Fading the Black – Colour Uniforms Back in Vogue


Black’s cool. I get it – really. My wife likes it when I put on my all-black suit. Darth Vader wouldn’t look the same in teal. When you see a “black and white”, your foot slips off the gas. It’s even slimming.

The Intimidator. The Black Hole. Back In Black. Jerry Glanville. Heck, even Lewis Black…well, maybe that’s pushing it a little.

For a while there (really, the entire 1990s and a good chunk of the 2000s), it seemed that every sports entity had to have black somewhere. Hat brims, side panels of jerseys, something had to turn charcoal, ebony, ink, obsidian, raven or soot. Call it sport’s “Dark Period.”

Some scientists even wondered if the darkening uniforms were having an effect on the athletes’ aggressiveness; Drs. Frank & Gilovich of Cornell’s Department Of Psychology posit that, “An analysis of the penalty records of the National Football League and the National Hockey League indicate that teams with black uniforms in both sports ranked near the top of their leagues in penalties throughout the period of study. On those occasions when a team switched from nonblack to black uniforms, the switch was accompanied by an immediate increase in penalties.” (http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/3346809)

Of course, marketing drove the switch; teams routinely change something in or on their duds every year or two, just to keep the merchandisers busy and happy. For the most part, the switches didn’t overtly affect the team’s looks, and, outside of a few localized grumbles (and, of course, we logogeeks), nobody seemed to mind. Truthfully, although I grumbled, I didn’t even mind the Jays’ black duds. At least the design was cool – or so I thought; a while ago,  a little voice beside me, belonging to my (then) four-year-old daughter observed, “Daddy, why do the BLUE Jays wear BLACK?!?” Takes a kid.

Of course, we’d noticed the shift; it was either that or we were all gradually going colour-blind. The BLUE Jays. The REDS.  BLACK?!? Hmmm. Maybe we were going crazy, too.

When teams get their uniforms right (Raide s, Heat, Bruins, Blackhawks), black is a familiar and welcome sight. When they’re bad, though (Bengals, the Buffalo Bills practically-black midnight blue, Royals, Ducks, Raptors, Flames), they’re just awful – the black just adds to the visual nonsense.

With the exception of a few teams ‘branded for black’, most fans identify with actual colours. “The Red Mile” in Calgary is one of the best examples; when the Flames switched from their vibrant gold-over-crimson Lanny McDonald-era sweaters to the black-C blue-flag style, more than a few wags thought the transformation was symbolic of a once-bright franchise that had burnt out and lost its’ way.

We’re seeing a lot of push-back these days; teams are “fading the black” in a return to what is old (and new again). Our beloved Jays are blue again, the New York Mets, the Kansas City Royals have also ditched the black for a return to blue. Unless you’re a fan of the Raiders, black isn’t really part of your scheme. Like native birds loose in the Amazon, our bright colour-coded plumage attracts birds of a similar feather. Umps and refs are the ones that wear black, man.

The Bulls? Not black, man – you remember MJ in red. Gretzky in blue and orange, Rickey Henderson in green and yellow, Magic in purple vs. Bird in green, and even Nolan Ryan in those awful Astros rainbows; these are the Technicolors of our sports dreams.

My little guy cries if we make him wear anything less than Blue Jay, Argonaut or Maple Leaf blue. He’s four, but there’s a little bit of that in every sports fan; our colors are as much of a safety net, a touchstone, as they are to any block in East L.A. Black? Unless you’re a Raider fan, it just don’t mean as much to you.

To the marketing mavens of professional and school sports; Keep it up. Bring back the joyous riot of colour, occasional mistakes and all, that made sport what it is today. Trust me, you’ll still sell lots of jerseys and caps.

After all, you wouldn’t expect Tommy Lasorda to bleed Dodger...(black…?!?)

Right, you can’t say it either.

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24 Responses to Fading the Black – Colour Uniforms Back in Vogue

  1. Joseph says:

    great article. Mets went crazy with black, Raptors and BLUE Jays definitely went crazy.

    Love what the Mets and Jays have done. Raptors should always be Red or Purple.

    Royals, I wouldnt mind if they kept a little black, but not much.

  2. I’m personally glad that the black trend is fading out. I love the Jazz, and I actually own this uniform, but there is nothing worse than these duds donned in ’99: http://sportslogos.net/logo.php?id=sevf7grflxh0f7cfiotihnfgo

  3. Aaron says:

    Certain teams actually look great in black. But I agree, certain teams if you have too much black, it’s no good. Black accents don’t even look bad. I’ll give you some examples of where black (secondary) might be overkill and black (secondary) works…


    Calgary Flames- would look better if the “C” on the red jersey were white with black outline.

