I have been a sports fan all my life. During that lifetime of watching sports, you quickly recognize what team is on the field just by looking at their uniforms (kits, sweaters, etc.). Love them or hate them, some teams have carved out a definitive look unique to that franchise. While some teams/schools change their looks more than a Saturday night club patron (Oregon Ducks anyone?), others have remained true to their iconic look.
In my book, staying true to a unique look beats random changes for the sake of merchandise sales. Off the top of my head, I came up with about 15 teams/schools/countries whose athletes are immediately recognizable simply because of their uniforms. Of those, I have narrowed that list down to a top-10 of iconic sports uniforms.
I guarantee you that I have probably omitted your preferred team and committed some hideous faux pas. Or, even worse, I have included a team you hate with the burning passion of a thousand suns. Shove off…it’s my list, not yours. Don’t like it…sound off in a reply.
Notes: Not many NBA teams even merited consideration. Baseball, football (American) and hockey get more love. Football (soccer) also didn’t merit much attention because too many countries have similar color schemes or change their kits with every World Cup cycle.
Without further ado…let’s get started.
#10 Boston Celtics.
The only NBA team to make this list. Watching Boston play from the late 70’s on, you always knew they were on the court. Whether they wore their white with green trim (home) or green with white accents (away), you didn’t need the ever-present score on the screen to know Boston was playing. In truth, the crawl at the bottom and score in the corner are relatively new and old, grizzled sports fans like me had to riddle out who was playing on our own. The Celtics uniforms made that job a lot easier.
Honorable mention—LA Laker yellow, North Carolina powder blue.
#9 Pittsburgh Steelers
For the record, I am NOT a Steeler fan. However, I have to give props to the franchise for staying true to everything about them. Quick—name four Steeler head coaches. Can’t, can you. This franchise epitomizes tradition—whether it’s the way they play the game (brutal defense, physical offense and perhaps the most devoted fans in all of the NFL). Like I said, I don’t like them, but I have a ton of respect for them.
Their uniforms serve as an outward symbol of that stability and tradition. Classic Black over Yellow—You ALWAYS know if the Steelers are on TV just by looking. It’s also a really nice look, too. Can’t lie. White over Yellow? Meh…not so much, but more on that a little later.
#8 Boston Bruins
I put the Bruins here instead of #9 because I didn’t want two Boston teams back-to-back. But in keeping with a theme of classic black, The Bruins find themselves at #8. The Bruin sweater (in hockey, they’re called sweaters, not uniforms) stands out on the ice, and offers a stark contrast. But the all black with the iconic “B” logo really makes stands out among the others.
Even their white (now road) sweaters have an exceptional look. Not too many NHL teams have nice looking white sweaters. Boston does.
#7 St. Louis Cardinals (baseball)
Full disclosure, I grew up as a Cardinal fan. While you may think there is a bit of homer in this inclusion…the classic ‘birds on the bat’ beats ANY other logo in all of major league baseball. Go ahead, come up with a more recognizable logo in all of MLB. You won’t (more on this topic in the next segment).
Set against the light blue away uniforms (I REALLY hate they stepped away from that…the away look was absolutely fabulous), the birds on the bat is the best away uniform in all of baseball. Certainly worthy of mention here—as the Cardinals have the most World Series titles with one exception…
#6 New York Yankees
If you are a Yankee fan, you’re probably seething right now because they aren’t at the top of this list. I’m not a Yankee fan (see previous entry), and it chaps my ass to include them (like the Steelers), but I can’t deny…the NYY uniform is simply the best in all of baseball.
Striking navy blue pinstripes with the NY logo emblazoned on the chest…the Yankee home uniform is as iconic as it gets in MLB. Certainly worthy of the winningest franchise in all of baseball is the accolade of best uniform. I will root against them against almost any opponent, but when it comes to the uniform—I tip my hat, it’s the best.
#5 Argentinian Men’s National Football team
Delving now into football (soccer) on a global scale. This is the only kit that even came close (Premiere League, Serie A, League Une, MLS, etc. didn’t even merit consideration). So many countries have similar color palates (Ukraine, Sweden and Brazil all have royal blue/yellow for example) that prevent you knowing who is on the pitch simply by looking at them. Granted, if it’s a significant match on a world stage and you see royal blue/yellow, you can probably bet your house payment it’s Brazil.
However, Argentina leaves no doubt. Their superb powder blue/white vertical striped shirts are singularly unique on the world football stage. You ALWAYS know when Messi and company step onto the pitch (or Maradonna, if you are of a certain age) just by looking at their kit. The look is unique enough that I’m not even sure what their alternate kit looks like.
#4 Penn State University
The only college football team uniform to make this list, the Penn State University home jersey combination of Navy Blue over white is INSTANTLY recognizable to any college football fan. A simple white helmet, maybe a dark blue stripe down the middle make this combination an icon among all other college football uniforms. It has been voted as the best college football uniform (depending on the poll), and its look hasn’t wavered since the beginning of time.
Dark Blue and White just go together really well…but even the away white on white with subtle blue accents also look really good! That’s what makes the PSU look the best in all of college football. (honorable mentions—Nebraska, Notre Dame, Michigan)
#3 Oakland Raiders (no, I will not call them Vegas)
I am a Denver Broncos fan, and even with that qualifier, I cannot deny the home uniforms of the “Raiders” franchise. Recognizable to even someone blind since birth, the ‘silver and black’ are the epitome of a team you know the moment you lay eyes on them. The helmet with the unique logo, black top, silver pants and the attitude (both on the sidelines and in the stands…are there any more passionate fans in the NFL? Cleveland perhaps…but still). The Raiders relish their ‘bad-boy’ persona and the black puts an exclamation point on it.
Less intimidating is the away white on silver look. More understated, to be sure, but nonetheless readily identifiable
#2 Dallas Cowboys
This one pains me more than any other. I grew up as a St. Louis Cardinal (football) fan and this team tormented me and an entire city. It didn’t matter if we were home or away, it was always Cardinal red over white taking on the CLASSIC White over silver of Dallas. Perhaps no other NFL franchise has established their White jersey as their preferred color—most prefer their team colors, as well as Dallas has.
Can you imagine a Super Bowl with Pittsburg that DIDN’T have Dallas white, Pittsburgh black? Yeah, think on that for a second. It would signal the end of days if it was Pittsburgh white, Dallas blue.
The Dallas look—simple, clean white over silver with the iconic star logo on the silver helmet, is the quintessential NFL look. That said, I have come around to the dark blue tops. In truth, I think they look better.
And that just leaves one more iconic look. For that, we head to the ice….
#1 Montreal Canadiens
There is no more recognizable sweater/uniform/kit/whatever in all of sport than the perfect red Montreal home sweater. Complimented perfectly with royal blue and white accents with the C/H logo that has remained virtually unchanged for more than a century, this sweater with the royal blue bottom sets the standard for any team’s look. The C/H logo comes from their name in French (Les Habitants Canadien), though the H stood for hockey and the nickname of the “Habs” came from the ‘habitants’.
The red, white and blue combination also produces a stellar away look as well. The white top with the royal blue bottom/white socks gives another very good look. One of the reasons the Habs are at the top of this list is because they look good regardless of whether they are on home or away ice.
I have proudly worn that sweater before, despite being a life-long St. Louis Blues fan. It is, quite simply, the best sweater/uniform/jersey/kit in existence.
Sound off below if I’ve angered/pleased you. Hope you enjoyed the read.