episodic list articles by Corey B. Buckner
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The 5 Best: NFL Uniforms of All Time
by Corey B. Buckner
I absolutely love sports uniforms. As a man who grew up playing football starting at age eight, I have a particular affinity for football uniforms. From high school all the way through the pro leagues around the world; I spend more time than I am willing to admit checking out past and current football uniforms. New uniform reveals for me are as exciting and highly anticipated as new Marvel Movie trailer releases are for others. Suffice to say, they are a BIG DEAL for me. One of the rules of The 5 Best is that there are no honorable mentions or "Best of the Rest" mentions; just 5 selections and no more. In adhering to those rules, this has been the hardest list for me to abide by that rule so far. WIth that said, here is my very difficult to compile list of the 5 best NFL uniforms of all time.
5. Tampa Bay Creamsicles
When I was growing up the Tampa Bay Buccaneers were the living breathing embodiment of the word juxtaposition. They were by far the most futile sports franchise in all of football, but had possibly the best uniforms during that entire period of professional uselessness. I can honestly say that were it not for their top tier uniforms I doubt anybody outside of the old NFC Central would have cared that they even existed. Aside from my knowledge that Doug WIllimas and Steve Young were briefly on their roster I can't tell you anything else about those teams except that they lost A LOT.
But those creamy orange jerseys with red trim around their white letters was a perfect combination to be beheld by my eyes. Even better than their jerseys were their helmets. To date, I have yet to see anything as graceful and stylish on a football helmet as the sword-wielding Buccaneer that decorated their helmets during this time period. Were it not for the existence of these helmets you would not be able to convince me that a winking orange man with a sword in his mouth and a feather in his cap could be one of the toughest-looking football helmet decals of all time. But it is. Despite my complete lack of interest in that era of Buccaneers football, I would always stop and watch them play whenever they were on TV, which wasn't very often, because I had to see those uniforms in action.
4. 1980s 49ers
At the opposite end of the football spectrum from the Tampa Bay Buccaneers was their intra conference opponents the San Francisco 49ers. The 49ers won four Super Bowls in the 1980s and did so wearing perfectly composed red and gold uniforms. I am willing to consider the possibility that watching their decade of excellence at a young age, and my fandom of 49er greats Joe Montana, Jerry Rice, Roger Craig and Ronnie Lott may sway my opinion on these uniforms; but for a period of my life they were the very definition of uniform excellence for me.
Etched in my brain for my entire life will be the memories of Super Bowl confetti falling down on Joe Montana while wearing that uniform with "When You Wish Upon A Star" playing in the background as he said, "I'm going to Disney World," The Catch, The Drive, and so many other great moments in football history happened while the 49ers were wearing their red home jerseys. Their team name is a nod to the 1949 gold rush, and they picked a uniquely attractive shade of gold to portray that. Their gameday ensembles were finished off with matching gold pants with a white stripe closed in by two red stripes on each side. Their uniforms were simple compared to today's offerings, but yet still perfect in that simplicity. That's why I've selected them as my fourth best NFL uniforms of all time.
3. Miami Dolphins 70s, 80s and 90s
As a kid who was in the Chicago area for the Super Bowl run of the '85 Bears, this is a hard admission for me to make; but the Miami Dolphins uniforms look amazing to me. Watching that team thrash the Bears' undefeated season on Monday Night Football is another football event that is etched in my memory. The mark that was most impactful on me was how cool Dan Marino, Mark Duper and Mark Clayton looked in those aqua, orange and white uniforms flying up and down football fields in the 1980s. Ever since then, even while Miami has lived through a few decades of abject futility as a franchise, I have kept my eye on those uniforms.
In all of sports I don't think there is another franchise with the exact same color of aqua and orange that the Dolphins wear, which is another reason they stand out so much to me. Everything scattered about the Dolphins sideline on game days from the hats, coaches Polo shirts, team jackets and of course the uniforms are so appealing to my eyes. For their uniqueness and how much they stand out amongst all other sports franchises, for me the 70s, 80s and 90s Miami Dolphins have the third best uniforms in NFL history. For what it's worth, the current Dolphins uniforms which are slightly different are just as nice.
2. Houston Oilers
The Tennessee Titans' uniforms are typically great, and were especially nice during the Steve McNair, Eddie George era. But, their multiple shades of blue with white and gray game day kits will never live up to the glory and splendor that the franchise shed when they ceased being the Oilers to become the Titans.That Houston oil rig logo and the baby blue jerseys with red trim around white letters was about as close to uniform perfection that can be achieved. Watching Warren Moon march up and down the field, throwing for thousands of yards a season in baby blue and white was like watching Picasso paint a masterpiece wearing a Ralph Lauren masterpiece. It was making art while wearing art. The Oilers were one of the few teams who's road white uniforms looked just as good as their colorful home uniforms. That distinction along with iconic moments like Earl Campbell's uniform ripping run elevates these now defunct uniforms into the realm of legendary. For me and places them at number two on my list of the five best NFL uniforms of all time; just behind the next team which actually achieved uniform perfection.
1. Los Angeles Chargers Current
Rarely if ever have I been left speechless at a uniform unveiling; but that is exactly what happened on April 21, 2020 when the Los Angeles Chargers unveiled their latest uniforms. Clad in powder blue, white and yellow; these jersey, pants and helmet combinations burst onto the scene and immediately, almost unanimously were recognized as one of the current best uniforms in the NFL. Beyond that, they have quickly become regarded by many as one of the best uniforms of all time. Prior to wearing these uniforms, the Chargers lived through a few decades of uniform obscurity as they donned their uninspired dark blue and gold diggs. Its not that their 90s uniforms were unattractive, they just weren't anything worth paying particular attention to. Throughout the 90s and early 2000s they just kind of existed as the basic uniforms of a basic, third-tier AFC West team.
During that time The Chargers would occasionally don their powdered blue and gold throwback uniforms, which were extremely popular. Those uniforms were the inspiration for their latest uniforms which updated the design lines and the uniform fit, creating a stunning canvas of powdered blue, white and gold. Even their rival Raiders fans have to admit that The Chargers look exquisite running out of the tunnel at SoFi field. It is worth noting that their road whites are nearly as beautiful as their home blues. All of their available uniform combinations work perfectly together: white tops with white bottoms, blue tops with white bottoms, white tops with gold bottoms, and their blue tops with gold bottoms. All of these combinations look equally as perfect as all of the others. For this reason, the Los Angeles Chargers current uniforms are the best uniforms in NFL history.
Do you agree with my list? Let me know if you agree or disagree with my list and share your list with me on social media on Instagram, Twitter or Facebook at @coreybbuckner.