This week, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers made headlines with their latest uniform strategy, which was met with mixed reviews at best (I like to think of it as “Bad Robot Chic”). The Pittsburgh Steelers have their infamous bumblebee unis with road sign numbers. The Denver Broncos have socks that once inspired a pep rally bonfire, while the San Diego Chargers have their Hollywood powder blues.
Newer teams, such as the Jacksonville Jaguars and the Carolina Panthers, haven’t been around long enough to have moments of old uniform nostalgia, no equivalent of old high school yearbooks archived for the sole purpose of giggling at their ancestors’ strange haircuts, ill-fitting pants and floppy leather helmets.
But consider the Indianapolis Colts, who have 30 years in the Circle City and more than 30 in Baltimore (depending on which franchise birthday is accepted as real). Despite more than 60 seasons, each one an opportunity to make a horrible uniform decision, the Colts’ throwbacks show only tiny, subtle differences.
It’s like trying to spot the differences in those People Magazine ‘Second Look’ photos. The blue and white are as timeless and versatile as the little black dress. Once in awhile, someone on the Indy fan message boards will propose updating the Colts’ look, only to be shouted down by the vast faithful majority.
But where did the blue and white come from?
Football first arrived in Baltimore in 1946 when a group purchased the bankrupt Miami Seahawks, moved them to Maryland and renamed them the Colts. This iteration of the team inherited Miami’s green and silver uniforms, which they kept until 1951 when the team was dissolved due to financial issues. Imagine an alternate universe in which Peyton Manning spent more than 10 years dressed vaguely as a member of the Philadelphia Eagles with orange highlights.
But the good people of Baltimore have never tolerated a lack of football for long. In 1953, a one-season-old reclamation project known as the Dallas Texans moved to town and became the Colts 2.0. Their uniforms were blue and white, and the look has remained more or less unchanged ever since. The Colts don’t technically claim their pre-Baltimore heritage (NFL historical records show the Baltimore Colts as an expansion team, despite its inherited Texan pieces), but there are still references to these ancestors on their official history website.
ProFootballHOF.com lists the Dallas Texans as “the last NFL team to go belly up,” but Colts fans can thank them for inspiring a classic uniform legacy. I’d like to think this historical connection says something about the modern-day Texans’ karma in Indy as well.