The Atlanta Falcons Uniform History

by Tim Brulia

Chronicling what we hope will be the first in a series where the GUD will create a visual and written history of an NFL team's uniform history, exclusively using the graphics as presented by the GUD's graphic engineer, Bill Schaefer.

We start with the Atlanta Falcons. Note that some of this material originally appeared on Uni Watch on February 5, 2017 as written by yours truly.

1966: The Atlanta Falcons begin play this season as an expansion franchise. The teams breaks out in uniform colors of red, black, old gold and white. The helmets are red and feature an emblem of a black falcon (trimmed in white), with its large wing down. Whether by design or not, the bird, on the right side of the helmet, sort of resembles the shape of an "F." This is seen on the right side of the helmet. The left side of the headgear shows the falcon facing right. The striping on the helmet contains five stripes with a thin gold/thin white/black/thin white/this gold pattern. Jerseys come in white and black. The white jersey features block black numbers outlined in red with the TV numbers placed on the shoulders. The sleeves are adorned with the black falcon facing forward, very thinly outlined in white, then red. The black jersey is styled in similar fashion, with white numbers trimmed in red. The pants are white with thin side stripes in a black/red/black pattern. The socks are black with three separated stripes; a thick inner red stripe flanked by thin outer white stripes.


1967: Perhaps because the black falcon on the sleeves of the black jersey gets visually lost from a distance, the Falcons change the sleeve logos to white with a very thin red outline. No other changes are made. 

1968: The jerseys drop the sleeve emblems and add stripes to the sleeves and the TV numbers move from the shoulders to the sleeves. There's actually two sets of jerseys. One set is worn for warm games and both white and black jerseys are short sleeved and feature a white elastic edge, filled in with three separated micro stripes of red and black.
Detail on the white micro striped jersey
Detail on the black micro striped jersey

The other set is the more familiar durene jerseys and feature three separated stripes on the sleeves. On the white jersey the sleeve stripe pattern is a thick black stripe flanked by thin outer red stripes while the black jersey shows the pattern used on the socks (thick inner red stripe, thin outer white stripes.
Falcons 1968 durene uniforms

1969: The NFL's 50th season patch is worn on the left shoulder of the jerseys for the year. The short sleeved jersey set from '68 is ditched.
jersey back (white) and jersey front (black) showing placement of 50NFL patch.

1970: In the merger season, the gold stripes are removed from the helmet, which now takes on an equal width white/black/white format. The jerseys, as now required by the NFL, feature names on the backs of the jerseys, solid black lettering on the white jerseys and solid white on the black jerseys.

1971: The black jerseys take a hike and are replaced by red jerseys. All the red trim that had been on the black jersey becomes black on the red shirts. The socks are also reversed from black to red, with the former thick red stripe turning to black, worn with both sets. This look would hold firm through 1977, though white cleats would become the norm by 1973.

1978: While the helmet remains the same (albeit with slightly smaller logos and a white facemask replacing the gray), the rest of the uni undergoes some revision. The white jersey now sports a V-neck collar trimmed in red with a hint of black trim, the numbers are now red with black outline, the TV numbers return to the shoulders, sleeve stripes now are equal width (separated) with a red/black/red pattern and between the TV numbers and the stripes, the Falcon logo returns in black with the NOB remaining in black. The red jersey finds a V-neck collar trimmed in black and a new color, silver. The numbers on the red jersey are now silver with black outline with the TV numbers reverting back to the shoulders, sleeve stripes now equal width (separated) with a silver/black/silver combo with the black Falcon logo placed between the TV numbers and the stripes on the sleeves, with the NOB remaining in white. The pants also see a revamp changing from white to silver and the stripe pattern going to a red/thin white/black/thin white/red combo. The red socks lose their stripes and are now a solid color.
1978 Atlanta Falcons new look.

1979: To make the sleeve logos on the red jersey pop a bit, a thin layer of silver is added to the Falcon.
Sleeve detail of 1979 red jersey.












1984: The facemasks go from white to black.

1987: The Falcon logo moves to become superimposed over the sleeve stripes on both sets of jerseys.
Sleeve detail on the 1987 Falcons jerseys.

1988: A memorial patch (small black football with a white "30") for deceased cornerback David Crudip is worn over the left collarbone on both sets of jerseys starting October 16th for the remainder of the season.










