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What Are The Most Important Characteristics For a Throwback Uniform?

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Good Monday morning, Uni Watchers. I hope everyone had a great and safe (and hopefully long) holiday weekend, as did I. My curling club held a successful bonspiel, but since I both worked and played in it, I’ve definitely gotten far far less sleep than my advancing age requires. Recovery time is also a lot longer, so I’m definitely dragging today. I’m not complaining, mind you. It was just a very long and full weekend.

Now then.

About a month or so, reader Daniel E. brought up a couple great questions in the comment section, and I thought it would make for a great post at some point, which is today. It was a post about the Rickwood Field game, but it’s a general enough question that context isn’t all that important. Here’s what he said:

And that leads me to a more opinion-related question. If you were in charge of bringing back a throwback uniform for a team, would you weight history or aesthetics more in your choice of uni? In other words, would you choose to bring back a uniform that had some important historical significance (like maybe a championship win)? Or would you prioritize bringing back the uni that you think LOOKED the best?

While today’s splash photo is for the forthcoming New York Giants franken-throwback (fauxback?), Daniel’s question wasn’t about that. But it’s a good starting point for this discussion.

Almost as soon as the “Century Red” uniform was introduced, it got a lot of flak on social media from fans and some players alike — you may recall Malik Nabers’ reaction to the throwback.

This is one of those obvious instances where the team (or whoever is “in charge” of the uniform decisions) clearly is weighing history above aesthetics, although I’m one of what appears to be a significant minority who loves this uniform for one game. And it’s interesting that as part of their first 100 years (hence the name “Century Red”), the Giants chose to throw back more to an era than a specific uniform. The pants and socks are from 1925, the jersey is from 1933, and the helmet is from 1938. The resulting franken-throwback looks like nothing worn on the gridiron today — or even from those early years, as the uniform design and helmet are modern and barely resemble anything worn 90+ years ago. But as a modern adaptation, I think it looks pretty good. Clearly others don’t share my positive reviews.

Now if I were in charge of a throwback uniform for a team, my OCD and general sticklishness would pretty much demand I pick one year, and try to replicate it as faithfully as possible, given modern uniform design. But I don’t hate the Giants’ approach here — although I would guess the awesomeness of the 1933 jersey (IMO) played a part in the decision to use that specific part of the uniform, whereas the pants — which don’t get sold at retail — and the helmet are probably a conscious historical decision not driven by the possibility of sales to fans. Could we say the specific jersey was chosen solely because of its potential retail appeal? Of course not, but if you look at the jerseys worn by the Giants between 1925 and 1936, while they had some interesting ones, the 1933 definitely stands apart. Once the calendar turned to 1937 — and until 1952 — the G-men wore solid red or solid blue jerseys. Their design style hasn’t changed much since then.

Let’s stick with the Giants’ other throwback — this one a very faithful throwback to the Parcells/LT/Phil Simms era. While I certainly don’t hate this uniform, it’s not one of my personal favorites, despite the success (two Super Bowl wins) wearing it. It has always been a fan favorite, and you’d see many of those jerseys in the stands in the years before the team officially brought it back as a throwback. This seems like a case where the team was able to have its cake and eat it too. It is both historically significant (two Supes, many stars/HOF players) and also, at least judging by fans in the stands wearing them, a good-looking throwback as well. Fans would probably have bought these for the success they brought AND their thought that it’s an attractive throwback, too.

Moving across the Hudson, the Mets back in 2016 reintroduced their 1986 throwbacks, and this too definitely falls into the “historically significant” category, and there are many Mets fans who also happen to think the uniform looks good. I’m not one of them. I never liked that uni, despite the Mets’ success wearing it (for the reasons explained in the link). So if I were in charge of throwbacks, I’d have brought back the 1986 throwbacks solely for their historical significance. YMMV.

In that article I also pick on the Patriots (Flying Elvis 2.0) and the Cavs’ sleeved jerseys as examples of bad uniforms in which a team achieved success. I’m sure there are many in New England who like Elvis just fine (especially after seeing how bad Elvis 3.0 looks), so I’m sure fans of that team would appreciate an Elvis throwback both for its historical significance and the fact they think it looks good.

But what about the uniforms worn by the Cleveland Cavaliers when they won their first — and only — NBA championship. You know the ones…

I think most of us can agree on this: that is one. ugly. uniform. But it’s also the one in which Cleveland lifted the Larry O’Brien. So, I’m sure it gets a lot more love than had the Cavs not attained the pinnacle of the basketball world while wearing them. (Weekend Editor and Northeast Ohio resident’s note: it gets ZERO love from me.) If that were just a regular uniform and the Cavs didn’t win a title in it, do you think that would ever be brought back as a throwback? If I were in charge of throwbacks for the team, I’d probably consider it for its historical significance, but even then, I don’t know if anyone would really want to see it on the court (there’s also the fact that the sleeves were one of adidas’ signature elements, so the team would probably face some pushback there as well from the current uni supplier).

In almost every example above, the historical aspect is strong. Whether or not a uniform “looks good” is more of a matter of opinion. But we’ve seen some bad uniforms (or at least, panned by many) like the Eagles 1934 throwbacks. It’s not especially historically significant (it was their second-ever uniform, not first; and they finished fourth at 4-7 that season). And it certainly wasn’t their “best” uniform. So is that a case of meeting neither criteria?

But what about the other side of the coin? I happened to love the Houston Astros original uniforms, which were brought back as throwbacks. They were historically significant (in that they were the team’s first uniforms after changing their name to “Astros”), but the team never achieved success in them. I’d weight the aesthetic appeal over the historical significance with this.

Are there uniforms that simply looked good (or best as Daniel E. asked) that aren’t historically significant? Again, I think this is a matter of opinion since all uniforms have at least some historical significance, but I’d say something like the Astros Tequila Sunrise throwbacks might be considered by some to be their “best” uniforms, but lack much historical significance — unless you consider the tequila sunrise in baseball by itself to be historically significant.

While he didn’t directly say it, Daniel E.’s questions actually beg one more important question: If you could choose only one uniform to pick for a throwback, which would be of greater importance? Historical significance or the uniform that looked the best? Ideally, if I were in charge, I’d hope to be able to check both boxes, but I think I’d go with historical significance before beauty.

Again, because “looks best” or “was the best uniform a team ever had” is subjective, it’s hard to definitively say in some cases. I loved (and still love) the Tampa Bay Bucs’ creamsicles — some hate them as uniforms, but many dislike them solely because the team never achieved much success while sporting them.

I’ll end with this: has there ever been a uniform that has been worn as a throwback where most would consider it to be a team’s “best” look AND is historically significant (like say, multiple World Series/Super Bowl/World Championship wins)? Are there teams who’ve achieved their greatest on-field success while also wearing their best-ever look? You could probably point to the Pittsburgh Steelers and Montreal Canadiens (just off the top of my head) who fit that category. The New York Yankees would probably also fit that description, but they’ve barely changed their uniforms in the past 90ish years — so you wouldn’t even consider that to be a throwback.

So now I’ll turn it over to you. Would you choose historical significance or “best” uniform if you were in charge of throwbacks? And are there any throwbacks (either that have been worn or that you’d like to see) which fall into only one column or the other? Has anyone ever worn a throwback that’s both historically significant (lets say, defined by championships alone) and is also a team’s best look?



Reminder: Big Uni Design Competition -- Deadline Approaching

In case you missed it, the University of Hawai’i and Uni Watch are partnering on a Women’s Basketball uniform design competition.

All the details are here.

Submissions will be accepted through Wednesday, July 17.

The Grand Prize winner will receive a cash prize of $1,500, roundtrip airfare for one to Honolulu, and accommodations, for the basketball game slated for January 25, where the winning design will be worn and showcased to hundreds of thousands of fans worldwide.



Guess the Game from the Uniform

Based on the suggestion of long-time reader/contributor Jimmy Corcoran, we’ve introduced a new “game” on Uni Watch, which is similar to the popular “Guess the Game from the Scoreboard” (GTGFTS), only this one asked readers to identify the game based on the uniforms worn by teams.

Like GTGFTS, readers will be asked to guess the date, location and final score of the game from the clues provided in the photo. Sometimes the game should be somewhat easy to ascertain, while in other instances, it might be quite difficult. There will usually be a visual clue (something odd or unique to one or both of the uniforms) that will make a positive identification of one and only one game possible. Other times, there may be something significant about the game in question, like the last time a particular uniform was ever worn (one of Jimmy’s original suggestions). It’s up to YOU to figure out the game and date.

Today’s GTGFTU comes from Sage Gilbert.

Good luck and please post your guess/answer in the comments below.



Uni Tweet of the Day

Probably not what you were expecting…


And finally...

…that’s going to do it for the early post. I’ll have at least one more for you today, plus Jamie’s Ticker. And of course, if any uni news breaks, I’ll have that for you as well, so be sure to keep checking back!

Everyone have a good Monday.



Comments (32)

    To complicate things further, we can distinguish between throwbacks worn to commemorate a particular occasion and those worn because they evoke a feeling of pleasant nostalgia.

    In 2003 and 2009, the Pirates wore throwbacks from a century earlier to celebrate the centennials of their first two World Series appearances. They were single games, and the visiting Red Sox/Tigers wore appropriate unis as well. (I hope they’re planning to do that again next year.) They also had multiple-year stretches recently where they wore the early ’70s and and gold-over-black mix-and-match unis as regular alternates.

