Seattorialist: The Odd History of Seattle’s Alternate Jerseys

mariners future jerseys

The popularity of alternate jerseys has exploded in recent years.  Even P. Diddy is designing “third jerseys,” as an option when home or away jerseys seem so…boring.  Whether it’s the potential profit or for the sake of fans that are interested in expressing themselves, teams have issued record varieties of jerseys.


The NFL (sometimes called the “No Fun League” ) was the last major sports league to allow alternate jerseys.  Probably the most famous/ best selling alternate jersey is the powder blue San Diego Chargers jersey, seemingly worn every other game by the Hawks’ old AFC West rival.

If you’re reading this blog, you’re probably familiar with that (regrettable?) day in 2009, when the Hawks broke out the “Highlighter” jerseys in bright neon green, still the only alternate jersey the Seahawks have used.

At the time, I was in another city, watching the game in a bar.  I saw the team run out on the field and thought, “when did the Ducks decide to play on Sundays?”  Then, as my eyes adjusted to the neon glare coming from the screen, I shuddered in horror.  Our team had suddenly become a laughingstock among both hardcore fans and judgmental fashionistas.

The Seahawks have traditionally stayed with the blue (home) or white (away) color combo, even with the old logo.  But will we continue to see alternate colors?  The Hawks have added dark navy blue pants in recent years, which the team has regularly worn.  Coach Jim Mora famously struck down the future use of the green jerseys because “we didn’t win” while wearing them.  But the allure of additional jersey sales might spur the Hawks to break out the Highlighters in a future game.  Or, possibly even a red jersey, to match the raging eyes on this alternate Seahawk logo?

desmond mason nba Seattorialist: The Odd History of Seattle’s Alternate Jerseys

The Sonics had a limited alternate jersey collection.  However, it’s almost certain that in this age of throwbacks and retro jerseys, the team would have trotted out a number of new color combos (if Clay Bennett had never been born).

The team mostly used the green and white uniform combo throughout its history.  Perhaps driven by the success of the Chicago Bulls “black pinstripe” alternate, or the Orlando Magic black alternate in the mid-1990s, the Sonics unveiled their maroon uniforms in 1997-98 (remember Desmond Mason?).  The move to an alternate was spurred when the Sonics introduced the maroon color into their new logo in that 1995-96 Finals season.  It was really only a matter of time before Barry Ackerley attempted to raise revenue through a third jersey.

When the team switched back to the simple green and gold color scheme in 2001-02 under Howard Schultz, they used yellow jerseys as an alternate.  They even brought out throwback cursive script, yellow jerseys; basically newer versions of these.

Did you read these last few paragraphs and feel twinge of sadness?  Me too.

UW Football:
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The Dawgs have a program steeped in tradition and success, unlike the soon-to-be-sanctioned team from Eugene.  Consequently, modern UW football uniforms have almost always been in traditional purple/white jerseys with gold pants.

Jim Lambright changed all of that from 1995-98 to mixed reviews.  One of his first moves was to switch from the classic gold helmet, used by Don James’ teams from 1975-94, to a purple version, with additional purple pants.  His changes reflected a move back to the version of helmets in the pre-Don James era when purple helmets were used regularly from 1972-74 (interesting note: from 1962-71, purple helmets served as an award to players who had performed well, while everyone else wore the traditional gold helmets with no logo).  Rick Neuheisel received praise for his decision to switch back to the “glory days” uniform used by Don James.

Recently, the school has implemented several different uniform changes.  In accordance with the recent trend of “Blackouts,” the Dawgs have added a black uniform kit, which they wore during the most recent UCLA and Wazzu games.  White pants have also been added to the game day options.  In a 2007 game against USC, the Huskies came out in Notre Dame-esque throwback uniforms and solid gold helmets, as an ode to the 1960 National Championship team (similar to the jersey in this iconic photo).  I’m sure it succeeded in causing mass confusion for the national viewing audience.  Because Nike maintains a strong influence over uniform details, look for the Dawgs to unveil new uniform combos in the coming years.

Man 0349 575x382 Seattorialist: The Odd History of Seattle’s Alternate Jerseys

Last, but not least, the Mariners have had the richest variety of alternate uniforms among the Seattle teams.  The M’s switched from their old yellow/blue colors (themselves an update from the powder blue unis of the 80s) to the modern navy/teal colors in 1993.  Since then, the team has had no less than 5 different types of alternate jerseys and 5 different types of alternate caps.

Starting in 1994, the M’s introduced the ever-popular teal jersey and cap.  The alternate uniform went away in 1996, but thankfully the popularity of the color has caused the jersey to return this year.

The M’s then went through a string of different alternates from 1997 – 2002.  First, these white sleeveless jerseys were used as a home alternate during the 1997-2000 seasons.  Sleeveless jerseys were a big hit around the league at this time, so this is definitely an influence of the “gun show” craze.

In 1999-2000, during the opening seasons at Safeco Field, the M’s went to this dark blue alternate jersey.  However, for the 2001-2002 seasons, the team went with a lighter shade of navy blue as the third jersey.  The shade of blue doesn’t appear to match the team cap, but nonetheless, the higher-ups approved and the players obliged.

Strangely, in 1998, during the whole “sleeveless in Seattle” phase, the team had a “Turn Ahead the Clock” Night.  The fantastical events of the Mariners-Royals game are wonderfully detailed in-depth here, but the game turned out to be a smash hit.  The current M’s VP of Marketing came up with the idea, and Ken Griffey, Jr. added some suggestions, such as the sleeveless jersey and red/black color scheme.  The team gave away the red caps as souvenirs and even had a robot throw out the first pitch.  Predictably, Junior wore his cap backwards for the game, and the players tried to leave their jerseys untucked (though the umpires weren’t having it).  It’s still probably one of the more creatively-themed nights in sports history.  The next season, other MLB teams attempted to copy the premise, rolling out similar futuristic sleeveless uniforms.  However, these subsequent TATC nights were not as well-received, and MLB has been without a future night ever since.

Since 2003, the M’s have gone back to a dark blue alternate jersey, coupled with the home whites, the gray aways, and the teal alternates, M’s fans have plenty of options to choose from when sitting in the stands at Safeco.

Personally, I hope the Seattle teams continue to experiment with alternate jersey combos.  It gives fans a way to represent the team in a color of their choosing, it brings some much-needed attention to teams during the season, and it’s ultimately another traditional starter for our beloved teams.  Much like how Notre Dame uses its famed green jersey, I hope we use these alternates to rally around our teams and continue to create raucous home-field advantages.  Let’s just hope it’s not in these.

The Seattorialist will be a recurring column touching on the uniforms of different Seattle sports teams. Mad props to Uni-WatchSeattle Mariners Uniform History, and Seattle Seahawks Uniform History

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