NFL At 100-Uniforms Football

Pittsburgh's Mel Blount grabs the jersey of Houston's Earl Campbell during a game at Houston in 1979. The development of nylons and polyesters now allows designers to leave little for defenders to grab. 

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Today uniform changes are no longer as simple as checking fabric samples. The NFL's creative division, first started by then-Commissioner Pete Rozelle in the 1960s, helps teams design new looks in a process that can take up to five years. Tampa Bay had the biggest redesign, switching from white and creamsicle orange with a pirate in 1996 to a waving, tattered flag with pewter and red colors in 1997. The Bucs tweaked that again in March 2014.

Melvin said owners want a uniform that will stand the test of time and be as relevant in 20 years as today. The challenge is getting fans to accept change.

"What we've learned is that fans are typically pretty resistant to change, and they'll really warm up to it over the course of a few years," Melvin said.

The biggest difference from a century ago may be noticed only by the players themselves — and the equipment staff. Wool and cotton were the materials of choice for years, in turtlenecks and sweaters to more modern jerseys. The development of nylons and polyesters, whisking away sweat without becoming heavy, now allows designers to leave little for defenders to grab, unlike the 1970s when Earl Campbell often lost pieces of his jersey.

Wright said to credit Nike for reducing the number of seams in today's uniform, from 21 individual pieces of fabric sewn together for a jersey and pair of pants a few years ago now down to approximately five.

"You'd be surprised at how impactful that is from a weight standpoint, from a strength and tenacity standpoint," Wright said. "That's a game changer that doesn't really get a lot of credit."

With TV going from black and white past high-definition to 4K, expect NFL uniforms to grow beyond the numbers, name and logo.

"It's allowing us to put details in and textures and materials into things that wouldn't have been seen by most fans years before," Melvin said. "So we were trying to take advantage of that opportunity where we can."


Report by AP pro football writer Teresa M. Walker. 

This article originally ran on madison.com.

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