Uniforms of the Modern Los Angeles Rams: A History
by Anthony Stewart
Ever since I was young, I've had an obsession with sports uniforms. The colors that a team wears, the uniform/branding identities that teams cultivate-these things have always fascinated me. I thoroughly enjoy fixating on minute details such as why the Cowboys' pants don't match their helmets except when they wear navy, what makes this sleeve patch so interesting, and all kinds of things that might go unnoticed by most (normal?) people.
Of course, my passion for such topics is intensified tenfold when it comes to the teams that are close to my heart. With that being said, I think I'm the ideal
crazy person uniform enthusiast/Rams fan to undertake this column: a deep-dive into the uniform history of the modern LA Rams.
(Richard Vogel/Associated Press)
On January 12, 2016, NFL team owners approved a proposal to allow the Rams to return to Los Angeles and build a new stadium, officially signaling the return of professional football to the City of Angels after a 22 year hiatus. The Rams' southern California fanbase excitedly welcomed back their long-lost franchise, who resided in LA from 1946-1994. In some ways, it felt like the Rams had never left. The beloved team had returned to their rightful city (sorry St. Louis), resuming tenancy in the LA Memorial Coliseum, the historic stadium that served as the Rams' first home in Los Angeles after moving from Cleveland in '46.
But there was something conspicuously different about this team upon their homecoming to the Southland: their uniforms. When the Rams migrated to Missouri following the 1994 season, they did so with a well-established uniform identity. If you're reading this, you're probably familiar with the look to which I'm referring: a navy blue helmet with gold horns, paired with a classic royal/gold home uniform and a white over gold away uni. Something unique about 1994 you might not remember is that the Rams introduced a yellow over white set (a throwback to the 1950's), which would be scrapped after being used twice that season. Interestingly, both instances were color vs. color affairs, a rarity in the NFL. Rams fans were treated to not one but two sweet red vs yellow matchups during the '94 campaign.
Sartorial splendor in the southern California sunshine: HOF running back Eric Dickerson dodging 49er tacklers in the classic royal/gold. This uniform served as the Rams primary home uniform from 1973-1999, a stretch that included Dickerson's magical 1984 campaign during which he ran for a league record 2,105 yards (a mark which is still unsurpassed to this day).(Peter Brouillet / Getty Images)
By the time the Rams returned to LA, both the white away uniforms and yellow alternates were nothing but a distant memory. And while the iconic royal home uniforms of yesteryear had lived on as a throwback alternate look, they were seldom-used in St. Louis, never appearing more than twice in a season. Instead of the classic royal and gold, these Rams featured navy blue and metallic gold, a color scheme adopted in St. Louis to usher in the 2000's. These colors, aptly named "Millennium Blue" and "New Century Gold" (yes, they really called them that), had been introduced in a 1999 rebrand along with a new wordmark/logo set including what can best be described as a fierce but lovable looking ram head. All of this added up to a distinctly "St. Louis" brand identity that frankly felt out of place with the team now back in Los Angeles.
As the Rams returned to LA in 2016, many fans called for an immediate change back to the royal/gold of yesteryear, but there were a couple of factors complicating the situation. The NFL requires teams to submit permission to overhaul uniforms between January and March of a given year for implementation two years after that, and so the Rams were essentially locked into their primary jerseys for at least a couple more seasons. Furthermore, the Rams clearly had a vision in place for releasing new uniforms to coincide with the opening of SOFI Stadium, which was scheduled for 2019. As Rams COO Kevin Demoff said in 2016, ""Our focus has always been on introducing new uniforms the year we open a new stadium. That’s the opportune time to shape your brand." The Rams clearly wanted to rebrand, but due to the circumstances, this would need to wait: "I don’t particularly love our current uniforms — I know there are a lot of fans who feel that way, but the thing that makes the most sense is to keep them in place for now."
The full rebrand that Demoff alluded to (along with SoFi Stadium itself) actually wouldn't arrive until 2020, but for the uni-obsessed such as myself, there are many interesting details to consider from the transitional period of 2016-2019 as well. As each season is worth examining as an individually, I've included a year-by-year breakdown for each of the Rams' last five campaigns below, concluding with a breakdown of the latest "modern throwback" uniform released by the Rams this summer. Special shoutout to The Gridiron Uniform Database for these photos.
2016: Smells Like St. Louis
-The white jerseys (paired with white or navy pants) were worn 12 out of 16 games, with the navy jersey and the royal throwback each being used on two occasions. This established a trend where the navy jersey, the primary home look in St. Louis, would be used sparingly moving forward.
