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Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Green Bay Packers Uniform and Team History



Please click on the evolution of the Packers 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.


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Green Bay Packers 1921 uniform - Acme Packers 1921 uniform
1921
Professional football began in Wisconsin in 1919. Backed by the Indian Packing Company which provided uniforms, equipment and use of their field in exchange for naming the team the “Packers”, Earl ‘Curly’ Lambeau and George Calhoun help form football’s most storied team. By 1921 the Acme Packing Company had bought out Indian Packing, and the team became known as the “Acme Packers”. Thus the NFL’s most famous team is named - after a meat packing company. From 1922 to the present, the team will be known as the Green Bay Packers. As all “cheeseheads” know, Curly Lambeau would later be immortalized by having the team’s home field named after him (it was renamed Lambeau Field in 1965), and that lead to having the Packers’ now famous end zone celebration – the Lambeau Leap - named after him (and the Stadium) as well.

Three things of special note: the 1921 jersey’s lettering was raised and made of felt – to help the ball carrier secure the football easier. Also note how high the pants are - they are designed this way to protect the kidneys – a different look from subsequent years. Finally, note the leather helmet – which some but not all players wore to provide (at best!) minimal protection.


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Green Bay Packers 1929 uniform
1929
It’s interesting to note that from the beginning of the NFL in 1920 right up to 1932, the league champion was the team with the best winning record (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.

Thus it was that in 1929 Curly Lambeau put together a sensational trio of “misfits” who he heard had been unhappy with their teams, and together they captured the Packers’ first NFL Championship. John “Blood” McNally, Cal Hubbard and Mike Michalske lead the Packers to an undefeated 12-0-1 season and therefore the NFL Championship.

It was also the first year for numbers on the front of the Packers’ jerseys. The Packers chose to keep the design simple with a small, gold circle with dark blue numbers (that matched the jersey color) located at the center of the chest. Note how the helmet has evolved a bit since 1921, but it was still an all-leather affair offering modest protection. It should also be pointed out that not all players chose to wear helmets - some preferred to go “hatless”.


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Green Bay Packers 1939 uniform
1939
The Packers won their 5th NFL title this year (they previously won in 1929, 1930, 1931, and 1936), beating the New York Giants 27-0 at State Fair Park in Milwaukee, becoming the first team to shut out an opponent in an NFL Championship Game.

As noted earlier, from the beginning of the NFL in 1920 until 1932, the league champion was the team with the best winning record (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. This changed in 1933 when the NFL introduced a league championship game, and it was this league championship game that the Packers first won in 1936 (21-6 over the Boston Redskins) and again this year, 1939.

This jersey is a classic long-sleeved jersey – a simple white jersey with dark green numbers. By 1939 the top of the pants had been lowered from above the kidneys to hip/waist level - a look that continues to this day. Notice the belt buckle is slightly off center - a common style of this era. The helmet is a yellow-gold color, a nice compliment to this uniform and a harbinger of things to come for the next 60+ years.

It’s interesting to note that from 1937-1994 the Packers actually played their home games in two cities. At least half the home games were played in Green Bay, while the other half were played in Milwaukee at what came to be known as Milwaukee County Stadium in Milwaukee. When the NFL expanded to 16 games in 1978, they played five of their eight home games at Lambeau Field in Green Bay, while the remaining three were played in Milwaukee.

Since 1995, the Packers have played all their home games at Lambeau Field in Green Bay.


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Green Bay Packers 1946 uniform
1946
World War II had ended and talent started to return to the NFL clubs, but the retirement of Don Hutson (a Packer for 11 seasons and one of the first true superstars of the NFL) the previous year, left a hole in Green Bay’s offense. Without Hutson the offense was sluggish and the Packers finished the season with an uncharacteristic 6-5 record.

But they sure looked sharp in their yellow-gold and white uniforms! Notice the introduction of the yellow-gold “yoke” along the shoulder of this white jersey. The numbers this year were bright yellow with a shiny appearance. The yellow-gold helmets matched the yoke and pants (with a zippered fly, a deviation from the standard lacing).


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Green Bay Packers 1952 uniform
1952
During his second full season as head coach, Gene Ronzani, a former halfback for the Chicago Bears, leads the Packers to a fourth place finish in the National Conference with a 6-6 record (a vast improvement from their records the previous four years: 3-9 (1948), 2-10 (1949), 3-9 (1950), 3-9 (1951)!). Ronzani replaced Curly Lambeau in 1950 after Lambeau resigned under fire after 30 years with the club.