    Those strike me as being two different circumstances.

    Absolutely this. Uniforms worn to celebrate a specific moment in time should err on the side of faithfulness to that exact uniform; those meant as broader throwbacks can mix and match for aesthetic benefit. A uniform celebrating Wilt Chamberlain’s 100 point game should be as exact a replica as modern fit and materials will permit; a throwback to the Iverson-era black Sixers uni, I’d be far more forgiving of modifications to the lettering, numbers, and trim, things like that, because that uniform wasn’t truly uniform throughout. There were modifications during its time anyway (trim being removed, pants logos being adjusted) so further iteration isn’t as much of an issue.

    I think a throwback should highlight either a historical achievement or a unique moment in uniform history. Examples of each:

    –A hypothetical series between the Red and the Red Sox in 2025 featuring the teams in their 1975 uniforms to mark the 50th anniversary of the ’75 World Series. (Historical achievement)
    –The 2018 Mariners throwing back to their “Turn Ahead the Clock” look. (Unique moment in uni history)

    Since you brought up the Reds…I’d say that the Machine era was both their best look and defines their best years as a franchise.

    Throwbacks: For historical significance. Most fans can agree.
    Uniform renovation: For looks. Good luck getting fans to agree, but if you can satisfy traditionalists and modernists you have done your job well.

    The Steelers current throwbacks are both their best and most significant and successful in team history.

    They just can’t get the number font perfect even though they used that font for almost 40 years. The Penguins have it right.

    NY Jets uniform change to essentially the Namath era unis. This doesn’t exactly fit your article (they didn’t just wear it as a throwback/fauxback, the redesign was a different shade of green, the helmet logo was “updated”, etc.), but it represents the most significant historical achievement, and also is by far the best look for them IMO. I believe Parcells said something along the lines of the design being the identity of the team, or something like that, and there’s no question the change back was also for nostalgic purposes.

    I personally think throwbacks should faithfully represent a specific year, team, or time period (think Bills 90-93), I believe that if we can “fix” certain issues, we should.

    Perfect example, if the 2039 Saints throwback 25 years to their 2014 unis, I wouldn’t want them to use the Nike toilet seat collar. I’d want them to use a full gold collar. Some quirks become lovable over time, but the vast majority were design flaws that should be “fixed” now that we have the technology to get colors to match etc.

    Pittsburgh fan here. I’d say that the Steelers and Penguins BOTH fit the bill of best look and best results. It’s clichéd at this point, but I’m all in on the Steelers going back to block full time, and even grey facemasks.

    As for others, the one that comes immediately to mind is the Jaguars. Two AFCC appearances, while heartbreaking for them, occurred in the 90s essentially under their original template, which is definitely their best look overall.

    I’d also personally argue the Houston Rockets, Miami Dolphins, Buffalo Bills, and Arizona Diamondbacks fit that bill as well

    The San Diego Chargers won the AFL Championship (their only championship) while wearing the powder blues (considered one of the best uniforms of all time)

    I think if you are talking one-off throwbacks to honor an anniversary it doesn’t really matter if it was a good or bad looking uniform. Though teams often dig into their history to bring back uniforms just because people like how they looked. In that case I think it is an interesting position, use the Eagles kelly green as an example. I think most fans like that uniform better, so you shouldn’t need that as a throwback, it should be the full time, or at least a variant/update of it such that the exact throwback is redundant. I am of the opinion if there a throwback people are begging for, it is often because it is better than the current uniform. So really it shouldn’t be a throwback at all, it should be the full time.
    That takes us back to my first point, where is makes sense to often feature ugly throwbacks simply because you are honoring something that happened historically for the franchise.

    There’s so much that plays into this, but I always go to, “Do I like how it looks on the field?” If it looks good, then it’s easier to swallow everything else surrounding why it’s being used.

    Funny, Tampa’s creamsicles are such a unique case that I don’t like them as a full time uni combo, but I love to see them come out once a year.

    One size does not fit all, but my general formula for wearing throwbacks looks like this: 1. Uniforms of team’s greatest successes. 2. Expansion year uniform, where applicable. 3. Paying tribute to an honored player and the uniform of their era. 4. Fan favorites.

    …and now for something completely different…..that is a Sousaphone that Uecker is playing, not a tuba. Band geeks everywhere shall applaud this ;-)

    With new uniform templates limiting the accuracy a throw back can achieve, could the Cavs throw back to their championship uniform minus the sleeves? To me that is an integral part of the design.

    Came here to speak on this exact thing. Tailor this uni into a tank top and it’s very decent. Render it in burgundy and put it in the regular rotation.

