Uni Watch's Friday Flashback: Jaguars struck gold with first uniforms

As you may have seen last night, the NFL's latest experiment with Thursday night uniforms found the Jacksonville Jaguars wearing gold jerseys and gold pants for the first time in franchise history:

Whatever you think of the solid-gold look, the Jags' uniforms have certainly come a long way in the team's short two-decade existence. Many observers, including this one, believe they got it right with their inaugural uniform set, which looked very sharp:

The helmet logo, the prowling jaguar on the sleeves, the contemporary color scheme and number font deployed on a traditional template -- it all worked. The gold trim was particularly effective and really made those uni numbers pop:

That uniform was always a favorite here at Uni Watch HQ. In fact, the very first Uni Watch column to appear on ESPN.com, way back in 2004, identified the Jags as one of the sports world's best-dressed teams at that time. That uniform had a chance to become a modern classic, especially because it was associated with on-field success (the Jags made the playoffs in four of their first five seasons). All they had to do was be smart and disciplined enough to leave it alone.

Well ...

It all came crashing down in 2009, when the Jags unveiled a miserable new uniform set that eliminated the gold trim and added a bunch of ridiculous-looking "whiskers" to the pants and jerseys. Things went from bad to worse in 2013, when Nike gave the team its current look -- more costume than uniform, really -- featuring the bizarre two-tone helmet that's easily the worst headwear design in NFL history and has cemented the team's status as an aesthetic laughingstock.

It doesn't have to be this way. Bring back the old uniform set. It was never broken and didn't need to be fixed.

Meanwhile, it's worth remembering that the Jags' initial look was actually a last-minute replacement design that came about as the result of legal wrangling. The team was slated to wear an unusual design featuring a leaping jaguar that extended across the jersey's shoulders:

But that design never made it onto the field because the Ford Motor Co. thought the team's logo looked too much like the logo for the Jaguar car brand, which Ford owned at the time. No lawsuit was ever filed, but the threat of one was enough to persuade the NFL and the Jags to head back to the drawing board. Old prototypes and products featuring the original logo have become collectors' items:

Most observers would probably agree that this all worked out for the best. The original design looked more like an Arena Football League uniform, and the one that replaced it turned out to be one of the best NFL unis of its era. Too bad it didn't get to stick around longer.

Would you like to nominate a uniform to be showcased in a future Friday Flashback installment? Send your suggestions here.

Paul Lukas has never been a Jags fan but really loves that 1990s uniform. If you liked this column, you'll probably like his Uni Watch Blog, plus you can follow him on Twitter and Facebook. Want to learn about his Uni Watch Membership Program, be added to his mailing list so you'll always know when a new column has been posted or just ask him a question? Contact him here.