Many sports fans today could probably describe pretty accurately the uniform that football players wear on the field. And when you sit down to watch a game, you expect them to have the layers of padding on their shoulders and chest, heavy helmets with chin straps, and knee, thigh, and hip pads. But would you be able to describe the uniforms they wore back when football was just beginning? Or how the uniforms transformed throughout the years?
At Lucky Dog Custom Apparel, we don’t just love football, we love the history of team jerseys in general! But maybe not for the same reasons you love this American sport. Lucky Dog has been in the custom apparel and team jersey industry since 2004. While this isn’t nearly as long as football uniforms have been around, we like to think that we have a part in its history. Our staff has been creating custom football uniforms for youngsters and high school teams across New Jersey since our beginning. And we’d like to help you create yours! But first, a history of football uniforms.
If you’re worried about players getting concussions today, you’d be stressed out of your mind watching them play over 100 years ago. The first team jerseys were inspired by rugby uniforms, which didn’t have much (any) structure to them. They did, however, wear matching colors, such as black, navy, or brown.
The first semblance of a helmet was designed in 1896 by George Barclay, known as a “head harness.” This, however, wasn’t required to wear during a game until much later. The “helmet” was made with a soft leather which would slightly cushion a blow to the player, but wouldn’t offer much protection from serious injury.
Looking through historic photos, you will begin to see players wearing hard helmets in the 1930s, and it wasn’t a required part of the team jersey until 1943, when the NFL instituted the rule. The first football helmet was patented during the late 1930s, but they could actually do more harm than good. Players would frequently intentionally target players who did not wear them. Also, because the material wasn’t as sturdy as it is today, the helmets would often break on impact.
During the 1940s, the face mask was introduced, but was simply one or two crossbars connected by a single bar down the middle. It wasn’t until 1948 when the first team emblem was put on a helmet. The player Fred Gehrke, playing for the Los Angeles Rams, adorned his helmet with horns.
With the inception of the American Football League in 1960, changes began happening quickly. Team jerseys were designed with more color — Denver Broncos wore orange, Miami wore aqua, and the San Diego Chargers chose a light blue as their color. While some colors have remained constant since their start, other teams slightly altered their colors through the years, such as the New Orleans Saints and the Cincinnati Bengals.
Some pretty significant changes were made to the structure of the helmet during this time as well. Plastic helmets became stronger and more durable, they were fitted with full face masks, and included internal air bladders that helped absorb the shock of an impact. The first patent for shoulder pads also came during the ‘60s, in 1964.
We’re now a world away from simple cotton pants and no helmets. Teams feature custom jerseys with pink shoes that promote breast cancer awareness, the designs and logos are more intricate than ever, and the padding is safer than ever. To make the uniform, there are nine different fabrics that prevent tears and allow the players to move easier.
Which team takes the trophy for the most uniform changes throughout their history? The Cleveland Browns have 13 uniform variations!
If your team is looking for custom football jerseys, you can count on the team at Lucky Dog Apparel to provide you with high-quality team jerseys. We can place your logo, team name, and number on the apparel so that each player is proud to wear their jersey.
If you want to learn more about the process, or if you have questions about selecting the right material for your team, get in touch with us today and we’ll be happy to help! Who knows, maybe your team jersey will go down in the history books.