The Panthers are celebrating twenty-five seasons of football in 2019, having been established in 1995 along with the Jacksonville Jaguars. Former owner Jerry Richardson who controlled the team until 2017 once stated he’s a purist in uniform terms. Therefore the Carolina Panthers helmet has seen little change since the franchise’s inception back in 1995.
Such little change that only die-hard Panthers fans or those with a trained eye in the uniform aesthetics category will find differences between the subtle logo change the team underwent prior to the 2012 season. As for those who have yet to find such a change, this article is designed to show you the before and after.
First, let’s talk a little about the origin of the name ‘Panthers’ and how they came to be.
Richardson had been using a custom license plate with such letters since 1987, so one can make an argument the team’s roots can be traced back over three decades.
However, the NFL wasn’t interested in expanding until around 1991, when five cities, Charlotte (Panthers), St. Louis (Stallions), Baltimore (Bombers), Memphis (Hound Dogs), and Jacksonville (Jaguars) would soon be announced as finalists.
I’m unsure whether Richardson had already conceived a prototype of the team’s helmet between 1987 and 1991, or had done so shortly before Charlotte was awarded the team in 1993. Prototype uniforms did come out during this time, which featured an identical helmet to what we’ve been accustomed to, along with a home and road uniform the Panthers ironically wore as alternates over the 2018 pre-season as can be seen here and here.
Helmet #1: 1995-2011
The Panthers’ first helmet accompanied the prototypes and remained relatively the same, even if the prototype jerseys and pants changed radically prior to the ’95 season, but as mentioned in the previous section, eventually found their way onto the field.
This helmet consisted of a silver shell, a two-dimensional panther scowling, two black crown stripes beginning at the front and separating when at the top of the shell, and a black facemask.
The Panthers wore this helmet until 2011.
Helmet #2: 2012-Present
In 2012, the Panthers made a change to the helmet logo. While the other elements of the helmet remained intact, the logo’s change was meant to give the panther a more aggressive, contemporary look.
The team added its trademark Carolina blue to the logo’s whiskers while the white outline accompanying the old logo was abandoned.
The redesign also gave the logo a three-dimensional look, allowing it to pop off the helmet more than its predecessor. While as stated in the previous section, the changes are subtle, one can decipher the differences by setting both logos beside one another, where the differences become more pronounced.
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I’m all for tradition and while the Panthers’ helmet and overall uniform will never be evergreen, meaning it can’t be timeless because it just screams the 1990s, I’m glad to see little changes to the look after 25 seasons.
For me, each team owns its own brand of tradition, so by making only small changes to the helmet logo while leaving the rest of the helmet intact is a great way to start. Many uniform critics have panned the Panthers, but I’ve always given them praise, at least in a sense, for their refusal to change.
Under new ownership, which took control of the team in 2018 with Dave Tepper now in charge, it’s interesting to see what he’ll do with the Panthers. He’s gone on record to commit keeping the team in the Carolinas, so will the identity of the team’s longstanding colors of silver, black, and Carolina blue remain the same, or will go in a different direction?
While the uniform itself, as stated above, is stuck in the 1990s, the helmet has become a hallmark of tradition for the still-young franchise that was founded in 1995. Time will tell if there’s any major change made to the Panthers.