One of the NFL season's most surprising storylines has been the resurgence of the Oakland Raiders, who will face the Houston Texans in the wild-card round of the playoffs. It's a big turnaround for a team that hasn't made the postseason, or even had a winning record, since 2002.
When fans talk about the Raiders, they often mention the uniforms. "That classic silver and black," they'll say, "it's never changed, and it never will."
And they're right -- almost. The Raiders' uniforms are among the NFL's enduring classics, and it's hard to imagine them getting one of those full-scale Nike makeovers. Still, there have been a few changes over the years and also some quirks. Some of them have been extremely subtle, which just makes them more interesting to delve into. For this week's Friday Flashback, we're going to take a close look at some of those changes, one uniform element at a time.
The team colors
The Raiders are synonymous with silver and black. But for their first three seasons -- 1960, '61 and '62 -- their colors were gold and black. Not only that, but they had black helmets with a gold stripe and no side logos. Not exactly the classic Raiders look we've all come to know.
Everyone thinks of the Raiders as the silver and black. But from 1960-62, their colors were actually *gold* and black. pic.twitter.com/FCciaQy2S0— Paul Lukas (@UniWatch) January 3, 2017
The helmet shield
The Raiders' helmet logo features a black shield with the team's ubiquitous mascot character. But the shield wasn't always black -- in 1963 it was silver (a look that has occasionally been revived as a throwback). The black background debuted in 1964.
Logo shield on Raiders' first silver helmet, in 1963, had light background, not solid black. Was revived as a throwback in 1994. pic.twitter.com/i92KS6Lf7J— Paul Lukas (@UniWatch) December 12, 2016
Most fans think the Raiders' logo shield has been unchanged since the black background was imposed in 1964, but it has actually undergone a subtle change. The original version of the logo showed white highlights or glare on the mascot character's helmet. The glare was removed in 1997, and the logo has remained glare-free since then.
Little-noted Raiders logo change: Mascot character's helmet had white highlights or glare (shown at left) from 1963-96. No glare since then. pic.twitter.com/niqoUxkym3— Paul Lukas (@UniWatch) January 3, 2017
The silver numbers
For most of the Raiders' history, their white jerseys have had black numbers, but for two brief periods, the white jerseys featured silver numbers. The first of these was in 1963 and '64, when the silver numbers had almost comically thick black outlining. The silver numbers returned for one season in 1970 but with much thinner black outlining. Both versions have occasionally resurfaced in throwback and Color Rush designs.
Raiders' white jerseys had silver numbers w/ thick black outlines in 1963-64 (top). Silver numbers returned in 1970 but w/ thinner outlines. pic.twitter.com/MG435D7JmP— Paul Lukas (@UniWatch) January 3, 2017
Raiders' silver numbers on white jersey have reappeared on throwbacks and Color Rush - sometimes w/ thick black outlines, sometimes w/ thin. pic.twitter.com/8Me10YHn3K— Paul Lukas (@UniWatch) January 3, 2017
The full names
For the first five weeks of the 1960 season, Raiders players didn't wear their names on their jerseys. But for the rest of that year, and for all of the following season, they wore their full names -- first and last. That seems wacky now, but putting any kind of names on players' jerseys was still a new concept at the time (it had been pioneered by the Chicago White Sox in the spring of 1960), so teams were still figuring out how to approach it. Photos of the Raiders' full names are rare, but you can see the names peeking out in a few old rear-view shots.
Photos aren't ideal, but Raiders put players' first and last names on back of jerseys for most of 1960 and all of 1961. pic.twitter.com/VXPJNgEfV9— Paul Lukas (@UniWatch) January 3, 2017
Those are the major issues in Raiders uniform history. But while we're at it, here are some additional uni-related notes regarding a few famous Raiders:
• Hall of Fame center Jim Otto was among the handful of NFL players to wear No. 00. The number also mimicked the pronunciation of his surname: "aught-oh."
• Two Raiders were notorious for slathering their uniforms with stickum: wide receiver Fred Biletnikoff and defensive back Lester Hayes.
Two of the NFL's greatest stickum-slathered players played for the Raiders: WR Fred Biletnikoff and DB Lester Hayes. pic.twitter.com/BqbUvORkBm— Paul Lukas (@UniWatch) January 3, 2017
• Swashbuckling Raiders quarterback Kenny Stabler used the same face mask for most of his career. Look closely and you can see that the mask, which was made by Dungard, used to have a vertical center bar, which Stabler had removed. Why didn't he just use a more conventional mask? According to helmet historian Curtis Worrell of Helmet Hut, "Stabler started using this mask because it stuck out further than the conventional Schutt mask and, thus, better protected a jaw injury he had received while wearing the Schutt mask."
Fun fact: Raiders QB Ken Stabler's signature facemask originally had a center vertical bar, which he had removed. pic.twitter.com/hHUchrK2g5— Paul Lukas (@UniWatch) January 3, 2017
(Special thanks to Bill Schaefer of the Gridiron Uniform Database for his research assistance.)
Would you like to nominate a uniform or uni element to be showcased in a future Friday Flashback installment? Send your suggestions here.
Paul Lukas wishes the Raiders had worn solid black, instead of solid white, for their Color Rush game last month. If you like 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.