Saturday, February 12, 2011

The "Braisher Stripes"

Certain uniform striping patterns are so universal that they take on a life of their own. For example, Northwestern Stripes (the combination of one thick stripe surrounded by two thin) are named after the university which popularized them. UCLA stipes, looped around the shoulder, are similarly named after their first famous wearers.

There is another example, one found in the pros. The combination of team color/white/team color stripes on helmet and pants but also sleeves and even socks, was introduced to the NFL by the Green Bay Packers in 1959.

Paul Lukas calls this pattern "NFL stripes", but as much as I hate to disagree with the godfather of athletics æsthetics, that seems a bit bland. In the tradition of Northwestern and UCLA, I propose we name them Braisher stripes after then-Packers equipment manager Gerald "Dad" Braisher. These Braisher stripes made their first NFL appearance when a certain new coach decided to overhaul his team's look.

Green Bay Packers
"Dad" Braisher

By tracing the uniform histories of the teams that wear Braisher stripes today, or wore them for a significant portion of their history—the Packers, Browns, Cowboys, 49ers, Jets, Saints and Lions—we can see how Braisher's stripes became synonymous with pro football.


The Packers hire Vince Lombardi, who begins to remake the organization in his own image, including the uniforms. Equipment manager "Dad" Braisher designs new gold helmet with one white stripe flanked by a green stripe on each side. The same striping pattern is repeated on twice on each sleeve and sock. The pants feature a green/gold/white/gold/green striping pattern. Not Braisher stripes - yet.


Almost instantly, the look is picked up by other teams. The Cleveland Browns add brown stripes to their existing helmet, and the expansion Dallas Cowboys echo the Braisher Stripe configuration with their white-and-blue helmets.

The new American Football League also gets in the act, as the Boston Patriots wore Braisher Stripes (red-white-red) in their first four seasons before adding a blue stripe down the middle.


In 1961, the Detroit Lions add two parallel blue stripes to their silver helmet. Not quite Braisher stripes – yet.


The San Francisco 49ers adopt Braisher stripes in 1963.


The NFL's Cowboys and AFL's Jets modify their uniforms in 1964. Dallas changes the helmet from white to silver, retaining the white stripe, making it a true Braisher configuration.

Beginning with 1965, the Packers chance their pants stripes to Braisher stripes. The classic Lombardi-era uniform is finally complete.


The New Orleans Saints enter the league, adopting the very contemporary look of their fellow NFL franchises, Braisher stripes and all. It lasts for one season before they start tweaking.


After their inaugural season, the Saints invert their helmet stripes, briefly dropping out of the Braisher stripe club.

The Lions, on the other hand, add a white stripe to their helmet, finally moving into Braisher stripe configuration.


The Saints change helmets again. They had wanted to adopt a black helmet, but failed to inform the league. NFL merchandise still depicts New Orleans in gold, so the Saints are forced back into their first-year look.

Aside from minor changes, the Saints still wear this helmet today. The San Francisco 49ers kept their Braisher strips through the 1996 season, and brought them back in 2008 as part of a throwback-inspired uniform overhaul. The Detroit Lions wore them through 2002 before adding small black stripes to the edges of the blue.

So there you have it. By the time of the NFL's merger with the AFL, seven of the new combined league's 26 teams — over one-quarter — were wearing Braisher Stripes.

Everybody wants to look like a winner.

UPDATED 2/23/11: Sportspress Northwest is currently running an excellent article on the Seattle Kings, a proposed NFL expansion team in the late 60s/early 70s (their group would eventually lose out to the Seattle Seahawks in the 1974 expansion).

Among the gems in this story is a look at the Kings' helmet mockup:

David Eskenazi Collection

The mockup shows that, had their group been approved, there would have been another team in Braisher stripes starting in 1976.

David Eskenazi Collection

(h/t: uniform graphics from Football Uniforms Past and Present)


Nik the Stik said...

I had forgotten Dad Braisher's impact . . . I remember reading Kramer's acknowledgment of him in Instant Replay.

Chance Michaels said...

I've read Kramer's book, but not for a while - I'll have to dig it out again. Thanks!