Help choose your team's throwback uniform!

Want to help decide which throwback uniform your team is going to wear next?
Vote here! Each poll takes 15 seconds to complete.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Chicago Bears Uniform and Team History



Please click on the evolution of the Bears uniform poster above for a close-up version of the poster. The descriptions below give you some insight and background about the uniforms and/or eras depicted in the poster.


-------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Chicago Bears 1920 uniform - Decatur Staleys 1920 uniform
1920
The Chicago Bears and the Arizona Cardinals (originally the Chicago Cardinals) are the two charter members of the National Football League still in existence. Their 1,000-game history began in 1920 in Decatur, Illinois, when the Staley Starch Company decided to sponsor a football team. On September 17, 1920, the Decatur Staleys, with George Halas as their player/coach/manager, joined the newly formed American Professional Football Association (APFA) for a franchise fee of $100. In 1922 the APFA became the National Football League.

This 1920 blue jersey with tan colored vertical striping, is a Decatur Staleys jersey, the franchise’s first year and as mentioned above, the first year of the American Professional Football Association. But this jersey had functionality to it – the vertical striping were actually strips of felt sewn onto the uniform to help the ball carrier securing the ball.

The 1920 Staleys finished with a record of 5-1-2, good for second place behind Akron. Interestingly, the Staleys played only 2 games at home.

The following year, 1921, Staley Starch Company decided to give up sports as a promotion and gave the team to Halas and his partner Dutch Sternaman for a nominal fee. In fact, they gave Halas permission to move the team to Chicago and about the only thing Halas had to do in return was agree to keep the Staley name for a year.

Thus in 1921 Halas and Sternaman moved the team to Chicago and played their games at Wrigley Field. And in 1921 the Staleys won the APFA championship with a record of 9-1-1 – contrary to 1920, the Staleys played all 11 games at home. It’s interesting to note that from the beginning of the APFA in 1920 (and the NFL in 1922) right up to 1931, the league champion was the team with the best winning record overall - it was actually more complicated than this in some years, but we’ll leave that story for another time - there were no playoff games; the regular season was the only season.

After the 1921 championship season, Halas’ agreement to keep the “Staley” name expired, and seeing as though Chicago’s baseball team was named the Cubs, Halas thought it appropriate that the football team be named the Bears, thus the Bear name began with the 1922 season.


-------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Chicago Bears 1932 uniform
1932
This year witnessed the first indoor pro football game, a game that was played December 18, 1932 in Chicago Stadium because of inclement weather. In this game, played before 11,000 fans, the Bears beat the Portsmouth Spartans, thus ensuring themselves of the ‘World’s Champions’ title in the first ever NFL playoff game.

It’s interesting to note that in 1934, two years after the year of this uniform, the Bears were part of football history. The 1934 Bears, the 1942 Bears, and the 1972 Dolphins are the only 3 teams in the history of the NFL to go through the regular season undefeated and untied. Unfortunately, the ‘34 Bears lost to the Giants 30-13 in the NFL Championship Game, while the 1942 Bears lost 14-6 to the Redskins in the final game. This then left the 1972 Dolphins as the only team in NFL history to go undefeated and untied throughout an entire NFL regular season and playoffs.


-------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Chicago Bears 1935 uniform
1935
This orange jersey with black arm stripes is quite a departure from previous jerseys, and was so “loud” that stories are told about crowds in New York booing the jersey. Not the epitome of sportsmanship, but then again, New Yorkers have been known to boo their own teams too. Note also the black helmet.

The orange jerseyed Bears finished the 1935 season with a 6-4-2 record, tied for 3rd in the NFL West, finishing out of the playoffs for the first time since playoffs began in 1932.


-------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Chicago Bears 1943 uniform
1943
What a year! Bronko Nagurski ends a 5-year retirement and at the age of 35, returns to the Bears, plays 3 different positions, and helps lead the team to an 8-1-1 record and an NFL Championship! In the Championship game, the Bears met the Washington Redskins, and came away 41-21 victors. It’s interesting to note that much like today’s college teams, the Bears had to wait four weeks between their last regular season game on November 28th and the Championship Game on December 26th.

The early 40’s were heady times for the Bears – in fact, they started off the 1940’s with an impressive four straight appearances in the NFL Championship Game. They humiliated the Washington Redskins 73-0 in 1940, they went on to beat the Giants 37-9 in 1941, then lost 14-6 to the Redskins in 1942. As noted above, they then came back with a vengeance in 1943 and defeated the Redskins 41-21.

Of note: The 1934 Bears, the 1942 Bears, and the 1972 Dolphins are the only 3 teams in the history of the NFL to go through the regular season undefeated and untied. Sadly, the 1934 Bears lost to the Giants 30-13 in the NFL Championship Game, while the 1942 Bears lost 14-6 to the Redskins in the final game. This then left the 1972 Dolphins as the only team in NFL history to go undefeated and untied through an entire NFL season and playoff.

