Across many leagues in professional sports, teams and players alike enjoy paying homage to their ancestors with a retro jersey. From MLB’s annual Jackie Robinson Day to the NBA’s Toronto Raptors 20th anniversary throwback season, everybody loves a good tribute. In the NFL, the AFL Legacy jerseys introduced during the 2009 regular season were by far the most popular group of throwback jerseys to date. Of the participating group, the Jets and Broncos were generally considered a fail while the Oakland Raiders and Kansas City Chiefs did rock some classic uniforms but just missed out.
In order to make the cut, style, flair, time period and authenticity are considered. Arguably the worst retro jersey in the NFL is in Pittsburgh as the Steelers’ throwback jersey makes Steel City look like Charlie Brown. But it seems the key to success is simplicity as half of the list has an alternate white jersey that seem to put package throwbacks in front of the pack. All things considered, these are 10 of the best throwback jerseys in the history of the National Football League.
10. 1994 Washington Redskins
Introduced in the 2012 season to pay homage to the 1994 Washington Redskins, this throwback is classic. The key difference between the 2012 tribute and the real throwback is the matte-finished helmets that mimic the look of real leather. Again, the NFL’s 2013 rule banning any team from changing helmets during the season restricted the Redskins to only wearing this full throwback in 2012. The following season, the Redskins were forced to wear their modern day helmets with their retro jerseys but the burgundy color was noticeably different and completely changed the uniform.
9. 1960’s Dallas Cowboys
According to CBS, the Dallas Cowboys’ throwback jersey used a few years ago with white helmets and navy jerseys with white trim was a tribute to the team’s classic 1960’s style. While it’s easily the most reserved jersey on the list, most of its popularity has been garnered from its simplicity. The Cowboys wore it a few times before the NFL imposed a rule banning the use of throwback helmets for safety reasons. Now the clean jerseys remain but the ‘Boys wear their regular silver helmets.
8. 1940’s Chicago Bears
The Chicago Bears 1940’s throwback jersey is not much different from their current attire but the simple navy and orange combination without the traditional white trim is awesome. The Bears are one of the few teams that are able to alter their regular helmets to resemble more of an authentic retro feel. The NFL allows players to remove decals from their regular helmets to wear with their throwback jerseys. So the Bears pay tribute to the early days of professional football with the simple less is more approach.
7. 1990’s Atlanta Falcons
This Steve Bartkowski/William Andrews/Alfred Jenkins era throwback is a classic. Honorable mention must go to their 1966 jersey who donned the red jersey and helmet combination with white pants for a traditional American football look. But the best Falcons throwback lies in their black jersey from the 90s. Although, the modern day regular season uniform isn’t much different with white pants, red jersey, black helmet, the simple reverse of colors makes a huge difference for the Falcons.
6. 1965 Buffalo Bills
Although the Buffalo Bills throwback is not much different than their regular home and away jerseys, there is a vast difference in the standing bison of the old school versus the charging bull of the new school. According to NFL.com, fans were so drawn to the stark white helmet with the bright red bison introduced in 2009 that the Bills made it their alternate jersey in 2011. Unfortunately, its another team that relies heavily on the use of a throwback helmet with the jersey so it’s up to the league to reconsider the rule banning retro helmets.
5. 1980’s Houston Oilers
Yet another classic retro white uniform that keeps it simple. As dirty as a football uniform can get, the white on white combination is clearly a popular match among fans. According to Bleacher Report, fans still wear Oilers throwback gear to Titans’ games because it will always be a classic. Usually baby blue and red aren’t the best colors to pair together but Houston kept it clean and bright. The Tennessee Titans didn’t stray too far from the retro colors but removing the red and making it virtually all baby blue removed that vintage patriotic feeling.
4. 1963 San Diego Chargers
The classic San Diego Chargers 1963 throwback was so nice it actually became the team’s alternate jersey. The crisp powder blue with white pants and a white helmet is almost unparalleled but it loses points for not really being a throwback anymore. The bold yellow highlights the simplicity on both this jersey and the all white throwback to the ’63 Bolts. Unfortunately, San Diego’s success in the fashion department has not translated as well on the field but the Chargers continue to fight to be a consistent contender.
3. 1979 Philadelphia Eagles
The Philadelphia Eagles 1979 throwback has an old school kind of feel that’s perfect for a team that just celebrated its 80th anniversary. The white pants paired with the kelly green jersey and helmet is clean, bright and different. Across the Big 4, primarily bright green uniforms are pretty rare so the Eagles alternate is a pretty widely accepted change. Some even believe that Philadelphia’s current throwback should actually replace the squad’s current gear.
2. 1980’s Los Angeles Rams
Compared to the St. Louis Rams’ active uniform, the throwback is so much more vibrant. The bright yellow pants paired with the royal blue jersey has a vintage varsity vibe that isn’t as common as it used to be in the NFL. The good thing is the Rams are able to wear their regular helmets, as per regulation, without having to change anything. It’s unclear why these jerseys were ever retired unless St. Louis and this NFL throwback should come out of retirement and replace the studious navy and brown palette.
1. 1984 New England Patriots
The New England Patriots throwback to the 1984 squad is simple and clean. Crisp white pants with a bright red jersey and blue accents is obviously a symbol of the American flag with the only possible downside being the retro Pats logo on the striking white helmet. As if Tom Brady needed any other reason to step up his fashion game. Unfortunately, again, the retro helmet is no longer acceptable in the NFL due to the league’s recent increase in awareness of concussions and head trauma. Nonetheless, the New England Patriots throwback jersey is perfectly patriotic.