By Phil Hecken
The big day is finally here. Super Bowl XLV features a matchup of two of the most storied franchises in NFL history, who between them own nine Super Bowl titles, and the Packers own a boatload of NFL titles before there even was a Super Bowl. The Pack won the first two Super Bowls, helping to pave the way for its status as sports ultimate game, and the Steelers dominated shortly thereafter, winning an incredible four Bowls in a six year span. The Pack added one (in the 1990s) and the Steelers have added two (in the 2000s). Both franchises go back to the nascent days of the pro game. The Pack were the team of the 1960s and the Steelers were the team of the 1970s. There aren’t enough superlatives to heap onto these two teams. And, they’ve both got some pretty nice uniforms.
Which brings us to today’s super-sized lede. Obviously, the two teams’ uniforms didn’t get this way overnight — in fact, although both have changed little in the past four decades, neither team started out with these two classic looks. I’m joined today by two of Uni Watch’s finest readers and contributors, Chance Michaels, who, among other things, runs the fabulous packersuniforms.com, and the venerable sage Rick Pearson, who has forgotten more about uniforms than most of us will ever know. Chance has prepared an incredible timeline of Packer uniform history, and Ricko has contributed a smaller, but no less thorough, compilation of past Steelers uniforms. We here at Uni Watch are indelibly indebted to their efforts at uniform research, not just today, but everyday. So, please, sit back and enjoy this amazing bit of Packer and Steeler uniform history, so you can impress all your friends at this evening’s Super Bowl party with your vast knowledge of their uni histories. After you’re done with the uni histories, be sure to keep scrolling down for a couple “videos” I made regarding the Steelers and the Packers Super Bowl histories.
We’ll start with Chance, and then Ricko, since we like to work on the principle of beauty before age (I KID) here. Ready? Lets go:
The Wearing of the Green (and Gold)
By Chance Michaels
The Green Bay Packers were founded in 1919 by George Whitney Calhoun, sports editor for the Green Bay Press-Gazette, and local high school football hero Earl Louis “Curly” Lambeau, who had played for Knute Rockne at Notre Dame before being sent home with tonsillitis. Green Bay already had a long tradition of fielding “town teams”, so Lambeau and Calhoun had a good pool of talent from which to draw.
As any good Packers fan knows, the team got its name when Lambeau was given $500 for equipment from his employer, the Indian Packing Company.
The early Packers dominated their semi-pro competition, amassing a 19-2-1 record in their first two seasons. “Dominate” is a word often used casually but applies in this case, as the outscored their opponents by a combined score of 792 to 36, including 17 shutouts. Seeking better competition, the Packers joined the NFL in 1921, its second season, and have been one of the bedrock franchises since then.
1919: The first Packers take the field in solid navy jerseys, gold pants and navy socks. The color scheme was borrowed from Lambeau’s alma mater, and would define the Packers throughout his tenure at the helm. Numbers wouldn’t be worn for several seasons. Any helmets, if worn at all, are unpainted leather and can vary from player to player in precise color and design.
1920: The Packers keep their same simple look in their sophomore season.
1921: The Packers join the two-year-old National Football League, not incidentally starting a rivalry with the Chicago Bears that continues to this day. The Indian Packing Company merges with the Acme Packing Company. Lambeau’s new employer maintains its sponsorship, and the Packers (or at least some of them) take the field in navy socks, gold pants, and navy jerseys with “ACME PACKERS” in large athletic gold letters across the chest. As the photo shows, the new jerseys may not have been worn by all players; some might have continued to wear their unadorned navy jerseys. Beginning with this uniform, the Packers establish a pattern of changing their uniform style after two seasons of use, presumably as the material wore out beyond their ability to stitch it back together.
1923: Having reached the end of their two year uniform cycle, the Packers make their first major uniform change, adopting a gold jersey with nine thin navy stripes on each sleeve, gold socks and dark gold pants (that’s Curly Lambeau showing off his passing form).
