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Frequently Asked Questions

What are your all-time favorite uniforms in each of the major team sports?
MLB: Cardinals, circa 1960s

NFL: Packers, green jersey, circa 1960s

NHL: Canadiens, white jersey

NBA: Warriors, “The City” design (bonus points for the rear uni number appearing inside a cable car)

What about your all-time least-favorite uniforms?
MLB: Rockies, purple jersey

NFL: Bills, dark-on-dark.

NHL: Islanders, Fisherman jersey

NBA: Vancouver Grizzlies, original road design

Why do the Pittsburgh Steelers put their logo on only one side of their helmet?
You can get the full story here.

Why do the Steelers, Pirates, and Penguins all wear black and yellow?
Because those are the colors of the Pittsburgh city flag. And here’s the story behind why those colors were chosen.

Why don’t the White Sox wear white socks?
They used to, back in the franchise’s early days. White started disappearing from their socks in the ’40s and had vanished almost entirely by 1953 (although white stirrups reappeared for the 1959 World Series, and again — with blue sanitaries! — in 1969 and 1970).

But as to the larger question of why they went away from white, the surprising answer is that nobody seems to know.

Why do the Islanders have those four stripes on one shoulder?
They represent the franchise’s four consecutive Stanley Cups in the 1980s.

Everyone loves the Chargers’ powder-blue jerseys. Why don’t they go back to wearing them full-time, instead of just once or twice a year?
The team’s owner is very fond of the current design and wants to keep it.

Is it true that the 49ers were going to switch to a totally different helmet design a few years back, with “49ers” on the side of the helmet instead of “SF”?
In 1991, the 49ers created a prototype for a new helmet design, which they introduced at a press conference. But fan reaction was so overwhelmingly negative that the idea was scrapped the next day.

What’s the Expos’ logo supposed to be?
Actually, there are two separate interpretations — one in English and one in French. English version: The overall outline of the logo is a stylized “M” for “Montreal” (you kinda have to squint to see this). The red “e” on the left is for “Expos,” and the blue “b” on the right is for “baseball.” Add it all up and you’ve got “Montreal Expos baseball.” The strip of white next to the “e” is essentially just wasted space — it’s not an “l” or anything like that. French version: The red symbol on the left is a “c,” which combines with the white strip to form a “d.” Toss in the “b” on the right and outlined “m” and you’ve got c-d-b-m, for Club de Baseball Montreal.

What’s the deal with the “H” inside the “C” in the Canadiens’ logo?
The Canadiens are frequently referred to as the Habs or les Habitants, and many people mistakenly think that’s what the “H” stands for. But that’s wrong — the “H” actually stands for “hockey” because the franchise’s official name is Club de Hockey Canadien.

Why do the Oakland A’s use an elephant as their secondary logo?
The full story is here.

Why does Fresno State have that “V” on the back of their helmet?
The full story is here.

The “G” logos used by the Packers, the University of Georgia, and Grambling all look the same. What’s the deal? Which one came first?
The “G” originated with the Packers. Some background info on all three logos is available here.

What’s with the green dot on the back of NFL quarterbacks’ helmets?
The green dot signifies a radio-equipped helmet. Further details here.

Why don’t Tom Brady and Kyle Brady (or other NFL teammates with the same last name) have “T.” and “K.” initials on their nameplates? Doesn’t that violate some sort of NFL rule?
First initials for same-surnamed NFL teammates used to be required, but no more. They were made optional prior to the 2007 season.

Why do some teams insist on wearing the American flag backwards on their sleeves?
It’s not backwards. Proper flag etiquette calls for the blue field to face forward, so the flag looks like it’s fluttering back as it (or the person wearing it) moves forward. So if a flag patch is worn on the right side of a garment or vehicle, it should be oriented like so. This applies to sleeve patches, helmet decals, military uniforms, buses, the space shuttle, Air Force One, and so on.

Why do baseball and basketball teams wear white at home, but football teams wear white on the road? And what’s up with the NHL?
Early baseball teams had a hard time finding good laundry facilities while traveling, so they started wearing gray on the road, because it hid the dirt better.

Early football teams often had only one jersey, usually colored. Some teams also had a white jersey for use on the road, but this was generally worn only if the two teams in a game had similar color schemes (which is pretty much how it currently works in European soccer). When games started to be televised, road whites became more important, because many colors looked the same on black-and-white TV. So the TV era also marked the start of the two-jersey era. But keep in mind that under current NFL rules, football teams don’t truly have “home” and “road” uniforms — they simply have white and color, and the home team gets its choice of which one to wear. While most teams choose to wear color at home, there are several, like the Cowboys and Redskins, that prefer to wear white at home.

