The Cleveland Browns jersey may have held similar elements since the team’s inaugural season in 1946, however throughout the next seven decades the jersey itself has seen more changes than one can count, the most recent being in 2015 and the next change coming in 2020.
Orange, brown, and white have always been pivotal, with classic block numbers and stripes on the team’s sleeves, one will recognize a Browns jersey within seconds. Perhaps no other NFL team possesses a more identifiable look than the Browns, the AFC’s second oldest and arguably most storied franchise.
Prior to the days of the AFC, or even the days of joining the NFL, the Browns debuted in the All-America Football Conference (AAFC), donning brown jerseys as part of the team’s dark look with orange block numbers, white drop shadow, and orange and white sleeve stripes. The white jerseys were an inverse, featuring brown numbers with orange drop shadow with brown and orange sleeve stripes.
By 1950, the team got rid of the drop shadow and the uniform numbers became white on the brown jersey while remaining brown on the white jersey.
The team wore an orange third alternate jersey featuring white numbering in 1953 against the Philadelphia Eagles on October 10th in a color versus color matchup.
In the 1955 preseason, the team wore a second version of the orange jersey, this time using brown numbers in favor of white.
Come 1961, with the popularity of television gaining steam, the Browns added TV numbers to their sleeves, a growing trend in the NFL that remains true to this day.
In 1969, the Browns made one final change to the jersey for the decade when they separated the striping on the sleeves for both the home and away jersey, with brown gaps appearing on the home jersey and white gaps appearing on the away look.
The jerseys remained essentially the same throughout the 1970s with the next change coming in 1984, The Pattern on the jerseys became three-striped, with two thin white stripes flanking an orange stripe on the home look and two orange flanking a brown on the white.
The numbers on the home jersey also changed to orange, but by the regular season had reverted back to white with a thin orange outline, while the brown numbers on the white jersey contained an orange outline on the brown numbers.
Fans and critics alike panned the new jerseys and by 1985, the look was reverted to the team’s familiar look. The only noticeable change here was the striping on the white jerseys were now connected while the striping on the brown jerseys remained separate.
The team kept these jerseys until their move in 1995 to Baltimore.
In 1999, the team returned with the familiar look, the only exception being that the TV numbers were moved from the sleeves to the shoulders as more NFL teams opted for tighter fitting sleeves to reduce holding calls, necessitating the move for TV numbers.
In 2002, with the NFL pushing for teams to adopt third jerseys, the Browns followed suit in reintroducing the orange jersey for the first time in nearly fifty seasons, with the last appearance being made in 1955. These jerseys contained brown and white striping, white numbers, and an orange dropshadow. These jerseys would be worn until the 2004 season as alternates.
In 2006, the Browns tweaked their home brown jersey, darkening the shade of brown while connecting the sleeve stripes, matching the look of their away whites.
The Browns completely overhauled their uniform, including the helmet, jersey, and pants prior to the 2015 season.
The new brown jersey consisted of orange numbers with white drop shadow, reminiscent of their original 1946 threads. The wordmark ‘CLEVELAND’ appeared across the front, above the numbers.
The team also returned the third orange jersey for two seasons, opting not to wear the look in 2017 or 2018. This jersey resembled the team’s 2002-2004 design with white numbers, brown drop shadow, with orange and white striping.
Finally, the white jersey contained orange numbers, brown drop shadow, with orange and brown striping
The striping on each was reduced from five stripes to three.
The team wore their Color Rush look for the first time in 2018, the last NFL team to do so. This look has been a hit with the fans, with many hoping it takes a primary spot for the team in the future.
It has been announced that the Cleveland Browns will change to new uniforms in 2020, dropping the mixed to negative reviewed look mentioned in the previous section.
Rumors have spread that the look will be ‘nothing fancy,’ in the words of owners Jimmy and Dee Haslam themselves.
Another rumor states the team will simply return to either its 1999-2005, or 2006-2014 design with a few modern updates.
With the popularity of the team’s Color Rush design, it wouldn’t be surprising if the team went in this direction permanently, perhaps keeping the brown jersey while designing a white counterpart.
While I’m not a huge fan of the current threads, I will also admit the look could’ve been worse. I’ve always liked the fact that it played into the team’s history, but per the usual, orange numbers on these jerseys don’t and never have clashed well with brown.
The Browns are one of those few NFL teams who tend to wear white at home on a regular basis, the most recent instance coming in 2011 when the team wore their white jerseys for all sixteen games. Typically, the team will wear white exclusively during the first few home games of the season before switching to their brown home look for the remainder.
I always give bonus points to teams who wear white at home, and double bonus points to the Browns, who are the only team located north of the Mason-Dixon Line to do so on a regular basis.
For that, I’m glad to see a change, and I’m in the camp hoping for a reversion to normalcy. This time in 2020, we’ll find out what the Browns have in store.