The Evolution of Team Colors

The Evolution of Team Colors

In the comments on my last post, Team Colors by Sport, loyal reader (of all of two weeks), Chris, mentioned that it would be interesting to look at how and when teams changed colors. I liked that idea, so I took a look.

If you look at the chart below (click to see full size), you’ll see every color change from the NFL, NBA, and MLB since 1970. If a franchise changed names (like the Washington Bullets becoming the Wizards), I didn’t count that here. This also isn’t a logo change chart. Many other logos existed in between the ones on this chart and some after. This simply shows when a team changed at least one of their colors.

Some interesting things to note:

  • Since 1970, 25% of NFL teams, 57% of NBA teams, and 30% of MLB teams have changed colors at least once
  • The 90s were a big time for redesigns involving a color change, especially in the NBA
  • A lot of expansion teams from the 90s have already changed their colors, mostly due to starting with trendy-for-the-time colors, like teal and/or purple
  • The shortest stint a color combination had was the Atlanta Hawks’ 2-year experiment with blue and green (a combo I wish more teams used)
  • 5 NBA teams and 1 MLB team have changed colors three times since 1970

Anything else you’d like me to look at? Leave a comment below. That’s how this post came to be.

Click to see full size:

26 Responses to “The Evolution of Team Colors”

  1. Michael
    May 24th, 2011 at 10:28 am

    It looks like you forgot to add black to the Mets colors beginning in 1998. Whether or not the public approves, it has been a uniform color since then.

  2. The Sports Design Blog
    May 24th, 2011 at 10:33 am

    I’ve always thought black became a third color for the Mets, and this is more about the two predominant. Although it may be more predominant than I thought.

  3. 1vox
    May 24th, 2011 at 2:19 pm

    i’d have to look closer to check everything over, but there are mistakes i noticed right off the bat…the broncos original colors were yellow and brown…

    the eagles used green and silver at times (even before they had helmet wings)…

    there may be more, but i’m on my way out the door, so i could check some things in more detail if you wish when i have more time, just drop me a line if you want me to spend some time assisting…

    your ideas for graphics are pretty cool…same goes for the website as a whole…not knocking it at all, just needs to be checked for accuracy…there are a lot of logo/uni aficionados out there that can help…

  4. The Sports Design Blog
    May 24th, 2011 at 2:27 pm

    1vox, Thanks for your comment. The chart was more a look at modern color changes. Going back to the very beginnings, we’d have color changes for most teams.

    The Broncos’ yellow and brown pre-dated this chart, and situations like the Eagles are tough when you start getting into trim colors, but fact-checking is always welcome! Thanks.

  5. Adam
    May 24th, 2011 at 11:22 pm

    lol i like how you listed the spurs 90′s colors as mexican resteraunt

  6. chris
    May 25th, 2011 at 5:30 pm

    hahah mexican restaurant!

  7. Alex
    May 27th, 2011 at 11:28 pm

    ‘The Whole Rainbow’, ‘Mexican Restaurant’, ‘Weird Gradient’… couldn’t have explained it better myself.

  8. June 8th, 2011 at 12:38 pm

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  9. Michael Emody
    October 19th, 2011 at 3:30 pm

    This is great stuff, but pouring over it, I notice some definite team color changes that are missing. For example, the White Sox have had at least three color changes since 1970: Red and White (I wouldn’t say blue, as that’s not so much as a team color as just the color of the road jerseys, as with many teams of the time), then Navy and White (the collar ones), Navy and Red (both 80′s designs) and finally Black and Silver. There’s a few others I noticed also.

    But awesome work anyway… there’s always additions/corrections to any cool project! Thanks.

  10. Misopogon
    November 17th, 2011 at 1:58 pm

    Great job on this! I’m proud that the only Detroit team to make it on here is the one who inadvisably went teal for a few years before going back. The ability of this market’s teams to avoid the rebranding that other cities seem to go through regularly speaks to something. Probably age, but also continued support and general fan conservatism. Other than the since-remedied teal era, the biggest change in any Detroit pro team’s look has been the Lions adding black striping in the 2000s, and sentiment in the city is so much against it that the black may not survive another five years.

    New York’s “primary” teams (Yankees, Rangers, football Giants, and Knicks) seem have that same continuity but three “secondary” teams (Isles, Nets and Jets) have made one color noticeably darker. The Mets haven’t changed, in fact they may be the poster boys for tradition since they literally wear Dodger Blue and Giants Orange.

  11. evosero
    March 1st, 2012 at 3:03 pm

    Great chart.

    While obviously a bunch of new logos with colour changes have been released between May 2011 and March 2012, even at the time this was done I would’ve included the Brewers and Angels (possibly the Royals, as in some uses the blue was made darker similar to the Pats and Chargers were changed).

  12. evosero
    March 1st, 2012 at 3:04 pm

    Oops my mistake. Brewers were included.

  13. BitterBosh
    August 23rd, 2012 at 9:29 pm

    The Buccaneers have no silver in their scheme, its pewter, get it right.

  14. Apple
    November 23rd, 2012 at 6:13 am

    I’d hardly cell the Philadelphia Eagle’s newer color “teal”. It’s green, more an emerald green but still green.

  15. Chris
    March 23rd, 2013 at 12:12 am

    Phillies changed from maroon/light blue to red/blue

  16. Tai louie
    February 19th, 2014 at 11:00 pm

    Just found an awesome free app on iTunes called colorful thunder. It turns your iPhone or iPad into flashing color team colors. If you get a crowd together at a game everyone can sync the same team color with lights. Check it out.

  17. Char
    January 2nd, 2015 at 3:30 pm

    Heck yeah this is excatly what I needed.

  18. Kaleigh
    January 10th, 2015 at 11:56 pm

    Right onih-ts helped me sort things right out.

  19. Symona
  20. Mason
    February 13th, 2015 at 8:22 pm

    Interesting stuff! I really liked the Spurs how you called their 90s colors “Mexican restaurant.” Time to update! There have been a few color changes since 2011!

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  26. range
    September 22nd, 2018 at 5:17 am

    The Broncos’ yellow and brown pre-dated this chart, and situations like the Eagles are tough when you start getting into trim colors, but fact-checking is always welcome! Thanks.

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