History of the Green Bay Packers Jersey Part 1

1944pack.jpgThe focus of this article is to create an identification guide for Green Bay Packer jerseys. For the years 1921-58, little information is available, and this article references material provided by the Packers official website found at www.packers.com.

MEARS has a research trip scheduled at the Packers Hall of Fame in Green Bay, Wis. to conduct a study of the game-worn items on display. Results from that trip will be published on our website, mearsonline.com.

For the years 1959-2005, I have chosen to list all characteristics of the jerseys for which MEARS evaluated since my first examples and data that supported this time frame. I have dissected the technical aspects of the jerseys and presented them in the following categories by year, and include tagging, coloring, numbering, striping, neckline, NOB, sleeve, length, material known, example and interesting facts.

When reading this article, some of the information may appear redundant, but during my research, I noticed subtle pattern differences that could only be detected by evaluating and researching each season’s jersey by the same category sets. For example, at first glance the numbering of the early 1960’s jerseys appear to be the same. However, upon closer examination, you will notice that the numbers for the 1965 season have indented serifs. During 1965, the indentation was removed from the serif numbers and by 1966 it was completely phased out.

This is a key factor in identifying jerseys that have been purported to have been worn during the 1966 Super Bowl season. Many additional nuances are identified and explained in the text of this article.
The year-by-year breakdown will also aid any collector who wishes to use this article as a guide to determine the era of a Packer jersey in its collection.

1921-22: Manufacturer unknown. Style was blue with block lettered “ACME PACKERS”.

1923-24: Manufacturer unknown. Plain, gold plain, gold jersey with nine thin navy-blue stripes on each sleeve; gold leggings, dark gold pants.

1925-26: Manufacturer unknown. First recorded uniform numbers; dark gold shirts with wide navy-blue strip covering shoulder and collar, cut off at the top of each arm; tall, gold leggings; light gold pants.

1927-28: Manufacturer unknown. Elaborate, jockey-like jerseys, with inverted triangle tracing clavicles and 13 blue and gold vertical stripes from chest to stomach; faded blue canvas pants; gold socks with two blue stripes.

1929-30: Manufacturer unknown. Jersey was blue in color with a circular chest emblem, which housed the players’ uniform number.

1931-33: Manufacturer unknown. Totally plain jerseys (dark navy-blue), large white numerals on back; gold pants; plain, dark navy-blue socks. In 1934, the team added large, white numerals on the chest.
1935-36: Manufacturer unknown. Team introduced green and changed jerseys during the season; began with plain dark green jerseys with gold numbers and green pants, then shifted to green-vested shirts with bright gold sleeves (from neck to wrist), numbers and pants, and tall, plain green socks.

1937-49: Manufacturer unknown. Throwback jersey worn in 1994, NFL’s 75th anniversary; modeled after the late ’30s uniform, satin-chested with cloth arms, gold pants and two gold stripes on high navy socks. The Packers also wore similar white uniforms (not necessarily only on the road), with bright gold numbers and faded gold shoulders; in the late ’40s, the team still used this design.

1939: Manufacturer unknown. During World War II, the team used three alternate jerseys, complementing the trademark blue uniform made famous by the incomparable Don Hutson. The Packers wore white several times at home until the league signed major television contracts in the late 1950s.

1946-49: Manufacturer unknown. The Packers wore a white shell with gold matching front numerals and yoke.

1950-52: Manufacturer unknown. The team also employed varying combinations of a metallic gold uniform with green numbers, shiny green pants with gold stripe, or metallic gold pants with a single green stripe, and green socks with two gold rings. This was the same time period that the modern metallic gold helmet was introduced.

1953: Manufacturer unknown. Brighter green shirts with the same striping and thicker gold numbers; the Packers continued to vary its combinations. The team had a white jersey, saving it mostly for late-season west coast trips.

1954-58: Manufacturer unknown, but Wilson was a big supplier of the NFL during this time period. Navy-blue jersey, with new three-stripe design in dirty mustard gold on sleeves, socks and helmets, and matching gold pants. For the 1956 opener vs. Detroit, the Packers broke out green jerseys with white pants and white helmets, but didn’t wear again until ’58.
“TV numbers” on the shoulder appear in ’56 for first time. The team used its older green jerseys and gold pants (from the early ’50s) in several road games. In 1957, the Packers began consistently wearing white on the road, for television.

Starting with 1959 jerseys, MEARS had actual examples available to examine. This begins our detailed charting of jersey features. Judging from the few surviving 1960’s Green Bay Packer jerseys, professional football was every bit as rough and rugged as it is currently. With the exception of the star players like Hornung and Starr, who were issued additional replacements, most jerseys MEARS has examined were found with multiple team repairs. The tattered jerseys were patched and sewn in the same Durene as the outer body shell. It was common to see stitches covering stitches.

