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Thursday, August 19, 2010

Washington Commanders Uniform and Team History

Please click on the evolution of the Washington Commanders 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 Washington Commanders poster that's ready to hang on your wall, please visit Heritage Sports Stuff.

Boston Redskins 1933 uniform -Washington Redskins 1933 uniform
In July 1932, a group headed by the incredibly colorful and controversial George Preston Marshall was awarded the inactive Boston franchise for the 1932 NFL season (Boston had an NFL team in 1929, then it became inactive; it appears that the 1929 Boston franchise had previously been in Duluth MN where they played from 1923 to 1927). The new Boston team is named the Braves after baseball’s Boston Braves of the National League, and ends up playing its home games at Braves Field – home of the Boston Braves baseball team.

In 1933, after a brutally attended 1932 season, Marshall moves his team to fabled Fenway Park and changes the team name to the ‘Redskins’ in search of larger crowds. Even after the franchise moved to Washington in 1937, the team keeps the Redskins name.

What I love about this 1933 Redskins jersey is the fact that is features a logo (an Indian head profile) on the front of the jersey, not a uniform number. I can think of a handful of other instances where a logo graced the front of an NFL jersey instead of a uniform number:

1. The 1927 Duluth Eskimos whose jersey featured an image of an igloo

2. The 1931 Cleveland Indians (a one-year wonder of the NFL) whose jersey featured an Indian head crest (image thanks to Gridiron Uniform Database)

3. The 1933 Pittsburgh Steelers whose jersey featured the City of Pittsburgh crest.

4. The 1934 St. Louis Gunners (who only played 3 games in the NFL)  whose jersey featured a crest + cannon logo (image thanks to Gridiron Uniform Database)

5. In some other instances where there is no number on the front of the jersey, it was either a “blank” jersey (1929 NY Giants), writing (1921 Green Bay Packers and 1924 Duluth Eskimo Kelleys), stripes (1920 Chicago Bears and numerous others), a letter (Canton Bulldogs' C in 1923, 1925 and 1926, and numerous other 1920's teams), or a shape (a triangle on the 1923 Dayton Triangles) .

Note also the fact that the 1933 Redskins helmet was burgundy in color. It would switch over to gold in the mid 30’s, and stay gold into the early 60’s before returning to burgundy.

As for the 2nd year Redskins, they go 5-5-2 including home wins over the eventual champion Chicago Bears and runner up New York Giants.

Washington Redskins 1937 uniform
A quick note about the 1936 season before we get to the 1937 season: In 1936, the Boston Redskins won the NFL Eastern Division, and the right to host the NFL Championship against the NFL Western Division Champion Green Bay Packers. But Redskins owner George Preston Marshall was unhappy with the fan support in Boston and moved the championship game to the Polo Grounds in New York. Deprived of their home-field advantage, the Redskins lost to the Green Bay Packers 21-6 in front of 29,000+ fans.

Now for 1937: After playing at Fenway Park for three years, the Boston Redskins move to Washington and quickly establish themselves as front runners going 8-3 in the regular season and advancing to the NFL Championship Game. In this era, the playoffs consisted of a single game for the NFL Championship that pitted the winner of the 5 team Eastern Division against the winner of the 5 team West.

Thus it was that the Redskins faced off against the 9-1-1 Chicago Bears at Wrigley Field in Chicago. Led by the rookie sensation Sammy Baugh, the Redskins came from behind in the 4th quarter to upset the Bears 28-21 for their first NFL Championship.

George Preston Marshall, the flamboyant Redskins’ laundry-chain owner, and ever the ‘showman’ would quickly became synonymous with lavish & bizarre halftime stunts and shows. Marching bands, and spectacular mystery guest arrivals became a trademark! One year at the team’s final home game saw a Santa Claus arrive at Griffith Stadium in a helicopter! Over the course of the team’s first 9 years in Washington, the Redskins would make it to the NFL championship match 5 times (1937, 1940, 1942, 1943, 1945) – winning it twice (1937 and 1942).

This jersey, as worn by the infamous QB ‘Slingin’ Sammy Baugh, has a wonderful distinguishing feature on the sleeves - there are ‘Indian head’ patches. If you look closely, you’ll notice that they’re both profiles of the Indian’s RIGHT side. Thus, the head looks the same way – on the right arm the head faces forward, while on the left arm it faces backward. The most logical explanation is that it would have been costlier to make two different patches, thus they simply used the same patch and put it on both sleeves.

In 1994 the Redskins and all NFL teams honored the 75th anniversary of the league by wearing “throwback” jerseys. In the Redskins’ ’94 throwback jersey, the patches are of opposite profiles – such that each Indian head faces the front of the jersey. I’d be curious to know if this was an oversight on the league’s part, or if it was a deliberate attempt to do what we now consider to be “normal” design.

This is a classic jersey with beautiful gold uniform numbers with white outlines, and the previously mentioned Indian head patches, gold pants and gold helmet. So beautiful, in fact, that it was the jersey the Redskins chose to honor in 1994 by making it their “throwback” style jersey.

Washington Redskins 1942 uniform
Ray Flaherty, coach of the Redskins from 1936 to 1942, coaches the Redskins for the last time – before going off to join the armed forces for WWII. Under his guidance the Redskins go 54-21-4, including a 10-1 mark in 1942.

As was the pattern, the Redskins moved directly on to the NFL Championship game against the 11-0 Western Division Champion Chicago Bears. Almost exactly two years earlier the same two teams played against each other at Washington’s Griffith Stadium in the NFL Championship game, and the Bears laid a licking on the Redskins the likes of which may never be seen again in the NFL – the Bears 73, the Redskins Zip.

But this is two years later, once again at Griffith Stadium in Washington, and in stark contrast to the 1940 result, it’s a low scoring affair won by the Redskins 14-6. It’s the Redskins’ second NFL Championship (1937 and 1942) and their third of five Championship final appearances in the teams first 9 years in Washington (1937, 1940, 1942, 1943, 1945).

This maroon colored jersey would see only subtle changes over the course of the next decade.

Washington Redskins 1948 uniform
Washington Redskins 1956 uniform
1948 & 1956
The 1948 jersey marks the most unusual number styling the Redskins have ever seen – making them the only NFL team to use this unique style. You don’t need to know type face names to know that there’s something highly unusual about this design. Eventually this style would be replaced by the more traditional serif style font, as evidenced in every jersey shown since 1948.

Of note: At this point, most helmets still lacked facial protection of any sort – it was each player’s prerogative whether or not to wear a face mask, and many didn’t until the mid or even late 50’s. Another choice was between leather (depicted in the 1942 painting) and plastic helmets. Some players chose to keep the old-school, leather model, presumably because of comfort and fit, while others donned the newer, more protective plastic shell. The ’48 plastic helmet showcased here had special leather caps at the base of the ear – to help prevent the plastic from rubbing on players’ faces.

As for the 1948 Redskins, Slingin’ Sammy Baugh is still at the helm, and will be until 1952 when he ends a remarkable career – 16 seasons in all and all with the Redskins. He leads the Redskins to a 7-5 record but it’s not enough, however, to make the playoffs.

Some interesting notes about the ’56 home red uniform shown here: by this time most helmets have face guards (as does the one pictured here) but interestingly all still lack a Redskin logo of any type; also, there are now vertical gold-white-gold stripes on the jersey’s shoulders.

As for on field activities, the 1956 Redskins finish 6-6 and out of the playoffs for the 10th year in a row. In fact, the Redskins won’t make the playoffs for another 15 seasons, making it 25 years between playoff appearances. Yikes – bring back Slingin’ Sammy Baugh!

