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Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Minnesota Vikings Uniform and Team History

Please click on the evolution of the Vikings 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.

Fall 2022: To purchase a reasonably priced 8" x 24" plaqued mounted version of the Vikings poster that's ready to hang on your wall, please visit Heritage Sports Stuff.

Minnesota Vikings 1961 uniform
The beginning of Minnesota’s NFL history is quite intriguing, but to understand it you need to know a bit about the “American Football League”.

The American Football League (AFL) 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.

That being said, let’s get back to Minnesota in 1959, where the upstart AFL league, in preparation of its inaugural season in 1960, awards Max Winter and Bill Boyer a franchise for a team in Minneapolis. Then early in 1960, prior to the start of the AFL season, the NFL offers the same group an NFL franchise – which they accept. Thus, the Minnesota Vikings become the NFL’s 14th squad for the 1961 NFL season instead of an AFL team for the 1960 season.

As the team’ first coach, ex-player Norm Van Brocklin, who had just led the Philadelphia Eagles to the 1960 league championship and then retired – faced an uphill battle of creating a viable, competitive football entity in the ‘Land of 10,000 Lakes’. Convinced that ‘gifted’, New York Giants’ passer George Shaw could be their quarterback of the future, the Vikings traded for the quarterback – in turn giving up a 1st round draft pick. Unfortunately, or fortunately – depending how you look at things, Shaw was injured in the first quarter of the Vikings’ opening game. Young understudy Fran Tarkenton took over the helm and helped the Vikings beat the Chicago Bears 37-13 for one of the most impressive debuts in NFL history. Unfortunately, the rest of the season would not be as rosy as the Vikings would eventually finish 3-11. Tarkenton would, however, go on to lead the Minnesota offence between the years 61-66 & 72-78 and in the process become one of the NFL’s greatest passers.

The ’61 home uniform showcased here, as worn by Tarkenton and Rip Hawkins, consists of a simple, yet elegant color schematic and logo design that will go relatively unchanged over the course of the next 40 years!

Of note: Bert Rose, the Vikings’ first general manager, selected the Vikings name because so many Minnesotans can trace their heritage to Scandinavia.

Minnesota Vikings 1962 uniform
Another troubled year for Minnesota as they go 2-11-1. The opposition, although usually victorious after a clash with the Vikings, rarely got excited when faced with the task of playing them. Minnesota’s belligerent playing style often left opponents injured, or very tender weeks later. At least this was a small consolation for fans, who had to endure some of the coldest weather imaginable while watching games from frigid Metropolitan Stadium.

The ’62 road jersey shown here, almost an exact inverse of the 1961 home jersey, showcases purple numbers with yellow trim. What seems to be missing from the dark, home version is the thin, yellow trim around the sleeve striping – in this white jersey the sleeve stripes are simply purple on white.

Minnesota Vikings 1969 road uniform
In 1967, General Manager Jim Finks brought Harry P. Grant (aka Bud Grant) to Minnesota. Grant brought with him a slew of Grey Cup championships from his days of coaching the Canadian Football League Winnipeg Blue Bombers, and a stoic sideline personality. Originally, the Vikings wanted Grant to be their inaugural skipper back in ’61, but were turned down at the time. Now they finally had their man.

With Grant’s help, the mediocre Vikings of the early to mid-60’s quickly turned into a team to be reckoned with. In 1968, the Vikings had their first winning season as they went 8-6, and made it to the Western Conference Championship. This 1968 title would be the first of 10 divisional crowns the Vikings would see over the next 11 years!

In 1969, Grant’s Vikings won all but two games during the regular season, going a league best 12-2. They went on to beat the Rams in come from behind fashion 23-20 in the NFL Western Conference Championship, then shut down the Browns 27-7 in the NFL Championship game.

As mentioned in the 1961 jersey history section, in 1965 the AFL and the NFL 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 it was that in 1969 the Vikings won the NFL Championship, but still had to play the AFL Champs in Super Bowl IV. In their first Super Bowl appearance, things didn’t go the Vike’s way as the Kansas City Chiefs beat the Vikings 23-7 at Tulane Stadium in New Orleans.

