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Tennessee Titans Unveil Houston Oilers Throwback Uniform

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The Titans, as expected, unveiled their Oilers throwback uniforms last night. The design, which confirms an earlier leak, pays homage to the franchise’s time in Houston, and also to 1997 and ’98, when the team played as the Tennessee Oilers.

As you can see in the photo above, the uniform has been rendered in Nike’s latest uniform template. Here’s a rear view:

And here’s a view of the excellent striped socks:

The team’s announcement didn’t tie the throwbacks to a particular year or era, but the thin sleeve stripes on the throwback jersey recall what the team wore from 1990 through 1997. Here’s a comparison, showing how the striping changed in 1990 and how that aligns with the throwback:

As you can see from those photos, they did a good job of matching the colors, typography, and so on. This appears to be a very accurate throwback. Here are some additional photos:

It’s not yet clear when this uniform will be worn, although it’s been assumed for a while now that the Dec. 17 home game against the Texans would be a prime candidate. Per the team’s announcement, “The Titans will wear the uniforms in two games this fall, both at home. The organization inquired about wearing them for a road game in Miami as well, but it doesn’t appear that will come to fruition” (which appears to mean, “We thought the Dolphins might wear white at home on Dec. 11, but apparently not”). The team plans to announce the throwback dates this Thursday morning, so we’ll find out then.

Another noteworthy passage from the team’s announcement: “The light blue Oilers throwbacks will replace the light blue ‘Titans’ jerseys as the third jersey, joining the navy and the white uniforms.” In other words, this jersey has now been mothballed — an interesting decision, since teams are now allowed to have a throwback and an alternate, so they didn’t need to scrap the light-blue Titans design but chose to do so anyway.

I know some people think these throwback uniforms are basically a big middle finger extended toward Houston and that the Texans should be the only team allowed to wear Oilers throwbacks. I’m sympathetic to that argument — like I’ve always said, sports teams aren’t just business entities, they’re also civic entities. Moreover, I live in Brooklyn, where a few old-timers are still pissed off about the Dodgers leaving, so I understand that point of view. But at the same time, I like how throwback uniforms can serve as history lessons, and the Oilers moving to Tennessee and eventually becoming the Titans is part of NFL history. It’s interesting to see the throughlines of franchises that move and/or change their names. Mostly, I’m just glad to see these uniforms back on the field, regardless of which team is doing it.

Want to brush up on your Oilers uniform history? I recently took an in-depth look at that topic, filled with obscure fun facts and great old photos. You can check it out here.

Next up on our very active NFL uni docket: Word through the grapevine is that the Jets will unveil their “New York Sack Exchange” throwbacks at some point today (owner Woody Johnson was even wearing a throwback logo cap yesterday), and the Broncos are scheduled to reveal their new alternate helmet tomorrow. Stay tuned!



Too Good for the Ticker

There’s nothing new about a jet with an NFL team livery, but I don’t think I’ve ever seen one with a helmet and facemask painted over the nose of the plane! I’m not sure when this ad is from, but TWA went belly-up in 2001, so I’m guessing that the ad is from the ’90s. Here’s the entire plane:

As long as we’re talking retro NFL stuff, I also like this print ad showing Giants then-quarterback Phil Simms with his name replacing the TV numbers:

(Big thanks to John Turney for the two ads, and to Twitter-er @WillramWallace for the full-plane TWA shot.)



Permanent Record Redux

Remember Permanent Record, my series of articles for Slate about a bunch of old report cards, which then morphed into a blog about found objects? If you were a fan of that project — or if you have no idea what I’m talking about but think it sounds intriguing — you’ll love this week’s episode of This American Life, which is about a guy who found a bunch of stuff in an abandoned New Hampshire house when he was 11 years old (like the 1935 driver’s license shown above) and then spent a good chunk of his life trying to piece together the backstory.

This episode originally aired in 2001, but it was new to me. Really great storytelling about found artifacts and the pull they can have on us — highly recommended. You can listen to the episode here.



Can of the Day

The crummy photo can’t diminish the greatness of this can design. Buddies!

Comments (58)

    The Phil Simms NOS (name on sleeve) reminds me of political cartoons in which the artist doesn’t trust you to know who he has drawn and writes a politician’s name on his suit coat.

