Uniform Spotlight: The Evolution of NFL Uniforms | The Imperial Point

The Original Throwback Uniforms and Where They Came From

The Original Throwback Uniforms and Where They Came From

In this series we’ll bring you the latest updates on what’s happening in the world of sports uniforms. We’ll highlight new jerseys, uniforms changes, and more from the NBA, NFL, and other professional sports.

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The Evolution of NFL Uniforms

Football uniforms have come a long way since the game’s rise in popularity in the 19th century. The sleek, colorful uniforms and iconic helmets players wear today are nothing like their historic counterparts. Function, safety, and of course style have all had parts to play in the way football uniforms have changed throughout history. Bulky, quirky, and questionable designs have all helped lead to the modern football uniforms and helmets we have today.

History of Football Uniforms

Inspired by British rugby, the American football game we know and love today was first introduced by Yale University student Walter Camp, who developed a standard set of rules in the mid-19th century.

In the early days, uniforms were nonexistent. Teams collaborated on wearing similar colors, often black or navy blue.

At the dawn of the 20th century, early uniforms were made of heavy materials like wool or canvas for durability and protection. Players in the northeast donned fur coats as they sat on the sidelines.

Most teams wore black, navy, or brown. Logos weren’t incorporated into the designs. In attempts to gain advantages over their rival team, players started incorporating strips of leather, canvas, or moleskin, advertised as “Stickup Cloth” or “Snugtex” that were meant to prevent fumbling.

The 1960’s saw an explosion of color and new, bold logos. Teams adopted color schemes that would become iconic to their brand and lead to the evolution of team colors and logos that we know today.

Redesigns and rebranding have changed many team logos and colors over the years, but some teams still throwback to classic uniforms on occasion as homage to those early designs.

History of Football Helmets

Helmets design has varied greatly over the years. In the early days, helmets weren’t even a requirement.

The first football helmets were made of soft leather and earned players the nickname of “leatherheads.”

Leather helmets provided cushioning against impacts, but not much protection. Full-face leather helmets were a short-lived trend.

Hard leather helmets were introduced in the 1930’s, and in 1943 the NFL required all players wear helmets in order to play.

Shortly after, the first plastic helmets were introduced, but they were banned in 1948 because they usually shattered on impact.  

1948 also saw the first logo added to a team helmet, when Los Angeles Rams halfback Fred Gehrke painted horns on his helmet.

Plastic helmets were reintroduced in the 1950’s, after they were redesigned with safer materials. Internal padding was added for additional protection. By 1962, all helmets included face masks as a standard.


NFL uniforms and helmets have seen a lot of changes over the years, but they’ve all led to the classic icons we know today. Check out how the Miami Hurricanes have changed their uniforms for 2017 in a previous Uniform Spotlight from Imperial Point!

Are your team’s uniforms destined to make history?

Contact The Imperial Point today for fully customized sublimated football jerseys for your team.

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