This 1952 Green Bay uniform is the first one we have seen so far that resembles today’s look and colors. The jersey is green with two narrow stripes above the elbow on each arm, and features yellow numbers on the front and back of the uniform. The pants are the inverse: yellow with two green vertical stripes down the sides. Notice also that the helmet is now made of plastic, and has a thick green stripe up the middle, although it still has no logo. This particular helmet also has no face mask - they were beginning to become more prevalent, and by the late 50’s almost all players wore face masks (quarterback Bobby Layne of the Lions and Steelers was a notable exception).


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Green Bay Packers 1966 uniform
1966
On January 15, 1967 Vince Lombardi’s Packers won the first World Championship Game (the AFL versus the NFL, later to be renamed the first “Super Bowl”) against the Kansas City Chiefs 35-10 at Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum.

This warrants a bit of explanation. The 8 team AFL began in 1960 as a rival league to the NFL - both leagues competed head to head for players, fans and TV revenue. And thus it was for 5 years - 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, and that 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 it was that the 1966 season saw the first meeting of the AFL and NFL champions. (Even though the game was played in 1967, most football historians refer to this as the 1966 Super Bowl because it was the culmination of the 1966 season.)

Now back to the game itself. Quarterback Bart Starr passed for 250 yards and two touchdowns in Super Bowl I, thereby earning the game’s most valuable player award (he went on to win MVP during Super Bowl II as well!). Starr led Green Bay to five NFL championships in the 1960s: 1961, 1962, 1965, 1966 and 1967. Eight members of this remarkable team (including head coach Lombardi) are in the Hall of Fame today.

The 1966 jersey is perhaps the most photographed jersey in the history of the NFL - the Packers of the 1960’s were the darling of the media. This green jersey has white numbers on the front and sleeves, just above the yellow and white striping on both arms. Note the green pinstripes between the yellow and white stripes on the arms, a look that continues to this day. The now famous Green Bay “G” logo is now prominently displayed on the helmet, which has a thick white stripe flanked by two green stripes down the middle.


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Green Bay Packers 1967 uniform
1967
Allow us to repeat a previous story - it’s important to understand how the “Super Bowl” came into being.

In 1960 the 8 team American Football League began. It was a rival league to the NFL, and both leagues competed head to head for players, fans and TV revenue. It remained that way for 5 years - 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, and that 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.

The 1967 NFL Championship game between the Packers and the Dallas Cowboys was played in Arctic conditions - the game has since become known in football annals as the “Ice Bowl” because of the 13-degree below zero temperature and minus-40 degree wind chill of Lambeau Field.

With twenty seconds left, Green Bay eked out a 21-17 win against the Dallas Cowboys, thus becoming the NFL Champs. They then went on to face the AFL Champion Oakland Raiders. Much to the delight of NFL fans, the Packers trounced the AFL upstart Oakland Raiders 33-14, thus winning their third consecutive championship game (1965, 1966 and 1967) and Super Bowl II. Vince Lombardi shocked the world two weeks later by announcing his retirement as head coach after nine seasons.

This jersey is white with green numbers on the front and sleeves. The sleeves shown here are shorter than in previous years (a player’s prerogative) and have the now familiar gold and green stripes. The helmet remains similar in appearance to the previous year and is a look that the Packers have kept right up to the present day.


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Green Bay Packers 1976 uniform
1976
After years of being on top, the 70’s (and much of the 80’s) weren’t so kind to the Packers. Only once in the 70’s did the Pack finish above .500, and only once did they make it to post-season play.

During the 1976 season the NFL expanded from 26 to 28 teams with the addition of the Seattle Seahawks and Tampa Bay Buccaneers. This was not a good year for the beloved Packers. Under the tutelage of their former quarterback, two-time MVP and Hall-of-Famer, Bart Starr as head coach, the Packers lost 4 of their last 5 games and ended the season 5-9 and in last place in the Central Division (little better than their previous season record 4-10).

This Green Bay jersey is quite similar to the 1966 jersey – this too is a green jersey with white numbers on the front and sleeves, and it too has white and yellow stripes on both arms. The pants remain their standard yellow and the Packer’s classic helmet design (complete with the “G” logo) stays the same.


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Green Bay Packers 1984 uniform
1984
The Packers finished second in the Central Division behind the Chicago Bears with an 8-8 record this year. At first glance this uniform appears very similar to their 1976 jersey, but there are several important differences.

First of all, the “G” logo is not only on the helmet, but also on the sleeve. Secondly, the uniform numbers are now visible in four locations: on the front of the jersey, on the top of both shoulders and on the hips of the pants overlapping the green, yellow and thin white vertical stripes. Lastly, notice that the collar is now slightly V-neck in shape with yellow, green and white striping that match the sleeves and pants. This is a “busier” uniform than previous and subsequent years, but every bit a Packer classic.


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Green Bay Packers 1994 uniform
1994
This 1994 jersey celebrates the NFL’s 75th Anniversary, and is known as a “throwback” jersey. Every NFL team wore a throwback jersey for one or more games during the 1994 season.

The Packers’ throwback jersey was a short sleeved throwback, harkening back to what they believed the 1937 jersey looked like. Notice also the special diamond shaped NFL 75th Anniversary commemorative patch below the left shoulder, and the absence of the “G” logo on the helmet.

It’s interesting to note that from 1937-1994 the Packers actually played their home games in two cities. At least half the home games were played in Green Bay, while the other half were played in Milwaukee at what came to be known as Milwaukee County Stadium in Milwaukee. When the NFL expanded to 16 games in 1978, they played five of their eight home games at Lambeau Field in Green Bay, while the remaining three were played in Milwaukee.

Thus the 1994 season was the end of an era - the last time the Packers called two places home, and since 1995 they have played all their home games at Lambeau Field in Green Bay.


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Green Bay Packers 1996 uniform
1996
The Pack is Back!

After a 30 year wait, Coach Mike Holmgren and Quarterback Brett Favre led the Packers to a storybook 13-3 season and Green Bay’s 3rd Super Bowl victory (other victories were in 1966 and 1967) and 12th NFL Championship (1929, 1930, 1931, 1936, 1939, 1944, 1961, 1962, 1965-67, 1996), beating the New England Patriots 35-21 to win Super Bowl XXXI.

Some people wonder how it is that the Packers have won 12 NFL Championships, yet only 3 Super Bowls. A little history lesson: The Super Bowl began in 1966 (although it wasn’t called the Super Bowl at the time) when the Champions of two rival leagues, the AFL and the NFL, met to decide the World Championship of professional football. Prior to that the NFL Champs won what was simply called the NFL Championship, although it was every bit as meaningful to NFL fans and players as today’s “Super Bowl”.

This 1996 jersey is a road white jersey, and while it’s very similar to the 1967 jersey shown earlier, there are several difference. The uniform numbers are now on the shoulders, not on the sleeves. The V neck has a multiple stripe pattern. And the neck has an NFL logo.

Almost all NFL teams added the NFL logo to the “V” of their neck beginning in 1991. If you could see behind the helmet in this 1996 painting, you would also see an NFL logo on the upper left thigh. These logos have been worn by almost all teams since 1991 right up to the present. The most notable exception to this rule was 1994 when teams wore their throwback uniforms celebrating the NFL’s 75th anniversary - in that year the league wanted to stress authenticity, and therefore the NFL logos were not a part of the 1994 design.


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Green Bay Packers 2000 uniform
2000
We can’t tell the story of the 2000 uniform without saluting Brett Favre. In 2000 Green Bay quarterback Brett Favre started every game for the 8th consecutive season, and in so doing set an NFL record for the most consecutive games started by a QB. The streak started in game 4 of the 1992 season, and as of the end of the 2000 season the streak stood at 141 consecutive regular season starts. Then add in his 14 consecutive playoff starts, and the streak stands at a stunning 155 games. And in this period of time the Packers have never finished below .500 - a remarkable tribute to a remarkable athlete.

The 2000 Packers nearly made it to the post season, ending with a 9-7 record. Included in the 9 wins were two overtime wins against division rivals - the first was a 26-20 victory over the Vikings, the second a 17-14 triumph over the Bucs in the last game of the season.

This 2000 jersey maintains the “look” Green Bay has kept for 50 years. In the home jersey depicted here, the sleeves are elasticized so opponents can’t grab excess material and use it to their advantage! Note also the different striping pattern used on the collar. And as mentioned in the 1996 jersey, you’ll notice the NFL logo on the V of the neck and on the upper left thigh - these have been NFL uniform fixtures since the 1991 season. Finally, note that the sleeve striping is a different variation than previous jerseys.

But the green and gold of the Pack remains one of the most enduring and readily recognizable uniforms in all of sport.

It has to be said:
Green Bay has a population of less than 100,000, and is by far the smallest city in the Big Four sports (NFL, MLB, NBA, NHL) to have a team. In addition, the Packers are also the only team in the NFL that is a community-owned, non-profit organization. In this age of big bucks in sports, the Packers are a wonderful story - long may they live!


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Green Bay Packers 2005 uniform
2005
Text not yet written.

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Celebrate the Packers' uniform history by owning a piece of history:
If you love the Green Bay Packers and the history of the Packers 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 13 pieces of original art available for sale, and when these 13 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 Green Bay Packers YouTube video at www.youtube.com/watch?v=4OHeUiL45qw or go directly to the artwork website www.heritagesportsart.com/Green-Bay-Packers-c115/ 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 Packers.

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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 ssillcox@rogers.com !

Many thanks!!!
Scott

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