November 8, 2000
by Dave Sabo
I happened to catch the Oakland San Diego game last Sunday night, which was notable for two reasons. First, the utterly woeful Chargers again showed why Oakland might just be the worst 7-1 team ever, and, second, San Diego wore their ’60’s “throwback” unis. Dubbed “the best uniforms in the history of sports” by Chris Berman (and that’s the only thing he’s been right about since 1991), they are the epitome of the early days of the AFL. Before logos and uniform designs were thought up by committees of crack-addled rhesus monkeys and rendered in colors that only bees can see.
If Bob McNair really means what he says about wanting the Texans uniforms to be traditional and classic, he could do much worse than using the AFL as a model. In addition to the aforementioned Charger uniforms, the AFL gave us the Silver and Black of the Oakland Raiders and the understated simplicity of the New York Jets, who made a smart move in going “retro” a couple of years ago and bringing back the Namath-era look. Actually, with the exception of Miami (for some reason, I just hate that stupid dolphin!) and Denver (their tradition of horrendous uniforms began with vertically-striped blue and orange socks and got worse as time went on), the AFL look was a winner across the board.
Granted, the Oilers got off to a slow start. While they had a great logo in the oil derrick, the plain white on Columbia blue look was kind of bland. They livened things up in ’64, however, when they added red trim to the color scheme and from ’66 to ’69, the Oilers sported what I think were their best uniforms ever with the silver helmets and pants. And before all the Cryboy fans and haters come out of the woodwork, I’d just like to point out that the Cryboys wear gray. Yes, gray, folks. They can call that silver all they want, but that’s gray. It’s always been gray and calling it silver doesn’t change it.
Anyway, for the 1970 season, the Oilers went back to Columbia blue helmets and that lasted for 4 seasons until they went bland again in ’74 and switched to white helmets. They still wore the blue pants with the white jerseys, which was a good look. At least until the early ’80’s when they got rid of those, too. By the time they shuffled off to Possum Holler, the Oilers wore perhaps the most vanilla unis in the NFL. Not bad, mind you, just boring.
Then, the Titans were born and Bud dressed his boys up in what appears to be the uniforms of Moldavia’s failed NFL Europe franchise. I’ve gone around and around with a ton of people on this, but I’m sorry, those uniforms suck. Hard. From the “flaming tri-colored egg yolk” primary logo to the cartoon-ish secondary logo to the ridiculous font that they chose to do the numerals in. And that “shoulder pad” accent? That’s the definition of bush. I’ve seen that accent four places: high school, the Arena League, the NFL Europe and on the Pittsburgh Steelers back when they were going oh-fer-the-’60’s. Those uniforms are HORRID. Dare I say, they’re worse than the Rockets?
But, I digress.
As I mentioned earlier, Bob McNair has said that he wants a classic, traditional look for the Texans. With that in mind, I’d like to offer up a few ideas I’ve been mulling over.
We’ve all gotten a good long look at the Texans’ logo and we’re all aware that the colors are red, white and blue. By most accounts, the general consensus is that the logo (simple yet powerful) and the colors (logical choices for the Texans) are winners. The only complaint I hear on a regular basis is that the helmet is too plain. That’s as good a place to start as any.
It’s my understanding that the white helmet with the logo on either side is not he final product. Hopefully, this is the case, as I’d like to see them go with a colored helmet, preferably blue with matching facemasks. Put the logo on both sides outlined in white and run a single broad white stripe down the middle bordered in red.
A lot of people objected to the red, white and blue color scheme because it is already so prevalent in the NFL. To a certain extent, it’s a bit overdone, but in all cases, blue is the predominant color. Solve that by making the Texans’ home jerseys red. Obviously, the road jerseys would be white. Reverse the colors for the numerals (white on red, red on white) and outline both in blue. Trim the road jersey sleeves with a single thin blue stripe over a single thin red stripe. Don’t trim the home reds.
I think one of the worst moves the Oilers ever made was ditching the blue pants. The white-over-white look is so dull. Hopefully, the Texans avoid this by wearing blue pants with the road whites. Trim would be a broad red stripe down the side bordered by thin white stripes. They’d wear white pants trimmed in red and blue at home.
Both home and road uniforms would be finished off with red socks and white sanitaries. And, of course, white shoes.
It’s important to note that there are a few details that must be addressed. The helmet stripes should run all the way from front to back and maintain the same width. No tapering. And unless you’re the Chargers, no numerals on helmets. And no NAME TAPES! If you can’t keep track of your own helmet, you belong on the JV. Or the Cryboys.
With regards to numerals, go with traditional block numerals. Leave the new, stylized numerals to the Arena League and NFL Europe. Also, stick to single outlines or none at all. NO DROP SHADOWS!!
Jersey trim should be understated. Trim only the numerals, the collars and the sleeve hems (I’ve never been a big fan of shoulder rings unless it’s really simple like the Jets or Colts). There’s no need to continue the pant stripe up onto the jersey. Those “suspenders” that the Broncos have are ridiculous.
Pant stripes, like helmet stripes, should be solid (no “disco” Bengal stripes) and maintain the same width from the beltline to the hem. No tapering and no Nike “swooshes.” Also, don’t eliminate the pant stripe, which I feel is the one mistake the Rams made in their new unis — they’re too Notre Dame-ish.
When it comes to secondary logos, I’m of the opinion that if it’s a good logo, go for it. A good example is Tampa Bay’s secondary “pirate ship” logo. It’s better than their primary logo. A bad example is Tennessee’s secondary “dagger” logo, which they apparently ripped off of He-Man and Skeletor. If the Texans can come up with a good secondary logo (I think we’d be looking at either the flag or the state outline), put it on the sleeves with numerals on the shoulders.
To sum up the whole look, I think it’s important that it be kept clean and simple. I’ve always believed that when it comes to athletic uniforms, “innovative” is usually synonymous with “ugly.” If McNair sticks to the basics and thinks traditionally, the Texans will be decked out in one of the classier unis in the League.
Dave Sabo is an Archives Specialist with the National Archives and Records Administration. A native of Spring, TX and a life-long Oiler fan now languishing in the heart of Redskins country (Laurel, MD), Dave is utterly convinced that new ‘Skins owner, Daniel Snyder, is, indeed, the anti-Christ.