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Mauve-elously Mismatched: The Pernicious Problem of Poorly Paired Purples

[Editor’s Note: This post is part of Uni Watch’s 2024 Purple Amnesty Day content. For additional background and details, look here.]

By Kary Klismet

For the past four years, I’ve taken it as my solemn duty to report on one of the greatest scourges of the uni-verse – uniforms with multiple shades of purple. As Paul gets ready to depart from Uni Watch and we bid a fond farewell to the annual Purp Walk tradition, I’ve prepared one last foray into the phenomenon.

We’ve already examined mismatched purples in the NBA (twice) and MLB (along with a brief excursion into the related topic of teams that have mismatched shades of purple on purpose), so I thought it appropriate to explore whether this amethyst anarchy has afflicted other professional sports. Without further ado, let’s dive in!

NFL: Minnesota Vikings

Perhaps no team other than the Los Angeles Lakers is as well-known for its history of mismatched purples than the Minnesota Vikings. Paul touched on it last year in a Substack piece about the Vikings’ original uniform set, but that just scratched the surface. Indeed, the Vikings’ violet violations extend further than you may have realized.

For starters, the Vikings have long struggled to match the shades of purple on their helmets and jerseys, whether it’s been an issue of the helmets being lighter…

… or darker …

… or simply a different shade of purple altogether:

These problems plagued the team from the early 1960s until 2019. At times, the Vikings couldn’t even match the purple on their facemasks to their shells:

The Vikings’ jerseys have been no less of a chromatic conundrum. Their dazzle cloth disasters of the late ‘80s are the most egregious example:

But the jerseys not matching the trim on the rest of the uniform has also been troublesome:

Meanwhile, the shoulder stripes on the white road jerseys often haven’t matched the numbers:

The purple pandemonium didn’t stop there. Not only were the Vikings inept at matching purples from one uniform component to the next, the players’ uniforms often didn’t match one another! Check out these team pictures from 1976, 1981, and 1986, respectively:

And before you dismiss this as just a training camp peculiarity, there are plenty of game photos that show the same problem:

So even though the Vikes have never won a Super Bowl, they can probably claim the title for most color mismatches in a single uniform program. Skol!

NHL: Los Angeles Kings

The Kings have shared a home with the Lakers since their days together in the Forum in the late 1960s, so it’s no surprise that the hockey team has matched its basketball counterpart in purple mismatches, dating back to the Kings’ earliest days. During their primarily purple era from 1967 to 1988, those mismatches could be found from head…

… to toe …

… and everywhere in between:

No one epitomized the indigo insanity quite like Hall of Fame goalie Rogie Vachon:

Yeesh! You almost can’t blame the Kings for ditching purple and going BFBS!


In 2023, we spotlighted several soccer clubs with multi-toned purple uniforms, but those were what I called “intentionally foul” — teams that purposely wore multiple shades of the accursed color. Even so, one European side — Real Madrid — appears to have achieved a rare double. 

Purple has had an established place in Madrid’s visual identity for decades, including the mid-’80s duds we mentioned last year. But Los Blancos compounded the chaos in 1986, when they outfitted their players in two-toned kits while also wearing mismatched shirts:

NBA: Lakers Redux

The firm evidence has shown that this patchwork of purples is a pestilence across virtually all sports, so it seems only fitting to circle back to the team that tipped all of this off: the Los Angeles Lakers. With a history of mismatched purples that stretched from at least 1969 to 1999 and affected both their home and road threads, the Lakers and their uniforms are the grape-tinged gift that keeps on galling giving.

Among my latest discoveries is that the Lakers’ 1980s road warm-ups suffered from mismatch issues similar to their game uniforms:

But that pales in comparison to what I consider the (un)holy grail of mismatches. As you’ll recall, we dispelled the notion that the Lakers’ uniforms were “consistently inconsistent” — always with darker jerseys and lighter shorts — and confirmed that the dark/light dichotomy could affect either piece of the uniform. We’ve already seen many instances of players in mismatched uniforms on the court alongside color-coordinated teammates. Now I’ve uncovered photos of the Lakers wearing uniforms with complete reversals of the mismatch relative to each other — in other words, one player sporting dark over light and another in light over dark — on the court at the same time, including this stunner:

That classic Bird/Magic fist bump — an apparent acknowledgment of grudging respect between green and purple — feels like the perfect visual valediction for this series.

