Chicago Bears Traditions


Uniform History

The Chicago Bears, originally called the Decatur Staleys when founded in 1920, wore blue jerseys with tan colored vertical striping in their inaugural season. The vertical stripes were actually stripes of leather sewn onto the uniform to help the ball carrier secure the ball.

In 1935 the Bears introduced an orange jersey with black arm stripes and black helmet and by 1958 were wearing the familiar navy blue with burnt orange. The Bears unique "rounded" number style on the uniforms and numbers on the sides of the sleeves of the jerseys date back to the 1950's.

The Bears trademark 'C' logo appeared on helmets in 1962 and its use continues through present day although the mark has changed from white to orange and the shape has changed slightly. After 11 years, the white 'C' logo is colored orange with white trim in 1973 and still has the same look today.

The initials GSH were added to the left sleeve in 1984 in honor of the late 'Papa Bear' George S. Halas, who passed away Oct. 31, 1983. The uniform has had a very consistent look from the 1970's with the exception of blue pants with the white jersey introduced in 1984 as a "road" uniform. On Oct. 7, 2002 on a Monday Night Football game against Green Bay, the Bears wore their traditional "home" blue jerseys with the blue pants for the first time.

The Bears' uniform history is as varied and interesting as the history of the team itself. The team's classic look is steeped in tradition, but there have been quite a few deviations from the norm along the way.

Retired Numbers
The Bears have retired 14 jersey numbers, most in the NFL and two behind baseball's New York Yankees with 15. Both clubs are short of the NBA's Boston Celtics 21 retired numbers.
3 Bronko Nagurski, RB-T (1930-37; 43) 42 Sid Luckman, QB (1939-50)
5 George McAfee, RB-DB (1940-41; 45-50) 51 Dick Butkus, LB (1965-73)
7 George Halas, E (1920-29) 56 Bill Hewitt, E (1932-36)
28 Willie Galimore, RB (1957-63) 61 Bill George, LB (1952-65)
34 Walter Payton, RB (1975-87) 66 Clyde "Bulldog" Turner, C-LB (1940-52)
40 Gale Sayers, RB (1965-71) 77 Harold "Red" Grange, RB-DB (1925; 29-34)
41 Brian Piccolo, RB (1966-69) 89 Mike Ditka, TE (player 1961-66, coach 1982-92)

Bears Uniform by Decade

1920s | 1930s | 1940s | 1950s | 1960s | 1970s | 1980s | 1990s | 2000-Present


In the early days of the American Professional Football Association, the predecessor of the NFL, uniforms are primitive. Brown leather helmets offer little protection, and many players refuse to wear them. Pants are made of brown canvas; jerseys are made of wool. For the Bears' uniform colors, team founder George Halas chooses navy and orange - the same as his alma mater, the University of Illinois. Strips of material are sewn onto the front of the players' jerseys to help them hold onto the football, which is fatter and harder to handle than the modern version. The player's number is on the back of the jersey only.

Late in this decade the team appears to have reversed the coloring of the jersey, making orange the dominant color with navy striping. Unfortunately, no jerseys from this era are known to exist.

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The 1930s are a decade of radical change for the Bears uniform. By 1932, numbers are added to the front of the jersey. As early as 1933, the team uses an orange jersey with navy numerals, and black arm stripes, and wears it from time to time through the end of the decade. The jersey was so "loud" that stories are told about crowds in New York booing the jersey. In 1934, the team wears white helmets.

In 1936, the team unveils a uniform described years later by an NFL publication as "an early version of psychodelia" Bruising fullback Bronko Nagurski and his mates wear a dark helmet with three orange stripes from front to back, a white jersey with 14 navy and orange alternating stripes on the sleeves and shoulders. The socks look like something the Munchkins would wear in the Land of Oz, with alternating navy and orange stripes from the ankle to the knee. The look lasts just one year.

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In this decade the Bears revolutionize professional football with the T-formation offense, but get back to basics with the uniform look. Except for some preseason games, the orange jersey is gone. For the first half of the decade, the team wears a black jersey with orange numerals, and adds striping on the pant leg much like today's look. The now-familiar three-stripe socks also debut.

By 1949, the team introduces what will become its distinctive uniform number font style for the next half-century, with classic "rounded" numerals in white on the navy jersey.

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In this decade, little about the Bears uniform changes. Some slight modifications are made in the size and shape of the jersey numbers. In 1956, "TV numbers" are added to the jersey sleeves.

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In 1962, a white stylized "C" decal - a "simple but elegant design" - is added to both sides of the helmet.

In 1964, after running back Willie Galimore and receiver John Farrington are killed in an automobile accident in training camp, the team wears a black armband on the left jersey sleeve for the season.

In 1969, to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the NFL, all teams wear a commemorative patch on the left shoulder for the season.

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In 1970, the players' names are added to the back of the jerseys.

Earlier in the decade, the stripes disappear from the navy 'home' jersey, but return after a couple of seasons. Likewise, the white 'road' jersey goes with block font numbers, but the classic rounded numerals return after a couple of seasons.

In 1973, the all-white 'C' on the helmet is changed to orange with a white border.

In 1979, after team president George 'Mugs' Halas, Jr. dies on the last day of the regular season, the team wears a black armband on the left jersey sleeve for a wild card playoff game.

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In 1983, after team founder George Halas dies, the team wears on the jersey a memorial patch with his initials 'GSH' on a football background. The next year, the monogram is moved to the left jersey sleeve. In 1984, the team begins wearing navy pants with the white jersey for road games.

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In 1994, to celebrate the NFL's 75th season, the Bears wear 'throwbacks' uniforms for three games. The look is based on the team's uniform in 1925-26, with orange vertical stripes on navy jerseys, and tan pants.

In 1999, after Walter Payton dies, the team wears on the jersey a memorial patch with his uniform number -- 34 -- on a football background.

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In 2001, the team commemorates three decades at Soldier Field with a commemorative 'Salute to Soldier Field' patch on the home jersey.

In 2002, for one game only, the players wear navy jerseys with navy pants for the first time in the team's history.

In 2003, after Chairman Emeritus Edward W. McCaskey dies, the team wears a helmet decal with his initials 'EWM' in navy on an orange shamrock.

In 2004, for a Thanksgiving Day game, the team wears a 'classic' uniform - orange jersey with navy numbers bordered in white, and the all-white 'C' helmet decal.

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In 2012, Nike became the official uniform maker for the NFL, resulting in modifications for all 32 clubs.

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The jersey images shown are available in plaqued and framed poster format from the Chicago Bears store. These images are provided by Maple Leaf Productions. A wide variety of historic NFL jersey posters may be viewed at