An NFL uniform column from contributing writer, Kyle Hamlin. If you have any questions, concerns, suggestions, or want to tell him how much you love (or hate) his ideas, reach him on twitter @khamballer22.
The San Francisco 49ers are an iconic franchise with an iconic look. In 1964, the 49ers introduced a uniform design with gold helmets, red home jerseys and white road jerseys (both with three sleeve stripes), gold pants, and red socks with three white stripes. The team would wear this basic design for practically the next thirty seasons with only some minor changes and adjustments. The classic look is beloved by the Faithful as it is closely identified with the franchise’s glory years. The team’s current uniforms do not deviate significantly from the classic design, but some minor tweaks would significantly improve the modern uniform sets.
The most significant change that I have made to the current uniforms is the sleeve striping, which has been an area of great difficulty for the NFL’s uniform manufacturers since the team reverted to a more traditional look back in 2009. Reebok’s original modern update of the 49ers’ traditional uniform design featured truncated sleeve stripes. When Nike took over as the NFL’s uniform provider in 2012, the truncated sleeve stripes remained. This design cuts off the bottom of the striping on modern jersey cuts, so many of the players would only have 2 ½ or even 1 ½ visible stripes on the sleeves.
The issue of the truncated stripes was a perplexing one considering the Chicago Bears managed to fit three stripes on their sleeves. Currently, several NFL teams wear jerseys that feature three stripes on the sleeves despite the shorter, tighter cuts of modern on-field jerseys. In 2017, the 49ers made a slight adjustment to the sleeve stripes. Ditching the truncated look, the 49ers unveiled jerseys with two thicker stripes. While the new look was certainly an improvement on the truncated stripes, it deviated from the traditional three stripes that had become a staple of the team’s look for the past 40+ years. The team insisted that the new two-stripe design provided symmetry with the red-white-red tri-stripe featured on the helmet and pants despite the inconsistency of the color pattern. A better way to create symmetry in the uniform design is to bring back the three sleeve stripes and match them with the traditional striped socks. This would provide a more faithful revamping of the classic “Team of the 80s” look.
Another significant change that I have made is to the team’s footwear. A return to predominantly white cleats would provide more color consistency to the uniform and would also evoke the look of the Walsh/Montana/Rice era. In 2007, the 49ers followed a growing trend in the NFL and began wearing black cleats. While the team has increased the use of black in its official apparel in recent years (including a divisive all-black alternate uniform introduced in 2015), black appears only in the trim of the helmet decal in the current uniform design, so black cleats do not complement the overall look.
While the 49ers maintain one of the best basic uniform models in the NFL, the following redesigns eliminate flaws in the current uniforms and provide a more faithful modern update of the team’s iconic look.
In addition to slightly altered primary home and road uniforms, I have included a new gold alternate jersey utilizing the same design template as the red and white jerseys. A second set of uniforms based on the 1994-95 throwbacks is also included, with home and road versions as well as a new all-black alternate.
Primary Home and Road Uniforms
The San Francisco 49ers’ new primary home and road uniforms remain mostly the same as the existing primary home and road uniforms but with some minor tweaks. Paying homage to the classic Niners uniforms of the 1980s, the new primary uniforms bring back three full parallel stripes on the sleeves as opposed to the current two. Red socks with three parallel white stripes also make a return, matching the striping pattern on the jersey sleeves and providing symmetry to the uniform. The helmet and pants feature a matching gold base and red-white-red tri-stripe while the jersey sleeves and socks coordinate together with three parallel stripes. The three full stripes honor the iconic look and championship tradition of the San Francisco 49ers. The three-striped sleeves of the Chicago Bears’ current primary uniforms as well as the three-striped sleeves of the 49ers’ own 2018 Color Rush uniforms (1994 all-white throwbacks) prove that three full sleeve stripes CAN in fact be adapted to fit the modern NFL jersey template with its shorter, tighter sleeves.
The Nike swoosh logo on the pants switches from white to red to better contrast with the gold base and to complement the new “Gold Rush” alternate jersey. As part of restoring the classic look of the 80s-era 49ers, the modern incarnation of this storied franchise will once again see its players don white cleats with both the home and road uniforms.
“Gold Rush” Alternate Uniform
The “Gold Rush” alternate uniform utilizes the same design template as the primary home and road uniforms. The helmet, pants, socks, and shoes remain the same. The jersey features a gold base with a red wordmark, red numerals and letters, and red stripes. The pertinence of the “Gold Rush” branding is twofold; it corresponds with both the team moniker as well as the NFL’s Color Rush promotion.
’94 Throwback Uniforms
The ’94 throwback uniforms pay tribute to the 1994-95 Super Bowl Championship team. That year, as part of the NFL’s 75th Anniversary celebration, many teams introduced throwback uniforms which were to be worn for occasional games. The 49ers chose to wear throwbacks based on uniforms worn by the team back in 1955.
The current all-white road version revealed in 2018 is retained, adding only a modern wordmark in red on the front of the jersey to stay consistent with the team’s other uniform sets. A home red jersey (the converse of the white jersey) is added. The current team logo is used for the helmet decal, meshing past with present and embodying the franchise’s “Faithful Then, Faithful Now” mantra. The throwbacks feature sans serif numerals with black outlines and drop shadows, white pants with a red-black-red tri-stripe, and solid red socks. The 1994-95 49ers originally wore striped socks with these throwback uniforms but reverted to solid red socks in the middle of the season. During that season, the 49ers tallied a 15-1 record (playoffs included) while wearing this uniform design, including an undefeated record in the home red jerseys.
Black Alternate Uniform
New and improved black alternate uniforms utilize the same design template as the ’94 throwback uniforms. The black jersey features gold numerals with red outlines and red drop shadows, three red parallel sleeve stripes, gold Nike swoosh logos on the sleeves, a red wordmark outlined in gold below the collar, and gold player names outlined in red. The pants incorporate a black base with a red-gold-red tri-stripe and a gold Nike swoosh logo. The new look includes solid red socks and black cleats.
The updated black alternate uniform improves upon the previous black alternate by adding more gold to the jersey and pants. The new design reflects the franchise’s pride in its championship past while also pushing creative boundaries to produce a fresh modern look for the new generation.
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