1925: Another uniform change finds the Packers in dark gold shirts with a narrow navy collar and yoke extending across the shoulders to the top of each sleeve, paired with tall gold socks and light gold pants. The first uniform numbers are added to the back.
1927: The Packers go back to navy jerseys, but add gold-colored strips of fabric designed to grip the ball as runners held it against their bodies. The jersey is characterized by an inverted gold triangle and series of gold vertical stripes from chest to stomach; faded blue canvas pants, gold socks with two blue stripes.
1929: Once again, the Packers return to their by-now classic navy jersey/gold pants/navy socks look, with the addition of a gold circle on the chest, approximately 5 inches in diameter, surrounding a navy number. This uniform would inspire the Packers’ 2010 throwback. Wearing this uniform, the Packers would win their first championship in 1929 (based on standings, as the NFL would not adopt a title game until 1933) and then repeat the following season. Despite that success, the Packers keep to their pattern and make a uniform change after two seasons.
1931: The Packers abandon the chest numbers in 1931 for solid navy jerseys. In 1931, the Packers roll to a 10-3-1 record, the most wins in the league, but are denied a fourth first-place finish due to the NFL’s policy of ignoring ties in the standings. The 7-1-6 Chicago Bears are awarded the crown, which only serves to fuel the rivalry between the two clubs. During this time, numbers continue to be worn on the back, but very few photos appear to have survived from that period showing the thin, rounded numbers (seen on Al Rose, #52), so unlike the athletic block we associate with the club today.
1934: Large white numbers are introduced to the chest.
1935: It’s hard to believe now, but it took sixteen years for the Green Bay Packers to wear any green on the field. The Packers begin the year in a solid dark green jersey with gold numbers and green pants, which lasts a single game before being replaced with a kelly green jerseys with gold raglan sleeves and gold numbers, gold pants and kelly green socks. This uniform returns in 1936, paired with the team’s first standardized helmet, gold leather with three dark (possibly black) stripes from forehead to the back. There isn’t yet a road uniform, so the Packers are forced to borrow white jerseys and helmets while filming an intra-squad scrimmage for the short film Pigskin Champions. The Packers win their first title game, edging out the Boston Redskins 21-6 at the Polo Grounds to seal their fourth NFL flag.
1937: In an August 1937 preseason game against the College All-Stars, the Packers bring out a new uniform: green jerseys with ten-inch gold numbers on front and back; gold helmets and pants. The jerseys are made out of jockey satin and did not breathe; many Packers later blamed the loss on the hot, uncomfortable uniforms (Clarke Hinkle claimed to have lost 25 pounds during the game). For the regular season, Curly Lambeau’s most enduring uniform is introduced. It features a navy jersey with gold numbers and yoke, gold pants and navy socks with two gold stripes. With minor adjustments, this would be the Packers’ principal look so long as Curly was running the show, and would be brought back in a slightly modified form for the NFL’s 75th Anniversary throwback games in 1994. Also starting in 1937, the NFL mandates that all players wear numerals a minimum of six inches high on the front of the jersey and eight inches high on the back of the jersey.
1938: A white jersey is added when the Packers host the Cleveland Rams, the first time that the Packers make a deliberate move to avoid color-clashes.
1939: The white jersey with green numbers becomes an official alternate. Worn with gold pants and white socks, it was used in rotation with the blue and gold (and would return to service as a throwback in 2001). The Packers would elect to wear their blues against the new York Football Giants in the 1939 Championship Game, which the Packers would win to clinch their fourth title.
1943: The NFL mandates helmet use for all players beginning in 1943. The Packers standardize their team helmets with a high-crowned, padded-leather version, painted in athletic gold. Later versions have uniform numbers stenciled on the back or written on the front, and some have the team name “PACKERS” stamped into the leather. The Packers down the Giants 14-7 and win Curly his sixth and final World Championship.
1946: The Packers debut another white jersey, this one with gold numbers and yoke, a road version of the blue and gold homes.
