Retro is fashionable in the NFL, except for the old leather helmets

By Doug Halberstadt
Sports Columnist

I think it’s a good idea the NFL embraces its history. For the most part, I think the use of the “throwback” uniforms is a pretty cool idea. Back in 1994, the league allowed teams to wear versions of their old uniform styles to commemorate the NFL’s 75th anniversary. For nearly 20 years now, teams have continued the use of the retro uniforms for special occasions and various team-related anniversaries.

Some are better than others, however. The striped jerseys the Pittsburgh Steelers use for their throwback uniforms makes them look like a swarm of bumble bees. They actually remind me of the football uniforms worn by the Three Stooges in some of their old movies.

When the Dallas Cowboys go retro, they wear the classic white-shouldered jersey with a solid blue star on the left and right. They also don the white helmets with a solid blue star. These uniforms represent the players from an era when many people referred to Dallas as “America’s Team.”

Locally, the Green Bay Packers wore uniforms representing the 1929 Acme Packers this past weekend. I’m not saying this because I’m a Bears fan, but those are quite possibly the ugliest uniforms I’ve ever seen. The uniform features a navy blue jersey with yellow numbers, with an added twist, as the uniforms in 1929 featured a small yellow circle in the front with a blue number in it. The circle and numbers were enlarged to meet current NFL uniform rules. The nasty tan pants they wore were intended to replicate the canvas uniform pants used during the 1920s.

The Chicago Bears have used a variety of throwback uniforms and jerseys over the past 20 years. Like the Steelers, the Bears have experimented with the striped jerseys. The difference being the Bears wore vertical orange and blue stripes as opposed to the yellow-and-black bumble bee stripes.

Another thing I’ve noticed about Chicago’s retro uniforms is they consistently make use of the navy blue and orange. The Bears’ original uniforms from the 1920s were actually navy blue with tan-colored vertical stripping. Those stripes were not strictly fashionable; they were also functional. They were strategically made of felt to help the ball carrier in securing the ball.

Even though teams have replicated historical jerseys and uniforms, the one article of the uniform that hasn’t enjoyed a comeback and never will is the old leather helmet. Although now that I think about it, there are a few players I wouldn’t mind if they would exchange the ultra-protective modern-day helmets for the old leather ones.

Doug Halberstadt can be reached via e-mail at

Posted Nov. 18, 2014

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