The History of Football Uniforms

The History of Football Uniforms

Today, the unveiling of Nike’s NFL uniforms is a sporting event that rivals any high fashion runway show. But the history of football uniforms is a humble one. In the beginning, the only thing that stood between players and injury was a wool sweater.

Football started as an offshoot of rugby and then devolved into a messy free-for-all. A “game” could include hundreds of people trying to move a ball from one end of a college town to another. A Yale student first set down rules for the game in 1880, and with the sense of order came a new dress code.


Teams began distinguishing themselves with dark wool clothes that kept them warm. The first helmets were made of thick, soft leather. They featured some padding, but helmets didn’t provide much protection until they were made of harder leather in the 1920s. Shatterproof plastic helmets weren’t perfected until the 1940s.


In 1948, a Los Angeles Rams running back painted horns on his helmet—the first custom paint job in the NFL. Fans took to team logos immediately, as they made it easier to track the action. When games began broadcasting on black-and-white televisions, viewers relied on the visuals even more.


As color televisions became more common in the 60s, teams took note and wore ever brighter colors. The branding soon resulted in stadium sections flooded with team colors. In 1973, the NFL established the numbering system for jerseys based on players’ positions.


To better shake off opponents, players tried to make their uniforms more form-fitting with lace-up pants. One brief experiment involved mesh jerseys that would tear away when grabbed, but players didn’t end up wearing much by the end of the game. The answer was spandex, first worn on the field in 1997. Now, football uniforms are shiny, stretchy, and a lot more slippery.

The history of football uniforms has culminated in colorful suits that symbolize pride and excellence. You may not want to fully suit up just to watch your favorite team on TV, but you can show your spirit with NCAA team socks. And when it’s your turn to play, MK Socks can outfit your team with supportive basics to give you an edge in competition.

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