1989: A black block "73" for deceased offensive tackle Ralph Norwood is worn on the left collarbone starting November 26 for both white and red jerseys and then later a black block "83" for tight end Brad Beckman is worn on the right collarbone of the white jersey only for the final game (12/24) of the season.



Prior to Week 12, the Falcons had no memorial patches. 

1990: The Falcons go full stop black. The helmets go from red to black with the black Falcon logo with the white outline remaining unchanged (well, maybe some minute alterations) and the stripes are deleted. The white jerseys are depleted of collar piping and sleeve stripes with the front and back numbers staying as they were on the previous white jersey though the NOB is black with red outlines on the letters. The red jerseys are dumped and for the first time in 20 years, black makes a comeback as the dark jersey color. as with the white set, collar trim and sleeve stripes are eliminated, the numbers and NOB's are white with red outlines. As for the TV numbers, they appear only on the right shoulder as a special patch commemorating the Falcons' 20th season is worn on the left shoulder, taking the place of the TV numbers. Starting in Week 7, the Falcons reverse number colors on the white jersey, with the numbers now black with red outline. The pants remain silver, but the stripe pattern is reversed to a black/thin white/red/thin white/black motif. Finally, the socks go from a solid red to solid black.
Detail of Falcons 25th season patch.






















Example of the 1991 TV numbers on black jersey.
1991: TV numbers return to the left shoulder of the jerseys.








1994: The Falcons wear the commemorative patch for the NFL's 75th season on the left collarbone area. Beginning November 13th a very small football patch (black on the white jersey, white on the black set) with the imprint of "ZEKE" in honor of deceased equipment manager Whitey Zimmerman. In Week 3, the Falcons wear exact throwback duplicates of the red jerseyed uniform from 1971-1977 and the white jerseyed uni of the same 71-77 era for Week 4.
A full look at the 1994 Falcons unis, including the NFL 75th Season patch, the Zeke memorial patch and the throwbacks.

1995: A black collar is added to the white jersey.







1997: White jerseys see a return of red numbers and NOB's with black outline. The pant stripes also go back to a red/white/black/white/red combo with the red and black stripes of equal width. Solid red socks are worn with the white jersey, while the black socks are still worn with the black jersey. Beginning on November 2nd, an oval Rankin Smith memorial patch is worn on the left collarbone, with a script "RMS." The patch is black on the white jersey and white on the black jersey.
1997 Falcons uniforms with red numbered white jerseys and Rankin Smith memorial patch.

1998: The Falcons wear the Super Bowl XXXIII logo patch on the left collarbone of the black jersey for the Big Game.

2003: The Falcons undergo a major overhaul of their uniform. The helmet stays black, but the logo is altered for the first time in team history. Red flares are added to the trim, the bird tilts forward a little more than before and the white outline also now has a sliver of silver. The white jersey retains its black collar and red numbers and NOB's with black outline, but the font is modified and a tiny bit of drop shadow is added to the outline. The "sleeves" feature unusual vertical striping with outer black stripes, inner white stripes and a center portion of red, in which the modified black and red falcon is shown facing forward. The black jersey follows a similar pattern with the sleeve configuration, and the numbers and NOB's in white with red outline. The red jersey makes a return appearance as an alternate jersey with a black collar and the similar sleeve striping and the numbers being white with the black outline/slight drop shadow. A tiny wordmark is added to all the jerseys, with the mark in black on the white jersey and white on the black jersey and red jersey. The outer black sleeve stripes on all sets form a pinstripe wide side panel on the jerseys. There are three sets of pants, two are white, one has a black pinstripe that flares slightly near the bottom of the pant leg (worn with the white jersey and black jersey), the other white pant has a red pinstripe with a slight flare near the bottom of the pant leg (worn with the red jersey) and the third set of pants is black with a red pinstripe that flares red near the bottom of the pant leg. There are three sets of socks as well, black (worn with the white/white set and the black/white set), red (worn with the red/white set) and white with a very thick black stripe (worn with the white/black and black/black sets).
The all-new 2003 Atlanta Falcons uniforms!


2004: The red jersey becomes the primary color jersey. The black pants are only worn once, with the alternate black jersey (also worn just once - Week 12 vs. New Orleans - with black socks) and the white socks with thick black stripe is gone.

2005: Five various combinations are worn: white/white, white/black, red/white, red/black and black/black.

2006: Four combinations are worn, with red/black eliminated from the mix.

2007: Same as 2006.

