Iconic jerseys of the NFL then and now
NFL jerseys are badges of honor among fans, who proudly rock their teams' colors every Sunday (or Monday and Thursday). Topping the NFL’s jersey sales list is akin to climbing atop the Billboard charts with a hit single, a signifier of popularity for the game’s top players. These charts also indicate when fan bases are hungry for a rebirth, as team’s usually see an uptick in sales after a jersey redesign or drafting of a highly touted college player. While it used to be a scavenger hunt to find jerseys on sale, you can now purchase one for almost any player on a team in a variety of colors—and even personalize it with your own name.
To celebrate the NFL’s rich history of style, Stacker compiled a collection of iconic jerseys past and present for each NFL team, using photos from Getty Images. We used a variety of primary news sources, team websites, the Pro Football Hall of Fame, and databases that specifically track jersey history to come up with 64 slides that include all the colors of the rainbow and then some. The photos in the slideshow not only provide a trip down memory lane, but also the evolution of teams and vital chapters in their histories.
For example, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers definitely stood out in their orange-creamsicle jerseys, but for fans of the Bucs, the threads also signify losing—and a lot of it. The Bucs lost their first 26 games in the NFL. Often, a new team jersey means a new stage, whether that be of a legendary player moving on, a franchise-saving quarterback arriving, or just a wish to relive past glory days. The Atlanta Falcons, Cleveland Browns, Los Angeles Chargers, Los Angeles Rams, New England Patriots, and Buccaneers all introduced new jerseys this offseason, showing that there’s much more history to be written. Find out how your team has changed (or hasn’t) over their NFL tenures.
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Now: Atlanta Falcons
When the Falcons revealed their new jerseys in April 2020, the major theme was “back to black.” For years, the Falcons wore red jerseys at home, but the new black uniforms harken back to the days when Deion Sanders shut down receivers regularly at the Georgia Dome, as well as when the "Dirty Birds" made the Super Bowl.
Now: Baltimore Ravens
The Ravens’ jersey has not changed much since the team's inception in 1996, except for smaller numbers and a different crest patch on the sleeves. The helmet has undergone redesigns, but the dominant purple, white, or black jerseys without many stripes or accoutrement are staples. In an interesting twist, some Ravens have had special pockets sewn into their jerseys at times.
Then: Buffalo Bills
The Bills jerseys worn by Jack Kemp (the former congressman) were simple yet effective. Blue with white and red stripes, they gave the team a classic look, one the team would wear in the years to come.
Now: Buffalo Bills
The Bills made a big change at the turn of the century, ditching navy blue and going back to their blue, red, and white roots. The current set isn't that different from the 1990s glory days which featured Jim Kelly, Bruce Smith, and Thurman Thomas, with the most noticeable difference coming in the team's use of white helmets again over red.
Then: Carolina Panthers
Many jerseys in the 1990s sported huge numbers on the front, a style which has been toned down since. This classic look with blue and silver stripes remains today. Frank Reich, who started the first game in Panthers history, now coaches the Indianapolis Colts.
Now: Carolina Panthers
The Panthers’ uniforms haven't really changed since their inaugural season in 1995. Aside from different sock combos and mixing-and-matching pants sets (and the lack of commemorative patches), the team has retained the same style for 25 years. Recently, under Cam Newton, the Panthers have often worn an all-black uniform at home, but Newton was released by Carolina in March 2020. He signed a deal with the New England Patriots in July 2020.
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