In the NHL’s early years, teams had only one uniform, which was almost always colored. The concept of road whites was introduced by the Red Wings in 1934, and other teams soon followed, but colors were still worn at home (that’s why the Rangers are known as “the Broadway Blues,” for example; in fact, the Rangers didn’t add a white uni until 1951, becoming the final team to do so). The league experimented with wearing white at home for a few seasons in the 1950s but then went back to wearing colors at home. But teams on the road were having the same sorts of laundry problems that baseball teams had experienced decades earlier, so the NHL switched to white at home in 1970 and stayed that way for the next 33 years — this is the period of hockey most of us are familiar with, so we tend to think of white as the natural home color, even though it wasn’t always that way.

The NHL switched back to wearing colors at home in 2003. Why? The official reason was that the league wanted home fans to be able to see the colored uniforms; the unofficial and more accurate reason is that sales of colored jerseys were lagging, so they wanted to give them a higher profile. (A contributing reason: Most NHL teams’ alternate third jerseys are colored, and teams want to wear those at home, which would force their opponents to bring a set of whites with them on the road, so why not just make all home games colored?) Some hockey minor leagues actually have it both ways, wearing white at home for the first half of the season and then switching to white on the road for the second half.

Even the people at the NBA office are unsure of why basketball became a white-at-home sport, although factors like laundry access and black-and-white TV probably had something to do with it. Keep in mind, though, that several pro teams have worn colors at home, including the Lakers, who continue to do so. Others have included the Warriors (yellow), Sonics (yellow), Bullets (orange), Cavs (yellow), and Spurs (silver, when they were in the ABA).

Why don’t you write more about soccer, the world’s most popular sport?
My knowledge of soccer is very limited, so I don’t feel well equipped to write about it. Readers frequently bring soccer-related uni developments to my attention, however, and whenever possible I try to pass along that information within the column.

Is there a Web site that lists which uniform combo each NFL team will be wearing for each game?
No, unfortunately.

Are there web sites that show the uniform histories for each sport?
Yes. Baseball’s uni history is available here; pro football uniforms are here, and pro and college football helmet designs shown here; and NHL uni history is available here.

I’m not aware of any site that covers the NBA’s uniform history, although loads of old jerseys are displayed here, and the ABA’s uniforms are showcased here.

There’s a uni-related photo I want you to see. Should I send it as an attachment, or just send you its URL?
If there’s a photo on the web that you want to show me, just let me know the URL of the image, or of the page where it’s located. But if the photo isn’t on the web (because you took it yourself, or you scanned it from a hard copy, or someone else forwarded it to you, or whatever), you can either upload it to a photo-hosting site like Flickr or Photobucket and then send me the resulting URL, or else just go ahead and send it as an attachment.

I sent you a tip, and you wrote about it, but you didn’t give me credit — how come?
First of all, don’t be so sure that I didn’t notice it on my own. In general, though, if one or two people let me know about something, I’m happy to credit them by name. If more than two people tell me about the same thing, I’ll just say that “several readers” mentioned it, because it gets cumbersome to list so many names.

Why don’t you put all the photos on the same page as the text, instead of formatting them as pop-up links?
I refer to so many photos that there’d be no way to fit all of those images onto the same page as the text. Pop-up windows allow me to reference lots of visual material without cluttering up the page. If you find it annoying to toggle back and forth between the text and the photos, try opening two browser windows — one for the text, and one for all the photo links — and positioning them on opposite sides of your computer screen. That’s what I do myself when I’m checking the material before publishing it. You can also install Cooliris on your browser, so you can preview the photo links without actually clicking on them.

I just read a column from your archive, and some of the photo links came up as “Page not found.” What gives?
Unfortunately, link rot is a fact of life, especially with wire service photos, which are usually kept on servers for only three or four weeks. I try to choose photos whose URLs will stay active, but sometimes it isn’t possible. The one thing I can guarantee is that the links all work when a column is published.

Oh yeah? Then how come I just looked at your new column today and some of the links came up as “Access Denied,” or something like that?
Occasionally I link to a blog or a small personal site that can’t handle all the hits from Uni Watch’s large readership. So the site crashes, or it exceeds its bandwidth limit and is shut down by its ISP. I’ve gotten much better about anticipating this type of problem (or at least I think I have) and now try to avoid these types of links.

Why do you hate purple so much?
I actually think purple in nature is quite nice — eggplants, violets, plums, etc. But purple in man-made design applications has always struck me as really tacky. Like, seriously, have you ever seen a purple car? A total nightmare. Same goes for purple clothing, especially uniforms.

Don’t you realize purple is the color of royalty?
Sure, but so what? I live in America, a country whose very conception was predicated on anti-royalty sentiment. Maybe that’s why, as I like to point out, not a single U.S. state uses purple as one of its official state colors. If that doesn’t fill your heart with patriotic pride, nothing will.

Why do you get so worked up about the Nike and Reebok logos appearing on uniforms?
Short version: Because the only logo that belongs on a team’s uniform is the logo of the team itself. The relationship between fan and team is very special — players come and go, they retire, they’re traded, and so on, but the fan stays loyal to the team, to the logo, to the uniform, no matter who’s wearing it. That’s an unusually pure form of brand loyalty, and it shouldn’t be sullied or cheapened by the presence of any other brand logos.