Washington Redskins 1962 uniform
1962 was a landmark season for the Redskins franchise, and long overdue, as the NFL finally forces owner George Marshall to use a black player! After falling under much criticism and pressure, Marshall drafts Syracuse’s All-American Ernie Davis – but quickly trades Davis’ rights to the Browns for Bobby Mitchell – another black running back, who was viewed as one of the most talented & exciting players in the NFL.

For all the wonderful and colorful stories told about the original Redskins owner – and there are many - it takes one like this to dampen a historian’s enthusiasm for a man he never knew.

The ’62 road uniform showcased here is one of the cleanest & nicest in Redskins’ history. Note the fact that there are small numbers in the middle of the sleeves. Then look closely at the helmet - across the center of the helmet is a multi-colored feather, one of the most unique designs and positioning of a helmet logo ever used.

Sadly, this beautiful icon would be used for a brief while, to be replaced by a succession of interesting and ever changing logos – if you have a moment study the Redskins logos shown in the rest of this poster.

After a disastrous 1-12-1 season in 1961, the 1962 Redskins turn it around and post an almost respectable 5-7-2 record. But as mentioned earlier, the Redskins are in the midst of a horrific slump that would see them miss post season play for 25 years – from 1946 to 1970. During this span the ‘skins manage only 4 seasons over the .500 mark.

Washington Redskins 1966 uniform
It’s interesting to note that this 1966 home jersey has gone back to a ‘stripe-less’ look, and as is the way for most NFL teams in the 60’s, the sleeves have been shortened. Note also the unusual helmet logo - an Indian spear – similar to the present-day Florida State Seminoles helmet logo.

I won’t belabor the point too much – let’s suffice it to say that the Redskins finished the season 7-7, their first .500 season since 1956. Another positive is the play of QB Sonny Jurgensen, linebacker Sam Huff and guard Ray Schoenke. If someone tells you they were a Redskins fan through the 50’s and 60’s, buy them a drink because that, my friends, is a true fan.

Washington Redskins 1969 uniform
Washington Redskins 1970 uniform
1969 & 1970
The year 1969 was bittersweet for Redskins. Fans marveled at Sonny Jurgensen’s pinpoint tosses, while they were forced to say goodbye to one legend – Sam Huff, they got to say hello to another – Vince Lombardi.

Lombardi would lead the Redskins to unfamiliar territory – they had a winning 7-5-2 season in 1969 – just their 4th winning season since 1946.

The NFL celebrated its 50th anniversary during the ’69 season – the patch on the left shoulder commemorates this milestone. All NFL teams wore this patch in 1969 - keep in mind that although the AFL and the NFL played each other by this time, they hadn’t officially merged yet, thus you won’t see NFL 50 patches on any of the 10 AFL teams in 1969.

A few other ’69 home red uniform highlights: a white stripe was added to the Redskins’ pants, and by this time, horizontal white, yellow and maroon stripes were added to the sleeves. The 1969 helmet logo remains largely identical to the 1966 version.


The tragedy of the 1970 season was surely the fact that Vince Lombardi, after leading the Green Bay Packers to 2 Super Bowls and three other NFL championships, and then coming to the Redskins and leading them to a winning record, tragically passed away two weeks before the start of the ’70 season at the too young age of 57.

There were no doubt other reasons why the Redskins took a step backward in 1970 to finish at 6-8, but Lombardi’s death was certainly a contributing factor.

The 1970 road white jersey showcases a few interesting changes: striping is now evident on the collar and horizontal sleeves are on the sleeves. As for the helmet, numbers can be seen on the back of the helmet, but more significant is the fact that the Redskins’ helmet logo has undergone yet another facelift – this time a giant ‘R’ complete with feathers graces the side of the helmet. As mentioned earlier, it’s fun to see how often the Redskins helmet logo has changed from 1962 to the present.

Washington Redskins 1973 uniform
Winning seasons, playoff appearances – it’s all too much!

The Redskins finally turn the corner to respectability – they go 9-4-1 in 1971, then 11-3 in 1972 and 10-4 in 1973 and 1974.