2008: The league-wide Gene Upshaw commemorative patch is worn for Week 1. For the Falcons, the black circle patch is worn on the left collarbone of the red jersey. Otherwise, the same four combinations as worn in 2006 and 2007 are seen.

2009: The black jersey and black pants are dropped for good, but the Falcons trot out a throwback hearkening to the 1966 black jerseyed team, complete with red helmet WITH gold stripes.
Beauty!

2011: A commemorative 10th anniversary 9/11 Memorial ribbon/patch is worn for Week 1 at Chicago, which is affixed to the left collarbone of the white jersey.

2012: A commemorative 50th year patch for the Pro Football Hall of Fame is worn for Weeks 14 (white jersey at Carolina Panthers) and 15 (red jersey vs. New York Giants).

2013: Due to the NFL ruling requiring only one helmet to be used for the season, the popular 1966 red-helmeted throwbacks are terminated and the Falcons are left with just two uni combos.

2015: A commemorative 50th Season patch is worn on the left collarbone for the regular season
on both sets of jerseys. 

2016: For two games (Week 7 vs. San Diego and Week 15 vs. San Francisco), the Falcons wore a mishmash throwback, with the 1990-2002 style black helmet worn with the 1966 jersey/pants/socks combo.
In Week 9, for their Thursday night game, for the league mandated "Color Rush" campaign, the Falcons simply chose to wear their white/white combo, with all white socks (though many players chose to wear the normal black socks instead). 
And for Super Bowl LI vs. New England, the Falcons had a Super Bowl LI affixed to the red jerseys.


To close out, the history of when the Atlanta Falcons have wore white for home games:

Hopefully, many more of these to come. Stay tuned!!

Offseason Update #1 - From the Office of Bill Schaefer

Hello, sportsfans.

I just wanted to take a few moments out of your day to let you know what is going on here at the GUD.

If you've been following our 'Updates' page, you'll already know that, in addition to a few old-timey tweaks and additions, we've totally refurbished and improved the NFC North teams (Chicago, Green Bay, Detroit, and Minnesota) for the NOB (Name-On-Back) Era beginning in 1970. We felt it was important to show a more accurate placement - higher on the shoulders - for the NOBs because that would allow us to better show the back numbers in a much more appropriate and realistic size.

As these changes to number size and positioning are being made, other characteristics are being fine-tuned as well.  These additional features include the resizing and repositioning of some TV numbers, slight changes to colors where needed, alteration of sleeve lengths, more accurate repositioning some jersey patches,  and adjustments to the width of sleeve, pants, and sock stripes.

On the weekly match-up pages, beginning in 1970, you will notice the difference in number sizes for those four teams compared to all other teams.

The next group on our list will be the AFC East beginning with Buffalo. Improvements will also be made for original AFL teams as nearly every AFL team began wearing NOBs in the League's inaugural season, 1960.

Stay Tuned.
Our season never ends!

Bill Schaefer

Not Quite So Color-ful Rush

So I was reading the main blog on UniWatch from December 28, 2016.

A contributor had decided to re-imagine this season's Thursday Night Color Rush games as throwback games instead. A fine idea. However, a misguided one. Here's why.

The concept behind Color Rush, besides making money for the League by selling new jerseys, was to have teams playing in colorful uniforms at the same time. But as one of my middle-school art teachers told us, "White isn't a color. It's a shade."

Out of the 15 games that were promoted as "Color Rush" games, only two featured both teams in color. Jacksonville & Tennessee played in an exact rematch of a game from last year while Denver and San Diego played in the best looking game of the year. That's it. Two games. The other 13 games? Not Color Rush. Aside from new uniforms, what was worthwhile? A team in a colored jersey against a team in a white jersey? Where have we seen that before besides 99.99% of all NFL games since 1957?

If you are going to hype games as Color Rush, shouldn't you actually have that live up to it's billing?

Now some may argue "But that is not the League's fault that the teams scheduled to play each other on Thursday nights have Color Rush uniforms that are chromatically 'too close' to each other. One team had to wear white to provide contrast."

I give you October 4, 1952.

Because of the use of white footballs for night games, teams were not allowed to wear light colored jersey as it made spotting the ball difficult. So what we see here is the Steelers in black jerseys hosting the Browns in brown jerseys. Even with what we in the 21st century would probably consider sub-standard lighting at Forbes Field, the teams had no problem discerning brown from black. Do you know how we know this? This was the second such meeting. On October 7, 1950, Cleveland and Pittsburgh played featuring the exact same uniform match-up under the exact same night-game circumstances.

Are we going to pretend that human vision was that much better 60+ years ago that viewers and players can no longer discern black from brown?

Other examples exist that are even more drastic.

For most of the 1930s and 1940s (and a good portion of the 1950s) both the Bears and Packers primarily wore navy jerseys. The only real difference between the uniforms were Green Bay's yellow helmets compared to Chicago's navy ones and the yellow shoulder yokes on the Packers' jerseys. Basically this would be like the Cardinals and 49ers paying while both were wearing their own shades of red jerseys. And the Bears and Packers did this twice each year.

Here are the Bears and Packers playing in the December 14, 1941 Western Division Playoff game in Wrigley Field.


Yes. A playoff game featuring both teams wearing navy jerseys.

Imagine a Houston vs New England playoff game in a few weeks with the Texans trotting out into Gillette Stadium wearing navy jerseys to play the host Patriots in navy jerseys.

So what's my point?

The NFL is making a big deal about these Color Rush games. They make the schedule to determine who plays who on Thursday nights. They pit teams like Arizona (black Color Rush uniform) against San Francisco (black Color Rush uniform). Clearly we can't have both teams wearing black. But rather than have Arizona wear their normal red jerseys and pants for a red vs black match-up, we get boring all-black vs boring all-white. How is this interesting?

What the League needs to take away from this season's Thursday Night Color Rush games simply is this...when done right, these games can look good.

When not done right, why bother? Denver and San Diego can play orange vs blue but four weeks later Cleveland goes all-white instead of all-orange in Baltimore against an all-purple Ravens? Wasted opportunities.

C'mon, NFL. Just get it right.

Bill Schaefer

Five Years of the GUD

by Larry Schmitt


It’s been a while since I’ve written for the blog, and the Gridiron Uniform Database’s fifth anniversary seemed like a good occasion to come back.

I still remember the GUD’s debut on Sunday June 11, 2011 when it was featured on the front page of Uniwatch.


Having been a fan of football history and uniforms since my teens, this was exactly the kind of site I’d hoped would surface one day. I happily clicked away, browsed and explored for hours that Sunday morning, savoring every visual treat.

Of course, much has changed since then.

Originally the site only went back as far as 1933. The years 1920 – 1932 were added incrementally over the summer of 2012, and many of the templates were empty, as photos for that era, especially for the small town teams, are scarce.


According to the sidebar on Bill’s Update page there have been 1,260 updates to the database’s content since a running count was initiated in January 2012. While many were new discoveries, the vast majority represent a collection of adjustments, refinements, tweaks and in some cases, major overhauls that resulted from the relentless and continuous research to provide the most comprehensive and accurate visual library possible.

While there may be times the GUD appears dormant, nothing can be further from the truth.

Most visitors to the GUD are familiar with the names Tim Brulia (historian & researcher), Rob Holecko (webmaster) and Bill Schaefer (graphic artist & researcher), the official owners of the GUD. There also is a network of GUD frequenters who volunteer their time and assist in large-scale projects and/or forward the occasional historical nugget that might lead to a correction.

You can visit the GUD Forum where some of this takes place. The Forum goes all the way back to the GUD’s second day, June 12, 2011. It serves as a quasi-time capsule to many of the early activities, and you can see some of the source material for what is now represented in the database.
My first contribution to the GUD was offering a color photo of the Giants Charlie Conerly in 1948, which led to a correction of New York’s leather helmets for that season.


 


That turned out to be the first of many for me. I often spend my free hours perusing the internet for pro football history, whether it’s statistics, player biographies or old photos. Whenever I came across something I thought was interesting I’d forward it to Bill and Tim for their consideration. Over time, they tutored me on developing a sharper eye for researching, a major part of which was identifying mis-dated photos (you’d be surprised how many exist in the Getty and AP catalogs), as well as discerning the subtleties of interpreting colors from black-and-white photos.

  
Why does blue sometimes appear darker than red, and other times red appear darker than blue? The best answer I can offer is: it depends on who took the picture, what type of equipment was used, if filters were involved, the type of film and how it was developed.

In March of 2013 I was invited (and possibly may have even been the stimulus for) my first large scale GUD project, which we termed “The Great Belt Overhaul.” What simply began as a casual surfing of old Earl Campbell photos during my lunch hour at work dovetailed into the correction of at least a dozen teams belt colors, most of which spanned the 1960’s through the 1980’s.