Personal interviews with players from the Vince Lombardi era shed some light on the misfortunes of the Packers jerseys of the 1960’s. Ray Nitschke made his film debut in the prison movie the “Longest Yard” but the Packers jerseys ended up with a non-Hollywood trip to death row.

Nitschke told me over dinner at his favorite Greek restaurant in Green Bay that after season’s end, the Packers’ jerseys and helmets were donated to the Oneida County Prison. No.15 was worn by an auto thief, No. 66 by an ax murderer, No. 31 by an embezzler and the rest were issued to other inmates paying their debt to society. According to Nitschke, in prison, “Lombardi’s Sweep” was transformed to the “Warden’s Sweep” and reserved for guards checking for contraband in the prisoners’ cells.

Those that were not sent to the prison were worn on the practice field until the shredded and battered material could no longer be worn.
Several years ago Ray Nitschke’s estate sold his game-worn Durene home jersey. It was originally issued as a gamer, but then continued its life as Nitschke’s favorite practice jersey. The green Durene shell was intact, but all of the white cotton numbering has been destroyed and only the white threaded outline of the “66” could be seen on both front and back. Although 100 percent authentic, it did not have much collector-appeal and Donruss purchased it to be inserted in hundreds of football cards.
1959-60 Wilson Tagging: Style of the manufacturers tag was found on baseball jerseys from the circa 1948-1966 era. The exact range of Wilson-manufactured Packers jerseys has yet to be determined, but we do know that this version of the tag was found on the circa 1959-60 era.
Color: The color of the 1959 home jersey consisted of a more bluish hue. Remember, previously the Packers wore blue and gold, and 1959 served as a transition year when the color appeared as a bluish green. Home jerseys were green with white numbering; road jerseys were white with green numbering.

Numbering: Numbers appeared on the sleeve, front and back. All of the numbering is sewn with heavy cotton materials.

Striping: Home sleeves were striped with three predominate yellow stripes and two lesser white stripes. The white stripes are separated by thin green stripes. The road sleeves were reversed in color with no separating stripes.

Neckline: The home jersey’s rounded neckline was the same color as the jersey itself, but the road was found with rounded “green-gold-green” trim.

 NOB: No players’ names on the back. Sleeve Length: Full-length issued, sometimes trimmed per player.
Material: Durene

Known example: MEARS A10 1959 Jim Taylor home jersey with numerous team repairs, style match, LOA from Taylor (shown above).
According to www.packers.com/history, “early Lombardi scheme did not include helmet logo, and called for three-striped design on socks; all players were asked to wear the same style cleats. In 1959 road games only, socks above striping were white (tops of socks have been green for all games since ’60).”

Circa 1960-63 Red Fox Tagging: During the early 1960s, the Packers wore jerseys supplied by the Red Fox Co. They became the supplier of Green Bay Packers’ jerseys after Wilson. The manufacturers tag read “Red Fox Manufacturing Co., Dallas-Texas.” The size is included as part of the tag. An adjacent wash instruction tag is usually found sewn above the manufacturers tag.

A team photo of the 1960 Green Bay Packers taken by Lefebvre studios depicts both the bluish-green jerseys and the new traditional green jerseys. No bluish-green jerseys have been found with the Red Fox tag, therefore, it is plausible that the 1960 green style jerseys were issued with the Red Fox tag.

Color: The color of the early 1960s home jersey consisted of the traditional Packers “green,” after making the transition from their blue and gold predecessors. Home jerseys were green with white numbering; road jerseys were white with green numbering.

Numbering: Numbers appeared on the sleeve, front and back. All of the numbering is sewn with heavy cotton materials.

Striping: Home sleeves were striped with three predominate gold stripes and with two lesser white stripes. The white stripes are separated by thin green stripes. The road sleeves were reversed in color with no separating stripes. Neckline: The home jersey’s rounded neckline was the same color as the jersey itself, but the road was found with rounded “green-gold-green” trim. NOB: No players’ names on the back. Sleeve Length: Full-length issued, sometimes trimmed per player.

Material: Durene

Known Examples: A private collector in the Green Bay area owns an all-original home Herb Adderly early 1960’s Durene jersey. Also, I have personally examined an all original Norm Masters jersey that was the same style. Both have intact Red Fox tags.

Packers jersey expert Guy Hankel observed that road Red Fox jerseys are very rare and a Bill Forester exists only in a private collection. None have been formally graded by MEARS.

1963 was the final season the Red Fox Co. supplied the team with jerseys. According to www.packers.com/history, “Few changes, other than the team’s first and only helmet logo, which made its debut in 1961; by 1965, most players were wearing five stripes on their socks.”

1964 to circa 1967 (tag version #1) Sand KnitTagging: Hankel provided the valuable information needed to establish the starting point of the Packer’s use of Sand Knit jerseys. According to the Oshkosh Daily Northwestern, (August 15, 1964, p.19) the caption reads, “Packers to Wear Sand-Knit Uniforms.”

