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The Steelers wearing their 75th year "Throwback" uniforms.

Throwback uniforms and jerseys are one-time or limited-time variations on a sports team's uniforms styled to resemble uniforms from that team's past. First promoted in baseball in the 1980s, they have proven popular in all major pro and college sports in the USAmarker, not only with fans, but with the teams' marketing and merchandising departments.

Throwbacks were first popularized in Major League Baseball, where teams not only wore renditions of their past styles, but also tributes to defunct minor league and Negro League baseball teams as well. Often, the games where teams will wear throwbacks are promoted as "Turn Back The Clock Nights".

Throwbacks also make occasional appearances in college football games, National Hockey League games, and in National Basketball Association games.

National Hockey League

Throwbacks were first introduced in the National Hockey League in their 75th anniversary season of 1991–92. At the time, only the Original Six teams wore throwbacks, although they were also used in the All-Star game.

While the NHL had long since replaced the heavy wool sweaters with more modern air-knit jerseys, the patterns for the 75th anniversary throwbacks were consistent with the original versions, with a few exceptions (as noted below). Player surnames were worn on the back of the throwback jerseys, even though this wasn't originally the case (the NHL did not require names on the jerseys until 1977).

The Original Six teams' throwbacks included the following modifications: The Bruins' colours were brown and gold during this era, but the throwback jerseys use a "basic black" scheme with a small amount of white and gold trim, with the "shield logo" [109113] on the front of the jersey, and the "spoked-B" modern day regular logo placed on the jersey shoulders. For the Winter Classic that they will host at Fenway Parkmarker on January 1, 2010, they are planning to wear bastardized replicas of the first "Spoked B" logo from 1947-48 on the 1955-58 gold jerseys.

The Blackhawks' "barber pole" design was used one more time, in a game against Detroit at Chicago Stadiummarker in January 1994. A circa-1936 design, featuring beige in the colour scheme, was used in the 2009 NHL Winter Classic on January 1, 2009 at Chicagomarker's Wrigley Fieldmarker; it would become the team's third jersey for the 2009-10 season.

At the time the design was originally worn, the Red Wings were known as the Cougars. They wore their throwbacks again in the aforementioned game at Chicago Stadium in 1994. (The design was also used by Wayne Gretzky's team of All-Stars that toured Europe during the 1994–95 NHL lockout, and by the Adirondack Red Wings as a third jersey. For the Winter Classic in 2009, the Wings donned a modified version of their inaugural 1926 sweater, which featured a single red stripe across the chest with a stylized "D" in the centre, along with the current winged wheel logo to the shoulders.

The Canadiens' red jerseys have changed very little. The differences between the throwback and their current jersey were the crew collar and the duplicate Canadiens logo on the left sleeve. Three "retro" jersey designs from the Canadiens' past were authorized as part of the team's centennial celebration in 2009.

This jersey was notable because it was of the style the Rangers wore when they had last won the Stanley Cup. (They won the cup again two years later.)

The two-stripe design was used for many years by the Maple Leafs, and after over two decades of the single-stripe design, the Leafs adopted a new version of the two-stripe design the following season.

The stripes running down the sleeves of the All-Star jerseys were wider than those on the original versions.

As other leagues began using throwbacks, interest in retro jerseys increased within the NHL. To celebrate new ownership, the New York Islanders wore a modified throwback design for one game in 1998. The Buffalo Sabres pulled a similar stunt for a game in 2003. The Toronto Maple Leafs also brought back a 1960s-era jersey as a third jersey beginning in 1998–99. In 2003–04, the NHL implemented a Vintage program, allowing several teams to wear throwback uniforms that were specially branded with a vintage "V" patch. The following teams were among those that participated in the program:

These were notable as the Bobby Orr-era uniforms. The black throwbacks would replace the gold third jerseys in 2006.

The current Oilers only wore the white uniforms once, for the Heritage Classic. The Oilers alumni wore the blue version for the preceding MegaStars game. For 2008-09, this uniform served as the Oilers' third jersey and became the team's primary jersey in 2009-10.

