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Supe’s On: San Francisco 49ers Uniform History

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By Phil Hecken, with Timmy Brulia

It’s Supe weekend, and as I’ve done for the past half-decade-plus, I’m joined by Timmy Brulia, one of the head honchos over at the incredible Gridiron Uniform Database, and who will be bringing us the uniform histories of the two combatants in SB LIV (Supe 54). There’s a LOT to get to over the next two days, so let’s just delve right in, shall we? With the 49ers the designated “road” team, we’ll start with their uni history. (Tim writes the history, but I supply the links — so if there’s anything amiss with those, blame me, not him!) Here’s Timmy:

• • • • •

San Francisco 49ers Uni History
By Timmy Brulia

• • •

1946: The 49ers (or as most newspapers referred to them in the day, the Forty-Niners) began play as members of the All-America Conference. Their original colors were red and white. They wore plain white leather helmets, a plain red jersey with white numerals with a semi-block font, white pants with a thin red side stripe, and solid red socks. They also had in their closet a white jersey with red numbers in the same semi-block font, with red northwestern stripes on the sleeves. The socks were solid white to start, but then they wore white socks with the red northwestern stripes on them.

• • •

1947: The jerseys and socks stayed the same, but gold was added to the helmet and the pants. The Niners added a red stripe to the crown of the helmet, starting at the front and ending in the black. The gold pants had a thin red side stripe. The Niners did wear the 1946 white ensemble for a home game with the New York Yankees on September 21st. Don’t ask why, because I have no idea.

• • •

1948: The Niners, apparently not sure yet of their identity, switched to silver helmet and pants from gold. All other trim remained the same. The back numbers had larger fonts from the front numbers.

• • •

1949: The Niners, from what we can gather, wore their red jerseys for the full season. In fact, there is no visual evidence that they would wear white jerseys again until 1955.

• • •

1950: The 49ers join the NFL along with their AAFC brethren Cleveland Browns and Baltimore Colts. The red center stripe in dropped and the silver leather helmet is now plain. A red helmet is worn for a night game against the Yanks in New York. A set of triple white stripes are worn on the sleeves and socks for games against the Rams.

• • •

1951: The silver helmets are now made of plastic (the 49ers are one of the later holdovers in the change from leather to plastic lids). The triple white stripes on sleeves and socks are now a permanent feature. The red plastic lids are worn for an early season Saturday night game at Philadelphia.

• • •

1953: The Niners open the regular season in red helmets with a thin silver stripe. The pants are now white instead of silver, with the same thin red side stripe.

• • •

1955: For the first time, black is added to the uniform. The Niners outline the numbers in black drop shadow. Black is also added to the white pants to create a red-black-red stripe combo. And for the first time since their AAFC days, the 49ers wear a white jersey (with white socks) for a game at Washington. The triple stripe pattern has the outer stripes in black, with the middle stripe in red on sleeves and socks. It does appear that SF wore silver pants with aforementioned trim for their opener with the Rams.

• • •

1956: For the regular season, the 49ers go plain. The red helmet with the silver stripe is dropped in favor of a plain white helmet. The red jersey now resembles the 1951-1954 model (with a slight font change). The pants, while still white, now feature a thick red side stripe. The socks are unchanged. White jerseys are not worn. While most other teams in the NFL adopt the new-fangled TV numbers, the 49ers are not among them.

• • •

1957: Gold helmets and pants, not seen since the AAFC days, return. The pants are stripeless. The red uni is unchanged. With the NFL now requiring all teams to have a white set of jerseys as well as dark jerseys, the Niners bust out a jersey with a triple sleeve and stripe combo of outer gold stripes and an inner stripe of red. The white socks feature the same stripe combo, with and added crew sock with a thick red edge.

• • •

1958: The 49ers finally add TV numbers to the sleeves. The home red unis are unchanged. The whites now have a thick red shoulder stripe and solid red socks are worn with the white combo.

• • •

1959: Yet again, the Niners change helmet and pant colors, going from straight gold to straight silver. No change to the red jersey, but again a change is made to the white jersey as the thick red shoulder loop is split into two red loops, a la the Baltimore Colts. The red socks with 3 white stripes are worn with both sets.

• • •

1960: The helmet gets yet another tweak. Stripes are added to the helmet. A northwestern style of three red stripes amend the shell. All else remains the same.

• • •

1962: At last, the Niners get a helmet logo! A large red oval, thinly outlined in black, with a white “SF” (the “S” in the upper left of the oval, with the “F” in the lower right of the oval) is placed on both sides of the helmet. The stripe pattern changes as well, from the three red stripes to a red-white-red combo. Jerseys, pants and socks remain as is.

• • •

1964: One more (and … last!) time, the Niners change metals. They drop the silver for good and change to gold for the helmets and pants. Stripes as on the helmet are added to the pants. And on the white jerseys, the shoulder loops are replaced by the same triple sleeve stripe combo (in red) found on the red jerseys. Fabric materials on the pants give the gold a darker sheen on the back as opposed to the front.

• • •

1969: The 50/NFL patch is worn on the left shoulder of both jerseys.

• • •

1970: With the merger with the AFL in full effect, the 49ers for the first time wear names of the backs (NOB) of their jerseys. They match the number color and are in a serifed font. The numbers themselves are a full block style different than previously worn. Some players (notably Cedric Hardman) begin to wear white cleats instead of the customary black.

• • •

1971: For several early season games for this season and the two following seasons (red only in 1972-1973), the Niners wear jerseys that have no sleeve stripes or TV numbers. This is the transition phase from durene jerseys to a lighter mesh-knit material.

• • •

1974: A change is made to the number font. And white cleats are predominate.

• • •

1976: The white jersey is worn for all home games. In fact, the white jersey is worn for the entire regular season. Also, the pant stripes are widened noticeably. NOB are now sans serif.

• • •

1978: The numbers return to the block style.

• • •

1986: Well into the “Team of the 80’s” golden era, the Niners wear a 40th Anniversary patch, located on the left hip of the gold pants. Also, serifs return to the NOB.

• • •

1989: The 49ers add a black outline to the ‘SF’ logo on their helmets.

• • •

1994: The NFL’s 75th Season patch is worn on the left breast of the jerseys. Also, the Niners wore special throwback jerseys (paying tribute to the 1955 set) for most of the season, including the playoffs and in Super Bowl XXIX.

• • •

1996: Owing to the popularity of the throwbacks worn in 1994, the Niners make the first major changes to their togs since 1962. Starting with the helmets, the logo is tweaked to feature gold outline followed by a thicker black outline and the stripe pattern is changed to a thick red stripe flanked by thin black stripes. And the mask color is changed from gray to red. TV numbers are moved to the shoulders. And all the numbers are changed to a double outline; the white numbers on the red jerseys feature a double outline, a thin gold outline followed by a thicker black drop shadow. the red numbers on the white jersey have the same outline features. The NOBs also have the same double outline less the drop shadow. The SF oval logo is also superimposed over the triple stripes on the sleeves. The pants are changed from gold to white with a black-red-black stripe pattern. The socks are solid red. The red mentioned here is a deeper hue than previous years. To top it all off, there’s a 50th Anniversary patch on the left breast of the jerseys.

• • •

1998: The NOBs go to a single outline, eliminating the gold outline. In the regular season, the pants are changed back to gold, with a northwestern stripe pattern, the outer stripes in black and the center stripe is a thick red. The logo is on each hip of the pants.

• • •

2002: The Niners wear an 80’s retro red uni for the November 25 game against the Philadelphia Eagles.

• • •

2005: From 2005-2008, the Niners wear their 80’s retro red unis for a home game or two each season.

• • •

2007: Black cleats replace white cleats.

• • •

2009: The Niners return to the look of glory as they return to the 1964-1995 style. The helmet logo stays intact, but the stripes go from black-red-black back to red-white-red and the masks return to gray from red. The red jerseys (and red numbers on the white jerseys) return to a brighter red than the cardinal shade that had been in place since 1996. The 49ers wordmark is added and placed just above the front number. The numbers and NOB’s are again a single color rather than the busy double outline and the NOB’s have a serif. The triple stripe pattern attain a look of truncation, due to the modern day sleeve cut. The pant stripes change to match the helmet stripes.

• • •

2012: Players given choice between black cleats and red/gold cleats. For Super Bowl XLVII, the Niners wear the SB logo patch on the left breast of their red jerseys.

• • •

2015: For Week 1 (home against Minnesota) and Week 12 (home against Arizona) a rather gruesome black jersey/black pants combo is worn. The jersey has red numbers, stripes, wordmark and NOBs like the white jersey. The pants have two red sidestripes.

• • •

2016: A 70 Years patch is worn on the upper left breast of the white, red and black jerseys. The black jersey and pants is supplemented with all black socks with no sanitary socks as part of the Color Rush promotion. This was worn for the Week 5 Thursday night affair against the Cardinals.

• • •

2017: One subtle but very notable change across all three jerseys was the reduction from three truncated sleeve stripes to two thicker stripes on what passes for sleeves these days.

• • •

2018: The all black look is replaced by an all-white outfit for a 10/21 game with the Rams as guests. The jersey has three red “sleeve” stripes, red front and back numbers with black drop shadow. The pants are white with a red/black/red stripe pattern and the socks are solid white.

• • •

2019: For Week 8 (at Carolina) and Week 17 (at Seattle), the 49ers wear the all white combo. As a “bonus” the Niners go with a retro helmet logo (without the gold oval outline) for the Week 8 game.

• • •

Special note: In early 1991, the 49ers held a press conference and introduced a new helmet to be worn starting with the 1991 season. The helmet shell and stripes were to remain the same but the familiar red SF oval logo was to be replaced by a white stylized “49ERS” with black and red trim. There was such a howl and outcry from the 49er faithful that it was scrapped and the Niners resumed wearing the normal helmet without a hitch. This helmet is not included in the above timeline as it never saw action on the field of play.

• • • • •

Thanks so much, Timmy! Fantastic job as always. We’ll be back tomorrow with the uniform history of the Kansas City Chiefs.

Guess The Game…

from the scoreboard

Today’s scoreboard comes from August West. And it may be the easiest one yet, but it’s in the spirit of the weekend.

The premise of the game (GTGFTS) is simple: I’ll post a scoreboard and you guys simply identify the game depicted. In the past, I don’t know if I’ve ever completely stumped you (some are easier than others).

Here’s the Scoreboard. In the comments below, try to identify the game (date & location, as well as final score). If anything noteworthy occurred during the game, please add that in (and if you were AT the game, well bonus points for you!):

Please continue sending these in! You’re welcome to send me any scoreboard photos (with answers please), and I’ll keep running them.

Click to enlarge

And now a few words from Paul

Hi there. A few things to remember this weekend:

• We’re continuing to take orders for the first-ever Uni Watch hockey jerseys. You can place your order here up through Feb. 10, and there’s more info here.

• If you haven’t yet checked out the annual Uni Watch Super Bowl Preview, it’s available over at InsideHook, and I don’t mind saying it’s a doozy. Enjoy!

• Teespring is running one of its periodic 10%-off sales. From now through the end of Sunday, you can get a 10% discount on anything in the Uni Watch shop or the Naming Wrongs shop by using the checkout code SNOWFLAK3. So if you’ve been on the fence about the January Pin Club pin (or any of our other products), here’s a chance to save a little coin.

• I’m matching this 10% discount on our Uni Watch hats. From now through Sunday, they are priced at $35.99, instead of our usual $39.99.

Okay — back to Phil!

Getting To Know You Me!

Long time readers know I’ve been doing the weekends on Uni Watch for a while (more than 11 years, in fact), but at one time, I was just a reader (and I commented a LOT back in the day) like you guys.

Didja ever wonder how I became the Deputy Editor of Uni Watch?

Who “GetsIt™?

Will we see ads on baseball unis soon?

Have NBA jerseys jumped the shark?

Is it cool for high schools to poach pro logos?

I answer all those questions and more in this article with Cullen Lasso of From The Rafters.

The article was tweeted out by them yesterday, and reader Kary Klismet actually shot me a note in response:

Hi, Phil-

I wanted to drop you a quick note and let you know I thoroughly enjoyed your “From the Rafters” interview with Cullen Lasso. I love seeing your exceptional work at Uni Watch get a little extra recognition! And your answers were thoughtful and thought-provoking. Great stuff, and congrats on the pub!

Your answer to the question about high schools using pro team logos refreshed my memory about a recent conversation I had with a Lyft driver here in Denver. As a high school art student in Harvard, Illinois, back in the late ’80s, he designed his school’s logo, which they still use today. It’s a perfect example of the ideal you advocated – of schools using their own in-house talent to create their branding, helping to foster community pride in a way that poaching some other team’s logo never could. I’m not sure if it’s something worth sharing on Uni Watch, but I’m happy to follow up with more detail if you want to hear more of the story.

Anyway, kudos again on a nice profile! Reading it was definitely a fun little highlight to my Friday.


-Kary Klismet

He didn’t have time to follow up on that yesterday (I asked him to share the story with you guys), but maybe he will today (either via e-mail or in the comments). What do you guys think about this? I know we’ve broached the subject on UW before but what do all y’all think is a good way for high schools who currently “poach” pro or college logos to handle it? Do you think it’s OK or should high schools create their own names/logos? And if so, how would you suggest they go about it?

Love to hear your thoughts on that (or anything else raised in the article).


The Ticker
By Anthony Emerson

Baseball News: In Curtis Granderson’s retirement announcement, he concluded by saying “It’s been an honor to wear my socks high.” (from Casey Common). … Here’s a great uni anecdote from Ben Bradlee Jr.’s The Kid biography of Ted Williams. … New unis for Nebraska baseball. … New 3D decals for UNLV softball (from @maxmetalfriar). … The @uniswag account had some unfortunate phrasing in a since-deleted tweet on Pitt’s gorgeous new white unis (from Jason Bernard).

NFL/CFL News: CBS This Morning used the wrong color facemask for a 49ers helmet graphic (from Joshua W. Robertson). … Check out this Chiefs letterhead on a letter Lamar Hunt wrote to President Truman asking him to attend the first game at the Truman Sports Complex (from @walbergLines). … Speaking of letterheads: the Bills’ letterhead still features all four Super Bowl logos they participated in, but rendered in Bills colors (from Brad Loliger). … Oakley has created an Instagram filter that projects the helmet of an NFL team — complete with an Oakley visor — onto your selfie.

College Football News: The contest to design the logo of the Rose Bowl’s centennial game in 2022 is on (from Timmy Donahue).

Hockey News: Also posted in the NBA section: Ducks G John Gibson has a pretty amazing Kobe memorial mask (from Jakob Fox). … The Penguins wore white at home last night (from @ColHapablap). … The Hershey Bears, AHL affiliates of the Capitals, have some delicious-looking chocolate-covered sweaters (from Nic-Kal Len and Wade Heidt). … Also from Wade: The OHL’s Niagara Ice Dogs gave their equipment manager Nick Hornby a sweater with the number “500” for his 500th game. … Stewart Hall in Pointe-Claire, QC, is holding an event called “The Art of Hockey Masks,” featuring replicas of famous designs. Might be worth it to drive up to Montreal for (from Jerry Wolper).

NBA News: The Lakers unveiled a very classy and understated jersey patch for Kobe Bryant. The patch is also on the team’s shooting shirts and on the baselines of the Staples Center floor (from many readers). … Half of the Staples Center crowd got No. 8 jerseys and half 24 for last night’s game against the Blazers (from many readers). … Lakers C Dwight Howard wore a current purple jersey with No. 8 and ‘Bryant’ on the back heading into last night’s game. … The Lakers’ LeBron James and Anthony Davis have gotten matching “Mamba” tattoos on their thighs in honor of Kobe Bryant (from Kary Klismet). … Also posted in the soccer section: The death of Kobe Bryant has led to an anti-homophobia movement in Brazil. The number 24 is associated with deer in the country, and “deer” is derogatory slang for a gay man, leading many Brazilian players to avoid the number. Bahia, a club we’ve written about before for its progressive social stances, has launched the campaign “#PedeA24” or “Ask for 24” in the wake of Bryant’s death (from @ajc045). … Max Homa, Justin Thomas and Tony Finau all wore Kobe jerseys on the 16th at Phoenix (from Chris Howell). … Also posted in the NBA section: Ducks G John Gibson has a pretty amazing Kobe memorial mask (from Jakob Fox).

College/High School Hoops News: Here’s a cool image of every UConn uni in history (from @thejones24). … Harvard men went BFBS last night (from @artofscorebug). … Kary Klismet writes in: “For Thursday night’s “Red Out” game against Iowa, Maryland gave out Jurassic Park-themed T-shirts for fans to wear. Here’s a closeup of the logo.” … Virginia F Braxton Key tore his jersey — on purpose, mind you — requiring the Cavaliers’ equipment manager Matthew Althoff to sew it up (thanks, Jamie). … Indiana women wore pink on Thursday night. … Legendary Webster Schroeder (NY) High School coach Bill O’Rourke Jr. died recently. In one of his obits is this uni-notable story (from Douglas J. Brei).

Soccer News: The USMNT and USWNT had their new kits leaked — note the USWNT’s feautres four stars above the crest. … The USMNT will wear “24” shirts during warmups against Costa Rica today. … FIFA 20 has leaked a couple of MLS kits yesterday: Chicago Fire’s home, Montreal Impact’s away (from Josh Hinton). … Bundesliga side Hannover 96 have unveiled a new one-off kit to honor the singing section (from Ed Żelaski). … Cross-posted from the NBA section: The death of Kobe Bryant has led to an anti-homophobia movement in Brazil. The number 24 is associated with deer in the country, and “deer” is derogatory slang for a gay man, leading many Brazilian players to avoid the number. Bahia, a club we’ve written about before for its progressive social stances, has launched the campaign “#PedeA24” or “Ask for 24” in the wake of Bryant’s death (from @ajc045).

Grab Bag: Our own LI Phil Hecken was interviewed by Varsity Partners. Check it out here! …  The Ohio State blog Eleven Warriors has a pretty cool blog post title “The Inherent Beauty of Big Ten Naming Conventions Should Be a Guide for the Rest of the Country” (from Block “O Canada”). … Students at a Brunswick, ME elementary school voted on a new mascot, the chickadee, but the local school board overrode the vote, instead choosing the dragonfly, which the school board thought would work better with Brunswick High School’s mascot, the dragon. After considerable public outcry, the school board reversed their decision and installed the chickadee as the mascot (from Kary Klismet). … Greensboro, N.C., has started a contest to design a new municipal logo (from Timmy Donahue). … The Georgetown, Ma., Fire Department has released a new logo.

Comments (27)

    Super Bowl XXII, January 31, 1988

    42-10 in favor of Washington, Denver had been favored by 3

    Game was at Jack Murphy Stadium in San Diego, and televised by abc.

    The show that debuted after the game: The Wonder Years

    That has to the easiest GTGFTS yet. Probably the most famous 1st half scoreline in NFL history.

    GTGFTS: Super Bowl XXII, Washington 42, Denver 10. 35 points in 1 quarter sets a Super Bowl record.

    That is an outstanding uniform history! When did the Niners’ pants stripes get garishly wide? I assume it happened with the change to more modern fabrics.

    How does it take so long for a team with an obvious uniform color choice to figure it out? “49ers… 1849… Gold Rush… GOOOOOOOOLD… I know, let’s wear silver!” It’s like Green Bay wearing dark blue all those years.

    In point of fact, it’s not all that obvious.

    Yes, the Gold Rush occurred in 1849. And the search for gold was the ultimate goal.

    BUT. When you mine ore, on average, you get more silver than gold per ton of rock.

    It’s kind of like what you found at the University of Colorado. Its academic colors are silver and gold; I guess it’s because there was equal amounts of the metals to be had?

    Super Bowl XXII in San Diego, and here’s a fun fact: this set the record for biggest Super Bowl comeback, and it wouldn’t be until the Patriots came back from down 28-3 29 years later that a team would come back from more than 10 to win a Super Bowl.

    The shirts given to the fans last night had 8 on one side and 24 on the other. Both sides had Bryant printed at the top. So it was 1 shirt with 2 jersey backs as the design.

    I think the week 8 2019 game the Niners played against the panthers in their throwbacks was at home, not at Carolina.

    Goodness, how is YA Tittle only 32 in that 1958 picture? I thought he was a coach trying on the uniform.

    I didn’t know who that other team was in the 1953 picture so I looked up the teams in the Gridiron Data Base. It was the Chicago Cardinals, and this was a preseason game since this look was only worn during the preseason.

    I always thought the 1996 drop shadow number uniform was by far their best. Those numbers look great. Yet it’s my perception that Niners fans prefer the Montana-era look better? Maybe because of the all of the success they had during that period?

    I’ve always wondered why the team switched to a thinner number font during the 1996 season. I was hoping Timmy would have addressed that in this column.

    Great work today, Phil. You can almost here the echoes of what might have been Paul’s Grandfather cranking out the 40’s version of Uni-Watch was via his guttenberg press with the lede of:

    “Quick, Let’s Look at the New All-America Conference Unis Before the League Folds”

    Love the site – keep up the great work!

    “Many school board members said they didn’t know the students and teachers had voted and put so much effort into the decision.”
    Seriously? That’s the excuse “many” of the school board in Maine is using for their inexcusable decision to totally ignore and overrule those that voted overwhelmingly for something other than what all but one of the school board wanted instead?

    The 49er player in the 1964 photo looks a lot like Jimmy Garoppolo.

    Things that stood out to me in the 1971 photo that are bygones of years past: The 1- and 2-bar facemasks, the straight-on kicker, the astroturf-lined concrete field, and how much blood is on the Eagle blocker!

    Also like how the holder is framed by the legs of the other 3 players. And how high and nearly horizontal the 49er is!

    The excellence of Big Ten nicknames has much to do with the evocative nature of the region’s State Nicknames (The Hawkeye State, The Badger State, etc.) which might not work so well in the rest of the country. The University of Florida Sunshines? University of South Carolina Palmettos? Sure, fine, if your ambition is to be laughed off of the field. But the city of Columbus has always had an obvious, if dated, nickname for a pro team: the Columbus Discovery. Yeah, nicknames in the singular aren’t really my thing, but it beats having another team called the “Wildcats”.

    Lazy question: Is this the first Super Bowl in which neither team started out as an NFL franchise?

    No. Without doing a deep search a couple of examples come to mind immediately: 49ers/Broncos and 49ers/Bengals.

Comments are closed.