Wanna Geek Out Over a 1999 NFL Style Guide?
Of course you do!
Before we get started, a quick note: This article, much like last week’s, includes lots of fairly detailed graphics that you’ll probably want to see at full size. So if possible, I suggest reading it on a laptop or desktop computer, not on your phone. — Paul
Last week’s article about an early-1990s MLB Style Guide was a big hit. So with the NFL draft almost upon us, I’ve decided to follow up this week with a look at another guide from my collection: the 1999 NFL Style Guide.
Just to repeat the basic info from last week: Every major sports league has an annual style guide that shows the official design specs for uniforms, logos, team colors, and so on. Manufacturers and licensees use those specs to create on-field uniforms and retail merchandise. Nowadays, the style guides are all kept on gated websites so the leagues can control access to them, but they used to be printed and shipped to licensees.
Unlike the MLB guide I wrote about last week, which was a new acquisition for me, the NFL guide we’re examining today has been part of my library since 1999 — Uni Watch’s first year of existence. As I recall, I contacted the league with a few uni-related questions for one of my early columns and they responded by sending me their style guide. It’s hard to imagine them doing something like that today, but the whole idea of writing about uniforms was so new and unique at the time, I think their attitude was probably something akin to patting me on the head and saying, “Here, kid — take this. Now run off and have fun writing your little uniform articles.”
As you can see in the photo at the top of this page, the style guide came in a big three-ring binder. Inside is some frontmatter (I’ll get to that later in this article) and then a bunch of tabbed fold-out pages for each of the then-current 31 NFL teams:
Each team’s fold-out sheet has a color side, which shows the team’s logos, uniforms, and color specs, and a black-and-white side, which has mechanical art intended to be used as camera copy. Let’s take an annotated look at both sides of the sheet for a typical team (the orange-dot numbers correspond to the numbered list that follows the photos):
The left side of the color sheet features the team’s primary and secondary logos (which in the Packers’ case are almost identical) and wordmark (or, in the guide’s lingo, “logotype”), all shown on both light and dark backgrounds.
The jersey mock-ups’ sleeves seem comically long by contemporary standards. Even in 1999, nobody in the NFL was wearing their sleeves this long.
Obviously, nobody in the NFL wears this type of helmet or facemask anymore. But the NFL Style Guide was still using this same helmet mock-up template as recently as 2020 (and may still be doing so, for all I know — I no longer have access to it). For that matter, the Browns still use this helmet template as their primary logo! It’s a style that has become the visual shorthand for a football helmet, even though that particular helmet design is obsolete in real life.
For each team, only one colored and one white jersey are shown, with accompanying pants and socks — no alternate jerseys (which didn’t yet exist in the NFL) or throwbacks (which had been used for the league’s 75th-anniversary season in 1994 but were not yet something that teams dabbled with individually). Also, no rear-jersey designs — which, as we’ll see, is an important omission for at least one team.
The uni number used on the jersey mock-ups indicates the most recent year that the team’s style sheet was updated. So for this Packers sheet, everything is current and up-to-date as of 1997. (The entire guide is current as of 1999, but Green Bay didn’t make any changes in 1998 or ’99.)
In the late ’90s, most NFL players still wore their socks pretty much as shown in the guide.
The fine-print text on the left side of the black-and-white sheet is the same for every team.
Right next to the base of the fold, printed sideways, is a date — in this case, “1.97.” Like the number on the jersey mock-up, this indicates the effective date of the sheet, so updated sheets could be swapped in as teams revised their uniforms and specs.
Each team’s jersey number font is displayed in numerical order but — for reasons I’ve never understood — “2” is always shown as the first numeral, with “1” bringing up the rear. Weird!
Those are the basics. As you’ll see, a few teams with deeper logo inventories have additional sheets, but those have pretty much the same format as what I’ve just shown you.
Ready to dive in? Here we go, one team at a time: