Field uniforms are – for most fans – the first way they recognize their favorite players. The science and art of what makes a good uniform is studied and debated at length as part of the underlying mythology of gridiron football; a bad uniform can spoil the football experience as much or more than bad cheerleaders or poor officiating from the referees.
According to NFL rules, a team can change its uniform significantly only once every five years. While minor changes, such as wearing an already approved previous uniform – known as a “throwback” – or an announced alternative jersey, are permitted, the league takes seriously its commitment to brand consistency. While most teams typically take the opportunity to change their looks on a regular basis, many teams don’t. The Indianapolis Colts, for example, have worn their white-and-blue uniform since 1957. The Green Bay Packers have been consistent since 1961, the Kansas City Chiefs since 1963, and the Oakland Raiders since 1964.
Included in this list of perennially consistent uniforms is the Washington Redskins, who have not seen a major uniform modification since 1972. For fans of the official team of the nation’s capital, the white, gold, and burgundy of the Redskins jersey symbolize their love and commitment to their long-suffering and maligned team, whose legacy in the ’80s and ’90s dwarfs the difficulties the team faces today.
The third-most valuable team in the league, but currently the 13th-most popular, the Redskins have a lot of reasons to celebrate their past in their uniform. We created a retrospective to look at the evolution of the Redskins’ jersey, from its humble beginning to its current iteration.
A Proud History
1937: In 1932, a group led by laundry chain owner George Preston Marshall bought the rights to the former NFL team the Boston Braves. Marshall moved the team to Fenway Park – the home of the Boston Red Sox – and renamed his team “Redskins” both to continue using the Braves’ uniforms and to build kinship with Red Sox fans. The original uniform was a burgundy long-sleeve jersey with a stylized profile of a Native American head on front instead of number patches. This was paired with gold pants.
Boston, at the time, was not known for its football fan base. Struggling home tickets sales persuaded Marshall to move the team to Washington in 1937. During the early years as the Washington Redskins, the team had some of their most poignant moments: They won their first league title the year of their move, won their second championship in 1942 and lost the 1940, 1943 and 1945 championship games.
This early success helped to make the team a beloved part of Washington life. The jersey of this period, introduced in 1937, moved the Native American head to the sleeves – with both patches showing the head from the right side. In practical terms, this meant that the head on the player’s right sleeve was looking forward, but the head on the left sleeve was looking backward. The Redskins’ 1994 “throwback” jersey honored this by having reverse-facing sleeve patches, as well. In front of the 1937 jersey were gold number patches with white outlines.
1942–1956: Over the next decade and a half, the jersey saw only cosmetic changes – a switch to solid white number patches in 1942 with the removal of the reverse-facing patches, a new font for the number patches that was used only in 1948, and the addition of the gold-and-white vertical shoulder stripes in 1956. The 1956 jersey also marked the adoption of the team’s official colors of white, burgundy, and gold. The 1956 jersey aligned with the Redskins’ fall from grace – the team had been knocked out of playoff contention for the last 10 years and would not make a playoff for 15 more.
1962: The Redskins would not be serious contenders until 1962. That year marked the drafting of Syracuse University’s Ernie Davis, the Redskins’ first African-American player. To mark the season, the Redskins introduced a new road uniform – a white mid-sleeve jersey with burgundy vertical shoulder sleeves, front number patches, and sleeve numbers coupled with gold pants with a burgundy stripe and a burgundy helmet with a feather down the center.
1966–1970: The years leading up to 1971 showed a team in flux – both in substance and in appearance. 1966 saw a short-sleeved burgundy home jersey with no shoulder stripes and white front and sleeve number patches. 1969 welcomed the hiring of celebrated coach Vince Lombardi and another jersey change – this time, the burgundy home jersey adding the NFL logo on the shoulder in celebration of the NFL’s 50th anniversary and gold and white alternating sleeve cuff stripes.
1970 saw Lombardi’s death and a change to the road jersey – burgundy and gold stripes to the collar and horizontally at the sleeves against a white jersey with burgundy front and sleeve numbers.
1971–1972: George Allen’s signing on as coach in 1971 saw the Redskins return to stability and the playoffs. The team made four playoffs consecutively, with minor jersey alterations happening at this time. Of considerable note, however, is that in 1972, the Redskins’ logo took its modern form – that of a Native American brave in profile, surrounded by a gold-framed ring with white-and-gold war feathers. This was the final major uniform alteration to date.
The White, Gold, and Burgundy
In the years that follow, the Redskins challenged the 49ers and the Cowboys for league dominance. On the strengths of Joe Theismann, Art Monk, Russ Grimm, and head coach Joe Gibbs, the Redskins won Super Bowl XVII in 1983, won the NFC East in 1982 and 1984, made it to the NFC Championship Game in 1986, and won Super Bowl XXII in 1988 and Super Bowl XXVI in 1992.
“Some of my favorite early memories involve the Washington Redskins,” wrote a Redskins loyalist in a Huffington Post blog. “For as long as I remember, I’ve watched games on Sundays. My father is a Washington, D.C., native who has been a fan of the team since they moved to town from Boston in 1937. I’ve watched the ’Skins play with four generations of my family and, though I now live near a team that regularly makes the playoffs, my loyalty remains with my oft beleaguered Washington football team.”
Currently, there are 5 style jersey’s available at Fanatics: