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Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Dallas Cowboys Uniform and Team History

Please click on the evolution of the Cowboys 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.

Dallas Cowboys 1960 uniform
The storied tale of the franchise dubbed ‘America’s Team’ (a name attributed to NFL Films in the early 70’s), begins in 1960 when the Dallas Cowboys joined the NFL. At the same time, the AFL began operations with their 8-team league that featured a Dallas team as well – the Dallas Texans. The fans quickly determined that Dallas only needed one team and fell in love with the NFL Cowboys, prompting the AFL Texans to leave town for Kansas City (where they became the Kansas City Chiefs). With Clint Murchison Jr. as Cowboys owner, Tex Schramm as GM, and Tom Landry as its first coach, the Cowboys set forth on a remarkable trail of success.

Did you know that the Cowboys franchise was originally supposed to be called the Dallas Rangers? But since there was already a minor league baseball franchise with the same name, there might have been some confusion, thus a new name was selected.

Did you know that following the formation of the franchise, the Dallas team was to be known as the Steers? Shortly thereafter – and before they played a game - the name was changed to the Rangers. There was a minor league baseball team operating in the Dallas area that used the name “Rangers”, but they were expected to fold before the 1960 football season thus eliminating any confusion. As luck would have it, the Rangers baseball team decided to play one more season, thus the football team owners selected the name “Cowboys” to avoid confusion.

The inaugural home uniform showcased here is a beautiful one! Note the white yoke (the yoke is the portion of the jersey that runs across the shoulders and back of the neck) with uniform numbers and stars prominently displayed – truly beautiful.

The Cowboys opened their inaugural season on September 24th 1960 with a loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers, losing by a touch down 35-28.They then continued their season losing all their games except one, that being a tie game with the New York Giants on December 4th where they tied at 31 apiece. Their final record of 0-11-1 is something 1989 Cowboys fans can relate to!

Dallas Cowboys 1962 uniform
The early 60’s were not kind to the Cowboys as they suffered through 5 below-500 seasons. But that would soon change! The nucleus of the fabled ‘Doomsday Defense’ – featuring players such as Mel Renfro, Bob Lilly and Chuck Howley was starting to take shape.

A modification to note on the home jersey showcased here: the yoke has been shortened and moved up higher on the sleeves, with the stars now sitting more squarely on the tops of the shoulder.

The Cowboys recorded their first ever regular season win 27-24 on September 17th, 1961. The win was against the same team that handed them their first ever loss, the Pittsburgh Steelers.

Of note: The Cowboys are one of the few NFL teams to wear white uniforms at home and white uniforms on the road – just one of the peculiarities of one of the NFL’s most popular teams. This is one of the reasons you see so few pictures of the Cowboys in dark uniforms.

Dallas Cowboys 1965 uniform
Even with such notables as Don Meredith, Lee Roy Jordan, and Bob Hayes - winner of the 1964 Olympic 100 meter dash - the Cowboys seemed to be headed for yet another losing season. Frustrated by the team’s play, Coach Landry held a remarkably moving locker room session, a session which saw the legendary field-general break down in front of his players. This seemed to ignite and inspire the troops. The Cowboys would go on to win 5 of their next 7, finishing the season a promising 7-7 and securing the franchise’s first .500 season.

Of note, on the ’65 jersey there are now 3 stripes on the sleeves, the numbers have been moved to the shoulders, and the yoke around the shoulder area has been dropped. Along with those changes, the pants and helmet have both taken on a grayish-silver tone, and the helmet logo now has a white outline.

Dallas Cowboys 1967 uniform
After coming off their first winning season (10-3-1) in 1966, the 1966 Cowboys finish 9-7 and advance to play the infamous ‘Ice Bowl’ against Green Bay on December 31, 1967 where game time temperature was a frigid-13 degrees. In the dying seconds of the game, much to Dallas fans’ dismay, Green Bay’s Bart Starr calls a quarterback sneak and plunges into the end zone, giving the Packers a 21-17 victory and the NFL championship. This marked ‘back to back’ title game losses to the Packers, as they lost, 34-27 in Super Bowl I.

An explanatory note: The AFL (American Football League) began in 1960 as an 8 team rival league to the NFL. Both leagues competed head to head for players, fans and broadcast revenue. This was the way it was from 1960 to 1965 - two separate leagues, two separate champions (although few people would have honestly believed that the AFL champion could have beaten the NFL champs). Then in 1965 the two leagues agreed to merge. It was decided that beginning in 1970 there would be only one league, the NFL. In the interim, between 1966 and 1969, the AFL Champion would play the NFL Champion for the “World Championship”. It was only after the first World Championship had been played in 1966 that the name “Super Bowl” came into being. Thus after the Packers beat the Cowboys to win the NFL Championship, they went on to play, and beat, the AFL Champion Oakland Raiders.

One other note: Note the difference in the arm stripes from the ’65 jersey: the ’65 version has 3 stripes, while the ’67 version has 2 thicker ones.

A final note: Did you know that in 1966 the Cowboys began an NFL-record streak of 20 consecutive winning seasons? This remarkable streak included 18 years in the playoffs, 13 division titles, and 5 Super Bowl victories.

Dallas Cowboys 1971 uniform
The Cowboys are now situated in their new home, the almost-enclosed Texas Stadium, and they’re still trying to shake off a heartbreaking loss to the Baltimore Colts the year before in Super Bowl V (final score: Colts 16, Cowboys 13). Thus the stage is set – the Cowboys are determined to bounce back for a strong season. And they don’t disappoint – the 1971 Cowboys finish a league best 11-3 (tied with the Vikings) and go on to beat the Vikings 20-12 and the 49ers 14-3 to advance to the Super Bowl VI against the surprising Miami Dolphins. After making it to the playoffs for 5 straight years, the boys from Dallas, led by Coach Don Landry, QB Roger Staubach, and Leroy Jordan and other members of the infamous ‘Doomsday Defense’, lay a licking on the Dolphins 24-3 and capture their first ever Super Bowl victory.

Note the short sleeves on this jersey. By this point it had become each player’s prerogative as to whether they wanted to wear the “traditional” long sleeve jersey or the new short sleeved version. Some players felt that wearing long sleeves impeded in the handing of the football, and that by wearing short sleeves it was easier to have a good “feel” for the ball. One other apparent change was the fact that the numbers moved back down to the upper arm instead of the previously seen “tops of the shoulder.

Dallas Cowboys 1977 uniform
Led by stars such as Roger Staubach, Drew Pearson, Randy White, Ed ‘Too Tall’ Jones and rookie sensation Tony Dorsett – the 12-2 Cowboys take care of business by clearing out the 12-2 Broncos 27-10 to capture the 1977 Super Bowl – their second in a row. To date the Cowboys have won 5 Super Bowls, making them one of only two teams in NFL history to win 5 Super Bowls (the 49ers are the other team to turn the trick).

Of note: The Cowboys are one of the few NFL teams to wear white uniforms at home and white uniforms on the road – just one of the peculiarities of one of the NFL’s most popular teams. This is one of the reasons you see so few pictures of the Cowboys in dark uniforms. And did you know that many Cowboys’ road opponents force Dallas to wear their blue uniforms by choosing to wear white at home (typically – home teams wear dark uniforms!)? This stems from Dallas’ Super Bowl V loss to the Colts in 1970, in which the Cowboys developed a superstition about their dark uniforms.

Once again, note that the jersey has reverted back to having the players’ uniform number appear on the top of the shoulder vs the sleeves.

Dallas Cowboys 1984 uniform
Tony Dorsett is running wild – he rushes for 1000+ yards for the 7th time in his 8 year history - and looks great in 1984’s 25th anniversary edition of the Cowboys’ uniform! Note the commemorative patch/star on the left shoulder, and the fact that the uniform numbers on the front are now outlined. If you look carefully, you’ll notice a uniform number inside a small, dark circle on the upper left thigh area of the pants.

This is the dark blue road uniform mentioned earlier that many Cowboys’ road opponents force the Cowboys to wear by choosing to wear their white at home (typically – home teams wear dark uniforms!)?

Although they post a 9-7 record in 1984, the Cowboys fail to make the playoffs for the first time in 9 seasons, finishing 4th in their division.

Dallas Cowboys 1992 uniform
From the ashes of a forgettable 1-15 ’89 season, and failing to win more than one playoff game in only two playoff appearances since 1983, quintessential ‘hands on’ owner Jerry Jones and likeable skip, Jimmy Johnson, help put together a new powerhouse nucleus. This includes the likes of Troy Aikman, Michael Irvin, Emmitt Smith and Ken Norton – a group that would help the Cowboys garner 3 Super Bowls in the first half of the 90’s! The 1992 Cowboys finish 13-3, win playoff games over the Eagles and the 49ers, then go on to crush the Bills 52-17 in Super Bowl XXVII at Pasadena.

One 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.

Dallas Cowboys 1993 uniform
The 1993 Cowboys finish 12-4, as do the Buffalo Bills. And sure enough it ends up with the Cowboys against the Bills – only this time it’s two years later and it’s Super Bowl XXVIII in Atlanta, Georgia. But the result is the same - the Cowboys pound the Buffalos 30-13 (making this the Bills 4th straight Super Bowl loss).

Of special note, many jersey sleeves are now elasticized (especially wide receivers) to help give the players a more streamlined, sleek look and feel while at the same time helping to prevent defenders from grabbing onto excess, loose material and using it to their advantage.

Dallas Cowboys 1994 uniform
The ’94 season marked the NFL’s 75th anniversary. To help celebrate this milestone, most teams wore special ‘throwback’ uniforms commissioned by the NFL (note the diamond patch on the left shoulder signifying this occasion). Although NOT showcased here, the Cowboys ’94 throwback jersey was a tribute to their inaugural 1960 jersey. The 1994 jersey we have showcased is the NEW uniform introduced by the Cowboys in 1994. Note the fact that the sleeves themselves are blue in color, with special outlined stars on the shoulders, and the outlined numbers on the front.

While making yet another appearance in the post season on the strength of another 12-4 season, the Cowboys fell one win short of making it to the Super Bowl, losing their conference match-up against the 49ers 38-28. San Francisco went on to win Super Bowl XXIX 49-26 over the San Diego Chargers.

Dallas Cowboys 1995 uniform
The ’95 jersey pictured here is the road version of the ’94 jersey. If you look very closely at the neckline (beneath the NFL shield patch), you’ll notice a small star and the word ‘Cowboys’. The Cowboys are one of the first NFL teams to begin this style pattern of adding a small team name/logo below the neck and above the uniform numbers. By the end of the 90’s, most NFL teams had adopted this new look.

In March of ’94, Cowboys coach Jimmy Johnson was replaced with the former Oklahoma Sooner coach Barry Switzer. Thus Switzer became the third coach in Cowboy history, and he did his part to fuel the “team of the nineties” nickname by leading his 1995 Cowboys to a 12-4 record and then on to Super Bowl XXX in 1995. In a pleasantly surprising game, the Cowboys beat the Pittsburgh Steelers, 27-17 to capture their 5th Super Bowl (they won previously in 1971, 1977, 1992 and 1993) and third in four years (1992,1993 and now 1995).

Dallas Cowboys 1999 uniform
As the team ventures into the new millennium, we can see that the Cowboys’ uniform has undergone some interesting changes: the iconic star has made its way onto the sleeves and a silver/gray stripe has been added to a jersey once synonymous with blue & white.

Look very closely and you’ll notice a fedora “patch” on the left chest – a symbol honoring the late, great, beloved coach of past Cowboys teams, Tom Landry. Landry, who would helm the Cowboys through ‘thick & thin’, was the Cowboys’ first coach when they joined the NFL in 1960. Landry with his stoic style, would lead the storied franchise all the way until ’89, when he was dismissed by new owner Jerry Jones and replaced by Jimmy Johnson. Landry was inducted into the NFL Hall of Fame in 1990.

A few other items of note on the 2000 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. Also added was the star and word ‘Cowboys’ below the NFL shield on the neck. Many jerseys by this time also had elasticized sleeves (especially wide receivers) to help prevent defenders from using excess, loose material to their advantage!