    Calgary Stampeders- unless it’s part of the colour scheme, don’t bother.

    Dallas Stars- Isn’t green supposed to be their main colour. If their going to use black, just use it as an accent colour and possibly their helmet colours, nothing else.

    New York Mets- Black was fine at the time they introduced it as their colour scheme, but now I think it’s run it’s course.

    New York Islanders- Please get rid off those contraptions before fans start chanting Let’s Go Olympiques (Gatineau).

    Philadelphia Eagles- Would be better as an accent colour.


    San Jose Sharks- Believe it or not, black actually works for this team.

    Toronto Raptors- Black has always been part of their identity. Don’t get rid of it.

    B.C. Lions- Just orange and white alone would make it too much like the Tampa Bay Buccaneers (1976-1996).

    Detroit Lions- Just make the facemasks blue and keep black as an outline of the Lion.

    Minnesota Timberwolves- Don’t drop the black. This actually makes the team complete.

    New York Knicks- I know black will be dropped next year, but compared to the other New York teams, black looks great as an accent for this team.

    Teams who should never have added black

    Toronto Blue Jays- They didn’t look too bad in black at that time, but I’m really glad they went back to their original colour scheme.

    Buffalo Sabres- Black and red made them look dangerous and they actually did well, but may fans wanted a return of the blue and gold.

    Cleveland Cavaliers- If it weren’t for those ugly contraptions of the mid 1990’s, they could’ve gotten away with just an black accent.

  4. Tim says:

    I’m surprised no one’s mentioned the obvious: the All Blacks rugby team. Now imagine the outcry if that team dropped the back colour scheme.

  5. Ed says:

    The Mets and Blue Jays were severely ill-advised on the black – and then when the Oakland A’s used black for an alternate – it was totally out of control. I love the return of traditional Blue Jays, Mets, and even the Oriole cartoon bird… plus the yellow A’s jerseys. Life is good again!

  6. Andre says:

    I don’t agree with any stitch of black on the Calgary Flames’ uniforms. Their original red and gold is clean and simple. Red with black is already taken by Chicago. Even the NJ Devils should have kept their original red and dark green look.

    The Minnesota North Stars had a similiar look as the Flames, but with green as the primary as opposed to red. Their green and gold had that same clean look. Then, when they added black to their whites in ’81 and removed the green yokes, it just didn’t look right. Seven years later, black was added to their greens and the green pants were replaced with black ones with a gaudy stars pattern. This all led to one of the most boring and generic uniforms in the North Stars’ last two season in Minnesota.

    The trend that started it all was the LA Kings switching from their classic purple and gold to black and silver. Many teams can easily wear black but not just any team can wear the unique purple and gold. They represented royalty and hockey in the Golden State.

  7. Jarred says:

    the black on the Ducks’ jerseys aren’t bad at all. they’re kick ass!!! they’re one of the best colors in the NHL.

  8. Aaron says:

    As far as the New Jersey Devils go, black suits them a lot better than the green. And how many cups did they win with the green? None. How many with current colour combo? Three.

  9. Jonathan says:

    Yeah I think black jerseys are just dull and boring. I like when team’s wear unique jerseys with unique bright colours. I hate the L.A. Kings home and away jerseys but their purple alternate is awesome!

  10. Chris Z. says:

    In regards to my Devils, the red and black comes from the original Jersey Devils of (I think) the EHL in the 1960s. (They have one of that team’s jerseys on display at Prudential Center). The red and green, while snazzy at the time and cool as an occasional throwback today, didn’t really fit.

    The only thing is, they should have kept the striping pattern from the green and red jerseys and just replaced green with black, IMO.

  11. Pichu says:

    and even black

  12. Andre says:

    The dark green was a much better secondary colour for the Devils. It represented New Jersey as The Garden State. Red and dark green are very unique and what I liked about those vintage uniforms was that there was more red. The whites had red yokes and the Devils wore red helmets with their reds. The change to black made absolutely NO difference in their Cup success. It was guys like Brodeur, Stevens, and Niedermayer that made the difference, not the colours. If there were another choice in place of green, why not a deep red? A two-tone red uniform would look great.

  13. Manny says:

    With the Bulls in black, especially with the red pinstripes, I think 72-10.