1949: Solid navy jerseys again, with enlarged gold numbers, gold pants and navy socks (as worn by some players in this intrasquad Old Timers’ Benefit Game photo)
1950: Curly Lambeau is finally forced out, after fighting with the Packers’ Board of Directors for a decade. New coach Gene Ronzani brings his own visual stamp to the organization, introducing all-green uniforms with gold numbers, stripes and helmets, as well as a gold jersey option. The final Lambeau uniform, blue shirts and socks, gold numbers and pants, is also still used on occasion. As an additional move away from the past and Lambeau’s shadow, the Packers switch from leather to plastic shells. This was a controversial move at the time, as plastic helmets were thought in some quarters to cause more injuries. This debate continues today.
1952: The team adds a white jersey with green numbers to the mix-and-match possibilities. The Packers wear the gold jerseys in a gold-on-gold game against the similarly-gold clad Los Angeles Rams. Additionally, the NFL makes its first attempt to organize jersey number by position (the system was formally codified in 1973 and amended in 1989).
1953: Green-over-green continues to rule the day. The Packers use their white jerseys primarily for late-season West Coast road trips.
1954-57: Ronzani is fired and Lisle Blackbourn takes over. He returns to blue as the team’s primary color, in this case a dark greenish-blue jersey with gold Northwestern sleeve stripes, gold numbers, gold pants, and greenish-blue socks with stripes to match the sleeves. Helmets are gold with single blue stripe. The team also experiments with an all-white uniform (with a single navy stripe on the helmet and down the pant leg. navy numbers and navy Northwestern stripes on the sleeves and socks). This is the first (and, to date, only) Packer uniform not to incorporate any shade of gold. The Packers wear a green jersey with the white helmet and pants for the 1956 opener against Detroit. “TV numbers” are added to the sleeve for the 1956 season.
1958: Blackbourn is out, and Scooter McLean is hired to replace him. McLean brings back the green jersey/white pants and helmet uniforms from the 1956 opener, but his 1-10-1 record can’t secure his own place in the organization, and he is fired after only one season. The Packers spent the 1950s floundering for both consistent play and a consistent uniform. That would soon change, as the organization prepared to move into the 1960s.
1959: New head coach Vince Lombardi revamps uniforms and creates the first steps towards the familiar design still seen today with minor modifications, a green jersey with gold/green/white sleeve striping, gold pants with green/white/gold stripes. The road jerseys are white with green numbers and alternating green and gold stripes on the sleeves and neck. Road socks are white with the same striping pattern, but are dropped the following year in favor of the home hosiery. Gold helmets with green/white/green stripes, no logo. The Packers have a brief flirtation with a green facemask before adopting gray.
1961: “G” helmet logo, designed by equipment manager “Dad” Braisher, makes its first appearance. The classic Lombardi uniform is almost complete.
1969: The Packers, along with the other NFL teams, wear a patch on their left shoulders commemorating the League’s 50th Anniversary.
1970: Names are added to the back of the jerseys, in accordance with the terms of the NFL/AFL merger.
1974: The Packers move to white cleats.
1975: Pants stripes are widened by an inch.
1980: Green facemasks return, this time for good.
1984: Former Packers great Forrest Gregg is hired to coach the struggling club, and in the spirit of Lombardi, changes the uniforms in one of his first acts. He adds the “G” logo to the sleeves, returns the small gold stripe to the center of the pants stripe, adds stripes to the collar, and for the first time introduces numbers to the pants, in a small green oval at the hip. Road jerseys are tweaked to have the same basic stripe pattern as the homes, with thin white strips between the green and gold. Many of the changes would be short-lived, chipped away in following seasons, but the neck and road jersey stripes are still worn today.
1988: The first chipping away, as the numbers are removed from the pants.
1991: NFL shield added to the throat, first logo creep (MacGregor) on the jersey sleeve.
1992: Sock stripes removed. Starter picks up Packer contract, their logo replaces MacGregor’s on the jersey.
