Converted by Falcon Hive

The next team in this series of team color history, is the Dallas Cowboys. The current Cowboys color scheme is one of the most infamous of all-time; those of you who follow such things know what I'm talking about, and those of you who don't...well, prepare yourself.

Back when the Cowboys came into the National Football League in 1960, they started out with a very understated look - Royal Blue and White:

You'll note the inclusion of the Gray helmet facemasks. I display these color chips due to the fact that the NFL considers these Gray masks as part of the overall color scheme. Even if Gray would not be normally considered a "team color", they are included in the individual clubs' Style Guide.

In 1964, with the advent and proliferation of color television, President and General Manager Tex Schramm came up with the idea of combining the existing Royal Blue with a unique Silverish-Blue that the team dubbed "Metallic Blue":

In 1966, the Cowboys added White stripes to their Royal Blue jersey sleeves, and Royal Blue stripes to their White jerseys...and for some reason, trimmed them in Black:

Originally, there were three of these sleeve stripes, and later was cut down to two.

There has been a small controversy regarding the color of these stripes - some have claimed that they are actually Navy, but every physical and digital Style Guide available to me has clearly shown these stripes to be Black.

In 1976, to celebrate the Bicentennial, the Cowboys changed one of their helmet stripes to Red, to create Red, White and Blue striping on the helmet:

1977 saw the color scheme revert back to the "normal" palette:

For the 1981 NFL season, the Cowboys decided to make a radical change to their uniforms - despite the superstition of wearing their Royal Blue jerseys with the Metallic Blue pants (the Cowboys had been wearing White exclusively at home for a number of seasons), they simply didn't look all that good to the powers-that-be. So, they decided to change the color of the dark jerseys to Navy, and pair them with Silver (read: Gray) pants. This meant that Dallas would wear one set of colors at home, and another on the road:

Note the label associated with the what would now be called "Metallic SILVER Blue"; it became a custom Silver Blue match ink around 1981. Prior to 1980 or so (I'm not entirely certain of the exact season), all NFL Style Guides were produced without Pantone references; the Guides themselves provided tear-off chips that manufacturers were to use to match fabrics and printing inks. Once Pantone standards were established, there were no Pantone colors that could match the Cowboys' Silver Blue - so custom match inks were indicated.

Around 1991, someone had the bright idea that the pants worn with the White jerseys needed to be modified. This introduced a THIRD variation of Silver into the color scheme - Silver-GREEN:

I believe that what may have contributed to these multiple metallic colors was the advent of Pantone's "blended metallics" which became available to printers and manufacturers around 1991. Blended metallics are metallic colors that combine standard Pantone spot inks with metallic base inks. Now, the Cowboys could use a Pantone blended metallic for their Silver Blue and also used a different blended metallic color for their Silver-Green home pants.

So, the Cowboys had Silver-Green pants at home, Silver pants on the road, and both paired up with Silver-BLUE helmets. Not to mention the mismatched Blues - Royal at home, Navy on the road.

For 1997, some additional tweaks to the individual colors occurred. In addition, some discrepancies were addressed by the NFL regarding the Cowboys' colors. The following is an excerpt from a letter dated September 25, 1996, in my possession from the NFL Properties dept:

There has been a wide range of Dallas' "Cowboy Blue" for many years. In many cases, the color has been a deep royal, yet the star has been navy. The team has implored us to use blue - xxx, pantone textile xx-xxxx, as the primary color.

In addition, the blue color on the white jersey has never been referenced. This color will now be in the Style Guide as Royal xxx (pantone textile xx-xxxx), as referenced above.

(Edits mine to protect specific potentially copyrighted Pantone information.)

Actually, there is still some controversy (at least, in my mind) regarding the colors used. My assumptions are that the Blues specified in the Guides I have up to this point (1977, 1986, 1995, 1996, 1997) refer to the White jersey, and the actual Navy Pantone color used was not actually specified.

Here were the colors as of 1997:

Some of you might even notice that even the BLACK was modified in 1997! The NFL begun specifying PANTONE Black 6 C as a standard Black in '97. Eventually, they converted almost all of the usage of Black to either Black C or Process Black C in 2002, but one team still uses Black 6 C today - the Carolina Panthers. But, I digress...!

For 2001, the Royal Blue was modified:

In 2002, just about every team in the NFL had one or more of their colors modified in some way. I believe this coincided with Reebok getting the manufacturing contract. Also in 2002, the Cowboys began to designate their primary colors as Navy and Silver:

You'll also note the change to the Silver - it is now officially a metallic color - making it THREE different metallics to represent what most people regard as one color - Silver. Silver-Blue helmets, Silver-Green home pants, and Silver(-Gray) road pants. With Navy on the road unis (and on the helmets), Royal Blue on the home unis, with Black trim on the home uniform sleeve stripes, and Gray facemasks.

Anyone see a problem with this??


I heard a rumor that Jerry Jones - the owner of the Dallas Cowboys - is actually color-blind. What I have heard is that season after season, different graphic designers and licensees present color changes to Mr. Jones in order to push him in the direction of standardizing the Cowboys' color palette. He doesn't see the need. Because he doesn't see the differences in the colors.

If were up to me (and it certainly isn't!), I would pick one Blue, one Silver and be done with it. Here's my proposed color set:

The Metallic Silver Blue I'm using here is part of Pantone's new line of metallic colors - called "Premium Metallics". These colors combine Pantone's new Goe set of base inks with a new metallic - PANTONE Silver. I don't actually have a physical guide for these new metallics yet, so it's difficult to tell how this color would look on a helmet at this point.

Next, I'll take a look at the San Francisco 49ers' colors, and how the pre-1980 custom ink matches affected the Niners' color scheme for years to come...

(3) Comments

  1. Kevin M On October 8, 2010 at 9:42 PM

    Good stuff Donovan!

    Bad Thadd On October 11, 2010 at 9:11 PM

    its simple. revert everything back to 64-66. even the helmets. unified and simple.

    Anonymous On October 14, 2010 at 1:07 PM

    Great stuff. Thank you for clarifying the mess about the greenish pants. Some reports I read about the Cowboys doing away with those this season or next claimed Tex Schramm was responsible for them, but old films, tapes, and pictures don't support that. In certain lighting situations you can pick up a very slight hint of green in the metallic blue pants from the pre-1991 years, but I think that was due to odd lighting in those photos rather than something intentional in the uniform design.

    Also, for some reason from 1970-73 (especially 1970 and 1971), the pants look like they had almost all the blue removed from them. They look almost totally gray in most photos and even in videos of games from those years. What was up with that?


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