    As for some others, Raptors (yes), Islanders (no), Blue Jays (no), Royals (no), A’s (no), Kings ((50/50) My first glimpse of Gretzky was in the black and silver kit), AZ Cardinals (no), Blackhawks (yes), Flames (no), Sabres (no), Devils (yes), Ducks (yes), Stars (no), Jazz (no), Magic (yes), Kings (before ’96 (no) after (yes)), Eagles (no), Marlins (surprisingly, no), Cavs (no), Spurs (yes), Lakers (no), Mavs (no), Rockets (could), Knicks (no), finally Liverpool (no! you’re the reds for a reason)

  14. Aaron says:


    I agree with you on most of them. Here are some definite No/Yes/50/50 for any black on their uniforms…

    Calgary Stampeders-No

    Cincinnati Reds-50/50, considering back in old days they had black as a secondary. But they are called the Reds a reason.

    Miami Marlins- I have to disagree with you, black always seems to fit the team especially with orange. Although if they ever came back to the teal and silver, black should be involved.

    Arizona Diamondbacks- Yes

    Phoenix Coyotes-Sure

    Tampa Bay Lightning- Definitely put some black and possibly silver back in their colour scheme. Nice uniforms, but too much like the Leafs.

    Oakland A’s- No

    Vancouver Canucks – 1978-1996, okay, now No

    Cleveland Cavaliers- Could, but the navy accent acts like a black.

    San Jose Sharks- Si! (yes)

    Montreal Alouettes- Non

    Here some definite No-No’s of my own…

    Detroit Red Wings
    Toronto Maple Leafs
    Buffalo Bills
    Los Angeles Dodgers
    Chicago Cubs
    Seattle Super Sonics (when/if they return)
    Detroit Pistons

  15. Lionel says:

    Keep the Carolina Panthers in their alternate instead of black. I would just use the black as their alternative or just accent.

    Toronto Blue Jays in black? NOOOOOOOOO!!! Glad they ditched that. Those colors do not suit them. The two tone blue works for them.

    Sacramento Kings, nah. I wish they honestly went back to the Red with less blue color scheme (but the Clippers have that color).

    Philadelphia Eagles do not need black alternates. They really need to bring back silver pants, but keep that menthol looking green they got going on.

    The Los Angeles Kings used the Oakland Raiders, Los Angeles Lakers, and Sacramento Kings color schemes that they lost what true identity they were. If I was them, just go with black and gold. That will stop all the three team color scheme problems the L.A. Kings have been plagued with.

    Oakland A’s is a no no in black.

    San Antonio Spurs were always black and silver.

    NO TO THE NEW YORK KNICKS WEARING BLACK!!! NO!!! Royal Blue and Orange.

  16. Aaron says:

    Other prime examples…

    Saskatchewan Roughriders-No

    Kansas City Chiefs – could but only if executed discreetly

    Atlanta Hawks- before the current colour scheme yes, now eh.

    Minnesota Timberwolves- yes

    Cincinnati bengals- definite yes

    San Francisco 49ers- only as an accent colour, nothing else

  17. Aaron says:

    LA Kings wearing gold and black? The NHL has enough teams wearing those colours. Their current colour scheme is fine, although a splash of purple can’t hurt. If they’re going to go with black and gold, add purple to that.

  18. Nick says:

    If the Toronto Blue Jays, Maple Leafs, and Argonauts all wear blue, the Raptors should too! Kinda like Pittsburgh has with all black and yellow

  19. Ryan says:

    this was dumb, black is a great color for many teams

  20. Credit Union Logo design says:

    The Mets and Blue Jays were severely ill-advised on the black – and then when the Oakland A’s used black for an alternate – it was totally out of control. I love the return of traditional Blue Jays, Mets, and even the Oriole cartoon bird… plus the yellow A’s jerseys. Life is good again!

  21. Aaron says:

    Another team who can sort of get away with black is Team Canada.

  22. SFforlife says:

    San Francisco Giants have black as thir main color, yet they don’t even have a black alt. (That they currently wear.)

  23. Paul says:

    L.A. Kings should be purple and gold.

  24. Phil says:

    This is a great article. Very well said. It is very apparent in baseball with the “alternate jersey”. The Mets, Jays, and lately the Orioles, Giants and Royals have been doing this. It is worse when those teams are the home team and they are wearing black. I don’t think of those teams as black.

    However, when the Red Sox, Nationals, and Reds wear their red (Royals when they where their blue) uniforms, it looks better than the black. I also prefer this to be done as a visiting team.

    The Yankees, Phillies, Dodgers, and Tigers at home will be in their traditional unis. I prefer this home uniform all the time.

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