Eight NFL teams have made changes to their uniforms in the past six years. Some teams, such as the Seattle Seahawks and Tampa Bay Buccaneers, completely renovated their previous looks. Others, such as the Detroit Lions and Minnesota Vikings, made very mild changes in order to make their uniforms more sharp for viewers.
But one team you haven’t seen go through a uniform makeover is the Dallas Cowboys, and we may not live long enough to see it happen, either. Love them or hate them, the Cowboys possess some of the most iconic uniforms in all of sports: The white jerseys with royal blue strips and numbering, and turquoise-grey pants. Oddly enough, they wear that combination at home. Dallas is one of the only teams in the league to primarily wear white tops on their home turf, which naturally arouses an ample amount of questions.
What caused Dallas to wear plain, white uniforms in front of their home crowd instead of the blue ones? According to Cowboys equipment manager, Mike McCord, it all started because of the scorching Texas heat.
“Originally, the white at home started with the heat, especially at Texas Stadium,” McCord told FOX Sports over the phone. “As hot as it could be for our late-August, early-September games, I think the heat was a big factor, and one of those things was making the other teams wear darker jerseys on the road, as well as standing in the sun on the sidelines in the old stadium was a huge factor in that. So any time you’re wearing darker colors, it tends to retain the heat. So that was a big part of why the Cowboys wore white jerseys at home.”
That logic checks out. It’s no secret Texas is pretty damn hot, and the Cowboys’ old Texas Stadium didn’t have a retractable roof to prevent the sun from beating down on them. One could only image how hot it would get on the field, which had to have made the players feel like they we standing in a sauna.
While there’s no doubt Dallas’ white uniforms are easily the most widely recognized uniforms in the NFL, many people have no clue why the Cowboys use royal blue and a outlandish tint of grey in their pants when their helmets feature a darker blue star on a silver background. The design of the pants came about when original team president and general manager Tex Schramm saw the color on the interior of a car.
“The ‘Cowboys Star Blue,’ which is the pants you see with the home white jerseys now, actually originated with Tex Schramm. Apparently, he had a car that he had seen – I’m not sure if he owned the car or if he just saw it – but he saw a car with that color interior and fell in love with it. So we had dye lots. That fabric is a dye-lotted color, so we have to order certain number of yards to produce it in that dye lot. So that pant color has become the color of the Cowboys for their home games.”
The color has evolved over the years, but the changes have been very minimal. When the NFL switched to Nike before the start of the 2012 season, the turquoise-grey color popped out even more. Once upon a time, their pants had a more pure grey color.
“Back in the old days, we had a company called Red Fox that designed the uniforms, and that was more of a true gray,” McCord said. “It was more of a solid, flat color on the back and then a shinier color on the front. Totally two different materials and colors. That went all the way through most of the ’70s.
“In the late ’70s, early ’80s, that’s when this color was found, so we started dye lotting the fabrication of that. Russell was making the uniforms quite a bit in that timeframe in the early ’80s, so they were able to match this color that was come up by Tex Schramm.”
What you see on television is almost a mirror image of what the Cowboys don on game day. Due to the setting on each television, nothing is perfect, but it’s excruciatingly close to what you would see in person. However, that was far from the case before high-definition television came into the picture.
Years ago, what you saw on television was almost nothing like what the Cowboys actually wore. That’s part of the reason people are starting to pick up on how green Dallas’ pants actually are.
“Obviously, with the introduction of HD, the color is more true to what you see on TV to what you hold in your hands. In the old days, they would be wearing that pant color, but in photos – especially at Texas Stadium with the way you’d go from the shade to the sun – the pant never really looked that color on TV or in photos,” McCord explained. “As the highlights of the TV became more clear and the pictures became clearer, now it’s really a true representation of what you’re seeing on TV and in photos – that turquoise, greenish color with the royal and white striping on the side panel.”
On the road, the Cowboys rock a much different shade of silver, which has drawn the ire of many fans. The silver on those pants goes much better with the helmet and navy jerseys than “Cowboys Star Blue” would, which could explain why Dallas has stay put with that color on the road.
While the Cowboys’ home jerseys haven’t undergone any significant changes, their road jerseys have. They started off with a royal blue color, but it progressed to navy over due time.
When you shop for Cowboys gear, all you will spot is navy, white, and silver. Good luck trying to find royal blue. There’s a reason royal blue has become borderline obsolete for Dallas, and retail plays a big role in that.
“Navy has been more popular in retail, and for us when we do so much of our sideline products, whether it’s polos or hats or T-shirts, a lot of that royal color – which is what the Cowboys used to be – has kind of transitioned to navy just because it does so much better at retail,” McCord said.
The reason the home uniform hasn’t been messed with is because Jerry Jones wants the Cowboys’ look to be as iconic as the New York Yankees’ pinstripes.
“Over the years, the away jersey has had the tendency of changing. That’s because Mr. [Jerry] Jones has always thought of our home uniform as the Yankee pinstripes of baseball,” McCord continued. “You just don’t want to change a whole lot of what that home uniform is, so it’s stayed pretty generic and vanilla with just the white jerseys: one color royal number, simple sleeve stripe, and everything else has stayed pretty basic.
“With the navy jerseys, we added Cowboys underneath the neck insert several years ago, we moved the stars to sleeves a little bit. So those uniforms have changed over the years, whereas with the home uniform, we’ve always kept it kind of plain and simple like the Yankees style. We have a lot of history in the home uniform, so we play a lot of games in the white.”
McCord said players actually prefer the navy uniforms simply because they are seldom worn. The white “becomes lethargic” to the players over a period of time, which begins to bore them as a direct result.
A significant amount of fans share the same preference of the navy jerseys, which is why they sell so quickly in retail. The Cowboys care a great deal about the feedback from their fans, so changes are currently being made. McCord said the team plans to wear navy at home more often in the future.
“We’ll incorporate navy a little bit more. You’ve already seen the last couple of years where we started wearing navy at home on Thanksgiving, and that’s all kind of in relation to the Color Rush uniform. We’ve had some success wearing that uniform at home, so I think we’ll see a little more of it.”
Just don’t get your hopes about Dallas wearing navy jerseys at AT&T Stadium on a regular basis, as that may never happen.
“I don’t think we’ll ever go to wearing the dark jersey at home completely, but I think we might add a game or two, possibly – especially high-profile games or national TV games at home that might be the navy jersey or another new jersey down the road if something’s approved by the NFL to do that,” McCord said.
One uniform the Cowboys have pretty much discarded of is their throwback Thanksgiving set. It consisted of a navy body with white shoulders, which went along nicely with the white pants and helmet. The only problem was the NFL created a new rule in the CBA a few years ago that prevents players from wearing more than one helmet per season due to safety precautions. That hinders a lot of teams from wearing their throwback uniforms, and the Cowboys are no exception.
McCord has faith the NFL will once again allow a secondary helmet one day, which will lead the way for many teams to go back to wearing iconic throwback uniforms.
“I think there’s always a possibility (of adding a secondary helmet),” he said. “Obviously, a lot of it was thought of to be protective for the players. I think the NFL had good intentions, but I think if it’s done the right way it can happen. Especially for us, wearing that uniform late in the year, it gave us plenty of time to break another helmet in. I think the NFL is a little weary of what the college ranks are doing with guys changing helmets on a weekly basis and the level of inventory it requires when you have to deal multiple helmets.”
It’s a legitimate possibility Dallas will go back to their old look from the ‘60s, and wear more navy at home games. But you’re only kidding yourself if you expect Jones to do away with those unconventional white uniforms.