A Deep Dive on the Houston Oilers’ Uniforms
They’re being revived as a throwback this season, so here’s a refresher course.
Before we get a started, a quick note: Regular readers of my Substack may notice something new this week: Hyperlinked text, which had previously been black, like the rest of the text, is now green, to match the Uni Watch color scheme. I’d been requesting this change for ages, and for some reason it was surprisingly difficult to get done, but it was worth the wait! Big thanks to Substack engineer Ben Cohen for making it happen. — Paul
I’ve previously done deep dives on several NFL uniforms that are being revived this season as throwbacks, including the Bucs’ creamsicles, the Eagles’ Kelly greens, and the Seahawks’ blue/silver set. Today we’re going to take a similar in-depth look at the Houston Oilers’ uniforms, which are the basis of a new throwback this year for the franchise’s current incarnation, the Tennessee Titans.
A quick recap: The Oilers came into existence in 1960 as a charter member of the AFL and were merged into the NFL in 1970. Owner Bud Adams moved the team to Tennessee in 1997 and renamed them the Titans in 1999, but the franchise still owns the Oilers’ intellectual property — hence this year’s throwback.
I know some fans think a team that moves to a new city should lose any claim on its old identity and uniforms, and that the only team that should get to wear Oilers throwbacks is the NFL’s current Houston franchise, the Texans. I appreciate that point of view, but I’m also a bit conflicted about it. (For more of my thoughts on this topic, look here, plus here are rundowns of teams that changed their names when moving to a new city and teams that should have changed their names when moving to a new city.)
But wherever you come down on that debate, the fact remains that the Titans are wearing Oilers throwbacks this fall, so we may as well get ready for it. With that in mind, here are 11 fun facts about the Oilers’ uniforms that you might not know, or maybe you forgot, or maybe you’ll just enjoy seeing again. Yes, I realize 11 is a strange-seeming number for this type of list, but that’s how many items I came up with! Ready? Here we go.
The original version of the Oilers’ familiar helmet design showed a gushing oil derrick with a wider base. This version was used at press conferences and promotional events ahead of the team’s inaugural 1960 season (above left) but never made it onto the field and was largely forgotten. The folks at HelmetHut later made a reproduction of it (above right), and since then it has become part of the team’s lore, with the gusher design now available on mini-helmets and even gumball helmet decals.
Also of note: This promo/prototype design was rendered on a white shell, which the Oilers wouldn’t actually wear in the field until 1975. Which leads us to…