The white throwbacks, similar in design to the red jersey with its blue-and-white stripe across the chest, continued to be worn as an alternate jersey in subsequent seasons. The red throwbacks featured a tie-up collar, a design feature that has seen a comeback in recent years, although it's there strictly for aesthetic purposes.

This uniform, from the team's first season featured orange numbers on white trim against a royal blue background, serving as the 2008-09 third jersey, was elevated to their full-time home uniform in 2009-10.

This uniform featured the team's shield logo instead of "RANGERS" written diagonally across the chest. Ironically, these throwback jerseys were actually newer in design than their regular jerseys.

Their then-current uniforms, introduced in 1998, were at least partially inspired by these uniforms.

The blue throwbacks would replace their screen-printed red/blue alternate in 2006. These throwbacks served as the basis for Vancouver's new uniforms in 2007.

The first two times the Flyers wore these jerseys, the numbers were the same as the old ones. The numbers on the throwbacks worn in 2008-09 are the same as the numbers on their current road and third jerseys. These will serve as the Flyers' primary home jerseys for the 2009-10 season; a white version will be used for the Winter Classic at Fenway Park January 1.

A few teams also introduced "fauxback" uniform (a term that was coined by Paul Lukas, the creator of the Uni Watch column and blog, for a faux throwback style of uniform) designs as alternate jerseys. The Colorado Avalanche introduced burgundy third jerseys similar in design to the New York Rangers' blue ones, while the Minnesota Wild introduced a red alternate featuring a logo encased in a circle containing the team's name, a feature previously used by the Blackhawks and Pittsburgh Penguins. The 2004 National Hockey League All-Star Game also featured faux throwback designs.

The Bruins, Canadiens, Maple Leafs, and Canucks used their throwbacks through 2006–07. The Buffalo Sabres also wore a throwback blue-and-gold jersey for one season, bringing it back again in 2008-09, and making it their 2009-10 home sweater. Although third jerseys were temporarily discontinued for 2007–08 so that teams could get used to the new Rbk Edge uniforms (third jerseys returned for the 2008-09 season), Boston and Vancouver have adopted new uniforms that are based on their throwback designs.

On January 1, 2008, the Sabres and the Penguins donned throwback uniforms in the AMP Energy NHL Winter Classic at Ralph Wilson Stadiummarker in Orchard Park, New York, albeit with Reebok's "Edge" design template. The Penguins also used the throwbacks as their third jersey for the 2008–09 season. And as mentioned earlier, at the 2009 NHL Winter Classic, the Blackhawks and the Red Wings wore throwback replicas at Wrigley Field and the Flyers and Bruins will don retro schemes at Fenway Park in 2010.

In recent years, CCM, now owned by Reebok, has made additional replica throwbacks available for sale, in addition to those in current use. 1992 throwbacks such as Detroit's and Chicago's were among those reissued, while others included older-era jerseys of current NHL teams the Phoenix Coyotes, the Colorado Avalanche, the Dallas Stars, and the New Jersey Devils when they had played in their former markets of (Winnipeg, Quebec City, Bloomington, MN, and Denver). Regrettably, the forgettable "Flying-V" uniforms of the Vancouver Canucks were also reissued.

