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The Strange Saga of Troy Aikman’s NFL 75th-Anniversary Patch

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Good morning! Hope you had a good weekend, as I did, and that you’re looking forward to this first full week of summer.

Now then: I like to think that I’ve heard most of the major uni-related stories of the past generation or so, especially the ones involving star players. Sometimes, though, I’ll come across a storyline that’s new to me. That’s the case today — maybe it’s old news to some of you, but it’s new news to me, so I want to talk about it today.

Here’s the deal: As we all know, the NFL marked its 75th anniversary in 1994 with a diamond-shaped anniversary patch, which players wore on the upper-left chest, like this:

But here’s the thing I didn’t know: Cowboys quarterback Troy Aikman liked to wipe the sweat off his face with that part of his jersey (which sounds awkward to me, but whatever), and he thought the patch would be scratchy against his face. So for that year’s preseason games, he had the team’s equipment staff put the patch on the other side of his jersey. I haven’t been able to find any photos from those preseason games, but low-res video from one of the games — against the Oilers on Aug. 15 — is available here. Here’s a screen shot showing Aikman with the patch on the other side:

As it turns out, the NFL was not happy about this. They told Aikman to move the patch back to its proper side or else he’d face a fine, as explained in this AP item that ran in dozens of newspapers on Sept. 6:

So that was that, right? Wrong. While Aikman dutifully had his patch moved to the proper side, he wore it much lower than everyone else, on all four of his 1994 jerseys, so he wouldn’t be rubbed the wrong way on that crucial bit of fabric where he liked to mop his face:

The difference was particularly obvious when Aikman was standing near a teammate:

Apparently the league didn’t ding him for that, because he did it all season long.

I never knew anything about any of this until a few days ago. Did you? Apparently the folks at Mitchell & Ness didn’t, because they sell a 1994 Aikman jersey with the patch riding high:

One final thought: All of this was supposedly driven by Aikman’s habit of wiping his face on the upper-left portion of his jersey, but I don’t recall ever seeing him do that. I guess it must have been something he did on the sidelines, because you can’t wipe your face with your helmet on, right? Does anyone remember seeing him do this? Any photos or video?

(Big thanks to Moe Khan for bringing this issue to my attention; to Jeremy Snyder — aka @QuirkyResearch — for invaluable research assistance; and to reader/commenter Rob S. for pointing out a 1994 Aikman jersey that I hadn’t included.)



Can of the Day

There’s so much going on here: the bookend caps, the raised/diagonal hyphen, the spelling of “Shur” and “Whyte,” the heretofore unknown-to-me term “curb burns,” the Christmas-y colors, the little illustration, and more. What a design!

Comments (32)

    That Mitchell and Ness jersey is laughably bad. Looks like a cheap knockoff you’d find at a grocery store that’s close enough for you to know what it’s supposed to be, but different enough not to infringe on copyrights.

    That’s because Fanatics bought M&N- now they have two tiers of jerseys. It sucks.

    I recall Aikman wiping his face with that part of his jersey, only because I used to do the same thing. On a hot day/night that part of the jersey is about the only thing that would be dry (at least the first time you used it). Anything on the sleeves was usually soaked. It would probably be very difficult to do today because of how tight the jerseys are now.

    Unfortunately Mitchell and Ness can’t be relied on for authenticity or attention to detail anymore. The company has changed hands a few times in the past few years and has become laughably bad. They sell all kinds of cheaply thrown-together replica items as well as “lifestyle” wear. It’s really kinda sad.

    Sad, but true. For example, they used to have a great Tom Seaver replica with accurate script and fonts. The one they have now is a joke. If you have all the right graphics, why mess with them? Luckily, I have one of the better ones. There might be a market to make accurate replicas again? Is any company doing them? I know Ebbets Field Flannels has some good product.

    Fanatics is currently hawking a Chelios 91 throwback”replica”. its all heat transfer graphics, not a glorious chain stitched patch to be found. Its abhorrent.

    I saw what you did there.

    A quick check shows me no company with accurate replicas except for maybe Ebbets Field Flannels. The problem is their product line is limited…I don’t see many modern MLB jerseys…nice jackets though. No NBA.

    @Steve D, even EFF was bought by Lids now, so waiting for their quality to drop as well. IMO, it already has been watered down with their collegiate offerings going away from true throwbacks.

    There’s a few individuals floating around social media that make high-quality throwbacks, often using period-accurate materials and techniques – they’re certainly not cheap, but if you’re the kind of person who buys a jersey to frame and display rather than wear then they’re well worth it.
    They tend not to advertise in order to fly under the radar of the various leagues and merch pimps (which is why I don’t want to post any seller’s names) but they’re easy enough to find with a search.

    I appreciate the reference to “curb burns” ever since the day I learned white paint does not adhere to rubber. All white details on a black tire must be made with white rubber: a simple layer of white on raised black letters, or poured into a circular depression in the case of white sidewalls. The aforementioned curb burns come from the curbs themselves, and are not the revealed black rubber.

    “all three of his jerseys”

    There’s a fourth one that’s missing – the 1960s throwback jersey from the Week 3 game against the Lions on MNF, September 19 (which the Lions won, 20-17 in OT).
    I could only find two photos of Aikman, showing the patch – apparently not quite as low as the others, but still low: link link
    The full game is up on Youtube: link

    Either photo would have made for a great…and great looking!… GTGFTU entry.

    Man, that picture of Britt Hager is a beauty. The pinnacle era of uniforms and equipment in football.

    I was thinking the same thing! Not a Philly fan so I did not know the player immediately, but I was loving the picture.
    Of course,that Eagles uniform is perfection. The equipment… perfect helmet, the full size shoulder pads, the arm guards, the taped wrists & of course the long 80s/90s hair. It looks like the perfect representation of what every Hollywood production would cast as the nasty/bully linebacker.
    That photograph should be in a museum and/or a time capsule.
    I looked him up, and he is a Texas football royalty, a star at UT & played HS ball at Odessa Permian. The guy is literally from the pages (or script) of Friday Night Lights. Guess I should have known of him.

    Did you enjoy your day off. I enjoyed my day off. I watched Cubs/Cards from London. It’s a lot more convenient for me to watch a ballgame in the late morning on a Sunday than on Sunday night.

    “ I guess it must have been something he did on the sidelines, because you can’t wipe your face with your helmet on, right?” Yes, this is strange, since he would have access to towels on the sideline. Of course he also has a towel while playing, but probably only used that to dry his hands. I wonder if between plays he pushed his helmet up and back on his head so he could wipe his face on this area of the jersey?

    In case anyone else was curious, this is not reflected anywhere on the Gridiron Uniform Database. Nor should it be, since it was the modification made by one player and not the whole team. But when it’s a high profile player like a starting QB, these things can occasionally slip through, especially for something like a preseason game.

    Regarding that Mitchell and Ness Aikman jersey being offered on the NFL Shop… that actually looks like a 3D rendering to me, not a photo of an actual jersey. If you look at the Emmitt Smith version side-by-side, you can see that, aside from the player name and number, the details are rendered the exact same way, and the numbers on Smith’s jersey look especially fake.

    The 3D renderings seem to be how many of the NFL Shop’s jerseys are displayed, unfortunately. However, interestingly enough, the listings for the 1995 (blue big-star) and 1996 (blue star-on-sleeve) Aikman and Smith throwbacks appear to use actual photos.

    I live in North Texas and I remember Aikman talking about this on a radio show.

    It’s funny the Mitchell and Ness quality has come up, because I recently bought myself an Aikman jersey as a present to myself and it’s clearly not right. The color is closer to the Colts blue jersey.

    Stories/coverage of these kinds of things are why I love Uni-Watch! Always wondered why his patch was so low…

    It never occurred to me until seeing these photos that the Cowboys actually wore two different versions of the white, shoulder star jersey for the 75th season. Can anyone explain how this went down? I was like 12 at the time, and my memory was that the actual throwback was worn for the 75th season in 1994, and then the following year the other version, with the navy stars and chest wordmark, debuted as some sort of alternate jersey that was a modern take on the throwback due to what I assumed was popular reaction to the throwback in 1994.
    But now looking at the GUD, the non-throwback version was only worn in 1994 regular season play, though the navy version of it showed up in 1995 as the team’s dark jersey in the regular season. Does anyone know the story behind this?

    Aikman’s ’95 Pro Bowl jersey had a properly-placed patch:
    And I suppose he had the habit during his time at UCLA, but not the gravitas/hubris to get the patches re-placed for the ’89 Cotton Bowl:

    Then again, Aikman didn’t exactly have to work up a sweat in either of those games
    ; )

    This issue was discussed on one of the game broadcasts. I can’t remember which game or which network, but I clearly remember it. However, this issue and the 1994 season with all of the throwbacks and the 49ers wearing their throwbacks in the big game intrigued my 10 year old mind. It’s what got me interested in athletic aesthetics and why I visit this site everyday!

    Aikman is a one of a kind guy so it does not surprise me that he wanted to wipe his face and felt the patch got in the way and had it put lower. I think his placement of the patch was and still is superior to what the league originally came up with.

    So, I knew about this, but in my head, I only knew about this because of UniWatch. So I did some digging, and found this post with sublede:


    And this post (in ticker)

    So, in conclusion, sometime in 2027/2028 we will need a new angle to attack this from. :-)

Comments are closed.