This was an event newsworthy enough to make the local paper and help us establish a very key tagging date. The first Sand Knit jerseys were the single-tagged version with ‘SAND” spelled out in large red letters above a small-sized “KNIT”. The red numeric size was indicated on the bottom of the tag.

Color: Sand Knit continued to issue the jerseys in the same green hue as the Red Fox Co. Home jerseys were green with white numbering; road jerseys were white with green numbering.

Numbering: Numbers appeared on the sleeve, front and back. All of the numbering is sewn with heavy cotton material. In 1965, new lettering fonts were found. Especially noteworthy, the “7” is changed from the 45° right-top edge angle for a straight drop 7. Also, the indented serifs are removed from the 2’s, 3’s, and the 6’s. Hankel noted that scattered examples of indented serifs from previous seasons were still used, but by 1966, the indented serifs were an odd exception. Striping: Home sleeves were striped with three predominate yellow stripes and two lesser white stripes. The white stripes are separated by thin green stripes. The road sleeves were reversed in color with no separating stripes.

Neckline: The home jerseys’ rounded neckline was the same color as the jersey itself, but the road was found with rounded “green-gold-green” trim. NOB: No players’ names on the back.

Sleeve Length: Full-length issued, sometimes trimmed per player.

Material: Durene

Known Examples: Mid-1960’s Bart Starr home jersey graded MEARS A9, a mid-1960’s Paul Hornung home jersey not yet graded and a mid 1960’s Forest Gregg road jersey graded MEARS A10.

Circa 1968 Sand Knit Tagging: Starting circa 1968, Packers jerseys were found with the second version of the Sand Knit tag. “Sand Knit” was spelled out above three underlined rows of wash instructions. The team applied a red numeric size tag, which can be found sewn underneath the manufacturers tag. A matching tag of duplicate size containing the same red lettering could be found in the collar.

Color: The second version of the Sand Knit jerseys continued to issue the jerseys in the same hue green as the Red Fox Company and previously tagged Sand Knit style. Home jerseys were green with white numbering; road jerseys were white with green numbering.

Numbering: Numbers appeared on the sleeve, front and back. All of the numbering is sewn with heavy cotton material.

Striping: Home sleeves were striped with three predominate yellow stripes and two lesser white stripes. The white stripes are separated by thin green stripes. The roads sleeves were reversed in color with no separating stripes.
Neckline: The home jersey’s rounded neckline was the same color as the jersey itself, but the road was found with rounded “green-gold-green” trim.

 NOB: No players’ names on the back.

Sleeve Length: Full length issued, sometimes trimmed per player.

Material: Durene

1969 Sand Knit with 50th Anniversary Patch: During the 1969 season, the Packers jersey were found with the NFL 50th anniversary patch. Tagging, color, numbering, striping, neckline, NOB, and sleeve length are identical to 1968 issued jerseys with the addition of the 1969 50th NFL anniversary patch. Original patches measure approximately 3.5″ x 4.5″ and are red, white and blue in the shape of a shield. The white “50” on blue background and red “NFL” is raised embroidery. They were attached by gluing, sewing, or a combination of both methods. Beware of fake or reproduction patches that appear flat with no raised details.

Material: Durene

Known Example: 1969 Willie Davis road jersey with original 50th Anniversary patch, all-original, ungraded by MEARS.

1970 Sand Knit Tagging: Starting circa 1968, Packers jerseys were found with the second version of the Sand Knit tag. “Sand Knit” was spelled out above three underlined rows of wash instructions. A team-applied red numeric size tag was found sewn underneath the manufacturers tag. A matching tag of duplicate size containing the same red lettering could be found in the collar. Color: The final version of the Sand Knit jerseys issued was in the same green hue as the Red Fox Company and previously tagged Sand Knit style. Home jerseys were green with white numbering; road jerseys were white with green numbering. Numbering: Numbers appeared on the sleeve, front and back. All of the numbering is sewn with heavy cotton material.

Striping: Home sleeves were striped with three predominate yellow stripes and two lesser white stripes. The white stripes are separated by thin green stripes. The road sleeves were reversed in color with no separating stripes.

Neckline: The home jersey’s rounded neckline was the same color as the jersey itself, but the road was found with rounded “green-gold-green” trim.

NOB: 1970 found the Packers adding names to the back of their jerseys. Block lettering was applied to a nameplate. There is a great shot of Willie Wood that clearly shows the nameplate and can be found in the August 14, 1971 Bishop’s Charities Game program, page 9.

With the increased popularity of television, the additions of names were an NFL mandate intended to increase the sports popularity amongst viewers.
Sleeve Length: Full-length sleeves issued, sometimes trimmed per player. Final year of full-length sleeves.

Material: 1970 was the final season that Durene jerseys were standard issue. Starting in 1971, mesh was the standard issue worn by the team.

 Hankel pointed out that although the Durenes were no longer standard issue, they did still see limited action in some cold weather games. Additional use was regulated to the practice field, thus explaining the very few surviving examples.

The final two parts of this article will appear in future issues of SCD.

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