Throughout it all, Redskins fans witnessed one of the biggest quarterback controversies of all time: Sonny Jurgensen vs. Billy Kilmer – and miraculously through it all, the two men managed to remain close. Both were terrific quarterbacks, abd both were great team men.

The 1973 Redskins, pictured here in their road white uniform, made it to the playoffs for the 3rd straight year, only to lose a terrific see-saw battle to Fran Tarkenton’s Vikings 27-20 at frigid Met Stadium in Bloomington, MN.

Note that the Redskins’ Indian head & feathers logo has finally made its way onto the helmet. It will remain largely the same to the present day, although it has occasionally gone through some minor & subtle revisions.

Washington Redskins 1982 uniform
There is a God after all!

1982 is a magic year for the Redskins, and there are all sorts of magic words: Joe Gibbs. The Hogs. Joe Theismann. John Riggins. Dexter Manley. Art Monk. Russ Grimm. Mark Moseley.

In this strike shortened season, the Redskins go 8-1 and face the prospect of having to win 4 playoff games to go all the way.

Game 1: January 8, 1983: Redskins 31, Lions 7; game played at RFK
Game 2: January 15, 1983: Redskins 21, Vikings 7; game played at RFK
Game 3: January 22, 1983: Redskins 31, Cowboys 17; game played at RFK
Game 4 – Super Bowl XVII: January 30, 1983: Redskins 27, Dolphins 17; game played at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena CA. MVP John Riggins.

Congrats Redskins fans – you deserved this one.

A few note about the 1982 road white uniform: the sleeves on the jersey match the striping on the burgundy pants – thick red, yellow-gold and white stripes; there is a gold outline around the uniform numbers (this started in ’79 – the first season for number trim since the late 30’s).

Washington Redskins 1987 uniform
Washington Redskins 1991 uniform
1991 & 1994
The Redskins won it all again in 1987, and here they go once more.

After a terrific 14-2 regular season, the Redskins knock off the Falcons 24-7, followed by the Lions 41-10. Thus it was on to Super Bowl XXVI vs the Buffalo Bills (this was the Bills’ second of 4 straight Super Bowl appearances).

The Redskins capture the Vince Lombardi Trophy for the 3rd time (1982, 1987, 1991) and the NFL Championship for the 5th time (1937, 1942, 1982, 1987, 1991) as they beat the Bills 37-24 in Super Bowl XXVI in Minneapolis. MVP was QB Mark Rypien.

As for the 1991 uniform, look carefully and you’ll see a small NFL shield on both the jersey’s neckline and the left thigh of the pants. If you look closely at almost all NFL uniforms worn from 1991 on, you’ll note this same 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 exception being in 1994 when teams wore “throwback” uniforms, in most cases these throwback uniforms didn’t have the NFL shield on the neck & thigh.

Also, if you look closely, the familiar Redskins helmet logo is slightly different…the feather design has undergone a change since the previously pictured 1982 version.

Allow us a quick word about Coach Joe Gibbs, who led the Redskins from 1981 to 1992. Gibbs was the most successful coach in Washington history, finishing with a record of 140-65-0, eight playoff appearances, five NFC Eastern division championships and three Super Bowl wins (XVII in 1982, XXII in 1987, and XXVI in 1991). In 1982 and 1983 he was named NFL Coach of the Year, and in 1996 he was elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

As for 1994 jersey, the ’94 season marked the NFL’s 75th anniversary. To help celebrate this milestone, most teams wore special ‘throwback’ sweaters commissioned by the NFL (note the diamond patch on the left shoulder signifying this occasion!).

The ’94 Redskins home uniform pictured here honors the beautiful Redskins uniform as worn by the NFL Champions in 1937. Notice also the fact that the 1994 helmet has no logo whatsoever, correctly copying the 1937 helmet. Now as for the color, that’s another story.