On a final note, if you take a gander of all 11 ‘showcased’ Dallas jersey groupings on this poster, you’ll see something fascinating, the Cowboys’ iconic star logo has undergone very minimal changes since the team’s inception back in 1960. The star originally had no border, but by 1965, a thin white outline had been added. By 1967, a second dark border surrounded the star and it has stayed pretty much this way until present day - something not many franchises can boast about!

Dallas Cowboys 2004 uniform
Cowboy’s head coach Bill Parcells is not used to having “character building seasons”, but 2004 certainly was that.

Coming off a 10-6 season in 2003 and a Wild Card playoff berth, Parcells was in his 2nd year as Cowboys head coach he had his sights set on even more for 2004. Things got off to a bad start when the Cowboys cut 2003 starting QB Quincy Carter in training camp for violating a team policy. That left newly signed veteran QB Vinny Testaverde to run the offence. Testaverde, at 41 years old, was signed to back up Carter and help him develop, but becoming the starter partway through training camp must have come as a surprise. With the unexpected change at QB, the ‘Boys felt that if their offence couldn’t get it done, they could still rely on a defense that finished the 2003 season ranked #1 in the NFL.

In the off-season Dallas added an interesting mix of old and young players. WR Keyshawn Johnson joined Testaverde as the former NY Jets teammates joined their old coach in Big D. Rookie RB Julius Jones, drafted in the 2nd round out of Notre Dame, gave the Cowboys running game they sorely lacked after Emmitt Smith’s departure after the 2002 season. Unfortunately, the running game struggled after Jones fractured his shoulder in week 2. Jones finished the season with 819 yards rushing on 109 carries in 8 games played.

Another high profile addition was that of Drew Henson. Henson, after a successful college football career at Michigan, chose to play baseball and signed a minor league deal with the NY Yankees. After three average years in baseball, Henson returned to football signing an 8-year contract with the Cowboys. He would back up Vinny as he developed as a pro QB.

Despite the changes in personnel, the Cowboys could not catch “lightning in a bottle” as they did in 2003. In fact they didn’t even catch a lot of footballs as their passing game only completed 309 passes on 518 attempts (good enough to rank 15th out of 32 teams). The Cowboys sputtered all year long, never really playing well on either side of the ball. The team ranked 25th in points scored, and 28th in points allowed. There would be no playoffs for the Tuna and the ‘Boys as they finished the season with humbling 6 wins and 10 losses, a record opposite to that of 2003’s 10-6.

This 2004 Cowboys’ uniform is a 3rd jersey and is an adaptation of the traditional double-star jerseys the Cowboys wore from 1960-66. The jersey features a blue torso with white numerals and sleeves highlighted by a bold white star atop each shoulder. The Cowboys helmet still features the famous star logo, but the helmet is white instead of the customary silver.

The 3rd jersey is a concept that became commonplace in baseball and hockey in the 1990’s, and in the 2000’s in the NFL. Most 3rd jerseys are worn occasionally at home as well as on the road, giving a team a third option as to what uniform to wear. And of course, the addition of a third jersey adds to the options fans can buy, thereby increasing apparel revenues and ultimately benefiting the team. More recently, baseball and hockey teams have begun adding 4th and even 5th jerseys to their roster of uniform possibilities, but this trend has not started in the NFL, nor is it likely to if for no other reason than the fact that the NFL season consists of only 16 regular season games vs baseball’s 162 and hockey’s 82.

Dallas Cowboys 2005 uniform
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Celebrate the Cowboys' uniform history by owning a piece of history:
If you love the Dallas Cowboys and the history of the Cowboys 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 14 pieces of original art available for sale, and when these 14 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 Dallas Cowboys YouTube video at or go directly to the artwork website 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 (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

And please search my blog archive for other blogs on the history of the Cowboys.


This blog was written by Scott Sillcox and was last updated August 17, 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 !

Many thanks!!!


  1. sorry, but i must correct you on something. the cowboys did not wear white jerseys because of a superstition from losing to the colts in super bowl V. they wore white because tom landry was an extremely methodical coach and sought consistency whenever possible. by choosing to wear white at home, landry hoped that his team would always look the same and his quarterbacks could always look for the same color jersey when looking downfield to pass.

  2. Please click on the evolution of the Cowboys uniform poster above for a ...