playoff appearances.
Unlike other teams with such long histories, though, the Cardinals' uniforms have remained relatively the same throughout the years. Here’s a snapshot:
- 1921 — As the Chicago Cardinals, the team wore red jerseys with brown pants. Over the course of the next few decades, they would keep the same style but also introduce a blue jersey.
- 1937 — The Cardinals ditch the brown pants and switch to white, a look they still have today. Their away jerseys continue to be blue. By now, the helmets are also white.
- 1960 — Upon moving to St. Louis, the team adapts the look they now have: red jerseys, white pants, the opposite for away, and then a white helmet with a red cardinals logo on the side.
- 2010 — The Cardinals make the first big uniform change in decades, introducing a third jersey that is black.
Tradition Remains Stylish
Although most NFL teams make small changes to their uniforms every couple of years, the reality is that most have stuck with the same design, or some version of it, for the bulk of their history. After 1960, with the formation of the AFL and then the merger of the AFL and NFL, most teams added logos and designed a uniform that they still wear today.
So, while the rest of the fashion world tries to convince you to keep changing and always wear something new, the NFL reminds us that tradition is always in style.
Disclaimer: All symbols, logos, team names, and uniform designs used in this article are registered trademarks of the National Football League and their respective teams.