-It's likely that the Rams would've worn their royal throwbacks more than twice if it wasn't for an NFL rule prohibiting them from doing so, as this was not their primary jersey.
-Unfortunately for the Rams and the majority of NFL teams, 2016 was a part of the "Nike Flywire" era, during which fans were forced to endure sartorial eyesores on the majority of NFL jerseys, all because Nike wanted to promote their new "Flywire Technology" material being used on the front collar. In order to draw attention to their fabric "technology" (*rolls eyes*) the geniuses at the Swoosh decided they needed to institute two-tone collars that often looked like toilet seats. Thanks Nike. Thankfully, 2016 was the last season that the Rams uniforms would be marred by this scourge.
-In addition to the Flywire collars, 2016 was the last season for the St. Louis style helmet and both the navy and white versions of the St. Louis style pants, all of which were accented with New Century Gold.
-The Rams also introduced this awesome blocky throwback font that would be used in the endzones, with either a navy/white or throwback treatment depending on the uniforms being worn. The font, inspired by the primary wordmark from 1972-1983, would also be used elsewhere. I'm personally a huge fan of this big, bold retro typeface.*chef's kiss*
-The royal/yellow throwbacks were associated exclusively with the throwback helmet logo. The primary logo/wordmark was never officially rendered in the royal/yellow, such as some fan-made designs you can find online.
-White horns/gray facemask "Fearsome Foursome" era throwback helmets were worn with the white jersey/pants during week 15 in Seattle, a game that featured the Seahawks in their monocohrome "Action Green" getups (hideous, I know). This game was billed as a Color Rush game, but there was nothing really special about the Rams uniforms-they simply swapped in white socks for the typical navy. There was something about this look that wasn't quite right, as the helmet was not a great match for the colors on the the uniform. Interestingly, this would foreshadow similar issues in years to come, as you'll see below.
-Instead of a team logo, the Rams would play their home games in 2016 and 2017 with the NFL logo at midfield in the Coliseum. The Rams did, however, play a game in 2016 with their primary logo featured on the 50-yard line: their week 7 "home" game against the Giants in London, the first NFL matchup ever in Twickenham Stadium. The stadium was equipped with the Rams treatment, although the field did feature neutral setting-style split end zone designs.
2017: White Horns and an Identity Crisis
-For the 2017 season, the Rams underwent a sort of "mini rebrand" that essentially was just an attempt to remove New Century Gold from the color scheme as much as possible, with changes to the wordmark/logos, helmets and pants. The helmet now included white horns with a white facemask, and the pant stripes were tweaked. While I'd say this was an upgrade overall,
-The white jerseys were again worn 12 times, this time out of a total of 17 games, as the Rams returned to the playoffs for the first time since 2004. While the gold accents on the jersey did look a bit out of place, it was not nearly as noticeable as with the navy jersey. The Rams wanted to wear their throwback uniforms for the home playoff game against Atlanta, but the league did not allow them to do so, and so the all-white look was sported instead.
-The navy jersey was worn twice again as well, but this time around, the overall look was remarkably mismatched, as the pants and helmets no longer featured New Century Gold. You might remember just how strange the Rams looked during their week 4 matchup against the Cowboys and week 6 matchup against the Jaguars.
-The Yellow Color Rush uniform (first introduced in St. Louis in 2015 in the infamous "Ketchup vs. Mustard" game against Tampa Bay) was brought back into play against a Niner squad decked out in black in week 3. I'd be remiss if I didn't mention that the 49ers have absolutely no business wearing black uniforms, but I digress. Admittedly the Rams' all yellow look might be a bit over-the-top, but I always had a soft spot for this uni. One thing that I appreciate is the perfect color match of the yellow and navy jerseys and the navy and yellow helmets. Despite my affinity for the gorgeous throwback uniforms, I'd say that the mismatched blues between jersey and helmet leaves room for improvement-I always wanted to see something like this.
-2017 was Sean McVay's first season in LA. Interestingly, McVay would become known for wearing a throwback logo royal jacket that was not tied to the Rams current uni set/branding.
2018: Look Good, Play Good
-Rams fans rejoiced as the team received permission from the league to use their throwback uniforms as their primary home uniforms heading into the 2018 season, and would wear them a total of 7 times (5 regular season, 2 postseason games) during their run to Super Bowl LIII. While they would come up short against the Patriots, at least they looked good doing so.
--The end zone designs were tweaked, with a new font and the Rams head logo no longer included. The NFL shield at midfield was replaced with a team logo, in the form of the helmet being worn that day.