    Ha! Exactly. I’m hung up on the fact that this could never be how a uniform works because someone on the team is bound to have a name longer than simms. I mean obviously this could never work as a team uniform but that fact completely preoccupied me when I see this. Someone thought they could get away with this.

    These are fantastic! I always loved to see the Oilers play. That uniform is like no other. That red makes that light blue pop! Would be interesting to see what they would look like with a titans helmet sticker on them??????

    Also, Nissan Stadium is switching to Field Turf this year. Wonder if they will go with a retro endzone/midfield?

    The red is indeed nice.
    However, I don’t like it on the facemask. Reminds me of the Jerry Granville and Buddy Ryan eras, and I didn’t like either of them.

    Give me the gray facemask instead. Even though Ken Stabler and Jack Tatum wore those (unfortunately) for one season, gray facemasks remind me more of Billy Johnson, Dan Pastorini, Ken Burrough and Skip Butler. Not to mention John Hadl and Tom Dempsey.

    When they dropped the far superior blue helmets for the white ones, the Oilers stopped being my favorite team, but I still had a place in my heart for them until they traded Pastorini and got all those ex-Raiders in return.

    When they switched to red facemasks, that made an already great football uniform just about perfect.


    When I went into my attic of my new house, I went into the attic and found some abandoned objects in a ColecoVision box. The backstory I can piece together, there was apparently a teenage boy, a well-organized one at that, who lived her in the late 1970s and 1980s. I suppose when the kids go back to school next month, I’ll see about discretely disposing of it.

    Paul, do you know if Nike has changed the fabric a little for these new templates? They all seem to have a little more sheen to them.

    An aircraft livery database suggests that TWA 727-200 plane flew with that Rams livery from 1996-2000. Later than I would have guessed based on the aircraft and airline!


    Was going to say this is probably post Rams relocating to St. Louis, since TWA was based there. The stadium was known as the TWA Dome at the time as well.

    This scratches the same itch for me as guessing the game from the scoreboard/uniform, so I dug a little deeper. Even without the database, we can immediately date it with a starting point of 1995 (the ad mentions the St. Louis Rams, and they didn’t move to STL until 1995), and an ending point of 2001 (RIP TWA). TWA’s acquisition was in January 2001, and the ad doesn’t mention the Rams being defending Super Bowl champions (just saying that they “look forward to a successful season”), we can probably say that it wasn’t 2000, either. Meanwhile, the ad includes a URL,, and the first saved hit on the Wayback Machine for (extremely primitive) is from 1997. didn’t include online booking until 1998, so I think we can say this ad is from either 1998 or 1999.

    TWA was, of course, headquartered in St. Louis at the time.

    Great sleuthing! I was also wondering if there was a way to pin down the date from the design of the JD Power plaque. So the plane was flying with those colors 1996-2000, but the ad is from ’98 or ’99.

    Also, it kind of blows my mind to think of 727s still flying passenger service at the turn of the century.

    You did it. TWA only won the JD Power award in 1998. Continental won in ’97, ’99, and ’00. So this ad has to be from 1998. The dateline on the results I could find was May 12, 1998, and the language about “looking forward to a successful season” implies that it’s prior to the start of football season, meaning this is from June, July, or possibly August 1998. Thanks for your help!

    The 727 lasted a surprisingly long time for an aircraft that was noisy and required three crew.

    I know that it was super popular in the Canadian north because the three high-mounted engines meant that there was a lower risk of ingesting gravel and other crap from the lightly maintained runways, and because the rear stairs meant that it could unload passengers without external support.

    The 727 also carries one of my favourite eponym, the Cooper Vane, named after the fictional D.B. Cooper


    Delta flew 727s until 2003, American until 2002, and United until 2001. Continental, TWA, and USAir all retired theirs in the 1999-2000 period. The 727-200Adv was a very popular plane (particularly in the US) and many US carriers used them extensively into the ‘90s when they were progressively replaced by a mix of 737-300/400s, 737-700/800s, and A320s. With the cheap fuel prices of the late ‘90s they were relatively competitive, especially since most were long paid off. However the upheavals in the industry from 9/11 quickly put them in the desert as airlines tightened their belts and shrank fleets.

    Easily the best alternate uniform revealed thus far.
    Thank you, Titans…worth the wait!