Of special note – helmets at this point still lacked any sort of facial protection. This truly was the era of ‘smash mouth’ football – remarkable.


-------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Chicago Bears 1958 uniform
1958
By 1958, the Bears are now wearing the colors most of us are familiar with today – a deep deep blue (so blue it often appears to be black) with orange accents. Note also how the jersey now features the uniform number on the side of the sleeves. Despite winning almost 60% of their games during the 1950’s, the Bears only made one playoff appearance, losing 47-7 to the Giants in 1956. The 1958 Bears finished with an 8-4 record, good for second place in the 6 team NFL West, but not good enough to make the playoffs. At this point in NFL history, the playoffs consisted of the Eastern and Western Champions meeting in a Championship game, except when teams tied for the Conference Championship – in these cases an extra playoff game was required to settle the tie.


-------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Chicago Bears 1963 uniform
1963
With an 11-1-2 regular season record, the Bears advanced to the NFL Championship game, this time against the 11-3 Giants. In a hard fought game played before 45,000+ at Wrigley Field in Chicago, the Bears came out on top 14-10. This was the Bears 8th NFL Championship in franchise history – they had won previously in 1921, 1932, 1933, 1940, 1941, 1943 and 1946.

An interesting note: by this time the infamous ‘C’ logo appeared on the Bears’ helmet. A simple but elegant design, it has continued to the present day although the color has changed from white to orange, and the shape has changed slightly.

Of note: Inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame this year were three great Bears - George Halas, Red Grange and Bronko Nagurski. Halas would go on to coach 4 more years before retiring at the end of the 1967 season – his 40th – with a record of 313-148-32, a remarkable .667 winning percentage. Even in his last year, 1967, Halas posted a winning record – truly remarkable.

When he retired after the1967 season, Halas ranked as the NFL's all-time leader in coaching victories with 319 wins (regular season and playoffs), a record that stood for 25+ years until Don Shula surpassed him – but keep in mind Shula coached in an era when teams played more games in a season than Halas.


-------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Chicago Bears 1969 uniform
1969
We’re at the height of the “Butkus” era – Dick Butkus was arguably the greatest and fiercest middle linebacker to play the sport even though at 6’ 3” and 244 lbs he was hardly the biggest.

This was also the season made famous by the movie “Brian’s Song” – the true story about the Bears’ Brian Piccolo and Gayle Sayers. For those of you unfamiliar with the story, hard working running back Piccolo played the first nine games of the season before being diagnosed with cancer – he died less than a year later. Piccolo had befriended Gayle Sayers, the Bears premier running back, and they became roommates and fast friends.

While posting six 500+ seasons throughout the 1960’s, the Bears also managed to post their worst record of all-time, 1-13 in 1969. Of note on this uniform, however, is the fabulously simple but nonetheless handsome NFL shield/crest on the left shoulder – commemorating the NFL’s 50th anniversary.


-------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Chicago Bears 1977 uniform
1977
Reaching the post season for the first time in 13 seasons on the strength of a 9-5 record, the 1977 Bears fell to the 12-2 Cowboys 37-7 in the first round of the playoffs. A small consolation was that the Cowboys went on to become NFL champs, beating Denver 27-10 at the Superdome in New Orleans.

Note how by 1977 the infamous ‘C’ on the Bears’ helmet has taken on a splash of color. The orange “C”, complete with white trim, still stands.

Of note: After playing at Wrigley field for 51 years, 1971 marked the opening of the new home of the Chicago Bears – magnificent Soldier Field.


-------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Chicago Bears 1985 uniform
1985
What a year! Led by Jim McMahon, Richard Dent, Walter Sweetness Payton and 300+lb William Refrigerator Perry, the Bears roll to a 15-1 regular season record. They then crush the Giants 21-0 and the Rams 24-0 to advance to the Super Bowl for the first time.

And in impressive fashion, “Da Bears” end a 22 year drought by winning their first ever Super Bowl by crushing the New England Patriots 46-10. This was the Bear’s 9th NFL Championship in franchise history – they had won previously in 1921, 1932, 1933, 1940, 1941, 1943, 1946 and 1963, all before the 1966 “invention” of the Super Bowl.

Note the GSH crest amidst the stripes on the left sleeve. This is in honor of the late ‘Papa Bear’ George S. Halas, who passed away on October 31, 1983. An icon & pioneer in the sport of football, Halas was responsible for countless contributions to the game, just one being changing the name of the American Professional Football Association to the National Football League – way back in 1922. He also coached the Bears for 40 seasons from 1920 (when they were known as the Decatur Staleys) to 1967, racking up an impressive 313-148-32 record, a remarkable .667 winning percentage. And it’s great to know that the proud Bears’ tradition is carried on today by Halas’ grandson, Michael McCaskey, who serves as club president and chief executive officer.


