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A Uni Watch Look at Tom Brady

Good morning! With Tom Brady apparently retiring yesterday (just like last year — it really is Groundhog Day!), I want to take a bit of time today to look at some uni-related facts and figures from his 23-season NFL career. Let’s go one uni element at a time, beginning with…


Brady wore four helmet designs in his career (although two of them were very similar throwbacks). His retirement, assuming he sticks to it this time, means he will not get to wear the Bucco Bruce helmet that Tampa Bay plans to revive next season.

Also of note: Brady was the last NFL player to wear Riddell’s VSR-4 helmet model, until the league banned it in 2019.


By my count, Brady wore 10 different jersey designs during his career (admit it, you’d forgotten about the Pats’ awful grey/silver alternate). Again, two of them were throwbacks that were very similar to each other.

Nitpickers might point out that the Pats changed their home and road chest logo in 2015, so you could say that Brady actually wore two additional jerseys, but I chose not to count that as a true design change. I fully acknowledge that that’s a subjective notion — your mileage may vary and all that.


As far as I can tell, Brady has worn eight different pants designs. That’s two fewer than the number of jerseys because (a) the Pats wore the same pants with their white and grey jerseys, and they also wore the same pants with both of their 2009 throwback jerseys.

Update: As several people have pointed out, I neglected to include the white pants that Brady wore for one game in 2017 (so the pants total is nine, not eight):

TAMPA, FL – OCTOBER 5: Quarterback Tom Brady #12 of the New England Patriots warms up on the field before the start of an NFL football game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on October 5, 2017 at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa, Florida. (Photo by Brian Blanco/Getty Images)


As we’ve discussed in other contexts, NFL socks have become a shitshow, so I’m not going to attempt to count all of Brady’s sock stylings. Instead, I’m just going to note that his left-leg brace really distended the stripes on his road socks during the latter part of his time with the Patriots. But distended or not, he always wore his stripes at mid-calf, the way they’re supposed to be worn. Good for him (and for us).

That photo also shows the red shoes and spatting that he favored late in his New England tenure.


Uni Watch’s own Anthony Emerson figured out a few years ago that Brady almost certainly holds the NFL record for wearing the most patches in a career (and that was before he jumped to the Bucs and began wearing captaincy patches, which he never wore with the Pats). So add that to the many records he holds.


I’m not sure exactly when this started, but at some point Brady became really obsessed with having access to pockets, regardless of the game conditions. In the 2021 photo shown above, he has pockets sewn into his jersey and he’s wearing a strap-on pouch — and that’s for an indoor game in Atlanta! That pocket/pounch combo has been fairly common for him in recent years.

Additional Notes

  • Brady’s time with the Patriots coincided exactly with the tenure of this uniform set. The team debuted that set for his rookie season in 2000 (moving on from the original Flying Elvis set), and they switched to their current set in 2020 — the year Brady moved to the Bucs. Obviously, none of those uni changes were planned around Brady’s arrival or departure, but it somehow feels appropriate that his time in New England perfectly overlaps with that uni era.
  • When Brady signed with Tampa, several media outlets Photoshopped him into the Bucs’ “alarm clock” uniform, even though the team was scrapping that design and Brady would never get to wear it.
  • Brady’s helmet didn’t have the NFL logo decal during the 2016 preseason, which may have been his way of protesting his Deflategate suspension.
  • When the NFL loosened its uni-numbering rules in 2021, Brady criticized the decision, saying that offensive personnel would be confused about which defensive players to block.
  • Two of Brady’s game-worn Super Bowl jerseys were stolen in 2017 but were later recovered in Mexico.

Finally, I want to say that while I realize a lot of people dislike Brady for various reasons, it’s hard to argue with him from an aesthetic standpoint. As I wrote in 2019:

[W]hatever else you might think of Tom Brady, he looks like a quarterback. His posture, his body proportions, the way he stands tall in the pocket — there’s a physical charisma to him. He looks like the dictionary definition of the word “quarterback,” straight out of central casting.

I’ve always thought that about him, and that’s why I’m a little sad to see him go. Thanks for looking good out there, Tom.



Peak Uni Watch!

In case you missed it on Wednesday, my Premium article this week is an epic interview with letter carrier Jimmy Lonetti about his vintage/throwback postal uniforms. Jimmy is already somewhat Uni Watch-famous because of his longtime excellent work in the field of baseball glove repair, but the way he customizes his postal uniforms with vintage patches, buttons, and other throwback details is nothing short of heroic.

I don’t mind saying that this is one of the best Uni Watch articles ever. It’s long — about 5,000 words — and is studded with lots of photos, links to lots of additional resources for people who want to learn more about postal aesthetics, and a very special surprise at the end.

You can read the first part of the article here. In order to read the whole thing, you’ll need to become a paid subscriber to my Substack (which will also get you full access to my Substack/Bulletin archives, of course). Honestly and truly, I can’t imagine a better reason to sign up than to read this piece. It’s that good — trust me.

Or better yet, don’t trust me — instead, trust some of the comments posted on the article by your fellow Uni Watch readers:

If that doesn’t convince you, I don’t know what will! Again, you can read the beginning of the article here. Enjoy!


Fives and Sixes

This photo shows an old high school girls’ basketball game. But not just any old game — the girls are playing six-on-six, a version of basketball that was popular for girls for many decades, especially in Iowa, where it was a very big deal until Title IX effectively ended it.

The latest episode of the great design podcast 99% Invisible is all about the old six-on-six scene in Iowa (including a bit of info about the uniforms). Really interesting stuff — you can listen to the episode here.

(Thanks to Andrew Cosentino for this one.)


Check Your Head

This photo shows the 1925 boys’ basketball team from Wilsonville High School in Oregon. If you can tear your gaze away from those spectacular sneakers, check out the unusual headgear — not sure I’ve ever seen anything like that on a hoops team. Anyone know more?

(My thanks to @SuitUpVarsity for this one.)


Too Good for the Ticker

When you think of Pro Football Hall of Famer Don Maynard, you think of a wide receiver wearing No. 13. But here’s a 1960 TV commercial showing him wearing No. 10 — as a kicker! Great shots of Titans of New York coach Sammy Baugh, too. A very enjoyable way to spend one minute and 18 seconds!

(Big thanks to Alan Tompas for this one.)

Comments (82)

    Awesome Tom Brady recap! You did miss one set of pants though. Tom wore white color rush pants for the 10/22/17 game against the Buccaneers.


    A lot of excess in that address, causing the link to break. Fortunately, a copy-paste from the text left out of the live link from the first / forward works: link

    The 2017 Pats at Bucs game was on Thursday October 5th (Pats hosted Atlanta on the 22nd and wore their awful monochrome unis.). This was Brady’s only regular season game in Tampa before he went to the Bucs.

    Wow, I don’t recall those white pants at all, and here I thought I was aware of every NFL uni combo in the last few decades.

    A few years back (I’m fairly certain) the Patriots wore all white (with their silver helmets) for a Thursday night game, so that’s another pant style for Brady.

    Thursday October 5, 2017 at Tampa. Only time since 1960 they have ever worn white pants without a Pat Patriot helmet (The 1960 helmet was white with a tri-corn logo.).

    First, kudos on a fantastic Premium Article on Jimmy Lonetti. Those of you aren’t subscribers are truly missing out on Paul’s best stuff.

    Second, you nailed it the regarding Brady looking like a textbook QB. I’m trying to think who else is even close to having “the QB look.” John Elway?

    Funny that you should say that about Elway, Paul, because he’s always stood out in my mind as looking like the quintessential quarterback. That image is no doubt influenced by the fact that Elway was my favorite player on my favorite team while I was growing up. But having come of age as a sports fan in the era of the legendary quarterback Class of ’83, the likes of Elway, Marino, and Jim Kelly – with their sturdy builds and rib protectors under their jerseys link..i&docid=XCxVgnhgNg9GwM&w=1920&h=1080&q=nfl%20qb%20class%20of%201983&ved=2ahUKEwjXvraajff8AhUI1ckDHamCCBMQMygIegUIARDEAQ – conjure an image for me of the prototypical NFL passer.

    To me, players like Roger Staubach and Joe Montana looked just a touch too slight to be able to absorb the physical punishment that the ideal quarterback would need to withstand: link. I wonder how much of that different perspective comes from the few years of difference in our ages. I’m sure we’ve watched plenty of the same football over the years, but the points at which formed our mental impressions of the sport likely have a gap of about 7-10 years.

    I always thought the Falcons’ David Archer (link) had a pretty prototypical “QB look,” even though he wasn’t that good. Jay Schroeder (link) too.

    Just going by “looking like an NFL QB”, I’ve always thought that Matt Ryan encapsulates that.

    His physical build coupled with his technical proficiency (we won’t speak of recent efficiency) always made it seem he had the LOOK.


    A non-scientific poll of some of my older sisters concluded that Bert Jones, Richard Todd and Vince Ferragamo best looked the part.

    Brady looked like a QB. 100% true.

    People seem to actively try to find reasons to discredit the guy, but 10 Super Bowls and 7 rings…you can’t argue with that, and I’m not even a fan of his. One of my happiest sports moments was seeing him lose to the Eagles in SB LII, and even in that loss, HE WAS A BEAST!

    Agree with the “he just looks like a QB” opinion. I agree. Earlier post mentioned Staubach. I think it’s really the body proportions. Not too bulky, not too skinny, etc. I would also echo the comments about his socks. I’ve always noticed his socks look the part (whatever that means).

    As far as disliking him, as a fan he’s tortured for 20+ years, I am very glad to see him go from the field. The cheating scandals aside, I’m not really sure why people seem to dislike him personally (or think he’s a bad guy on a personal level). Driven? Yes. Confident? Yes. Cocky sometimes? Yes. But if he was your team’s QB, you’d love those traits. When I’ve seen him interviewed, I’ve always thought he was a pretty level headed guy for the most part, and pleasant. If you watch him in the 30 for 30 show with Charles Woodson, it’s hard not to like him. The two are buddies of course, and it’s a tv show, but I thought he came off very relatable and likable.

    Anyway, best wishes post-football Tom, but don’t let the stadium door hit you on the ass on the way out!

    Never understood why they never wore/wear silver pants with their white uniforms once the Navy Blue Flying Elvis uniforms were brought out.

    I think the OG Flying Elvis uniforms are very underrated and with some moderinzation would make a terrific uniform.

    There is even another set of those(changed the pants striping and number colours) before they did the shoulder logo

    Some images: link link

    Of course, the transition to the Flying Elvis came at a tumultuous time in the Patriots franchise. Billy Sullivan had sold the team to Victor Kiam a few years earlier, but Kiam was forced to sell the team to James Orthwein prior to the 1992 season. I don’t know if Kiam had begun the process, but the logo change came in 1993 under Orthwein’s ownership. However, Orthwein was looking to relocate the team to St. Louis, until Robert Kraft, who’d bought Foxboro Stadium from Sullivan, leveraged Orthwein out after the 1993 season, and the rest is history.

    a rumor at the time, but I could never find anything actually concrete, was if you removed the face from the flying Elvis design, the team was going to be called the St Louis Spirit when/if they relocated and would use the sort of banner that remained by the flying ELvis design

    I honestly cannot believe people find it necessary to pick these kind of nits. My goodness. “Thank you Paul for your great work as always, I enjoyed reading your article” would have sufficed.

    One thing I remember about Brady’s final year or two of his New England tenure is the narrow shoulder striping of his jersey, which you can see in the white jerseys he’s wearing in the photos included in the sections about pants and jerseys. It always looked weird to me, as I was more used to the “standard” width seen in the accompanying photo in the “Patches” section.

    Love the Don Maynard commercial, from the year I was born. One of my earliest memories is of attending the 1964 New York World’s Fair, the highlight of which was Sinclair’s Dinoland, with the famous machine that made a plastic souvenir of the dinosaur of your choice.

    P.S. Sinclair stations were everywhere when I was growing up on Long Island, but seemed to be gone by the 1980s. But I’ve seen at least one new station with the vintage Dino sign on Route 322 in South Jersey, between the Commodore Barry Bridge and I-95.

    Great work as always, Paul. I did spot one typo though, which I believe should be 2020.

    “and they switched to their current set in 202o”

    Great piece, Paul. One more uni-adjacent thing from Brady (that I’m sure you’ve noted elsewhere): He’s the reason the NFL ditched its rule requiring a first initial on the back of jerseys after Kyle Brady signed with the Pats in 2007. They didn’t want to have all of those Brady jerseys suddenly have to read “T. Brady” so they changed the rule right then and there (and rightly so!). I’ll always remember that, for whatever reason.

    Long live the GOAT.

    I initially included that in the additional notes, but I think that’s more of an urban legend. Proofreader Jerry Wolper, who’s a big Pittsburgh fan, points out that if such a rule ever existed, the Steelers routinely violated it for decades.

    Typo in the Flying Elvis blurb – says 202o instead of 2020.

    Also, what are those gray Pats unis?? major yikes.

    Pats wore grey/silver jerseys a few times 2003-05. Most memorable games were in 2003-Cowboys on a Sunday night (Parcells vs. Belichick for the first time since their breakup in early 2000) and Miami a few days after a blizzard.

    This is worth mentioning: Brady was very much against the jersey number changes we’ve seen over the last year or so…


    I’d forgotten how terrible that Bucs ‘alarm clock’ jersey font was.

    And I can tell you that 6 on 6 hoops was played not only in Iowa but also by high school girls in the 40s in Central Pennsylvania. My Mom played for Lewistown.

    Lastly, your interview with Jimmy Lonetti is just terrific. It brought back memories of customizing the uniform we were issued when I worked as a courier for the old Houston Post (RIP) during my summer breaks from college.

    I get why the 6-on-6 was done away with but it was nice to know that at least several girls got some more PT while it was in effect.

    The one thing that stood out to me about Warren Moon aesthetically (aside from those gorgeous Oilers uniforms) was that I always thought he threw the best-looking ball I’d ever seen. Just a beautiful, tight spiral with the perfect amount of zip. He couldn’t have put it in a better position for his receivers to catch if he’d walked down the field and handed it to them. Watching Moon’s passes slice through the air was pure eye candy.

    Also in the Green and Gold for Edmonton of the CFL. 5 straight Grey Cup championships. As a BC Lions fan, it was horrible :)

    This was my first thought as well.

    There’s something about the number 1 for a QB that completes the look.

    Not 100% on this, but Brady only played in 2 Pro Bowls out of the 15 he was selected for, adding to his uni-totals if you like to count those.
    2002 (woof):
    2005 (not bad, save the tramp stamp patch):

    I always felt like Brady pulled his helmet down further than most. At times, it looked clear over his brow. I assumed it was a visibility thing. This year, it actually looked to me like he was wearing a kicker’s face mask. It just looked a touch smaller than what he usually wore. I know it’s harder to tell with newer face masks.
    Anyone agree, or am I reading too much into it?

    Speaking of Check Your Head… Say what you will about the Beasties, but that album changed my life in ’92. Exactly what I needed at 19.

    Custom mask. He wanted something as close to his VSR-4 as he could get. Not a kicker mask, but I definitely see what you’re saying there.

    Paul’s Boutique was my go-to at age 19.

    Check Your Head didn’t quite reach that level for me when I was 21 but it was definitely in the team photo.

    The uniform sets being introduced and discarded following his time with the Pats reminds me of LeBron and the Cavs uniforms (the first stint). Any other examples?

    As I recall, Tom Brady was one of the last players permitted to wear the old ‘traditional’ helmet, which he did for a few more years until the league mandated all helmets must follow updated/current safety standards. Paul, does that ring a bell with you?

    As a Pats fan, I definitely did not forget about the silver jersey.
    First game I remember seeing the silver was a snow game against Miami. Iconic moments from that day. Bruschi had a pick 6, he slid on his knees in the endzone & the fans celebrated by throwing snow up in the air like fireworks. Some fantastic photos from that celebration, I believe they clinched the division or a bye that day.
    The silver jersey appeared more frequently, there was about a 5 or 6 year run as the alternate. I cannot find visual proof, but I also remember them wearing silver as late as 2007 (undefeated season). I recall Moss in that uniform. I feel like it was vs Buffalo when the Bills had the bad navy-blue set. I don’t recall 2008 silver game (but Brady only played in 1 game that season, so he would not have been in it that year anyway).
    Thinking silver was their alternate from 2003 – 2008, then in 2009 they brought back red throwbacks for the 50th anniversary season.

    One grammar edit in this paragraph:

    When Brady signed with Tampa, several media outlets Photoshopped him into the Bucs’ “alarm clock” uniform, even though the team was scrapping that design and Brady would never get to wear it.

    “get” should be spelled “have”

    Another fun Brady nugget – he avoided the “Nikelace” – the dreaded Elite 51 flywire collar, a.k.a. the ugliest collar design in football history! When Nike took over the league uniform contract, the Pats did switch to Elite unis, but modified so they could keep their traditionally-constructed striped collars. They transitioned to the Vapor unis in 2017, after their Color Rush unis used that template in 2016. And, as Paul mentioned, the Bucs changed their uniforms before Brady played for them, though the Bucs were among the last teams to still have the Nikelace – Cleveland and Indianapolis still had them as well, but all of them switched to Vapor jerseys for 2020. And, finally, there’s the Pro Bowl… which, as mentioned in the comments above, Brady almost never appeared in, missing out completely on the games in which the teams wore the Elite 51 Nikelace jerseys.

    23 seasons wearing metallic silver helmets (except for throwback games). That has to be some kind of record, either for most seasons wearing metallic silver, or wearing any kind of metallic-colored helmet. Heck, has any multi-team gridiron player ever played 23 seasons wearing exclusively the same broadly similar color family?

    I wouldn’t put Tampa’s “pewter” dome in the same category as NE’s silver. But even if you take away the TB years, I’m pretty sure Brady would have the record for metallic silver hats. I think Sebastian Janakowski might be next on the list (17 seasons in black and silver), but that’s still three less than Brady in NE silver. Hell, I think Brady is has played the sixth most games ALL TIME in the NFL — only special-teams players (not exclusively, but they were for a majority of their careers if not all) have played more games.

    On the Wilsonville photo, I have no information, but those headpieces look to me like a sort of crown. Is it possible this photo was taken to commemorate some sort of championship, and the headgear is supposed to signify that they’re the “kings” of the conference/state/county/whatever? Just a thought.

    Otto Graham — 10 league championship games and 7 championships in only 10 years.

    Just tossin’ that out there.

    Iowa held on to 6×6 for a while and it was so popular that neighboring state Nebraska had quite a debate about whether to go the 6×6 or 5×5 route when girls basketball was made legal again in 1972 (it had been outlawed by the state association in 1927). Iowa had a split system for a number of years until 5×5 won out because that was what the colleges were playing.

    Also, back in Nebraska we still have no idea about the Wilsonville headgear. I do like the crown idea, but that’s early for conferences in Nebraska, not sure what they could have won. I’ll keep digging.

    Loves the Brady retrospective though one of the links took me to an old blog post where you were hyping the StripeRite socks and it made me miss them! All of mine have worn out from being loved too much!

    Night or day … outdoors or inside … was there ever a game where Brady did NOT wear old-school eye-black? -C.

    I thought about including that. But then I thought, “Eh, that’s not so unusual — you could probably say the same thing about lots of other players.” Decided to leave it out. But you’re right, it’s certainly hard to imagine him without the eye black!

    Definitely a thing of his, but he definitely didn’t always wear it. But I think he did for all of his TB years, and probably for most of his late Pats years





    and cetera

    Tom brady jerseys were made by three different manufacturers ( Adidas, reebok, nike) and he won a super bowl in all three.

    Thanks for the pointer to the story about 6-on-6 women’s basketball in Iowa. I grew up hearing about it, since that’s what my mother and grandmother played in Iowa. It had limited dribbling, only 2 dribbles in succession, lots of passing and movement, and a lot of support from small rural towns. Also, those satin uniforms were in all the yearbook pictures I saw.

    Listening to the 99% Invisible story got me looking for one of the games mentioned towards the end of the program. It looks like the photo in this post may have been taken at the 1968 Iowa Girls State Championship game between Union-Whitten Cobras and Everly Cattlefeeders, apparently considered one the the best 6-on-6 games ever, which has been uploaded at link

    Also, apparently one of the stars of the game, and probably the shooter in the photo, Denise Long, was drafted by the NBA San Francisco Warriors in 1969. (link)

    I hated the giant Elvis shoulders on the previous threads prior to the makeover in 2000, but mostly because of the royal blue hue (since the actual Patriots wanted nothing to do with royalty). While the original jerseys of the re-branding were rather bland (which makes sense due to Orthwein wanting to move the franchise), I’m glad that Kraft returned to the navy blue of those early days of the Elvis look.

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