Atlanta Falcons: Uniform History

Mike Foster@michaelsfosterCorrespondent IDecember 24, 2010

Atlanta Falcons: Uniform History

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    I feel like all has been said about this weekend's Monday Night Football game between the Falcons and Saints, as well as the Falcons underappreciated 12-2 season. 

    So today I'm throwing a curveball of sorts. As some of you may or may not know, next year (if there is a next year for the NFL) will be the final season Reebok outfits the 32 teams in the league. 

    Starting in 2012, Nike will take over as the official outfitter of the NFL. This may be alarming news for football fans who follow the sport enough to know Nike has put a rather awkward stamp on college football's uniforms. 

    While many anticipate teams like the Packers and Steelers will look exactly the same, there are equal expectations that modern teams like the Falcons will tweak their uniforms.

    I find this exciting, mainly because I have not been the biggest fan of the Falcons jerseys since 2004. However, some absolutely love them. And the older generations have been crying for the old Falcons crest and throwback uniforms to become mainstays again, giving the current logo the name "robo-bird" and claiming their uniforms are too soft looking.

    So what do you think? Classic vs. Modern. Red vs. Black. Robo-Bird vs. Hieroglyphics Bird.

    What should the Atlanta Falcons look like?

    Here is a complete rundown of their uniform history to help you decide.

1966-1970: The Beginning, and Pleasing the Swarm

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    Pictured: Linebacker Tommy Nobis
    Pictured: Linebacker Tommy Nobis

    Here is a look at franchise linebacker Tommy Nobis during the Falcons inaugural years. The Falcons original uniforms featured red helmets, black jerseys, white pants, and striped black socks.

    But there was a kick. Atlantans over at the Georgia Institute of Technology were angry an Atlanta-based team was donning University of Georgia colors. Georgia actually wore black jerseys way back in the day, and also wore white pants nearly identical to the Falcons during the start of the Dooley era (the Techies had a point). And, the Falcons road jerseys had black numbers, just like those pesky Dawgs. So, what did the Falcons do?

    They wore two thin, almost unnoticeable gold stripes on their helmets from 1966-1969. The above picture shows the Falcons somewhere between 1968 and 1970, because the sleeve stripes and sleeve numbers were a minor tweak made two years into the team's existence.

    The very first uniforms had shoulder numbers instead, and the Falcons crest on the sleeve. You will see those pop up again near the end of the list.

    I'm a huge fan of this look, which kind of resembles the "blackout" uniforms worn by Georgia during 2008. Speaking of irony, the Falcons would not only trash the subtle gold helmet stripes in 1970, but they would look more like Georgia the following season.

1971-1977: Say Hello To Red

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    Pictured: Defensive End Claude Humphrey
    Pictured: Defensive End Claude Humphrey

    In 1971 the leverage of Georgia Tech influence in the Falcons brand officially disappeared. The Falcons reversed the red and black on their home uniforms, resulting in red jerseys. Not much else changed on the road set, either.

    Atlanta wore this classic yet simple uniform until the late 70s. Some say this was the best uniform they ever wore. I can maybe agree, especially when they later switched the facemask from grey to white, but these uniforms look just a little too plain for my taste.

    For those who agree with me, the following uniform change definitely might have been refreshing.

    For a bit.

1978-1983: The First Major Change

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    Pictured: Quarterback Steve Bartkowski
    Pictured: Quarterback Steve Bartkowski

    The Falcons made a major image overhaul in 1978. They introduced silver, which became part of the facemask, jersey stripes and numbers, and pants. 

    More detailed collar stripes became an emphasis, and the road jerseys had red numbers instead of black, which would become a consistent theme down the road.

    Also, the Falcons crest made its way back onto the jersey sleeves in 1981. This uniform might have a place in older Falcon fans hearts, considering the Birds had their best year to date in 1980 with a 12-4 record.

    The Falcons facemask color was also white sometime during this era, but it's been hard to figure out exactly where.

1984-1989: Black Facemasks

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    Pictured: Cornerback Deion Sanders
    Pictured: Cornerback Deion Sanders

    One of the more noticeable changes in Falcons uniform history occurred in 1984 when they switched to black facemasks. Although the change may sound subtle, it was pretty darn noticeable in pictures.

    The Falcons late 1980s uniforms also continued the trend of moving the sleeve stripes, numbers, and logo around. However, the overall uniform was almost identical to the uniform released in 1978. 