1993: A patch honoring the Packers’ 75th Anniversary is worn on the front of the jerseys. During this season, the Packers prepare for a significant uniform overhaul, the largest since Vince Lombardi was hired. A uniform was designed, in dark green and metallic gold. At the last moment, Ron Wolf decides to stay pat.
1994: The Packers join the rest of the NFL in celebrating the league’s 75th Anniversary by wearing the team’s first throwback uniform. Inspired by the 1937 uniforms, it features gold numbers and shoulders on a navy jersey, tan pants (of dubious historical accuracy), and navy socks with two gold stripes. Helmets are a plain gold shell, with the standard green facemask (this was a common practice that season, as teams were wary of breaking in new helmets for just a handful of games). They are worn three times – at Philadelphia and New England, then at home against Tampa Bay. A road version in white is worn at Soldier Field on Halloween evening. It is inspired by the 1946 road jersey but with blue numbers in place of the gold for added visibility, which turns out to be a wise move as the game is engulfed in a downpour. The rain doesn’t stop lineman Ken Ruettgers from having a little seasonal fun with his plain gold helmet.
1995: Silkscreened numbers are replaced with sewn-on tackle twill.
1996: The Packers make, and win, their first Super Bowl in nearly thirty years. A small decal honoring commissioner Pete Rozelle, who had died the previous month, is worn by both clubs during the big game.
1997: Nike becomes the new uniform supplier, and gives the Packers’s uniforms a slight tweak. The Swoosh somehow finds its way to jersey and pants. More significantly, the sleeve stripes are cut down from five to three, reflecting the sad fact that modern football jerseys retain only the vestigial remnants of sleeves.
1998: The Packers return to the Super Bowl, as both they and the Broncos wear a small logo patch for the game. The Packers lose, and considering that these patches have become standard ever since, I’m hoping that’s not an omen.
2001: Reebok acquires a league-wide contract for NFL uniforms. The gold helmets are given a pearlized sheen. The vector replaces the swoosh On Thanksgiving Day, the Packers play the Lions in a throwback game, treating fans to a helping of 1939-style white jerseys and socks, paired with tan pants and plain helmets for that old-time feeling. Unlike 1994, the Packers swapped out their standard green facemasks for gray.
2002: The “NFL EQUIPMENT” patch replaces the simple NFL shield at the throat and pants.
2003: The Packers wear a special Lambeau Field patch for the first game at the renovated and rededicated stadium. For the second time in three seasons, the Packers participate in the “Thanksgiving Classics” game. This time the Packers wore uniforms based on their 1967 look, including gray facemasks, no white sleeve stripes, thinner pants striping and—best of all—sock stripes! Finally. a #3 helmet decal was added for the last several games after the passing of Packer great Tony Canadeo, the first of what would be several such melancholy tributes.
2004: Another helmet memorial, this time to honor Pat Tillman, the first active NFL player to be killed in combat since 1970. It is worn once (in Week 2 against the Bears). Another tribute decal is added in the last week of the regular season, after Reggie White’s death.
2005: A league-wide “FUTBAL AMERICANO” decal is worn in Week 4, commemorating the first regular-season game held outside the United States (Cardinals v. 49ers in Mexico City)
2007: Lambeau Field celebrates its first 50 years, which is marked by a jersey patch worn at all home games. After Redskins safety Sean Taylor is murdered, players elect to wear a decal bearing his number on their helmets. Also this season, the NFL institutes a league-wide “captain” patch. The Packers do not wear it in the regular season (as they rotate captaincies), but not enough space on the jersey for it. A similar decal is worn on the helmets for the entire season. In addition, the silly “NFL EQUIPMENT” patch is updated with the NFL’s new shield logo, introduced before the draft.
2009: In what has become an annual league-wide October event, the Packers wear pink accessories in a Monday Night game against the Vikings to raise awareness of breast cancer. It only takes the NFL one season to realize it can make money by selling the pink-tinged gear.