This 1969 white road jersey strays a bit from the 1962 jersey design. First, the traditional sleeve striping has been moved much higher onto the shoulders – giving it a more vertical look. Second, the yellow trim typically surrounding the chest & sleeve numbers has been removed. Third, the team is now wearing white pants, rather than purple. Note the patch on the left shoulder – commemorating the NFL’ 50th anniversary. All NFL teams wore this patch for the ’69 season.

Of note: In our research we discovered that the Vikings actually wore two different style road white jerseys in 1969. We have chosen to show this one because they wore it in the Super Bowl. The other white jersey had the NFL 50 patch on the sleeve, below the uniform number.

Speaking of Bud Grant, from his first year in 1967 to 1978, the Vikings won 11 division titles in 14 seasons. They won the NFL championship in 1969 and NFC titles in 1973, 1974 and 1976. Grant retired in 1983 but came back for one year in 1985. He finished with an all-time 168-108-5 record, making him the eighth-winningest NFL coach ever.

Minnesota Vikings 1969 homeuniform
The ’69 purple home uniform showcased here, though almost identical to the inaugural version of 1961, was not the only home sweater worn for this season. The Vikings wore another home jersey in ’69 – a simpler, more basic jersey. Just imagine the traditional Vikings’ purple sweater MINUS the sleeve striping, and yellow trim around the numbers. We chose to show this jersey because they seemed to wear it in their home playoff games.

Note the NFL patch on the left shoulder of the jersey. This patch, worn to commemorate the NFL’s 50th anniversary, was worn by all teams in ’69. Of special note, the NFL patch was also on the ‘alternate’ jersey mentioned above – but its location was not on the left shoulder, it was one the lower left sleeve directly below the uniform numbers.

Minnesota Vikings 1973 home uniform
Minnesota Vikings 173 road uniform
Fran Tarkenton returned to the Vikings in ’72 after having spent 5 seasons with the NY Giants, and joined an already lethal team whose defensive line was known as the ‘Purple People Eaters’ because of its toughness and ability to devour opposing quarterbacks.

Though the ’72 team featured Carl Eller, Alan Page, Jim Marshall and Gary Larsen – the Purple People Eaters - the Vikings still only fared 7-7 in the regular season. The 1973 season, however, was a different story! The Vikings lost only 2 games in the regular season as they went 12-2. Then in the playoffs they beat the Redskins 27-20 and the Cowboys right in Dallas 27-10, thus advancing to the Super Bowl for the 2nd time in 4 years.

But once again, they came up short in the Super Bowl and the powerful Dolphins won Super Bowl VIII 24-7.

This purple home jersey (the ‘alternate’ purple home jersey discussed in the 1969 purple painting) is a different take from the traditional Vikings’ home uniforms. Gone are the sleeve stripes and yellow trim around the numbers – leaving basic, white numbers on a plain, purple jersey. The belt color has been switched over to purple from white.

The white road uniform is almost identical to the ’69 version – with the exception that this belt is now purple too.

Minnesota Vikings 1974 uniform
Another tale of ‘always a brides’ maid…never a bride’! The Vikings win the NFC Central yet again, this time with a 10-4 record, then take the Divisional Playoff and NFC Championship games 30-14 over the St. Louis Cardinals and 14-10 over the Rams, only to lose Super Bowl IX at Tulane Stadium in New Orleans to the Pittsburgh Steelers 16-6. This is the Vikings 3rd Super Bowl appearance, and third loss, in 6 years.

This ’74 home jersey sees the return of the arm striping – this time it’s purple and white stripes bordered by yellow trim. The uniform numbers, however, are still simple and white, with no trim.

Minnesota Vikings 1976 uniform
It’s déjà vu all over again…

The Vikings dominate in the regular season – going 11-2-1. They then capture the NFC Championship by beating the Redskins 35-20 and the LA Rams 24-13. And they then advance to Super Bowl XI, only to lose for the 4th time in 8 seasons – this time to the Oakland Raiders 32-14, in front of over 100,000 people at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena.

Look closely at the ’76 home jersey, and you’ll see the ‘mesh’ design used by so many teams in this era. As mentioned earlier, the tale of the Vikings jerseys is that they have been remarkable consistent over the franchise’s 40+ years.