National Football League

Throwbacks were introduced in the NFL in their 75th anniversary season of 1994. The designs varied widely in their accuracy:
  • While no attempt was made to simulate obsolete leather helmets which were phased out in the 1950s, teams simulating uniforms from the era of leather headgear simply removed all decals and striping from their regular hard-shell helmets.
  • A rule imposed by the AFL-NFL merger in 1970 adopted the AFL's policy of all jerseys displaying the player's last name on the back side. This practice was not part of the NFL officially until after the merger, but in order to keep consistency with current rules, the names were placed on the back side of all throwback jerseys.
  • In most instances the fonts and typestyles used were only approximate matches at best.
  • The Arizona Cardinals, Chicago Bears and Pittsburgh Steelers wore reproductions of uniforms that pre-dated large numerals on the front of jerseys, so instead smaller numerals were worn on the right shoulder.
  • The Dallas Cowboys and Buffalo Bills received some criticism for their portrayal of their throwbacks. The Cowboys wore their early 1960s uniforms with their current helmet, while the Bills wore their then-current uniforms with the old "standing buffalo" logo in white on their red helmets, in place of the current blue "charging buffalo" logo. Later that season, the Cowboys used the "double-star" uniform, which could be considered an updated version of the 1960s jerseys. Both teams have since adopted these throwbacks more accurately as alternates, with Dallas now using the original, plain star helmet and Buffalo using the original red "standing buffalo" helmet on white background, as well as wearing the O. J. Simpson-era jerseys as opposed to the Jim Kelly/Marv Levy-era jerseys. The New York Jets also received similar criticism for using their throwback logo on their then-current green helmets; when they adopted the throwback design full-time in 1998, they also went back to their original-style white helmets. The Bills and Cowboys did the same when they adopted their retro unis.
  • The Miami Dolphins, New Orleans Saints, Seattle Seahawks, Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Indianapolis Colts and Cleveland Browns hadn't had major uniform redesigns up to that point or only made subtle changes, as the Seahawks and Buccaneers had joined the league just 18 years earlier. The Seahawks and Buccaneers have also since redesigned their uniforms in 2002 and 1997, respectively, while the Dolphins made some minor updates in 1997 and the Saints in 2000.

All the teams were informed that they would be wearing the Throwbacks during Week Three of the season. Some teams continued to wear theirs throughout the season. The San Francisco 49ers wore replicas of their 1955 uniforms in their Super Bowl XXIX victory. The uniforms were well-liked enough that the 49ers brought them back, in slightly modified form, for 1996-1997. In 1998, the gold pants from before were returned, in more modern form. In 2009, they went back to the style that won them four of their five Super Bowls.

Both of the NFL's New York Citymarker teams' throwbacks proved so popular with their fans that the teams returned to wearing them full-time soon afterwards: The Jets' replicas of their 1968 uniforms (with a darker shade of green than before), and the Giants' 1961 uniforms, with the lowercase "ny" instead of the underlined uppercase "GIANTS" imposed after moving to East Rutherford, NJ. Both teams have modernized the 1960s decals for their current primary corporate logos.

As a result of the NFL modifying its rules to allow teams to wear alternate jerseys in 2002, throwbacks still make occasional appearances. The Thanksgiving Classic games hosted by the Detroit Lions and Dallas Cowboys have been a showcase of throwbacks in recent years. The Bills, San Diego Chargers and Cowboys traditionally wear their early 1960s throwbacks twice each season.

The Cleveland Browns throwbacks are based on a uniform/helmet combination that first appeared in 1957 when Jim Brown was drafted.(Players Numbers appeared on the side of the helmet that year.) The Browns began wearing their throwbacks in 2006 as part of the team's 60th Anniversary. They only wear them once per season.

Of note, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, who drastically changed their uniforms and team colors in 1997, never wore their orange throwbacks from 1997-2008. In 2009, the team will wear throwbacks for the first time in against the Green Bay Packers on November 8 to debut the "Buccaneers' Ring of Honor".

The San Diego Chargers wore their 1960s style powder-blue uniforms with white helmets as alternates from 2002-2006 and in 2007 adopted a modified version as their full-time uniforms, while the San Francisco 49ers began wearing their 1980s-style home red uniforms as throwbacks in 2002 (in 2005 the team redesignated them as alternate uniforms, and the re-redesignating them as full-time home and away uniforms in 2009, with a modified logo), and wore them on the 2007 season opening night, September 10, as a tribute to their late former head coach Bill Walsh. On September 16, 2007, the Pittsburgh Steelers, celebrating their 75th season, wore a variation of their older early '60s uniforms that featured gold helmets with black stripe, black jerseys with gold numbers and stripes, and white pants with black-and-gold side stripes as they hosted Buffalo. They wore them again on Monday Night Football on November 5 against Baltimore. The Steelers enjoyed immense success in both games, winning each handily (26-3 vs. Buffalo, 38-7 vs. Baltimore), in direct contrast to the team's struggles when they wore those jerseys originally. On November 11, 2007, The New York Giants, wore their red uniforms against the division rival Dallas Cowboys. The New York Jets wore their New York Titans replica jerseys twice - once at home against the Philadelphia Eagles, and once against their divisional rivals, the Miami Dolphins.