Thank you, fellow uni-watchers, for indulging my unhealthy obsession with thorough examination of multi-toned purple uniforms over the last few years. And remember: If one shade of purple on a uniform is bad enough, then more than one is … worth writing several stories about for Purple Amnesty Day!

Paul here. Wow, Kary really outdid himself with this one! And while all his playful puns and alliterations are fun, we shouldn’t let them obscure the serious research he’s done here. Truly a work of scholarship — please join me in thanking him for his documentation of this bizarre trend.

Comments (58)

    Really interesting. Of course most uni watchers have noticed the helmet issue with the Vikings for years, but I don’t remember seeing such inconsistent shade within the actual jerseys themselves!
    Do we know if this is just poor quality control, or is there something specific about purple that makes it harder to match exactly across different material types? Or maybe it is just something about purple that our eyes pick up the different hues across materials more starkly than other colors?

    Thanks, Greg! Great questions!

    I think the answer is probably a little bit of a mix of all of your hypotheses. I see that that some folks further down in the comments have mentioned heavy washing and dye bleeding as a possibility, too, and I think that comes into play as well.

    I can say that, in my research, I’ve seen mismatches on uniforms of various different colors (the New York Giants’ and Los Angeles Rams’ dark blue helmets against lighter blue jerseys comes to mind, as does an issue with different shades of green on the various panels of the New York Jets’ jerseys roughly ten years ago). So it’s not exclusively a purple issue.

    I think the biggest issue is that different fabrics take dyes differently, so when uniform elements are made from a variety of fabrics or fabric blends, the same dye on them may look quite different. I think it’s more pronounced with purple because of how vibrant of a color it is.

    Finally, I think some of it has to do with the fact that plenty of players – and even a few equipment managers, especially back in the day – simply didn’t Get It(TM). They took a “close enough” approach to their uniforms and equipment, so they didn’t care about how closely the uniform components matched as long as they fit and were comfortable. I think as technology has improved, it’s a less common issue, but it’s still out there…. lurking in the shadows… waiting to pounce again when we least expect it! ;^)

    eally interesting. Of course most uni watchers have noticed the helmet issue with the Vikings for years, but I don’t remember seeing such inconsistent shade within the actual jerseys themselves!
    Do we know if this is just poor quality control, or is there something specific about purple that makes it harder to match exactly across different material types? Or maybe it is just something about purple that our eyes pick up the different hues across materials more starkly than other colors?

    D’oh! Disregard the last paragraph! I cut and pasted Greg’s message so I could easily see if for reference while I responded and forgot to delete it before I posted.

    It is fair to assume that some of the mismatching is due to laundering uniforms multiple times and the inevitable color bleed that occurs?

    That’s my guess. Some guys probably sweated/stunk more than others and their unis had to be washed more often or with stronger soap.

    I agree with Jim that laundering is one factor in this phenomenon. But see my response to Greg above for additional thoughts on contributing factors.

    During the Fred Cox/Joe Kapp years and in the beginning of the second Tarkenton era, the Vikings were my first favorite team. Loved the dark helmet with the slightly lighter jersey. The other mismatches were okay.
    I blame the crazy late 80s mismatches on the Metrodome. The jerseys wanted to be outside in the snow where they belong, so they turned all shades of purple in protest. That has to be the reason.
    Nice work, Kary. Happy Purple Day, everyone!

    Thanks, Jim! I appreciate the kind words. Happy Purple Amnesty Day!

    Many of these “purple” uniform elements look blue to me. I can’t be the only one.

    Hi, Jim. Interesting that you should mention that. In almost every one of these stories I’ve done, someone has made a comment along the lines of “are you sure that’s purple? It looks blue to me.” So no, you’re not the only one. Maybe that’s why former Lakers and Kings owner Jack Kent Cooke referred to his teams’ shade(s) of purple as “Forum Blue!” (link)

    I think it comes down to a variety of factors of color theory and how are brains perceive colors – both subjectively and in the context of surrounding colors. Remember the “blue dress/white dress” online debate from a few years ago? (link) I also think that peoples’ monitors can affect how they see colors. I know that colors look decidedly different on my computer screen as compared to the screen on my smartphone.

    The one thing I can say is that, objectively speaking, all of these uniforms are identified as purple by the teams wearing them. So regardless of how you see them, they’re officially “purple.”

    Jack Kent Cooke called the Lakers’ colors “Forum Blue and Gold”

    “Former Laker owner Jack Kent Cooke loved the color purple but, for whatever reason, refused to say that was the color he liked. He called it blue. So, to deal with the problem that the uniforms were clearly purple but the owner didn’t want it called that, Chick Hearn (or maybe Cooke himself) came up with calling the Laker purple “Forum blue.” And it stuck.”


    Mismatches aside – the 70’s Vikes sets still kill anything they’ve had since. Always wondered about the shoulder loop on white vs arm loops on the home jerseys. It’s like they simply couldnt commit.. lol.

    That was an issue they shared with the contemporary Los Angeles Rams, whose blue jerseys bore stripes while the white shirts had hoops.

    Oh man, I loved both of those unis back then! It was a rare treat to see the Rams in those blue jerseys.
    I wouldn’t want LSU to start wearing sleeve stripes on their purple jerseys, but I’m glad the Vikings and Rams used to mix it up like that. Maybe the Cardinals or Steelers could go with hoops on the road?

    Mmmmmmmm….purplicious. I love every frame of this.

    Great job, Kary!!!

    Thank you, Brian! Every picture included was a labor of love! I still get excited whenever I find a purple mismatch “in the wild,” so I’m glad to hear someone else enjoys seeing these photos as much as I’ve enjoyed putting the stories together.

    Wow – somewhere in all this violet haze should be mention of the most badly-purpled team in history; the ABA’s Denver Rockets. Purple faded to columbine faded to lilac faded to periwinkle faded to… ah hell, let’s just change to the Nuggets!

    Hi, Christopher! Great reference to one of the criminally overlooked uniforms in professional basketball history! I researched those Denver Rockets threads pretty thoroughly but could never find any strong evidence of any mismatches as between the uniform components or between team members. Apparently, the purple fading was pretty “uniform” as they lightened from royal purple to a very light lilac by the end…

    Could you imagine what sports Twitter would do to any of these mismatched purples?

    Considering that very few people on Twitter (or whatever the hell it’s called these days) Get It(TM), in my estimation, part of me wonders how many of them would notice in the first place. (Well, maybe after those of us who do Get It(TM) point it out them, they might lose their minds about it, like every other issue the Twitter-verse takes on…)

    That last pic is golden…
    James Worthy’s face!
    It’s like his uni-envy is written all over his face.

    Darker Vikings helmet had a certain charm; like the old Giants helmet vs their jersey, or like the Cowboys seafoam pants.

    Exactly !!!
    Just because something isn’t perfect doesn’t mean it “needs” to be fixed…

    Agreed! My tone when I write these pieces may be “clutching my pearls” (for comic effect, of course), but I LOVE that these little inconsistencies exist! Heck, it’s given me material to write five different pieces for Purple Amnesty Day! (And truth be told, I could have kept the series going for several more years with all the material I collected. There are still plenty of mismatched purple uniforms out there!)

    This was a really interesting article. I wonder if this is also true for other colors or just a purple issue? I can think of a few other teams that seem to rock different shades of the same color like the Cowboys with their greys and blues all being a mess, but I am genuinely curious as to how widespread this issue is!

    Thanks, CC! I responded to reader “Greg” above on this topic, so feel free to read that to get my thoughts. But briefly, it is an issue with other colors. I think it’s probably easiest to spot with purple just because of how much the color stands out, visually speaking.

    Well played Paul and Co. We now know what’s been eating Gilbert Grape the whole time.

    Happy Purple Amnesty Day!

    Apparently purple is very hard photograph. I wonder if that contributes to the problem? Maybe someone familiar with photography can weigh in.

    Hi, Wafflebored. We discussed that as it relates to old flash photography in the 2021 piece (link). I think the wavelength of purple on the color spectrum may make the mismatches more susceptible to standing out in photographs, but that doesn’t explain all of it. As I mentioned above in some of my responses, I really do think purple dyes can be tough to match across different fabrics.

    Ravens purple on their helmet still doesn’t match their jersey purples. Is it a specific two shades of purple that keep being mismatched? Like violet and mauve or something?