Of note: Let’s pay tribute to the Vikings from the late 60’s to the late 70’s – during the 11 year period 1968 – 1976, the Vikings went a remarkable 90-35-1 in regular season play. This is a mark perhaps unequalled by any other team over a 9 year period.

Minnesota Vikings 1989 uniform
The Vikings have put their hopes on running back Herschel Walker, and pull a monstrous trade with the Dallas Cowboys to acquire this skilled back. Joining Walker on the offense are such notables as wide receiver Anthony Carter, eventual pro-bowler Randall McDaniel and quarterback Wade Wilson. The Vikes go 10-6 and make the playoffs, but are ousted 41-13 in their first playoff game by the San Francisco 49ers.

Look very carefully at the ’89 home jersey shown here. The jersey is actually made from two different fabrics, each a different shade of purple! The sleeves and shoulders are a solid material and lighter shade of purple, while the body of the jersey is a ‘mesh’ design and is slightly darker in color!

Notice also that by this time the team has reverted back to a white belt. Also note the special patch on the left shoulder. The Viking Norseman is sandwiched by the following: above him – the words ‘20th anniversary 1969 NFL Champions’ and below him – the phrase ’40 for 60’. The patch commemorates the Vikings’ winning their first NFL Championship in 1969… but wait a minute… the Vikings have never won the Super Bowl!?! The answer to the riddle – before the AFL & NFL leagues merged in 1970, the champions from both leagues faced off in the ‘Super Bowl’ for the years 1966-69 inclusive. Thus, in ’69, the Vikings were indeed the NFL Champions, and they played the AFL Champion Kansas City Chiefs in the Super Bowl, losing 23-7 at Tulane Stadium in New Orleans.

As for the phrase “40 for 60” – it means 40 players working together as a team for 60 minutes. We’re not 100% sure but we believe the phrase originated with Joe Kapp.

Of note: Three years earlier, in 1986, Fran Tarkenton became the first Viking to be elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

Note also: In 1982 the Vikings moved into the Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome, leaving forever the frigid but friendly confines of Metropolitan Stadium.

Minnesota Vikings 1995 uniform
We’re now moving into Minnesota’s ‘high-octane’ offensive years! Under coach Dennis Green’s guidance, and with weapons such as QB Brad Johnson, wide receiver Chris Carter and running back Robert Smith, the Vikings’ road to respectability has begun – they go 8-8 in 1995 in an extremely competitive NFC Central Division. It will still be a couple of years before these components become a ‘well-oiled machine’ – but the parts are there!

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 throwback cases, teams did not wear the NFL shield patch.

The 1995 road jersey showcased here features some interesting changes from previous years. Firstly, there’s the NFL shield/patch as mentioned above. Secondly, the sweater’s sleeves are elasticized to prevent defenders from grabbing hold of baggy, excess material, and using it to slow down their opponents. Next is the fact that the conventional purple and yellow striping is now almost completely vertical. And finally, a commemorative patch celebrating the Vikings’ 35th anniversary can be found on the left shoulder. It features the ‘Viking’ head; the number ‘35’ for the team’s 35th anniversary; and the dates ‘1961’ & ‘1995’ sandwiching a large purple ‘V’.

Of note: In 1991, the Vikings went 8-8 and missed the playoffs. Of all the rotten luck, given that Super Bowl XXVI was held at the Hubert H. Humprey Metrodome (which opened in 1982).

Minnesota Vikings 1998 uniform
Randall Cunningham is throwing bombs, Randy Moss is making acrobatic receptions, and Chris Carter and Randy Moss keep making TD catch after TD catch. The Vikings’ firepower and offensive attack is unrelentless, translating into a 15-1 regular season record (their best record ever) & post-season dates for the boys in purple. Actually, the Vikings’ 1998 playoff appearance means they have made the post season 6 times in the last 7 seasons.

In round 1 of the playoffs, the Vikings squared off against the Cardinals and left them reeling - Vikings 41 - Cardinals 21.

In the NFC conference final, the Vikings were favored over the surprising Falcons. But in a topsy-turvy, wildly exciting game that went deep into overtime, the Falcons emerged on top 30 - 27 to end the Vikings Super Bowl XXXIII aspirations.

This purple home jersey features some terrific nuances: the sleeve striping has been simplified & condensed – with narrower white & yellow stripes; the familiar yellow trim from past jerseys has returned, and now “borders” all the uniform numbers; finally, the Viking head, just as identifiable as the ‘horns’ logo, is now a patch on the sleeves!

Minnesota Vikings 2000 uniform
The Vikings are preparing young Daunte Culpepper to lead this team into the new millenium. A 6’5”, 260 pound quarterback that can throw, run, and act as his own blocker!

This purple home jersey, as worn by Culpepper, Randy Moss, Chris Carter & Robert Smith is almost identical to the ’98 model – with a few exceptions. The NFL patch on the sweater’s neckline is larger than in years past. You’ll also notice a large patch on the left shoulder, close to the NFL shield, celebrating the Vikings’ 40th anniversary. It reads: ‘Minnesota Vikings’ at the top, with the dates ‘1961’ & ‘2000’ sandwiching the legendary Viking head with the phrase ‘40th anniversary’ at the bottom.

Happy anniversary, Vikings! May your next 40 years bring you the Super Bowl trophies you’ve been missing!

Of note: Over the past 25 years, the Minnesota Vikings have consistently been at or near the top of their division (the NFC Central). During that 25 year period, only the Dallas Cowboys have made more playoff appearances than the Vikings. Furthermore, only four teams (Dallas, San Francisco, Pittsburgh, Denver) have played in more Super Bowls than Minnesota, which has participated in four (Super Bowls IV, VIII, IX and XI).

Minnesota Vikings 2004 uniform
Normally a .500 record is never good enough to get you into the postseason in the NFL, but in 2004 that’s all you needed in the NFC to get into the playoffs. The Vikings, led by third-year head coach Mike Tice, made the 2004 postseason as a wildcard entry with an 8-8 record, finishing behind the Packers who at 10-6 were the NFC North Division winners. The irony here is that the Vikings had a better regular season record in 2003 than in 2004, 9-7 vs 8-8, but 9-7 wasn’t good enough to make the playoffs in 2003.

The Vikings started the 2004 season strong. They were a solid 5-3 after eight games. They could not sustain their momentum in the latter half of the season, however, dropping games to beatable opponents such as the Chicago Bears and the Washington Redskins.

The Vikings entered the playoffs following losses in the final two weeks of the regular season. In the first week of the playoffs they met the NFC Central champion Packers at Lambeau Field in Green Bay in one of the NFC Wildcard games. The Vikings pulled off a surprising victory over Bret Favre and his mates, upsetting the Packers at home 31-17. The game perhaps will be best remembered for the “mooning” gesture that WR Randy Moss made at Green Bay fans after he scored a touchdown.

The following week the Vikes traveled to Philadelphia for the NFC Divisional playoff and fell 27-14 at the hands of the Eagles who would go on to represent the NFC in Super Bowl XXXIX. This would be Moss’s final game for Minnesota. In the off-season, before the 2005 Entry Draft, Moss was dealt to Oakland for a first round pick.

The on-field leader for the Vikings in 2004 was their steady and reliable quarterback Dante Culpepper. Culpepper played every minute at QB for the Vikings in 2004 and his year end numbers were as follows: 379 completions for 4717 yards, with 39 TD’s and 11 interceptions. Nate Burleson emerged as the team’s top receiver finishing the year with 68 receptions for 1006 yards and 9 TD’s.

When the Vikings played their final game of 2004 in Philadelphia they were wearing their white road jerseys like the one shown here. The Viking white jersey has not changed a great deal over the years, but for this particular version please note the gold accents found highlighting the numerals on the front and back of the jerseys as well as the “TV “ numbers found on the tops of the shoulders. Also present is the Viking head logo on the sleeves of the jersey. The Vikes wear white pants with purple and gold striping down the side of the leg with both their home and road jerseys.

Minnesota Vikings 2006 uniform
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Celebrate the Vikings' uniform history by owning a piece of history:
If you love the Minnesota Vikings and the history of the Vikings 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 Minnesota Vikings 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 Vikings.


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 comment:

Thank you for taking the time to add a comment - all input is welcome, especially the constructive kind! All the best - Scott