The San Francisco 49ers jersey has only seen design and subtle color changes throughout the past 70+ seasons when the team debuted in 1946 as members of the All-America Football Conference (AAFC) along with the Cleveland Browns. Red and white make up the scheme apart from a few years when the Niners experimented with other colors as third jerseys.
So, let’s take a journey as to how the 49ers’ look evolved over the past seven decades.
1946-1959: AAFC and Early NFL Years
When the 49ers debuted in the AAFC, they had plain red jerseys with white numbering. The white jersey consisted of red numbering and red Northwestern stripes.
Upon joining the NFL in 1950, the team dropped the white jerseys and adopted a second red jersey that included three white horizontal stripes.
The 49ers dropped the plain red jerseys the next season and in 1955, added black shadow-drop to their numbers while also reintroducing the white jersey. The new white jersey had a black-red-black striping pattern to go along with red numbering and black shadow-drop.
In 1957, the team dropped the shadow-drop.
In 1958, the 49ers added a thick, red vertical stripe that ran to the midseam of the jersey. Also in 1958, TV numbers were added to the jerseys’ sleeves.
In 1959, the thick red stripe on the white jerseys split to a red-white-red pattern.
For visuals on each 49er jersey and uniform, click through this link.
In 1964, the 49ers dropped the vertical stripes on the road jersey, now opting for the traditional horizontal sleeve stripes to match the home jersey. The team also adopted a brighter shade of red, familiar with what the team wears today.
In 1971, plain red and plain white jerseys were also used at times in addition to the two main jerseys. This was also the case in 1972 and in 1973, the plain red was used as well.
From 1974-onward no real change came to either jersey except in the early 1990s, when the 49ers, like most teams, migrated their sleeve stripes to the bottom of the jersey sleeve.
In 1994, the 49ers brought back the old shadow-drop jerseys from 1955, which they would often wear throughout the season, including Super Bowl XXIX.
In 1996, the 49ers adopted a new set of jerseys, following a trend from most NFL teams in the late 1990s which involved moving to darker colors. The new color for the home jersey was a darker shade of red, while the black shadow-drop returned. The sleeve pattern remained and the helmet logo now appeared within the pattern. TV numbers also migrated to the shoulders.
For the road white jerseys, dark red numbering was now outlined in gold plus the shadow-drops. The helmet logo also appeared on the sleeves as well.
Instead of adopting a third jersey as most teams did in 2002, the 49ers opted for a throwback to the old coloring scheme, which took a hiatus in 2003 and 2004 before returning as an alternate from 2005-onward.
In 2009, the 49ers returned to their previous color scheme, the exact same jerseys worn between 1964-1995, with simply modern upgrades which included today’s tighter-fitting jerseys.
In 2015, the team adopted an ill-fated third jersey, consisting of black with red numbering and sleeve striping. This jersey was also worn as part of the NFL’s Color Rush but changed in 2018 to the white shadow-drop throwback, worn against the Los Angeles Rams.
I’m glad to see a change back to the older look for both the home and road jerseys, as well as the change to a more traditional look for the Color Rush. The 49ers were one of the first teams to realize the modern trends weren’t going to last; a fad of the 2000s if one wanted to make an accurate statement.
So, let’s hope the Niners stick to the traditional, championship look for years to come while the darker jerseys during a dark era for the franchise remain etched in a small section of the NFL history books.
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Former Color Rush
Current Home Jersey