The Gridiron Uniform Database Welcomes the Pro Bowl

It is our pleasure at the Gridiron Uniform Database to bring your the graphic history of the Pro Bowl.  Ably detailed by our graphic engineer Bill Schaefer, we would like to take this time to walk you through the history of the Pro Bowl uniforms, as well as the AFL All-Star Game.

We start with the very first NFL Pro All-Star Game between the New York Giants and the NFL All-Stars (with help from some players from non-NFL west coast teams) played at Wrigley Field in Los Angeles on January 15, 1939.  The Giants wore their standard red jersey, while the All-Stars wore a rather generic uniform of white helmet, plain blue jerseys, white pants and blue socks.  For the next two Pro Star games (both played in L.A.), the NFL Champs (the Packers and Bears respectively) wore their normal garments, while the All-Stars wore outfits that featured a red jersey with a white shoulder insert with a blue star on each shoulder.  After the 1941 and 1942 seasons, the Pro Star Game was played in the colder climes of New York and then Philadelphia.  Uniform wise, these games resembled their baseball counterpart as the Champions wore their own unis against the All-Stars, who wore their normal team outfits, making for a colorful - if helter-skelter - look for the brave fans in the stands.

After an eight year hiatus, the Pro All-Star Game was resurrected by the Los Angeles Newspaper Charities Associaiton and played at the Memorial Coliseum.  The format was the best of the American Conference playing the best of the National Conference.  The uniforms were exact duplicates of each other, with one team in red helmets and jerseys, the other side in blue helmets and jerseys.  In the 1952 season game, the Pro Bowl rectified the confusing scenario by permanently outfitting the American (soon to be Eastern) Conference in red helmets and jerseys and the National (soon to be Western) Conference in blue helmets, but with white jerseys.

The East and West would retain the jersey colors right through 1969.  The only real changes to these duds would be: 1957 season when both team would apply white rounded helmet numbers, 1958 season when the helmet numbers were dropped, but TV numbers would be added to the sleeves of both jerseys, and a thick red shoulder stripe would be added to the East's red jerseys, 1965 season when the generic helmets would be repainted gold for both squads, with a red/white/red stripe pattern for the East and a blue/white/blue stripe pattern was given to the West. And for 1969 season, both sides wore the commemorative patch for the NFL's 50th season on their left shoulders.

Before we hit the Pro Bowl chronology since the 1970 merger, let's take a quick rundown of the AFL All-Star Game's uni history.  The AFL didn't start playing an All-Star Game until year 2, after the 1961 season.  The East wore a white jersey with blue shoulders bedecked in white stars while the West players wore red jerseys with white shoulders and a bevy of red stars.  The unique feature was that the players wore their regular team helmets in the fray, making the game a little more colorful.  The Divisions would switch uni colors every now and then through the years. One game (played after the 1965 season) featured the Champion vs. All-Stars format (similar to what the National Hockey League was doing with their All-Star Game at the time), with the Buffalo Bills wearing their normal white uniform against the All-Star clad in red. Changes to the unis came in the last two years the AFL ASG was played (1968 and 1969 seasons).  The East would have all players wearing a plain white helmet and the West featured the players in solid blue helmets.  The next year, the AFL, perhaps sensing history, bedecked both teams with the AFL logo on the helmets and the jerseys.  The ASG game played on January 17, 1970, was the very last the American Football League game ever played.  One twist of irony in the AFL All-Stat Game...one of the innovations of the AFL, names on the backs of the jerseys, was never worn on any of the AFL All-Star jerseys!

Now back to the post-merger NFL. The Pro Bowl was now referred to as the AFC-NFC Pro Bowl, and the uniforms reflected the new NFL.  The best of the AFC would wear a red helmet with a large white "A" trimmed in blue, with a white/blue/white stripe combo, a white jersey with "AMERICAN" on the front in red with red numbers and finally, names on the back, red pants and white socks.  The NFC's finest would sport a white helmet with a medium sized blue "N" outlined in red, with a blue/red/blue stripe pattern, blue jerseys with "NATIONAL" on the front in white with white numbers also with names on the back, white pants and blue socks.  With the exception of some tweaking (or in case after the '73 season, the removal) of the stripes, these unis would be untouched through the 1977 season ending Pro Bowl.

In the 1978 season game, the NFL decided to allow the players to wear the same team logo helmets they  wore during the season.  This look would last right through the 1987 season ender.

Starting with the 1988 season finale, the NFL began the tricking up phase of PB uniforms.  For the first time, stars became a part of the look, going down the sides of the pants, as well as the PB logo on the jerseys. Also for the first time in 1988, the maker's mark (Wilson) was affixed to the uni.  This revision lasted through the 1993 season ender.

By the 1994 season, the Pro Bowl unis entered their current phase, with uniforms changing design every two or three years.  Such zany items as fading colors, sublimated logos, team wordmarks, PB logos below the back numbers, ankle length pants (the 2010 season edition), etc. come to mind.

But two things have remained constant in spite of the free-form design era:  1) Players wearing their own teams' helmets and 2) The base color for the AFC has always been red and the NFC's has always been blue.  That goes back to the 1970 merger.

Oops! I almost forgot!  We even added the lone AAFC All-Star Game, the Shamrock Bowl that was played after the AAFC's 1949 season!

I'd like to thank the website mmbolding.com in particular for their detailed history of the Pro Bowl.  Also we courtesy the database of the Los Angeles Times, gettyimages.com, google news archive and newspaperarchive.com for much of the information that you see here.  Again, without the artistic talents of our own graphic engineer, Bill Schaefer, the GUD would not be able to make this valuable addition to the database.  Whatever you may think of the Pro Bowl today, the game has been an integral part of the NFL's history and to not include it would be a disservice to the mission of the GUD.

With the recent completion of adding the 1920-1932 uniforms and this inclusion of the Pro Bowl's uniform history, the GUD has completed its task of the complete history of Pro Football Uniforms from the beginning...or have we?  Stay with us for the coming season to find out!  

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