You might also take a good look at both the ’37 and ’94 jerseys…there’s a difference in the sleeve patches. The ’94 version shows profiles of the Indian head such that both face the front of the jersey. In the ’37 version, the profiles of the Indian head are both of the right side such that the right one points forward and the left one points backward.

If you look closely at almost all NFL uniforms worn from 1991 on, you’ll notice 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 cases, as is the case here, most teams did not wear the NFL shield patch on their throwback jersey or pants.

As for their record, the 1994 Redskins fell to 3-13, their worst season since 1961.

Washington Redskins 2000 uniform
The 2000 uniform bears some items of interest: the helmet logo has changed in size, and minor modifications have been made to the Indian head & feathers; the shirt has elasticized cuffs that hug the arms closer – thus giving the player a more streamlined look & feel (this also helps prevent defenders from using loose material to their advantage).

If you look closely at almost all NFL uniforms worn from 1991 on, you’ll notice 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 cases most teams did not wear the NFL shield patch on their throwback jersey or pants.

On the field, the 2000 Redskins made strides towards maintaining the respectability they achieved in 1999 when they went 10-6 and won the first round of the playoffs. Despite the addition of some high priced free agents, the 2000 Redskins started the season at 6-2, then fell off and finished out at 8-8.

Washington Redskins 2005 uniform
Text not yet written.

Celebrate the Washington Commanders uniform history by owning a piece of history:
If you love the Washington Commanders and the history of the Washington Commanders 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 18 pieces of original art available for sale, and when these 18 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 Washington Commanders 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 Washington Commanders.

This blog was written by Scott Sillcox and was last updated in a major way on August 19, 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. Can you tell me what tribe the Native American on the helmet logo represents?

  2. Hi Joe -

    Many thanks for your question and I'm sorry it has taken me so long to get back to you.

    I honestly don't know the answer, but since the team name and original Indian head image were from the early 1930's and more or less the creation of the flamboyant team owner George Preston Marshall, I suspect it was simply a depiction of an Indian head without any deeply considered thought.

    As you likely know, the team started in Boston as the Boston Braves, and as noted above they got their name from the Boston Braves baseball team. I don't think the baseball Braves Indian head was representative of any particular tribe, and I suspect it was the same for the football Braves (then Redskins).


  3. I read about the redskins wearing a jersey with the image of a football on the front, designed by head coach bill Dietz in 1933. I have never seen a clear photo of it or heard it mentioned by anyone. There are 2 cards of cliff battles wearing it, one is 1975 hall of fame card with the imaged cropped so you can't see it, and the same picture was used on another 1990s hall of fame set where you can see a little bit of it. Just wondering if you have ever seen it.

  4. I read about the redskins wearing a jersey with the image of a football on the front, designed by head coach bill Dietz in 1933. I have never seen a clear photo of it or heard it mentioned by anyone. There are 2 cards of cliff battles wearing it, one is 1975 hall of fame card with the imaged cropped so you can't see it, and the same picture was used on another 1990s hall of fame set where you can see a little bit of it. Just wondering if you have ever seen it.

    1. Hi -
      Many thanks for the note. I hadn't heard this before so I'm afraid I don't have anything to contribute. Any chance of you emailing the two images you have to me and I'll post them here for others to see, and I will encourage anyone else to come forward if they have any photos.
      My email is ssillcox at rogers dot com.

  5. The Duluth Eskimos wore an igloo logo on their jerseys in 1927-the first NFL team to feature a team logo on the front of its jersey.

  6. Regarding the 1969/1970 helmet, your article reads "The helmet logo remains largely identical to the 1966 version."

    As I recall. the design was changed in 1969 under the direction of the incoming Lombardi. The gold was similar to his Green Bay helmets with the large "R" in a circle festooned with feathers to convey the native american motif.

    This was changed when George Allen took over after Lombardi's passing.

    1. HI!

      Many thanks for the note and I have now slightly re-written my description to differentiate between the 1969 and 1970 seasons. The helmet changed significantly for the 1970 season as you describe.

      Thanks - Scott


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