-The Rams' home stadium was (and still is) the home of the USC Trojans football team. For the week 8 clash against the Packers, the Coliseum groundskeepers were unable to remove all of the paint that was on the field from the Trojans' game the night before, because the ground had become soaked overnight. They proceeded to paint Rams colors right on top of the USC colors that were adorning the field the night before, and the result was not pretty. Comically, you could also clearly see the Pac-12 logo on the 25 yardline.
2019: Last Dance for the Coliseum, Throwbacks
-The 2019 season was not very noteworthy in terms of the Rams' unis as they essentially retained the same look as 2018. One slight change was the usage of white socks instead of navy for some of the games where the Rams wore all white. The white uniforms were worn a total of ten times.
-The throwbacks were worn five times.
-The all yellow unis were used once, in the week 12 Monday night Color Rush game in LA against the Ravens, complete with yellow end zones. As a fan of the color purple, I loved this uni matchup. Unfortunately for Rams fans, this one was all Ravens. The lasting impression from this game in my mind will always be Marcus Peters talking an incredible amount of smack.
-The week 17 matchup against the Cardinals was the Rams' last game in the Coliseum prior to making the move to SoFi Stadium. The Rams commemorated the occasion with a patch and midfield logo, as well as awesome vintage end zone designs.
2020: The Stupid, the Bad, and the Ugly
-Prior to the 2020 season, the Rams finally released their long-anticipated rebrand, complete with changes across the board. I have many, MANY thoughts on this (too many for this article), and so I'll save the majority of my commentary for another day, but I'd be remiss if I didn't say that I have some major complaints. To put it bluntly, it sucks. In their quest to create a "modern" logo/uniform to accompany their brand new state-of-the-art stadium, the Rams came up with an over-complicated, out-of-touch dumpster fire. Let's dig into it:
-A new color scheme as illustrated by this logo slick graphic, established a revamped royal/gold combination (AKA "Rams Royal" & "Sol") as the rams new primary look. While I slightly prefer the old, more muted royal/gold featured by the throwback (particularly because "Sol" can look a bit washed out by comparison IMO), it's the least of my concerns when examining a rebrand that features
dirty-dishwater gray "bone". Navy (Heritage) has remained in the mix, although you'd hardly notice it, aside from the occasional piece of sideline merchandise. The biggest surprise with the color scheme is the inclusion of orange (not one but two shades!), which certainly seems odd, but in reality this is just for the purposes of shading on the "horn" portion of the Rams new logos.
-A new logo (link) featuring a stylized LA/ram horn design with a gradient treatment. According to the Rams, inspiration for this was drawn from a number of different sources, such as the Fibonacci sequence, the spiral of a football, and the crest of a wave (*rolls eyes*). For the sake of brevity, I'll simply state that I hate this logo, which I'll henceforth refer to as the swirl.
-A new ram's head logo: (link) While not a masterpiece, I prefer this over the primary logo by a longshot, even if Rams HOFer and VP of Business Development Eric Dickerson thinks the nose looks like a penis. Regardless of your opinion on the rebrand, it can't be a good sign when the team's VP of Business Development (a position that earns an average annual salary of $207,265 according to a quick Google search), speaks to the media and likens the logo to genitalia. And this is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to Dickerson's rebrand criticism. On the bright side, something I like about this mark is the clear connection to previous logos used during the team's 5+ decades spent in LA, while the primary logo looks like something more befitting of an expansion team.
-New wordmarks: A full team version which was "developed to reflect the spirit of designs currently seen across Los Angeles" (whatever that means) and a logo lockup. The full team wordmark is uninspiring, and doesn't seem to have much of a connection to any other element within the team's identity, making it feel out of place. Of course, this is still preferable to the logo lockup and it's gradient swirl eyesore.
-New helmets (link) with a royal base and gold horns. The one positive takeaway here is that the Rams would finally have helmets that coordinate with the royal/gold on their uniform, the one flaw in an otherwise beautiful throwback uniform. Unfortunately, the Rams tinkered with the one element of their uniform that should have been off-limits, the iconic helmet horns, resulting in a noticeable downgrade. The segmentation of the horns, meant to highlight the curvature, doesn't work for me. Furthermore, the shape of the horn was altered so that it no longer has the curlicue at the end, making it look less like an actual ram horn. So, one of the most iconic helmets in the league, that had even served as the franchise's primary logo from 1982-1999, was altered in order to match the horrendous turd sandwich of a new logo-to make it look more like a wave or Fibonacci or whatever crap they were going for. This is particularly upsetting when you consider that the original, unbroken ram horn was literally the first professional football helmet logo ever used, per Rams halfback Fred Gerhke's ingenuity in 1948.
