Your Cart is Empty

From Pigskin to Polyester: The Evolution of NFL Football Jersey Manufacturers

August 19, 2023 2 min read

From Pigskin to Polyester: The Evolution of NFL Football Jersey Manufacturers

Football, America's favorite fall pastime, has a long and storied history, and its uniforms have evolved alongside the game itself. The jerseys worn by NFL players are not just garments; they are symbols of team pride and a testament to the sport's evolution. In this blog post, we'll take a trip down memory lane to explore the history of football jersey manufacturers in the NFL.

The Early Days: Leather Helmets and Wool Jerseys

When the NFL was founded in 1920 as the American Professional Football Association (APFA), players wore simplistic wool jerseys that were heavy and uncomfortable. These early jerseys were not standardized, with each player responsible for providing their own. Leather helmets were the only protective gear, and the designs were basic, often featuring just the team's name or city.

Spalding: A Pioneering Manufacturer

In the 1930s and 1940s, A.G. Spalding & Bros., known for its involvement in baseball, entered the football market. Spalding produced wool jerseys that featured team colors and logos, bringing a degree of uniformity and professionalism to the NFL. However, these jerseys were still quite heavy and not ideal for the physical demands of the sport.

The Riddell Era: Innovations in Football Gear

In the 1950s, Riddell, a company primarily known for its football helmets, expanded its product line to include jerseys and pants. Riddell introduced innovations like tear-resistant nylon jerseys and stretchable materials. This marked a significant step forward in the comfort and durability of NFL jerseys.

The Sand-Knit Era: Style Meets Performance

In the 1970s, Sand-Knit (later known as Russell Athletic) emerged as a major player in NFL jersey manufacturing. Their jerseys featured innovative materials and unique designs, incorporating mesh panels for breathability and comfort. These jerseys became iconic during the era of legendary players like Joe Montana, Walter Payton, and Terry Bradshaw.

The Starter and Apex Era: Sportswear as Fashion

The late 1980s and early 1990s saw Starter and Apex enter the NFL jersey market. These manufacturers brought a fashion-forward approach, introducing bold designs and flashy colors. The jerseys became more than just uniforms; they were fashion statements. Fans eagerly embraced these stylish NFL jerseys.

Reebok and Nike: The Modern Era of NFL Jerseys

Reebok became the official NFL jersey provider in 2001, introducing innovations like the "Reebok Play Dry" moisture-wicking fabric. This marked a significant step towards modernizing NFL jerseys for better player performance. In 2012, Nike took over as the official provider, bringing its cutting-edge technology and design expertise to the game. Nike introduced the "Vapor Untouchable" jersey, designed for speed and flexibility, revolutionizing the football jersey.


The history of NFL football jersey manufacturers reflects not only the evolution of the game but also the changing expectations of players and fans. From basic wool jerseys to high-tech, performance-driven garments, these uniforms have come a long way. Today, NFL jerseys are not just symbols of team allegiance but also showcases of cutting-edge technology and fashion-forward design. As the NFL continues to evolve, so too will the jerseys that are a vital part of its identity.

Leave a comment

Comments will be approved before showing up.