Friday, December 11, 2015

Uni Watch: "Packers Beat Rush to Mono-color Uniforms"

Last night, I remarked that the Rams' "Color Rush" uniforms reminded me of the Packers' gold-over-gold from the 1950s. Well, I wasn't the only one thinking along those lines; ESPN's Uni Watch has an excellent segment today as part of its "Friday Flashback" that all Packers fans will want to check out.

Uni Watch head honcho Paul Lukas reviews the Packers' uniforms of the late 1940s and 1950s to explore its relationship to Nike's modern marketing ploy:
Many NFL fans were surprised when the Green Bay Packers and Detroit Lions both wore their regular uniforms for their Thursday night matchup on Dec. 3. After all, the previous several Thursday night games had featured Nike's new "Color Rush" uniforms. Why hadn't the Packers and Lions gotten with the program?

The answer is that the mono-color uniforms are optional for this season's Thursday games, and the tradition-minded Packers decided to stick with their regular look. (Green Bay CEO Mark Murphy mentioned this at the team's annual shareholder meeting way back in July.) The mono-color uniforms become mandatory for next season's Thursday night games, so we'll presumably be seeing the Packers in either solid green or solid yellow in 2016.

But here's something that might surprise you: The Packers already have worn plenty of solid-green and solid-yellow uniforms. You just have to look back pretty far in the team's uniform history to find them.

According to the Gridiron Uniform Database, which is the definitive resource for NFL uni history, the Packers wore mono-green uniforms for parts of three seasons: 1935, 1950 (as you can see, they also went mono-yellow that year, among several other uniform configurations) and 1953. Color photos from those seasons are rare, but the 1953 squad wore the green garb while posing for its team portrait:

Color photos of the green unis from 1935 and 1950 are harder to come by, but the 1950 design is acknowledged on the uniform timeline that appears at the Packers Hall of Fame at Lambeau Field: As for going all yellow, the Gridiron Uniform Database indicates that the Pack went with that look -- complete with yellow socks and helmets -- in 1947 and 1948: The solid-yellow look also was worn in the 1949 preseason and, as we noted earlier, in 1950. In addition, there were many seasons when the Pack wore yellow jerseys with canvas-colored pants -- not quite mono-color but pretty darn close: Finally, it's worth noting that Packers actually wore mono-white on the road in 1957 and 1958. The solid-white look, which featured navy trim, even included a white helmet: So no matter what the Packers end up wearing for a Thursday night game next season, they were way ahead of the Color Rush curve.

(Special thanks to William Schaefer of the Gridiron Uniform Database and Chance Michaels of the Packers uniform blog The Wearing of the Green (And Gold) for their research assistance.)
Kind of him to throw the shout-out; although I disagree with some of his conclusions (I don't think those 1952 pants are canvas-colored) I was happy to give him what I had on the 1950s Packers.

That period fascinates me, as the team flailed around from uniform to uniform trying to find something to stick, right between two iconic looks. A reflection of the coaches, the players, the team, what have you.

Turbulent times created a turbulent visual history. One which, it appears, was a little ahead of its time.

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