    From 1987 to 1989 the logo was moved down onto the stripes, which was a modern creation at the time.

    Loose sleeves and huge pant belts defined this era, and there is no doubt this was one of the ugliest looks the Falcons ever had.

1990-1996: Back In Black

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    Pictured: Cornerback Deion Sanders
    Pictured: Cornerback Deion Sanders

    The Falcons made a huge turn in team image in 1990, changing back to black jerseys and using a black helmet for the first time in team history.

    Thus the most boring era in NFL uniform history, for a single team, began. The Falcons crest featured a white outline, and no red. Red only showed up in a thin stripe on the pants, thin stripes on the numbers, and the 25th anniversary logo patch (seen on the shoulder in the above picture).

    Even the away jerseys had black numbers and black socks.

    The uniform wasn't really that bad of a design. It was just a shame to see a team wear nothing but black, white, and silver in an era where color T.V. was becoming the norm.

1997-2002: The Dirty Bird Era

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    Pictured: Receiver Terrence Mathis
    Pictured: Receiver Terrence Mathis

    There is a very good reason for me showing you a road uniform for the first time in this list. Notice all of the red?

    In 1997, Dan Reeves came in and put some pop in the Falcons look. While the home uniforms stayed almost the same, the road uniforms received an overhaul with red numbers and red socks.

    Also, the silver pants stripe pattern flip-flopped, making red the more noticeable color. These uniforms, especially the road uniforms, were not all that bad.

    Plus, the Falcons won the 1998 NFC Championship game and the 2002 playoff game at Lambeau wearing the pictured uniform, so that stands for something.

2003: The Evolution and the Curse

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    Pictured: Quarterback Kurt Kittner
    Pictured: Quarterback Kurt Kittner

    Michael Vick's broken leg was the worst thing that ever happened to the Atlanta Falcons brand.

    Here I give you my all time favorite Falcons uniform, one which we may never see again. Atlanta unveiled an awesome new logo and a complete new uniform set in 2003.

    The new set featured a metallic paint black helmet with the new crest, new modern jerseys in black and white, and modern pants in black and white.

    The positive, in addition, was the fact Atlanta made a conscious effort to balance the red in the home black jerseys and the new road jerseys (the road jerseys are still worn today).

    Everyone thought these uniforms were perfect, and the new options with the black pants were exciting.

    But, in the second preseason game in 2003, Vick broke his leg and ended up missing almost the entire season.

    The Falcons only won one game in the new home uniforms. When Vick returned, the team only wore the new red alternate uniform or all-black and finished 3-1.

    So, starting in 2004, Atlanta began to use the red jersey, alternate white pants (red stripes instead of black), and red socks as their permanent home uniform. The Falcons came out and claimed the black on white uniform was cursed because Vick broke his leg in it.

    That alternate uniform was released to be an alternate, not a primary. It has continued to clash with the road uniform ever since, because the road uniform uses the old white pants and black socks.

2004-2008: Mora Has a Little Fun

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    Pictured: Quarterback Michael Vick
    Pictured: Quarterback Michael Vick

    In the 2005 and 2006 seasons, under Jim Mora, the Atlanta Falcons experimented with red on black uniforms. It was kind of a cool look, but it was looked down upon as being too "Arena league" for the rest of the NFL.

    The Falcons also wore white on black and black on black numerous times during this era. The black on black uniform was a declared alternate from 2004 through 2008.

    When Mora left, the Falcons ditched the red on black option. It was not worn under Bobby Petrino or Mike Smith, who entered in 2008.

2009-Present: Mike Smith Cleans Up Look, Adds Throwback

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    Pictured: Receiver Roddy White
    Pictured: Receiver Roddy White

    Starting last season, the Falcons ditched their all-black alternate uniform and replaced it with a 1966 throwback.

    While most fans love the throwback, many have been disappointed with the fact the black pants have not been worn for road games because they are no longer part of the team's uniform set.

    The Falcons have strictly followed NFL uniform standards, wearing the same home uniform, road uniform, and throwback alternate for two years in a row.

Which Do You Like Best?

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    Pictured: Quarterback Matt Ryan
    Pictured: Quarterback Matt Ryan

    And now the debate begins. Which Falcons uniform was best? 

    And, which direction should they go in in 2012?

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