The Eagles wore their powder blue and yellow throwback jerseys during the home game against the Lions on September 23, 2007. Though the Eagles had a big 56-21 victory, these particular Throwbacks were criticised as being very unattractive. During Sunday Night Football on NBC that week, Keith Olbermann named the Philadelphia Eagles the "Worst Persons in the NFL" for their blue-and-yellow throwback jerseys, citing "Throwbacks? Try throw-ups!". The blue and yellow uniforms, which are the same colors as the flag of the City of Philadelphiamarker, were used by the Eagles, and their predecessors, the defunct Frankford Yellowjackets franchise, until the 1940s when the more familiar pre-Jeffrey Lurie era kelly green was introduced.

For the 2009 season, commemorating the 50th anniversary of the founding of the American Football League, the eight charter members of the AFL will wear throwback uniforms from the early 1960s on select "Legacy Weekends." The Dallas Cowboys, also celebrating their 50th anniversary season, will wear throwback jerseys for some games. Additionally, the Lions dropped their much criticized black alternates in favor of the popular 1940's ands 1950's throwbacks (plain blue jersey, silver pants and helmets) in 2008.

Major League Baseball

In 1990, the Chicago White Sox wore replicas of their 1917 World Series uniforms against the Milwaukee Brewers as part of the White Sox celebration of the final season at Comiskey Parkmarker. During the game, the scoreboard and public address system were turned off, and the lineups announced with a hand-held megaphone. Since then, these games have proven popular not only among team fans but also with viewers of TV highlight shows. ESPN, for the highlights of the 1990 game, sped up the highlights and showed them in black and white. The team then adopted a modified version of the 1959 "Go-Go Sox" era jerseys for the first year at U.S.marker Cellular Fieldmarker in 1991.

With the introduction of Interleague Play, when the Atlanta Braves played the Boston Red Sox for the first time in a regular season game in Boston in 1997, the Braves wore throwback Boston Braves uniforms.

Some throwback nights featured the Oakland Athletics wearing one combo or another of the gold/white/green uniform set it featured in the 1970s and 80s, or the Pittsburgh Pirates' black-and-gold combo from the same era. In 2003 the St. Louis Cardinals hosted the Baltimore Orioles with teams wearing retro St. Louis Cardinals and St. Louis Browns (the predecessor to today's Orioles, which moved to Baltimore for 1954) uniforms, respectively. The scoreboard that day said "Browns" and the stadium announcer played along with the fantasy as well. A recent (2006) throwback day saw the Houston Astros revert to their orange-and-red Rainbow Guts uniforms, also from that same era. Also, the Milwaukee Brewers, in recent years, have resurrected their old 1980s pinstriped uniforms with the old ball-in-glove "mb" logo on the caps for use as an alternate uniform. In 2008, the Toronto Blue Jays unveiled their new "Flashback Friday" powder blue throwback uniforms, similar to those worn in the 1979 season. The Cleveland Indians throwbacks are usually worn once a year in July and normally are based on their uniforms from the mid-1970s to the early 1980s. (Most notably, their 1974 "All Red" Home Uniforms.) They have also worn uniforms based on the 1948 Indians in honor of Larry Doby who was the first African-American player in the American League with the Indians.

In the 1999 season, MLB turned the throwback uniform concept on its ear with a series of "Turn Ahead the Clock" nights. It was inspired by an independently-held promotion on July 18, 1998 at a game between the Seattle Mariners and the Kansas City Royals. During those nights, teams would wear uniforms as they might be envisioned in the year 2021. Twenty-two teams ultimately participated over 13 different games in 1999, with some teams wearing the uniforms more than once. The promotion proved unpopular, and has yet to be repeated since. In 2006 the New York Mets, in honor of the 20th anniversary of the 1986 World Series, held a "turn-back-the-clock-night" and wore their 1986 uniforms, and in 2009 played three games of a four-game set against the San Francisco Giants in a "fauxback" jersey based on early 1900s New York Giants' jerseys with a giant "NY" on the chest. In 2008, the Philadelphia Phillies adopted a alternate uniform based on their 1948 uniforms, but with modern graphics on an off-white color background.

