"Clutching at Pearls"...or..."Walking on Eggshells" - by Bill Schaefer

Here at GUD, one of our little inside jokes has always been that when we are doing some research and looking for something specific, we almost always end up stumbling across something else we hadn't planned on uncovering. I've taken that to the next level.

Last week, I was sitting at a red light. I happened to look to my left at the car in the left-turn lane. It was a little white sports car. I'm not sure what model it was because it was its color that honestly caught my eye. It wasn't really white. It was an off-white. Kinda pearly. Kinda 'eggshell,' as the color swatches would say when we were painting our new house after we moved in two Thanksgivings ago. It reminded me of something and I just couldn't think of what it was. I arrived home and put away the groceries and then went into my office. That's when it hit me.

I remembered how, years ago, it always bothered me when white-helmeted teams wore helmets that weren't white. It was obvious when they wore white jerseys, especially at night. 

After convincing our own Larry Schmitt to aid with some quick research, we found that almost every white helmet from 2005 - 2017 was actually this pearl, eggshell shade of white. I say 'almost' because it was found to be about 95% accurate. We found one, single team that did stay true and wore clean white helmets during this time frame. The Buccaneers wore beautiful, clean, white helmets each time they wore their 'creamsicle' throwback uniforms.

* - All photos provided from Getty Images.
10/21/12 - NO @ TB

There was one (or two, depending on how you look at things) other break from this time-frame. The Patriots 'Pat Patriot' throwbacks worn in 2002 on Thanksgiving Day in Detroit and their 1994 throwbacks worn in conjunction with the NFL's 75th Anniversary season were also in this off-white shade.

11/28/02 - NE @ DET
10/2/94 - GB@ NE
Aside from these two Patriot and Buccaneer instances, the helmets all fell in line between 2005 and 2017. Now you may think that the different helmet models, especially during the more recent years, would have at least some that showed clean white as opposed to these pearl white abominations. We looked. It simply wasn't the case. Hundreds of photos were scoured and not one instance of two or more helmet shells showing different shades of white in the same photo.

Let me show you some examples.
The Cardinals.
9/11/05 - ARZ @ NYG. Notice how all four Cardinals in the photo have matching shades of pearl white helmets that clearly do not match the white of their jerseys.
 This continued up through 2017.
9/25/17 - DAL @ ARZ
But then, miraculously, 2018 arrived and white helmets around the League began to almost perfectly match the clean white of the rest of team uniforms.

10/14/18 - ARZ @ MINN
And so it went.
9/18/05 - BUF @ TB. The Bills' throwbacks from 2005-10 were pearl white. In 2011, the Bills changed their uniform design to resemble those from earlier in their history including a change back to white (-ish) helmets.

2011 - Ryan Fitzpatrick

11/2/17 - BUF @ NYJ - both teams in off-white helmets. Notice that Bills Ryan Davis (56) and Mike Tolbert (25) are wearing two different styles of helmet yet both have matching shades of off-white.
And then, in 2018, everything returned to how things were intended. Clean white.
10/29/18 - NE @ BUF
12/15/19 - BUF @ PITT
The Cowboys wore (nearly) white helmets with their throwback uniforms from 2004-12.
11/29/07 - GB @ DAL
The Colts.
2/4/07 - IND v CHB - Super Bowl XLI

The Chargers.
12/16/17 - LAC @ KC
The Dolphins.
9/2/10 - MIA @ DAL (preseason)
Even when the Dolphins redesigned their uniform for 2013, the helmets were still not white.
11/11/13 - MIA @ TB
The Dolphins are one of the teams for which the change to clean white in 2018 is extremely dramatic.
10/25/18 - MIA @ HOU
I've already touched base on the Patriots but this photo from 2012 shows that not only was the shell of their helmets off-white, but the parts inside the 'Pat Patriot' logo that should have been white were also off-white matching the helmet shell. Either the Patriots made a concerted effort to match decals with helmets or the decals were actually clear where they should have been white allowing the off-white shell to show through.
10/21/12 - NYJ @ NE
The Jets.
9/13/10 - BALT@ NYJ
Like the Dolphins, the difference when the Jets went to clean white for 2018 is remarkable.
9/10/18 - NYJ@ DET
And the Titans. Because the Titans altered their uniform in 2018 to include navy blue helmets, we did not get to see them transition to clean white helmets as they would have been expected to do.
1/6/18 - TENN @ KC
Lighting obviously plays a role in discerning the shades of white. We found the best results for night games and games played indoors. Sunlight makes it difficult to provide clarity regarding the shades of white.

For the past two seasons, however, white-helmeted teams have corrected themselves. No case of off-white, pearly-white helmets has materialized. It is a positive step in NFL uniform aesthetics. 

Now, if we could just go back to a time where the players all wore their socks correctly and simply chose between black cleats or white for the entire team, this graphics guy would be much, much happier.

Within the next month or so, I will produce another blog covering the 'soon-to-be' eight uniform changes that will occur for next season as the Rams are yet to unveil. 

Until next time.

Bill Schaefer


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