NFL jerseys are infamously unique items in our wardrobes. Most wives tend to hate their husbands in them, but when we put them on, we feel invincible, like we have an important role on the team or that maybe we could have played once. For now, we’ll stick to the park for the less strenuous flag football.
They come in various levels of affordability, with Nike having the Game, Limited and Elite versions for your team. I’ve only ever had the Game jerseys because the Elite ones are obscenely priced. Having said that, it might be one of the first things I buy when I win the lottery.
NFL jerseys become ironically useless in the colder months, because unless you get them four sizes too big, you can’t wear them over too much.
In the summer, they itch and don’t breathe. It begs the question, why do we even buy them? To that, I have no answer.
Instead, what follows is a list of what I believe are the 15 best jerseys in the game today. I’m not talking about alternative jerseys, bizarre Mitchell and Ness editions, just the current home ones.
I must preface that if your team has any funky teals or pastels in their jerseys, my apologies, but they weren’t going to ever make it in this list. Pastels have no place in the NFL.
Deal with it.
15 Dallas Cowboys
Someone recently told me that the Cowboys have silver pants, white jerseys and silver helmets because their original owner wanted them to look like spacemen, which makes some sense given Texas’ relationship with NASA and the Space Race. I’m not exactly sure I believe that, but what you can’t argue with is Dallas’s unique uniform and its absolutely timeless qualities. It has remained largely the same since the Cowboys’ inception and is one of the most recognized sports jerseys globally.
Having a white home jersey is interesting to me as I feel it’s a boring choice – but I had to include them on this list because of the Cowboys’ popularity and status in the history of the league (if overstated).
The blue star connects with the Texas state flag, but for me I always think of Terrell Owens infamously lying in it, trying to provoke (and succeeding) the Dallas faithful.
14 Seattle Seahawks
This is a bit of a polarizing choice as fans either think the Seattle Seahawks have the best jersey in the NFL, well everyone below the age of 17 that is, or the worst one (the rest of us normal folk).
Seattle made sure to totally embrace Nike’s templates and design initiatives with the current version they wear. While most franchises stayed with traditional lines and graphics, the Seahawks went down the road of College teams like the Oregon Ducks. You can’t blame them for this transition; they’ve certainly had their on-field success since then.
Traditionally, the Seahawks' jerseys were blue and green, with an obvious connection to the landscape of the Pacific Northwest.
These days, the "college navy," "action green" and "wolf grey" sound about as pretentious as much of their fan base, but you really have to hand it to them for making this big step. The jerseys fly off the racks!
13 Atlanta Falcons
The Dirty Birds got their color scheme from the Georgia Bulldogs and look fantastic in the red and black. You can’t get two better colors in sports. Think about it, pretty much every amazing sports car is either red or black, so it’s a great choice for a football jersey. When Michael Vick was at the helm of the Falcons, you probably couldn’t have asked for a better color scheme!
Choosing black as the original jersey color is somewhat perplexing though, when you consider the locality of the franchise. Can you think of a worse color to play in during the warm days of early fall in the South?
These days the Falcons play more often than not in red jerseys and white pants. While I still think the jersey looks amazing, they’d look so much cooler in black pants, or why not go all out with an all red number, and an all black alternate jersey?
12 Minnesota Vikings
It takes a brave man to wear purple, and there are two people I can think of that have pulled it off – and both are from the state of Minnesota.
Both Prince and the Vikings look/looked fantastic in purple.
When the NFL signed its current uniform deal with Nike, the Vikings got a cleaner and sleeker purple jersey, recently also doing away with white piping.
The current Vikings play in an all purple uniform, and this year’s team may be the closest thing to the famous Purple People Eaters of the 1970s.
Purple is traditionally a regal color, and the Vikings will be hoping that influence pays off in 2016. The gold on their jerseys is thought to represent the Scandinavian influence seen throughout Minnesota, don’t cha' know?
The Vikings will be hoping that the Viking spirit is renewed this season, and with a move to a new $1 Billion stadium, there’s obviously no time like the present.
11 Kansas City Chiefs
Kansas City has one of the most iconic stadiums with Arrowhead Stadium and an extremely passionate fan base from which to draw. The Chiefs haven’t won a Super Bowl since 1970, but more often than not, they are solid contenders, and those contenders play in the iconic red, gold and white with a simple arrowhead on their helmets.
The Chiefs have used their red, white and gold colors since their inception in 1960.
Their particular shade of red is quite bright, meaning that the fans at Arrowhead really stand out. It would be an intimidating sight for any team visiting western Missouri.
The only criticism I have for the Chiefs’ uniform is that the template used on the socks evokes images of a certain famous fast food chain. They could from here on be referred to as "McDonald’s Team" by rival fans if they aren’t careful, so they may want to rethink some things.
10 Denver Broncos
Where the Bears have been blue and orange, the Broncos embrace the orange more so than the navy blue.
Their most successful period ironically came when they wore the predominantly navy jerseys in 1997 and 1998. The fans definitely hated the navy jerseys in the 90’s, yearning for the orange ones worn by the legends of the "Orange Crush" defense.
The move back to the predominantly orange jerseys paid off, with an eventual Super Bowl win last year.
Orange is an odd color choice in sports. It’s not particularly common, nor famously connected to any particular team. I’d hesitate to argue that the Broncos have basically made it their own.
The Broncos will have to rely on Von Miller and Demaryius Thomas for their jersey sales this year, as there’s not much at the quarterback position that will draw the fans' eyes there. I can’t see many kids rocking a "Siemian 13."
9 San Diego Chargers
It would be reductive to say that the San Diego Chargers wear blue and gold, when really the blue is more of a sky or "powder" blue. The powder blue uniforms are certainly the most loved among the San Diego faithful and thankfully have largely replaced the navy version of the home jersey.
The powder blue for which the Chargers are known is obviously meant to connect with the sky of San Diego, often bright and clear, the envy of the rest of the nation.
The color scheme is possibly also meant to connect with the people of Southern California -- eccentric, cheerful and diverse.
The bolt that adorns the shoulders of the jerseys and the length of the pants is also a unique feature to them.
There’s always been an air of vintage chic with the San Diego Chargers’ jerseys, almost like they are stuck in a perennial time vortex -- much like their stadium apparently.
8 Houston Texans
You don’t have to be a genius to know where the Texans get their color scheme (the Texas state flag just in case you’re embarrassingly wondering). The red, white and blue makes for a smart, sleek and yet maybe not too memorable jersey.
One things is for sure; you have to appreciate that the Texans, when they came into the league, didn’t go down the route of other relocated/expansion franchises like the Jacksonville Jaguars, Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Tennessee Titans and Carolina Panthers, with the incorporation of those gross pastel colors. I’m sorry, but teal has no place in football.
The Texans, admirably, kept it simple and patriotic.
Now, with the emergence of J.J. Watt and DeAndre Hopkins, Houston is probably very aware of the opportunity they have to get kids all over the country in their colors. Let’s just hope for their sake that J.J. doesn’t burn himself out with making all those Papa John’s advertisements.
7 New Orleans Saints
The Saints have one of the most intimidating uniforms in the league. They have a simple design that also incorporates the most important symbol of all from the city of New Orleans and state of Louisiana.
If you’ve been to New Orleans, you’ll know that they have their own unique and striking definition of beauty and flair, so the gold fleur-de-lis pays some homage to not only their French roots, but this concept also. The mardi gras kings and queens are certainly incorporated into the regal gold of the uniforms, one would think. Supposedly the black comes from the color of oil, a resource for which the area is quite famous.
I’ve always just loved the fact that it’s a jersey very reminiscent of another famous one in the league, but more on that later in this piece. "Who dat" nation will be hoping that these colors will fly high this season.
6 San Francisco 49ers
The 49ers are one of the most iconic franchises in the league. They owned the 1980s, winning four Super Bowls that decade (and one coming later in 1994) and having names like Jerry Rice, Joe Montana and Steve Young running Bill Walsh’s famous West Coast offence.
Their jerseys embody the flair and glamour with which they've played.
Red is the most popular color used in any sport and as we learned in Marketing 101, invokes feelings of passion in the consumer. The gold compliments the red well and connects with the notion of winning and glamour. The gold is a reference to their years of success and probably inadvertently does a great job of conjuring images of one of the city’s most iconic landmarks.