National Basketball Association

In the 1996–97 NBA season, the NBA celebrated its 50th anniversary by introducing throwback jerseys, known as "Hardwood Classics". The Toronto Raptors were notable for wearing the uniforms of the long-defunct Toronto Huskies, an original BAA team. The Chicago Bulls wore script-logo throwbacks from the beginning of Michael Jordan's career. Some of the throwbacks that were introduced in this season have been brought back on more occasions since, notably the Golden State Warriors, whose throwback placed the players' numbers inside an angled cable car (a reference to San Francisco, where they had played in the early years in California).

In more recent years, throwback jerseys in the NBA have recalled some of the more gaudy uniforms of the NBA and the ABA, ranging from the aforementioned Warriors uniforms, to the Detroit Pistons' lightning bolt uniforms of the Dick Vitale era of the late 1970s, to the Miami Floridians throwbacks worn by the Heat, and the Cleveland Cavaliers' 1980s era jerseys worn by Brad Daugherty, Mark Price, and Ron Harper as well as uniforms based on the early and mid-1970s. In contrast, the New York Knicks often wear throwback uniforms from the 1970s and 80s that are understated by comparison. The warmups and uniform shorts of that era feature an "interlocking NY" identical to the one worn by the New York Yankees on their caps and home jerseys. Most "Hardwood Classics" jerseys worn by current players for games, however, are based on modern fabrics, and not the classic fabric designs of the past. The Los Angeles Lakers wore throwback short-shorts in 2007 for one game. Kobe Bryant complained, saying, "I feel violated. I feel naked. It's one thing to see those old guys wearing them on film, it's another to actually wear them". The Philadelphia 76ers began wearing throwback jerseys from their championship season of 1982-83 in 2007-08 to honor the 25th anniversary of their championship. They were so popular that the Sixers kept these jerseys for next year, and reverted to their old logo (modified with a newer "6") for the 2009-10 season.

Other North American sports

In 1921 a baseball game held at Rickwood Fieldmarker as part of the Semicentennial of Birmingham, Alabamamarker was played in "old-style" uniforms and according to "the rules of the games as they were in 1872.". Since 1996 Rickwood Field has been the site of the annual "Rickwood Classic", a regular season Birmingham Barons game in which both Southern League teams wear uniforms honoring some period of their respective histories.

The Philadelphia Wings indoor lacrosse team ditched their silver, red, and black uniforms for a game to wear their original orange and white jerseys worn in the early 1970s from the original National Lacrosse League. For the 100th anniversary of the rivalry between Johns Hopkins and Maryland in men's lacrosse, both teams wore special retro jerseys. During the 35th anniversary of women's field hockey at Dartmouth College, the Big Green are wearing a special harlequin-design throwback uniform.

The Texas Longhorns college football team wore throwback uniforms for a single game during their 2005 national championship season as a way of honoring the past. The throwback jerseys were similar to jerseys worn during their 1963 National Championship season under Coach Darrell K. Royal.

The University of Virginia's football team wore throwback uniforms in a single game on September 6, 2008, in honor of Virginia's teams from 1984 through 1993. The university's athletic department termed the game a "Retro Game" instead of using the term "throwback."

Also in 2008, on September 12 in Toronto and October 10 in Winnipeg, the Canadian Football League's Toronto Argonauts and Winnipeg Blue Bombers wore replicas of the uniforms the teams wore during the 1950s. Toronto's jerseys were a light blue in colour, with dark blue striping on the sleeves and the team's old "Pull Together" football-as-a-ship logo on the shoulders. The Blue Bomber jerseys were a dark blue in colour, with gold sleeve stripes. The team's 1950s-era logo was on the front of the jersey, just below the V in the neck. A special CFL "Retro Week" logo adorned each jersey as well, that logo being a take-off of the maple leaf one used as the league symbol from 1954 through 1969. This became an annual tradition starting with the 2009 campaign with all teams putting on replica of 1960s uniforms each team wore.The Saskatchewan Roughriders have also worn a popular throwback uniform since 2007 in addition to the league wide movement to wearing the uniforms of the designated decade.