-------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Chicago Bears 1994 uniform
1994
During this season, the NFL and its franchises showcased ‘throwback’ jerseys, or replicas of older uniforms – to help commemorate the NFL’s 75th anniversary. The 75th anniversary was also commemorated by the diamond patch on the upper left part of the torso.

The Bears’ jersey showcased here is a tribute to the Bears mid 20’s uniform. If you’re wondering about the odd stripe pattern, it’s at least partly explained by the fact that in the 20’s felt striping was sewn onto many jerseys to help the ball carrier keep a firm grip on the ball. In this 1994 throwback version, the stripes are simply that – stripes on a jersey. To help the officials in 1994, one small consolation is the addition of the uniform number on the upper right chest area. Note how the Bears’ helmet logo has disappeared – this is because the helmet logo didn’t begin until the late 50’s/early 60’s.

The ’94 Bears finish 9-7 and squeak into the playoffs for the sixth time in 10 years, then upset the 10-6 Vikings 35-18 in the NFC Wild Card Game, then fall 44-15 to the eventual Super Bowl Champion San Francisco 49ers.

One other note about the uniform: If you look closely at almost all NFL uniforms worn from 1991 on, you’ll note a small NFL shield patch on the jersey’s neckline. Most NFL uniforms added the NFL logo patch to the neck, and to the upper left thigh of the pants, beginning in 1991. The only major exception to this practice was in 1994 when the teams wore their throwback uniforms – in these instances, as is the case here, the teams did not wear the NFL shield patch.


-------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Chicago Bears 1999 uniform
2000
The Bears have been quite consistent in their uniform design – see how little difference there is between the 1977 Bears uniform and this 2000 version. Also of interest is the actual style of the uniform numbers themselves – dating back to the 50’s, the Bears have become famous for their “rounded” number style – so much so that you only need to see their uniform numbers and you know immediately which team you’re looking at.

Please note the great black pants worn by the Bears in 2000 – a neat look!

One other note about this uniform: If you look closely at almost all NFL uniforms worn from 1991 on, you’ll note a small NFL shield patch on the jersey’s neckline. Most NFL uniforms added the NFL logo patch to the neck, and to the upper left thigh of the pants, beginning in 1991. The only major exception to this practice was in 1994 when the teams wore their throwback uniforms – in these instances the teams did not wear the NFL shield patch.

The late 90’s and 2000 season weren’t too kind to the Bears – the 2000 edition of the Bears could only manage 5 wins against 11 losses.


-------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Chicago Bears 2005 uniform
2005
Text still to be written.
-------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Celebrate the Bears' uniform history by owning a piece of history:
If you love the Chicago Bears and the history of the Bears franchise, you might really love to own an original piece of artwork celebrating the team's historic uniforms as seen in the poster at the top of this blog - you can actually own one of those original pieces of art! There are only 12 pieces of original art available for sale, and when these 12 are sold, that's it, they're all sold out.

These original watercolor paintings would make a great gift (birthday gift, anniversary gift, retirement gift, Christmas gift, etc.) for someone you love or even a great gift for yourself (one of these framed pieces would look fantastic in your home or office). Each piece can be bought one of three ways:
1. As unframed art that you could have framed or mounted yourself (the one on the left)
2. Framed in our "Classic" framed version (the middle version)
3. Framed in our "Deluxe" framed version (the version on the right)



If you would like more information about this great artwork including the three ways you could purchase each piece, please visit our Chicago Bears YouTube video at www.youtube.com/watch?v=959jvW2DlzM or go directly to the artwork website www.heritagesportsart.com/Chicago-Bears-c109/ where you can see and purchase the artwork.

And if someone you know loves the history of sports uniforms (but maybe another team) and loves great art, please let them know that we have over 1500 pieces of great original artwork for sale at www.heritagesportsart.com (all NFL teams, all MLB teams, all NHL teams, all CFL teams, select NCAA football teams) or check out each team's video at the Heritage Sports Art YouTube Channel www.youtube.com/user/ssillcox

And please search my blog archive http://heritagejerseys.blogspot.com/ for other blogs on the history of the Bears.

---------------------------------------------

This blog was written by Scott Sillcox and was last updated August 16, 2010. I have tried to ensure the accuracy of the information, but I am human and can make mistakes. If you believe I have made a mistake, please let me know by email at ssillcox@rogers.com !

Many thanks!!!
Scott

1 comment:

  1. This is just awesome. I love this team so much.
    I bought a new jersey yesterday. Found also some cool hats here:

    http://store.chicagotribune.com/sports/nfl/bears/accessories.html

    Thanks for sharing this post

    Brittany

    ReplyDelete