The San Francisco 49ers got their start in the ’40s – not in the NFL, but in the All-America Football Conference, a rival league to the NFL and one of its early competitors. Founder Tony Morabito worked hard to bring his idea of a San Francisco football team to fruition, and once he joined forces with a few other forward thinkers, the AAFC was born… and so too was the San Francisco 49ers.
The team name, of course, came from those who traveled west during the California Gold Rush, during which San Francisco became a boom town and saw its economy soar. The effects of the gold rush was so massive that it helped usher California’s admittance to the United States as a free state in 1850, which made the 49ers a perfect moniker for the new football franchise.
After four seasons of operations, the AAFC folded, and three of its teams were merged into the NFL. In addition to the Niners, AAFC’s Cleveland and Baltimore were awarded NFL franchises and the rest, as we say, is history.
Success in San Francisco
The 49ers have had quite the history, winning five Super Bowls (1994, 1989, 1988, 1984, 1981) in six appearances (their only loss occurring just a few years ago after the 2012 season). They also have had plenty of superstars on their roster over the last seven decades, including Hall of Famers Joe Montana, Steve Young, and Jerry Rice, as well as other standout players, like Frank Gore and Terrell Owens.
To go along with their success on the field, the team has maintained a general color scheme over its decades of play, but there have been a few changes here and there – check them out below.
Notable Niners Uniform Changes
1946: When the 49ers took the field for the first time in 1946, they sported plain white leather helmets paired with a plain red jersey which featured white numerals in a traditional semi-block font. This color scheme would stand the test of time, although it would go through a few tweaks later on.
1950: The Niners had switched to a silver helmet with a red stripe in 1948, but abandoned said stripe by the time they joined the NFL. For a game against the Rams, they wore jerseys adorned with triple white stripes.
1958: This was the year TV numbers were added to jersey sleeves for the 49ers.
1962: A 49ers helmet logo finally appears. Player helmets (both sides) sport a large red oval with a thin black outline with a white SF nestled inside.
1964: The 49ers make a final switch from silver to gold for both the helmets and pants.
1970: Last names appear on the back of the Niners’ jerseys for the first time, where they will stay.
1996: Major changes were made this year, starting from the top, where the helmet logo is tweaked a bit to feature a gold outline that is surrounded by a thicker black outline. Not to be outdone, the stripe pattern undergoes a couple changes, including a thick red stripe flanked by thin black stripes. TV numbers? Relocated to the shoulders, and all numbers are changed to a double outline. The SF oval logo is superimposed over the triple sleeve stripes, and pants go from gold to white and a black-red-black stripe pattern. They also celebrate their 50th anniversary with a patch over the left breast.
1998: The name on back lettering goes to a single outline, and the pants go back to the gold standard with a side stripe pattern of red-black-red.
2009: This year ushers in a switch back to the older style of decades past, with helmet stripes going back to a red-white-red pattern and face masks popping back to grey after being red for a number of years. The red of the home jerseys (and the red numbers on the away jerseys) are brighter than they had been since 1996, and the 49ers wordmark is placed above the front number. The numbers and names are a single solid color (no more outlines) and the triple stripe pattern on the sleeves are truncated due to modern sleeve cuts.
2015: The all-black styling of a Niners alternate uniform makes its debut. The jersey is paired with plain red numbers, and the pants feature a single red stripe down the side.
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