The throwback uniform concept is also popular with various sporting clubs internationally, and are often used to celebrate a team's heritage much like their use in the United States.

Australian Rules Football

The Australian Football League features an annual "Heritage Round" that uses the concept. After the inaugural 2003 heritage round St Kilda used their heritage guernsey as their away uniform from 2004 till 2006. Also in 2003, Port Adelaide angered Collingwood by wearing their traditional black and white "prison bars" guernsey which was also the same colours as Collingwood. Collingwood’s anger was considered controversial seeing as Port didn't even play Collingwood in that game. In the intervening years Port have worn Heritage Round designs based on numerous other colours and designs the team wore previously to 1902 when they changed to black and white.

"Heritage Round" has recently been taking on themes based on certain eras. The 2006 round was based on the 1980s and the theme of 2007 to be based on the 1970s. This creates an awkward situation for Port Adelaide who were disallowed by the Collingwood Football club and the AFL to wear their SANFL Black and White "Prison Bar" guernsey from the 1980s due to overshadowing the branding of Collingwood's Black and White Stripes, although a deal has been done since that will allow Port Adelaide to wear the "Prison Bars" at all future Heritage Round matches played in Adelaide. Collingwood itself wears variations of its signature black and white stripes as worn in the relevant era.

The West Coast Eagles donned the WAFL State of Origin guernsey for the 2007 1970s round as they did not exist until 1987. Likewise, the Adelaide Crows, formed in 1991, have worn SA guernseys as well as guernseys combing the Crows' colours with those of SANFL teams.


The Lotte Giants of the Korean Baseball Organization has "Again 1984/1992" day once per month in commemoration of their league titles from those respective years. The team dresses in their old baby blue jerseys as well as their old cap, complete with the old logo. The "Again 1984/1992" games are usually the most popular games of the year in Busan, with the stadium as well as the throwback merchandising usually selling out fast. Due to this success, starting in 2008, other teams in the league such as Doosan Bears and Samsung Lions have started to incorporate a similar style of throwback day as well.

Association Football

'Retro shirts' as they are known in the United Kingdommarker, are also sometimes used in association football, albeit (as with the NFL) with modern fabrics. In 2005-06 changed their home colours from their traditional red and white to a variant of maroon known as redcurrant as a commemoration their final season at Highbury Stadiummarker; this colour was the same shade the team had worn when they had moved to Highbury in 1913. Redcurrant still plays a part in their kits; an alternate kit being worn features redcurrant pinstriping as of 2009-10.

 wore a replica of their jersey from 1958 during the Manchester derby game against   in the Barclays Premier League on February 10, 2008 at Old Traffordmarker to mark the 50th anniversary of the Munich air disastermarker four days earlier. United also used the traditional "One to eleven" numbering scheme rather than using squad numbers. For the 2009-10 Premiership, the team is wearing modified replica of the first uniform worn at Old Trafford a century earlier.

More authentic reproductions of kits from the past have become popular fashion items, especially jerseys linked to successful or memorable teams. When France won the 1998 World Cup, their uniform was reminiscent of the design of the 1982 team with a red horizontal stripe across the chest.

When the United States men's soccer team took the field between 1999 and 2001, their plain white uniform with a thick V-neck collar looked reminiscent of the U.S. Soccer Federation's first uniform worn in 1916.

France and Brazil played a "throwback" game in the Stade de France in 2003, with lace-up collars and the Brazilian team wearing an unfamiliar white top.

For the 2009-10 Premiership in England, newly promoted Burnley wore modified replicas of their 1960 championship kits, when they competed in the then-First Division.


When Lance Armstrong won his fifth Tour de France championship, his U.S. Postal Service team wore a special jersey sporting the old U.S. Mail logo from the 1970s.


In February 2005 at Eden Park, Aucklandmarker, Australia and New Zealand contested the very first Twenty20 cricket international match. Both teams appeared in retro 1980s style tight fitting one day international uniforms without team names, numbers or sponsors logos. The Australians wore their original "yellow and gold" whilst New Zealand were in "beige" inspired by the Beige Brigade sports fans. The game was played in a light hearted manner with both teams sporting 1980s style head bands, moustaches and hairstyles.

See also


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