Among Carolina Panthers fans, controversy is afoot over the uniforms the Panthers will wear to meet the Denver Broncos at Super Bowl 50. Despite being the home team, the Broncos made the highly publicized decision to wear white, as their record in previous Super Bowls while wearing orange uniforms is 0-4. In contrast, the Panthers have decided to wear black; the team is 0-2 in playoff action in that uniform. While the team’s choice of game colors may be suspect, it’s interesting that there is so much public debate about a team that – before this season – received little notice in recent years from the football community.
Established in 1993, with its first NFL game in 1995, the Carolina Panthers are a relatively young team. However, despite its age, the team has amassed an impressive record that includes two conference titles, six division championships, and seven playoff appearances. On the weight of a nearly perfect season and a Super Bowl appearance, this history of success is helping to create a new following of the blue and black. Panthers quarterback Cam Newton has the 22nd-best player merchandise sales from March 1 to November 15, 2015, despite not appearing on the NFLPA’s Top 50 NFL Player Sales List for March 1, 2015 to November 30, 2015. The Panthers have surpassed the Patriots in jersey sales this year among playoff teams.
Aside from receiving minor changes, the Panthers uniform is the same as it was when the team first played more than 20 years ago. However, even these small changes encompass enough history to fill several books. In celebration of the 2015-2016 NFC Champions, Fanatics compiled a retrospective of the changes to the Panthers jersey, from its beginnings to its current form.
A Short but Cherished History
1993: In 1987, Jerry Richardson – co-founder of Hardee’s Restaurants and a former wide receiver for the Baltimore Colts – decides to bring an NFL expansion franchise to the Carolinas. With the arrival of the Charlotte Hornets NBA franchise in 1988, North Carolina is slowly growing as a pro sports market. After successful preseason games in the Carolinas market in 1989, 1990, and 1991, the NFL owners unanimously grant a franchise to Richardson in 1993. The new team takes the field for the first time at the Hall of Fame Game in 1995.
The intended debut home uniform is a jersey in a light electric blue hue with a silver number, black pants with a silver stripe, and a silver helmet. The road uniform is a white jersey with black television numbers with a double outline and black-and-blue shoulder stripes – similar to the road uniform worn today.
1995: Despite the unique look of the “prototype” uniform, the uniform the Panthers wear during their first game is different. The debut home uniform is a black jersey with white numbers outlined in Panthers Blue (Process Blue C Pantone), wide Panthers Blue shoulder stripes trimmed in white, and the Panthers logo on the sleeves. Paired with the jersey are silver pants with black-outlined blue stripes and a silver helmet with the Panthers logo on the side and a curved blue-outlined black stripe running down the center. The road uniform features a white jersey with the same shoulder stripes as the home jersey, black numbers outlined in Panthers Blue, and white pants with the same stripe as the home uniform’s pants. Both uniforms bear an “Inaugural Season” patch on the right chest of the jersey.
These become the Panthers’ uniforms for every game until 2002, with one exception: For the last game of their 4-12 1998 season, the Panthers take the field – for reasons unknown to this day – wearing their road jersey and home pants. That game marks the only time that combination is seen on the field.
This uniform set sees best inaugural season performance of any expansion team in the league’s history and the quickest ascent into playoff contention of any team in recent memory. The Panthers play in the 1996 NFC Championship Game – only their second year of play. The Panthers slide into a period of mediocrity from 1998 to 2002, highlighted by the team’s 1-15 performance during the 2001-2002 season.
2002: Reebok becomes the NFL’s jersey provider in 2002, and alternative jerseys enter many teams’ rotations. The Panthers’ alternative is a throwback to the never used prototype debut uniform: a Panthers Blue jersey with white numbers outlined in black, a black shoulder stripe trimmed in white, a black collar, the Panthers logo on both sleeves, and a mini-NFL Shield at the chest.
The original away jersey sees the Panthers make their first Super Bowl appearance in 2003, where – despite a scoreless first and third quarters – both teams score a combined 61 points and 868 yards. The game is decided on a New England field goal with four seconds of regulation left. A Super Bowl XXXVIII patch appears on the game jersey on the upper-right chest.
Only two other patches – short of the expected Super Bowl 50 patch – have ever appeared on the Panthers’ jerseys. A “GU 63” patch was worn on September 7, 2008, in remembrance of Oakland Raiders left guard “Uptown Gene” Upshaw – which every team in the league wore that day. A 50th Anniversary of the Pro Football Hall of Fame patch was worn on December 9 and 14, 2012.
2012: When Nike wins back the NFL uniform contract, the Panthers are one of the few teams not to adapt their uniforms to the new template. Though they don’t opt for a full uniform redesign, the Panthers revamp their Panthers logo and add their motto “Keep Pounding” to the inside of their jersey collars.
Black pants with blue “scratch marks” and blue socks are added to the home uniform as an alternative uniform. This particular uniform is called the best in NFL history by NFL.com. It is last seen in the 2013 season.
2015: This year brings one of the most divisive uniforms in NFL history. The Panthers are one of eight teams this season to introduce a “color rush” uniform: the 2002 alternative Panthers Blue jersey with matching Panthers Blue pants, socks, and cleats. While the players and some of the fans like the look, others are turned off by the overwhelming amount of blue.
As the Panthers prepare for what many predict will be the most competitive Super Bowl in current memory, the way the world views this upstart team will surely change. Cam Newton – one of the league’s best playmakers and dual-threat quarterbacks – is only 26, so the Panthers will likely be Super Bowl contenders for years to come. As fans debate a major uniform redesign – the first in franchise history – the perceptions of this just-legal age club will likely mature as the team continues to pound on.
Fanatics carries a full line of Panthers jerseys for the discriminating fan:
- Alternative Jerseys
- Super Bowl 50 Bound Home Jerseys
- Away Jerseys
- Ladies Jerseys
- Cam Newton Jerseys and Shirts