2010: The Packers make a major shake-up by introducing their first ever team-originated throwback uniform (that is, not as part of a League-sponsored promotion). Throwing back to 1929, and complete with brown helmets to simulate the leatherhead look, the Packers beat the 49ers while wearing the navy, gold and tan of the men who came before them. This throwback is designated as the Packers’ official “third jersey”, meaning that the Packers cannot introduce another alt until the 2016 season, even if they elect not to wear the throwback blues again.
And there you have it. 91 years, twenty-one Hall of Famers, twelve World Championships, two dynasties and basic colors. That’s the legacy of the Green Bay Packers. So far.
My god Chance, that was incredible. Ricko’s portion is considerably shorter, but it really brings us up to speed from their early uniforms, to a period in which they really played around with their uniforms — which eventually settled into pretty much what they wear today (minus the sleeves and university block fonts, of course). It was the 50s and 60s — a time when (like most of their pre-Super Bowl history) the Steelers just weren’t very good. Of course, they made up for it once the Super Bowl came into being. So, enough of my set up — let’s get to Ricko’s writeup:
Lots of Diddling for the Steelers in the 50s and 60s
By Rick Pearson
We did a bit of this two years ago, hanging things on the fact that the Steelers and the Chicago (then St. Louis) Cardinals once had both been the NFL’s Eastern Conference. Not relevant this time around, of course.
So we’ll look at the Steelers beginning with the TV era. They began the 1950s wearing the basic single-stripe helmet, NW-striped jerseys and socks and double-striped pants in black and athletic gold. It was a standard template worn, in various color combinations and with minor differences, by Iowa, Minnesota, Oklahoma, Penn State, Texas A& M, the Packers…and so on.
But between then and the “Batman” unis, the Steelers did their share of diddling around. And then some. Their ’57 unis had block numbers and yellow-gold pants both home and road. For ’58 they went to very, VERY rounded Arabic numbers.
For ’62, more standard block numbers appeared, as did their first TV numbers (the NFL must have put its foot down for ’62), with helmet TVs disappearing (they seemed to rather come and go, anyway) and the one-sided “Steelmark” helmet logo making its debut during the season. More obviously, the road jerseys were new. The sleeves — from shoulder seam to the bottom black NW stripe — were yellow gold, with the front and back numbers getting a narrow yellow-gold edge.
So, counting the different home and road numbers in ’59 and the gold-edged numbers as variations, the Steelers had six different “number” looks in six seasons. Then late in ’63, the now-classic black helmet was introduced. That meant during that period the also had helmets that were: Gold with TV numbers, gold with no TVs, gold with single side logo and black with single logo. To be fair, the Steelers were a little better by then, making it to the Playoff Bowl that year against the Lions (yes, the Lions). That look stayed around awhile.
Finally, the Steelers went to the classic set they still wear today, with the exception that early-on the road pants were white. Those pants last appeared in ’71, after they’d moved to the AFC. They showed up in training camp for a while thereafter, though.
As I said two years ago it was, to say the least, an interesting time to be uni-watcher (lower case and hyphenated version). You knew the Steelers were gonna do SOMETHING different just about every year there for a while. All you had to do was figure out what it was from black & white highlight films, coarsely screened newspaper photos or wait for next year’s preseason publications. Sure wasn’t anything like it is these days.
And thank you Ricko.
OK, one and all — tremendous thanks to both Chance and Rick for those uni histories. Quite a trip down memory lane for a few of us, and maybe some first looks at how the two teams came to wear two of the greatest uniforms in the history of the league. If the game today just lives up to the unis, this WILL be one for the record books.
Best of Benchies
Ah, the Super Bowl. Being scheduled when it is, the Big Game often comes at a time fraught with post-Holiday tragedies. The team you own not making it to the game in the gleaming new realization of your Edifice Complex would be one of them. Some, though, are closer to home, more personal.
…and if that’s a tad too small…here’s the full-size color version.
Lots and lots of tweaks keep pouring in, so obviously this is a popular feature. A bunch new to get to today. If you have a tweak, change or concept for any sport, send them my way.
Remember, if possible, try to keep your descriptions to ~50 words (give or take) per tweak. You guys have been great a keeping to that, and it’s much appreciated!
Got a big set of tweaks today…so lets get right into it:
Starting off the show is Michael Foster, who actually sent tweaks to Paul, who sent them to me. They’re for college Nike “next gen” concepts, so that might explain why Paul sent them to me:
Big fan of your ESPN.com coverage and blog. I’ve done some Nike concepts, and thought you’d like to take a gander at them. Here are they are, attached.
Florida (pro combat) **caution**
Next up is John Staton, who has a new look for the Tampa Bay Bucs:
Had an idea in regards to the Tampa Bay Lightning changing to a faux-“old school” look, much like the Tampa Bay Rays did just a couple years ago… what if the Buccaneers did the same?
I’ve attached what I think that would look like (replete with shortening the name to “Bucs” much like the Rays removed the “Devil”)
Hope you like!
And closing down the show today is Andrew Gentry, who has created an entire set of CFL pro combat unis. Yup.
I created a series of “What if?” uniforms, and wanted to submit them to you for possible publication on your site. They are for when (and if) Nike Pro Combat comes to the CFL….a topic I’ve not seen covered yet.
If you like what you see and want me to expand upon the ideas behind any of the designs, please let me know.
Here’s a link to the photobucket album. Feel free to pull them from there.
And that’s quite a tweak show for today. Hope you enjoyed all of the artist’s efforts. Back next weekend with more tweaks, concepts and revisions.
For the Steeler fan…
…and the Packer fan…
Hope you guys enjoyed those as much as I did making them. Thanks to =bg= for most of the music used in those *videos*.
In Case you missed it yesterday…
Scott Rogers (“RSRogers”) will be in the Twin Cities this week. He and Ricko will be meeting at Bunnys—where Paul and Ricko watched the Vikings-Saints during the Deep Freeze last year—at 7 p.m., Thursday, February 10. Any U-W’rs are more than welcome to join them.
They promise not to get into a fistfight over whether the Nationals should, or should not, wear Washington Senators throwbacks.
Anyone interested can let Ricko know.
Bunny’s Bar & Grill, St. Louis Park, MN
(on Excelsior Blvd., just west of Highway 100 and east of Methodist Hospital)
OK, so Paul & I won’t be there, but it should be a great time. Stop on by and pay your respects to Rick & Scott.
So, I’ve avoided this “facebook” and “twitter” stuff forever, but one of my spring classes actually requires me to get a twitter account and to “tweet” (or whatever it’s called). So, I figured, I guess I can’t fight this anymore. So if any of you guys do this twitter thing and want to follow me (or have me follow you), my “handle” is philhecken. I’m already following a few choice writers and sites, so I should be able to bring some good uni (and other sports related info) pretty quickly, and offer some UW updates as we consider some possible future changes around here. So check me out, or not. OK? OK!
I picked up a lot of followers yesterday, and I was able to follow about half of you — I’ll get the other half today (I hope) — thanks to all who did so!
OK, peeps. That’s the end of this massive Super Bowl post. Huge thanks again to Chance and Ricko.
I ended the “picking the playoffs by the better attired team” at 6-4 (and it would have been 7-3, but one of the spreads got me), so no matter what happens today, I’ll finish over .500. No offense to the good people of Pittsburgh and Steeler nation, but the Pack just happen to have the best (home) jersey in football, so they get the nod every time.. Green Bay (as of 11:30 pm, last evening) was a 1.5 point favorite with an over/under of 44.5. I think that’s low, although both teams have some pretty solid defenses. Bet the over. Take the Steelers to win the toss. Packers 28 – Steelers 24.
Super Bowl Death: Indoors…Fake Grass…Under The Lights…Sleeveless Jerseys. — Jim Hamerlinck