Throwback jerseys are officially the next big thing.
The NFL has been taken over this season by teams wearing their old AFL jerseys and helmets, whether they’re cool or not. NBA teams have busted out retro jerseys a few times over the last few years, and even baseball teams are changing it up every once in a while.
And they’re cool, for the most part. But some teams are making terrible mistakes by digging up relics from their past that ought to stay buried forever.
I’ve assembled a list of eight rules for teams to follow, when they think it would be a great idea to turn back the clock with throwback jerseys. Without further ado, in no particular order…
1. Only “throw back” to a period of your team’s history that you want to remember.
I’m going to pick on the New England Patriots here, which is short-sighted but I’m going to do it anyway. To me, the red jerseys and the white helmet with the Patriot long-snapper remind me of the early 90′s when the Pats were going 1-15 and 2-14. If I’d been alive longer, thought, I’d remember that they’d actually worn those unis since 1961.
Regardless, you can’t argue with this: The Patriots went to only their second Super Bowl ever in 1997, the year they changed to the current, much cooler helmet and jerseys. They’ve been to four more since, winning three of them. If I were the Patriots organization, I’d stick to the uniforms they’ve got.
2. Throwback jerseys don’t work if you’re throwing back to a different team.
The Tennessee Titans throwback uniforms, which they wore Sunday in getting pounded 59-0 by the Patriots, are the original Houston Oilers unis. I get it, they were the Oilers before they moved to Tennessee, but I’ve got a news flash for you: There’s a new team in Houston.
To me, a team’s legacy is tied to the city, not the organization. In 1996 the Cleveland Browns owner and players all moved to Baltimore to start up the Baltimore Ravens. It was really the team moving, but because of an agreement they left the Browns’ history in Cleveland and started afresh. Now the current incarnation of the Browns has claim on Cleveland’s long, if ignominious, NFL history. That seems like how it ought to be.
Even worse is the Kansas City Chiefs going back in time this year to be the Dallas Texans. Three problems with that: One, Dallas is Cowboys country; two, the Texans are in Houston; and three, the team was only in Dallas for three years. They’ve been the Kansas City Chiefs since 1963, and their logo hasn’t changed once. Your history is in KC, guys, not Dallas.
3. Don’t wear throwbacks that are totally different from your normal colors.
Let’s go NBA on this one. The Cleveland Cavaliers wore those hideous yellow-and-red 1970-’74 throwbacks last year—not a pretty sight. There’s no reason to be bringing that color yellow into the mix. But at least it’s still a variation of the wine and gold, which they wear now… simply egregious is the royal blue variation they also donned last year. It’s obvious that the main reason is for throwbacks is to sell more jerseys, but this blue is really a stretch. And remind me why you’d want light blue mixed in with the Cavaliers wine and gold in the crowd? It’s divisive. It doesn’t make any sense.
4. The Denver Broncos are forbidden from ever wearing throwbacks again, ever.
You knew it was coming. The fact that they’re 6-0 wearing these clown costumes is hurting me inside.
5. The Houston Astros, on the other hand, should be forced to wear these old classics forever.
These may be the coolest uniforms in the history of clothed sports. I can’t imagine why they ever changed them. Even if you’re not immediately sold by the stripes, you still can’t resist the number on the pants.
6. It’s okay to “throw forward.”
Meaning, to change your look. If it’s awful, it’s awful, and needs to be changed. Very few teams are still trying to sport the teal and purple that were all the rage for a while, like in the Arizona Diamondbacks original uni’s in 1998, and rightly so. The same goes for terrible logos—Los Angeles Clippers, I’m mostly looking at you here—if it’s terrible, it’s okay to leave it behind.
7. You don’t have to wear throwback uniforms if you’re already wearing them.
Remember the New York Giants helmets that said “GIANTS” in big letters on the side? The ones where it looked like they kept trying to make it look more forceful: “Hmmm, try it in all caps. All right… now underline it. Not quite there… can you put it in italics? THERE!”? The Giants ditched that look in 2000 to revert back to the cooler lowercase “ny” on the helmets, and they’ve had them ever since—effectively rendering throwbacks unnecessary. Plus, we’ve got a few more years to go before the italicized 1970′s GIANTS thing is going to look cool again.
8. Only wear awesome throwbacks.
There are plenty. I’ll even say that I think throwbacks are generally terrific, and the bad ones are just exceptions. The San Diego Chargers in the baby blues? They should do that every week. I love the Golden State Warriors old “The City” unis. The old Washington Redskins helmets? The old Rainbow Brite Denver Nuggets jerseys? Great, great stuff.
The list goes on and on. The San Diego Padres have great old uniforms. So do the Portland Trail Blazers. And some teams, like the Los Angeles Lakers and the Boston Celtics, wear classic old uniforms every time they take the floor.
There are plenty more, too—there’s a whole world of great old unis out there.
Let’s just stick to the awesome ones.