    Between “Buddy Cleanser”, “Bon Ami”, and “Barkeeper’s Friend”, kitchen pot and pan cleaners seem to be awfully friendly.


    Just wait until Brandiose redesigns them for some one-off minor league promotion. Those smiles will be replaced with snarls.

    Typo: “or if you have idea”

    The Oilers throwbacks look gorgeous and spot on. Not sure on whether they should be wearing them…certainly not if Houston did not get a new team.

    Never saw NOSleeve before…reminds me that Giants need to fix the throwback M. Any word on that?

    On throwbacks for relocated franchises, I get the sense of aggrieved ownership and violation that persists. But the thing is that history and memory aren’t scarce resources. The Titans wearing Oilers throwbacks doesn’t take anything away from Houston. And I appreciate relocated teams that acknowledge and even celebrate their whole history rather than pretending they were never anyone else’s team. Like, one of the reasons I could never get behind the Orioles as my home team in pre-2005 Washington was how thoroughly the team tried to erase its glorious and goofy history as the St. Louis Browns. Growing up in Minnesota, it kind of bugged me that the Twins paid so little mind to their much longer at the time history as the Senators. The Twins are much more embracing of their pre-1961 history today.

    Anyway, my ideal for an Oilers throwback would be for it to appear against the Texans, maybe even an Oilers-vs-Oilers game.

    Oilers vs Oilers would only work if they wore uniforms from different eras. And I totally would be behind that.

    I was thinking of who has the rights to names and colors before I read this, and I came to a conclusion: if the owner picked the name and/or colors, then the owner should be able to take them along in a relocation. If the fans voted on them, they stay. That being said, both sides should be big enough to share. The team with more of a claim could say, “We’re throwing back to the ____ era this year. Your team has to pick from a different era.”

    I’m sure Browns fans would vehemently disagree. And since they have an agreement with the league and the Ravens they’re exempt. Anyone else, share.

    I get your reasoning, but the owner took the name and then decided after two years that it didn’t go with the new home and decided not to use it. Hanging onto the name so the new expansion team couldn’t use it was just wrong. It’s also somewhat ironic that they picked a name that another team had but wasn’t petty and vindictive about.

    I have no issue with Titans ownership retaining, retiring, and re-releasing their Oilers branding for limited use next season.
    The expansion Houston NFL franchise ultimately “picked a name that another team had” too (Kansas City’s moniker when they played in Dallas).What they went with uniform-wise was terrific (I would have liked the white helmets, but that’s maybe just me) and hasn’t been altered much in 2 decades.
    I’ve never read anything confirming McNair’s interest or approaching/discussing with Adams about using the colors, name, logos, or calls from Houstonians to have these identifiers kept under lock and key when the Oilers left in ’96- anyone? Were there debates/objections when the Titans threw back to their Houston days in ’09? I honestly don’t remember.

    You’re right about the Titans name. I was surprised the Jets didn’t fight that.

    “And since they (the Browns) have an agreement with the league and the Ravens they’re exempt.”
    The Titans also struck a deal with the NFL as well when it came to the Oilers branding:


    “Commissioner Paul Tagliabue agreed to retire the Oilers nickname, preventing any future franchise that might land in Houston from taking the name.”

    Its so weird to think the Browns have an intra-division rivalry with a team that used to be themselves lol.

    Steelers fans often make the joke that they play the Browns 6 times. The Old Browns (Ravens), The New Browns (Browns), and The Other Browns (Bengals).

    Cool can! It seems there was a point where quotation marks shifted to being a sign of sarcasm (here “buddies” would mean that they weren’t really buddies), whereas before, as on this can and other older applications, they’re meant to highlight or emphasize. I wonder if this is true and if so, around when it started to shift

    Anybody else dreaming of a color v. color throwback game between the “Oilers” and the Buccaneers?

    Nah. Not with both teams wearing pastel jerseys/socks and white helmets/pants.

    Here’s a color vs. color throwback matchup I’d definitely like to see: Titans/Falcons.

    just wondering if tennessee was so adamant about keeping the oilers name and unis, then why change to titans? i feel once you change the the name/unis, you should give the name/uni rights back to the original city. it’s only fair. i also feel the texans would be MUCH more popular if they were the oilers. the name and unis are iconic.

    actually think if they just stayed tennessee oilers w/same colors/jerseys, they would be more popular in general (with me, they would). heck, maybe even some houston texans fans would convert over to tennessee oilers.

    I’d rather the Jets threw back to their Chad Pennington era uniforms. It’s an upgrade over the current set, so I imagine there will be no discussion of that until an influx of cash is needed.

    Does the fact that the Titans are adopting the throwback as their third uni indicate that a full redesign is coming?

    I’m hoping it means the white tops and Columbia blue pants are coming next…

    Buddy Cleanser sounds like a Dude Wipes bodywash spin off for your, uh, buddy.

    This is like when the Carolina Hurricanes wear Whalers gear, except Hartford never got a compensatory team. At least Houston has the Texans.

    Nothing against Carolina, but the fact that the Whalers died so the Hurricanes could be born is such a shame.

    I have absolutely everything against Carolina. Despite being a Red Sox fan, the I will forever hate the Carolina Hurricanes more than any other team in sports including the Yankees. I hate them with every fiber of my sports fan being.

    If I were a Houstonian, the hate for the Titans would definitely be less, but truthfully, the Oilers name and logo should have been returned to Houston after the Titans were born. The Houston Oilers should still exist much like the Browns still exist.

    Anyone think the helmet logo looks weird with the new template? You can hardly see the logo from the front and even from the side it looks too far back. Oh well, gorgeous uniforms, regardless. So glad to see these return.

    On the subject of team names, when the NBA expansion is announced, I fully expect Seattle to be able to use the SuperSonics again and have the full history back from OKC.

    I believe that was part of the deal when ownership cut out on the city. Seattle retains rights to colors, logos, name, and I believe records and stats, but I may be mistaken on that last part.

    This is like when you hop on Twitter, and see a picture of your ex in the hospital, holding up the baby she had with another man.

    It’s also like when you’re married for 20 years but you can’t stop talking about your ex.

    Can’t see the NFL having a color vs color game of light blue & aqua. Tennessee would need to have a white Oilers throwback because Miami typically wears Aqua (or Orange) for night games. With the exception of three rescheduled day games (’97 vs Chicago, ’04 vs Pittsburgh, & ’05 vs Kansas City), Miami has only wore white jerseys for night games in 1996 that I know of.

    I can tell you having lived in Houston during the Luv Ya Blue days and also when they moved the team that it’s very painful to see Tennessee throwing back to the Columbia Blue. Bud Adams was such a jerk when he didn’t get his taxpayer supported new stadium that not only did he move the team but had the commissioner make sure Houston could never use the Oilers name again just to twist the knife. The city had such love for the Luv Ya Blue Oilers of the late 70s early 80s. Before he shuffled off this mortal coil he made sure to pass on his final revenge wishes to his daughter Amy Adams Strunk as she’s been just as vindictive in her lack of willingness to negotiate for the rights to bring the name and history back to Houston.

    And another thing, Bud Adams was the reason the Astrodome’s famed giant scoreboard spectacular was ripped out of the stadium in 1988. Bud insisted the county agree to remove the scoreboard and install more seats under threat that Bud would move the team. More seats were installed, the Dome was sanitized, and ol’ Bud moved the team anyway eight years later.

    Great unis! Now we wait for the freaking Eagles to release the GLOURIOUS Kelly Green.

    Or the Titans make this their new home uniform or they allow the Texans to do so. This should be permanently worn by one of the two teams.

    Regarding the TWA 727, it wasn’t the first time a 727 was painted up as part of a sponsorship deal with a pro sports franchise. Alaska flew a 727 in the mid-to-late 1980s on which the Seahawks’ original logo took the place of the Alaska’s traditional blue and green stripes on the forward fuselage. Prior to that, the original Braniff painted a full Dallas Cowboys helmet (with two-bar facemask) on one of their navy 727s in the 1978-1981 timeframe.
    Later, America West, and its merge partner US Airways also painted airplanes in pro sports themed liveries in the 1990s and 2000s, initially with Phoenix-based teams (Suns, D-backs, and Cards), then later with Charlotte, Pittsburgh, and Philadelphia teams (all NFL). American had those repainted when those merged, but Jet Blue flies several Boston and New York sports themed birds to this day.

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