    Really? I looked at tons of Ravens photos, and I had trouble noticing any pronounced difference in the shades of purples on their helmet decals as compared to their jerseys. I would have loved to featured the Ravens in this piece (especially with today’s Purp Walk celebration in Baltimore), but I just couldn’t find enough evidence to support their inclusion. If you have some photos that highlight the discrepancy, I’d love to see them!

    Great job again, Kary!
    I can’t help but think that this is is a leading contributor to Paul’s disdain for purple.

    The Kings should be purple and gold period. The black and silver is just so boring.

    Amen! (My tongue-in-cheek jabs at their uniforms in the article above notwithstanding.) Long live the Kings in purple and gold!

    That is a great Bird-Magic pic…
    seen it before but it reminds me that Larry wore Chuck Taylor’s most of his career…
    No wonder he had bone spurs and back problems that ended his career early…

    They are Converse, but not the Chuck Taylors. He wore the ‘Fatsbreak’ before getting the ‘Weapon’ that he and Magic made popular.

    Talking about the Kings and extreme mismatch. Even more of a mismatch back in the 1980s when the team needed Cooper SK 2000 helmets possibly on short notice. I guess blue helmets were close enough!



    Good pull, Wade! I had those Tiger Williams photos teed up for possible inclusion, but I saw some chatter online that he was wearing a blue helmet in those photos because his regular one was damaged somehow. (I of course can’t find those comments anymore.) In any event, I couldn’t confirm it one way or the other, and I had some other images with mismatched purple helmets, so I decided to go with those. But those photos were THIS close to making it into the story. (I shouldn’t be surprised that someone of your exceptional recall and research skills would jump on that!)

    In all those mismatched purples, it is veering more red or more blue. In several of those Vikings and Kings shots, the jerseys pretty much just look blue to me. In others, the light elemets have a ton of red in them. don’t know what it is about purple that causes it to be all over the place in a way other colors aren’t.

    Good points, PTX! See my comments to reader “Jim” above (who sees many of these shades of purple as blue). As I mentioned to him, I think it does come down to how we subjectively perceive color, at least in part. It’s also a good reminder that colors really are a spectrum, and even plenty of colors we think of as “red” or “blue” have a little bit of “blue” or “red” in them (respectively). Just look at colors on an RGB wheel on your computer to see what I mean!

    Personally, I’ve always thought of the classic Newtonian “ROYGBIV” characterization of colors is a good example of individuals’ subjective interpretation of colors. When I look at a rainbow or a prism, I’ve always felt like indigo is barely there (and is really just a thin line of blue-ish purple anyway) and that the colors in the cyan spectrum (blue-green) form a much bigger piece of the spectrum. But because of the way Isaac Newton saw the colors, cyan isn’t part of our culturally-defined rainbow but indigo is. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

    Nice work, Kary!
    I freely admit they one of my uni ‘guilty pleasures’ is the Vikes 2012 purple-over-white set. The yellow Nikelace was awesome…but the sweat box was awful:

    Thanks, Chris! I always appreciate your thoughtful feedback and kind words. Good pull on that 2012 Vikings uniform! The sweatbox basically creates a mismatch all by itself!

    I go back to Joe Kapp and I wish the Vikes would just stick to the late 60’s and 70’s uniforms both home and away, and white or light gray face mask ,even the socks it showed definition between the pants and socks. Otherwise it looks like they’re wearing pants . Also stop the all purple it’s hideous, although I love the whiteout ! And for the new and upcoming helmets, all gold with a white horn would look sharp. Or a A white helmet with the Vikings decal.

    Thank you, Neil! It’s extremely gratifying when discerning readers like yourself recognize the effort behind stories like this and enjoy the end product.

    The only purple color scheme I’ve ever really enjoyed were those of the local NAIA team, the Olivet Nazarene University Tigers. Their uniforms are a play on the LSU tigers with a softer approach. They use either a deep purple and gold, or a beautiful lavender and sand/ND gold look. The gradient cross country uniforms look great, and I always love the baseball designs. I don’t think I’ve ever seen them have a purple mismatch, other than a slight one on the football helmets. Unfortunately, ONU recently switched to the squished Oregon “O” on their hats and helmets, which looks a little out of place.

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