One part of the uniform that I have always found somewhat confusing, however, was the incorporation of the three white bands around the biceps of the uniform. I wonder how the big wigs at Nike feel about that?
5 New York Giants
An NFL team with blue, red and white in their uniforms! I know, who’d have thought that would have been a good idea, right? The Giants have jerseys that are simple and patriotic. The home jersey of blue and white makes for a timelessly fashionable color choice, and their red and white away ones aren’t too hard on the eyes either.
The Giants have had their blue, red and white color scheme since the 1930’s, meaning that they are one of the few franchises that haven’t deviated significantly from what was originally intended.
The dominant blue color helps the Giants maintain a similar identity to the other New York teams, as the Knicks, Yankees and Mets all having some blue in their uniforms also. The blue, red and white has been worn by some of the biggest names in the game including Lawrence Taylor, Michael Strahan, Carl Banks, Harry Carson, Frank Gifford and Y.A. Tittle.
4 Green Bay Packers
A unique franchise should have a unique jersey. The Packers are owned by the city and their fans wear wedges of cheddar cheese on their heads, with pride, mind you, and not irony. Being an Australian, I’ll always have some sympathy for a team in green and gold too.
The Packers are one of the oldest franchises in the league, and probably the most iconic and storied of them all. They weren’t always in green and gold, originally navy instead of the green, but have certainly made the current scheme their own.
You have to appreciate the timeless nature of the jerseys, even if you can’t stand the team, fans or Clay Matthews.
The traditional green and gold is unique in a league obsessed with a move away from the iconic and toward whatever funky template Nike can come up with for them. I know which one I’d rather have if I were a fan.
3 Chicago Bears
It’s difficult to think of any team that means more to a a city than the Chicago Bears. When it’s football season, everyone is wearing the navy and orange of the Bears – until December, when they haven’t made the playoffs again and everyone changes to the red and black of the Blackhawks and the Bulls.
The Bears' jersey has remained consistent for many years. It has that perennially fashionable color of navy blue, tinged with an eye-catching orange. Orange is a notoriously tricky color for many people to wear, but the Bears make sure that it merely compliments, rather than dominates, the jersey.
The navy blue has been with the Bears since the '40’s and the orange was added later in the '60’s.
In case you’ve been wondering, the "GSH" is a tribute to previous owner/pioneer George Halas, who drew inspiration for the team’s color scheme from his days at the University of Illinois.
2 Pittsburgh Steelers
The Steelers are one of the most storied franchises in league history, with six Super Bowls. The Rooney family is seen as the standard bearer for team ownership, and the city is a Steelers-first town. Therefore, it makes sense that they would have a jersey that complements them accordingly.
Allegedly the black and gold colors come from the city’s heritage as the Steel City, where coal and iron ore are used to make steel. The black uniforms make the white numbers pop and the gold stripes on the sleeves are not overstated, adding just enough to the jersey, but not appearing flashy.
The better uniforms in the NFL have two essential qualities (like making steel I suppose): simplicity and originality. Pittsburgh epitomizes this.
The black and gold jerseys have remained largely untouched since the '70s. It’s a no-nonsense jersey, for a no-nonsense fan base in a no-nonsense city. Timeless for sure.
1 Oakland Raiders
The Raiders have quite possibly the simplest jersey in the NFL, yet it’s also the most intimidating, iconic and best of all.
More people today are likely not to be Raiders fans, due to their many years without success, but there was a time when people all over the country rocked Raiders caps (popularized by Ice Cube and N.W.A.) and Starter Jackets. The silver and black were the colors of choice for many, even to the point that the Los Angeles Kings adopted the color scheme for their own based on the cross-town franchise’s marketing success.
Bo Jackson bamboozled defenses in the silver and black, and now we’ll see Amari Cooper striding down the sidelines in one while Khalil Mack destroys quarterbacks in one also.
The Raiders have been silver and black since the '60’s and don’t look to be innovating anytime soon, and thank goodness, as the fans of the Black Hole may not like that.
Plus black is a very slimming color.