A Blip for the Blue and Silver
October 21, 2008 | Kevin Zdancewicz

Barry Sanders

Flashy. One of a kind. Mysterious.

Those words could be used to describe former Detroit Lion great Barry Sanders’ running style, natural ability, and surprising retirement, respectively. At the same time, they could also be attached to the 1998 road uniform for the Lions, which #20 wore during the final season of his career. Detroit’s look has changed only slightly over the years with silver helmets, silver pants, blue jerseys at home, and white jerseys on the road being franchise staples almost as consistent as the team’s poor play on the field. The only major changes to that scheme have been adding black as a secondary color in 2003, introducing a black alternate jersey in 2005, and the blue pants-silver socks road combination in 1998.

(An Aside: While doing research for this column, I stumbled across the Lions’ helmet hoodie which is exactly what it sounds like, a sweatshirt with your team’s helmet emblazoned on the hood. What an idea…unless your team is the Browns. Ugh.)

Teams with dark colored pants (aka not white, gray, silver, or gold) today are more and more often going with same-colored socks, a look that I usually don’t mind and in some cases I think looks a lot better than the alternative, so it’s interesting to see a team go with dark colored pants with solid, different-colored socks like the Lions did in ’98 (though the Texans and Bills still do it now). Obviously, the real kicker is those socks which are truly one of a kind. According to Football Uniforms Past and Present, Detroit is the only NFL team to ever wear silver socks and is one of only three four NFL franchises to wear royal blue pants. The fact that the combination was only worn for one season only adds to the historical significance of Barry Sanders’ last season.

(Update: I realized after this column was originally posted that I neglected to link to the other NFL franchises (which I originally thought was two, but turns out to be three) that have worn royal blue pants. They are the Buffalo Bills from 1973-1985 (12 years!), the New York Giants in 1975 and 1976, and the Indianapolis Colts in 1995. The Bills are further noteworthy for the red socks they paired with their royal blue pants in the early '80s. Also, while looking up these links I found another interesting look that I didn't know about: the Denver Broncos wore orange pants in 1968.)

Photo Courtesy of Jamd