    As for the prompt: unis celebrating a specific event/player/era should be accurate. Unis that exist simply so a team has a retro option in the wardrobe can be Frankensteined or altered.

    That said, current Buccos look as good as they ever have. Creamsicles are great but not the be-all-end-all. Current Pats is their best look. Pat Patriot is (imho of course) one of the most overrated logos. 80s Mets: love the shoulder stripes, everything else is meh, which means the traditional (and modern) Mets uni is meh, because it’s just this one but without the shoulder stripes. Steelers bumble bees are the best unis in football. These giants Frankenbacks are gorgeous and should replace their current cookie cutter set.

    Worst throwbacks or “throwbacks”: current warriors home/away, mariners TATC unis.

    Best: too many to mention but kudos to the NHL for so consistently getting it right for the winter classic, whether it’s a real throwback or a fauxback.

    I guess the most important part of a throwback football uniform would be the untucked undershirt. Sorry, couldn’t help myself. :)

    The Detroit Pistons. Red white and blue with Isiah Thomas and the Bad Boys, went teal in the 90’s, got back to their senses, and got their last championship with Hamilton, Billups, Wallace, Wallace et al. That’s the best look…classicist because it looks like them, but not traditionalist because the custom font rocks. The team inexplicably went radial NOB, except for the special anniversary celebration not too long ago, they went back to the straight NOB that is quite frankly their quirk that they should own forever. That’s my nominee of a throwback being historically significant AND the best thing they ever wore.

    Re: the Giants, I don’t understand why they chose different elements from different years. The pants and socks are virtually the same in ’25 and ’33, and the helmets (they had 2 in ’33) aren’t that much different either, if they wanted historical accuracy, they could have used the ’33 crown stripes instead of the ’38 “wolverine” wings, not a huge difference aesthetically, those two patterns were the dominant style of leather helmets in those days. I’m also in the minority with Phil, I like them as a once or twice a year uni, especially if they wore them against another old school team in similar era unis, i.e. Wash, Philly, Bears (their current throwback v Giants’ would be awesome), Packers.

    Re: History of success v. pure aesthetics, sometimes it’s already decided for the team, i.e. SF Giants and 49ers. For the Giants, 5 of their 8 championships were won in essentially their current home uni (2 in NY, 3 in SF, with some minor differences), and the 49ers, 4 in their current uni (minor differences) and 1 in their 55/94 throwback, which is, in my opinion, the only aesthetically interesting divergence from their uni history. The only historical throwbacks left for the 49ers are plain red and white from their early years (boring), or the intermittent sliver helmet/pants look, which I think would be more confusing than nostalgic for a lot of 49er fans.

    Mr. Baseball not only grabbed the tuba from the band in Busch Stadium before Game 2 of the 1964 World Series against the Yankees, he shagged fly balls with. He said he had to give the owner a few hundred dollars for damages.

    Nothing can diminish their championship, of course, but that Cavaliers uni is just embarrassing. It’s like kneeling at the altar during your marriage to the girl you love passionately with toilet paper stuck to the bottom of your shoe.

    P.S. Uniform design peaked in the 1960s. I doubt there are any unis since then that have looked as good.

    I am probably one of the few people that hate throwback games. To me the games are far from being aesthetically pleasing!

    A football uniform worn in the 60’s looks so out of place with the modern helmet, facemask, pads and modern foot wear. It isn’t beautiful to the eyes. Add in the modern stadium with turf, ribbon boards etc.; personally I can’t watch it even if a favorite team is playing in the game.

    I feel the same about baseball. The old wool uniform with shorter sleeves looks so out of place on the modern player wearing protective amour as well as batting gloves, pajama pants and shoes and T-shirts with Nike, New Balance etc.

    I hold the 2007 Eagles fauxs in high regard.
    While the Phillies “mod” look will forever be seen as historically significant, let’s be honest…they were not the best they’ve dressed in. Today, the team has elevated the road powders from that time, but doesn’t celebrate the pins they won in ‘80 in…and I’ll say the road grays ftom 70-71 and the 89-91 versions best the blues.

    I agree. The “powder blues” come back have run their coarse. Bring back the maroon pinstripes for a season or two.

    Leaving aside details like front numbers, sleeve logos, and the letter on the cap, the 1957, 1995, and 2021 Braves all wore roughly the same uniform. I’d also submit that it’s historically their best look.

    You like the Giants hideous throwback, but don’t care for the 1990s uniform. You obviously have the wrong job. Ugly uniforms take away the visuals from watching the game. It was bad enough having to watch the Nets with their silly cartoon city connect unis (bet you liked them) now this. If not looking good matters why bother? Obviously it does not.

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