At the time the GUD commonly showed teams with black belts as a sort of default. While discovering that the Houston Oilers belts were white with white pants and blue with blue pants, we noticed that the Pittsburgh Steelers varied yellow and black belts for a similar period. While researching the Steelers we found similar evidence for the New Orleans Saints, and while researching the Saints we found that...well, you get the gist of it. One of our inside saying that we still use came from this endeavor...”While looking for one thing, I found something else...”

It was also at this time that most of my efforts were transferred to email, rather than the forum. I do occasionally add to a thread in the General Comments section of the forum, just for the fun of it. It’s been going for about three-and-a-half years now.


Since that time, some of the other large scale projects undertaken have been the addition of the USFL database in November 2013, the addition of officials’ uniforms in the May of 2014, 2015’s deep-dive project into newspaper archives that resulted in the GUD having a nearly complete photographic record of preseason games dating back to 1950, and the debut of AFL II earlier this year.

You’ll also notice that the ongoing endeavor to represent every regular and post season game on a weekly basis currently goes back to 1937, save for a small handful of games from the 1940’s where we haven’t discovered a photo yet.


My conservative estimation is that the GUD currently displays 14,320 weekly matchups in full color – where else are you going to find information like that? And you the reader can be confident that what is displayed is accurate, as no stone had been left unturned while researching libraries and newspaper archives. If a photo cannot be found to back it up, then the templates are left blank. Guesstimations are not good enough.

To that end, while most of us conduct our research online through newspaper archives and libraries, Tim has taken several sojourns to the Library of Congress in Washington DC and the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio.

While I most enjoy researching the first three decades of pro football – essentially the leather helmet era – I have one modern era project that I remember fondly. One weekend morning in April 2014, while casually looking over photos of the Dan Fouts-era Chargers, I noticed some irregularities in the orientation of San Diego’s lightning bolts on their pants.


I broadened my search to include the 1960’s and found that not only were they facing multiple directions – they could be forward or backward and upward or downward – but over the years the bolts themselves changes shape and size.



I began saving photos in files broken down by era, and while the bolt placements was often erratic, I was able to nail down the style of the bolts definitively. Did you know from 1961-65 the bolts on San Diego’s pants contained eight points on each side, while all other years through 1987 they had seven?



Or that the only year with uniform bolt orientation was 1984?


I’m not sure if Bill recalls this project as fondly as I do. Initially frustrated at the challenging work, he diligently forged a system - over the course of a full year - to accurately present what you see in the San Diego database today. His ultimate balance of persistence and patience paid off in a big way.

Bill himself handled the 1992-present day Chargers bolts research, and along the way picked up on number font variations.



I guarantee you won’t get this attention to detail anywhere else.

So, what’s next? I don’t want to give away too much, but sometime in the near future, the weekly matchups are likely to extend back a few seasons further, and the other AFL’s will ultimately take their rightful place to complete the presentation of every major professional football league over the past 96 years.

There also has been a recent boon in discoveries of missing teams from the 1920’s. Many of the templates that appear blank today will be replaced by full color representations of what these pioneers of the game we all love today wore on the gridiron in near anonymity over 85 years ago

Ongoing corrections and enhancements are always taking place. Recently, many teams have had their catalogues refined with what we call the two-tone effect on their pants (the result of two differing materials, usually with the front being a shiny, satin-like quality). 




There also has been a recent emphasis on fine-tuning jersey number fonts and sizes as well as leather helmet styles. Some of these differences can be seen in places like the weekly matchups as gifs when multiple styles were worn concurrently.


The research section also is updated regularly. Among the information readily available is a log of every instance of and NFL team wearing white at home since 1957 and what is believed to be the most comprehensive representation of helmet decals anywhere.


Rest assured, all of these will be updated continually as the 2016 NFL season proceeds.

Earlier this year, Rob gave the GUD itself a face lift. The front page has been reorganized to better display the content that is available. Several of the pages inside are now sortable, making navigation easier.


He also added some new features that highlight historical facts and firsts.


All that great information aside, what I appreciate most about the GUD is that it is a community. Right from the very beginning Tim, Rob and Bill welcomed all visitors not only to enjoy the content that was presented, but take part in the collaborative journey that is the GUD. They allowed an obsessive fan like myself to feel like a part of the group.

I'm looking forward to the next five years and all the discoveries that await us!

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