For a much longer explanation, look here.

I’ve designed a new logo and uniform for my favorite team. Who should I send it to? If I send it to you, can you forward it to the proper person at the team, or maybe to the league office?
I know you don’t want to hear this, but pro sports teams and leagues aren’t interested in unsolicited uniform designs — don’t bother. (Here’s an ESPN column I wrote about fans who submit unsolicited designs.)

I want to submit an NFL uni tweak to Phil. Where can I find a uniform template to use?
You can start by googling. If you don’t like what you find, here’s Phil’s advice:

What I do (and I’m guessing others do) is to find a site like Chris Creamer’s Sport Logos (from that main page, just click on any logo, which will take you to a specific team’s logos and uniforms — for example, Arizona). just click on the uniform, copy it (right click), and save it in something like MS Paint or Photoshop. Once you have that saved, you can “erase” the colors to create a blank, or adapt the particular team as you’d like.

I want to become a uniform designer. Where do I start?
First, get a degree in graphic design. Then join a brand-design firm that works with the major sports leagues, or get a job with the properties division of one of the leagues. Simple, right?

My son’s Little League team needs new uniforms. Which colors should we use? Do you think we should go with vests?
It’s nice that you value my opinion so much, but I’m in no position to make those sorts of decisions for you. For what it’s worth, I think forest green and mustard always look great together, and of course I’m unalterably opposed to any use of purple. But the best thing you can do for a Little Leaguer is to teach him (or her) to wear stirrups.

Why do you love stirrups so much?
Because they look cool and they’re unique to baseball. And I practice what I preach: I wear stirrups while playing softball.

OK, you’ve convinced me — I’ll wear stirrups. Where can I buy them?
You can always search for “baseball stirrups” on eBay and see what comes up. Or you can contact Robert Marshall, who’s an authorized dealer for Twin City Knitting, the last American stirrup manufacturer.

What are all these terms I keep seeing on your site, like “NOB” and “Pedro porthole” and “Ree-box”?
These and many other uni-centric terms are explained in the Uni Watch Glossary.

Do you write about other things besides uniforms?
Yes. I write regularly about food, travel, business, advertising, design, pop culture, Americana, and pretty much whatever strikes my interest at a given moment. I’m a full-time freelance writer.

Where can I see your other writing?
Some things I’ve written about food and eating are available here, here, here, and here. There are links to some of my other work on this page.

Are you the same Paul Lukas who used to publish the zine Beer Frame back in the 1990s?
Yes. For the uninitiated, Beer Frame: The Journal of Inconspicuous Consumption was a small magazine that examined the details of consumer culture in much the same way “Uni Watch” examines uniform design. Unfortunately, almost all my Beer Frame back-issues are now sold out, except for issue Nos. 7, 8, and 9 (if you’re interested in purchasing them, contact me).

What about your 1997 book, Inconspicuous Consumption: An Obsessive Look at the Stuff We Take for Granted?
The book is out of print, but there are plenty of used copies floating around out there.

Why don’t you write a book about uniforms?
Lots of reasons, but the biggest one is that writing a book would entail a lot of work that would turn my life upside-down, and I like my life the way it is.

Are you related to the old Hollywood actor Paul Lukas, who won an Oscar for Watch on the Rhine?
No. You can read more about my connection him (or lack thereof) here.

Which jerseys do you have in your closet?
People are often surprised to hear that I’m not a jersey collector. I explain why here.

Do you collect any other sort of uniform-related stuff?
Yes. I really like old uniform catalogs from sporting goods companies — the older, the better. I have a nice little library of these, many of which still have the original fabric swatches pasted onto the pages. I also collect the uniform style guides published by the various sports leagues. I’m not interested in selling any of this stuff, so please don’t ask. But if you have any catalogs or style guides that you want to sell, contact me.

I’m trying to find a particular replica jersey — do you know where I can buy it?
I’m only interested in what the players are wearing. I’m not particularly knowledgeable about the retail and merchandising sides of the uni world, and I really don’t care what fans buy or wear. But you can always post a query to the comments section of the current entry on this site. Someone will likely know how to find what you’re looking for.

Sometimes I forget which day your ESPN column appears, or I’m too busy to check to see if a new one has been posted. Is there a way I can be notified when new installments of the column are published?
Yes. Send me a note and I’ll add you to my mailing list. In addition to receiving a signal flare each time a new column is posted, you’ll also be notified when I’m doing live internet chats, the occasional TV appearance, etc. You can also follow me on Twitter and Facebook.

How can I get to be the Uni Watch intern?
That job is currently taken, but at some point I’ll rotate the position to somebody else. If you want to be considered, send me a note.

You’re really nit-picky and you write about clothes — so, like, you must be gay, right?
Nope. But what if I were? What if the guy sitting next to you is? What if YOU are? What difference does it make? Stupid question about a non-issue.

What if I have a question that you haven’t answered here?
Send me an e-mail.