-New royal jerseys (link) worn 9 times during the 2020 season. The Rams' new royal unis were billed as a "modernized throwback." Funny thing is, the Rams already had a "modernized" version of the throwback prior to the rebrand, and it was dang near perfect. Many design choices on the new royal jersey ensured it would fall short of the classic uniform Rams fans had re-fallen in love with over the last few years.
On the shoulders of the jersey, tv numbers were removed and the horns were altered to the point of almost being unrecognizable (noticing a theme here?), looking more like two bananas. The horns no longer wrap around, and they've been shifted too far away from the neckline. It's a definite downgrade, and makes the design on a replica jersey lose any resemblance to a ram's horns whatsoever.
For some reason, the Rams felt the need to include what can best be described as a nametag, with a little bit of asymmetrical zig-zag accent stitching, just in case you forgot which team this is. Perhaps they're trying to grease the skids for uniform advertising to be introduced like in the NBA? Whatever the case, it looks incredibly stupid. Speaking of stupid and unnecessary, the back collar features a small swirl logo above the nameplate, on a separate piece of fabric that loops over the collar. Most egregiously, the Rams opted for an ugly number font rendered in yellow-white gradient, with a sublimated reflective design that ties back to the swirl logo. Every time I try to reconsider my disdain for the rebrand and get myself to like the royal uniforms, the gradient numbers are like a piece of glass in my eye, making it absolutely impossible. In addition to the classic royal jersey/gold pants, the royal and bone pant options were both used with this jersey as well.
-New "Bone" jerseys (link) worn a total of 9 times, including both of the Rams' road playoff games. In my opinion, this was one of the worst missteps of the rebrand. I really just don't get the logic here. I can't understand how someone could prefer the color combo of royal/gold/bone rather than royal/gold/white-the "bone" just doesn't pop with these colors like the white does, there's no way around it. Becoming the only team to eliminate white jerseys from your uniform set and replacing them with a gimmicky shade of gray is certainly stupid, but the decision to still include white in the color scheme makes it even worse. Seriously, you'd think that the geniuses behind the rebrand could tell that the glaring lack of contrast between "bone" and white makes them a horrible combination, but apparently not.
This is most irksome when it comes to the white nametag. At least on the royal jersey the nametag is the same color as the rest of the fabric, but the white nametag on the bone sticks out like a sore thumb, highlighting the odd choice to include this clutter. More white on gray stupidity is included on the shoulders, which interestingly look completely different from the shoulders on the royal jersey, featuring tv numbers in an squat font and a strange sort of sunburst pattern that is awkwardly positioned. Similar to the royal uni, the back collar has a small swirl logo above the nameplate, but the piece of fabric is Sol-colored. Mercifully, the numbers aren't gradient, but they feature the same shiny treatment as the royal unis do. The bone jerseys were paired with all three of the Rams' pant options at different points of the season: Bone, royal, and Sol.
New end zone/midfield logos: The Rams took a mix and match approach with their 8 home games, using the swirl at midfield 4 times and the ram's head 4 times as well. The end zone designs were coordinated to utilize the logo not being featured at midfield that day (Midfield swirl=end zone ram's head; midfield ram's head=end zone swirl). The end zones were painted royal for 6 home games, and there was also a Sol design and a minimalist turf-colored treatment that were each used once.
2021 Offseason: A New Alternate Jersey
-On July 13th 2021, the Rams unveiled a white jersey, inspired by the franchise's iconic road uniforms from 1973-99 and accompanied by the tagline "Threaded with Greatness." Sensibly colored and free of any gradient nonsense, this has immediately become my favorite jersey among the current options. The marketing releases have been pretty cool, too.
To their credit, I think the Rams came to their senses a bit here, finally giving fans a throwback-inspired white jersey as they should have all along. After releasing "Bone" jerseys, I was braced for another gimmick (perhaps an all-black number?), and so it was a nice surprise to see the team pay homage to the team's history with a relatively restrained design featuring colors that feel right. It's fair to say that the rebrand was a bit of a slap in the face to the Rams' uniform history, and so if nothing else the release of this new jersey demonstrated that the past wasn't completely forgotten.
Unfortunately, the new jersey does suffer from some of the same shortcomings as its royal and Bone counterparts: a poorly executed shoulder "horn" with no tv number (similar to the royal version, the white replica's shoulder design looks nothing like a horn), a goofy number font marred by unnecessary nonsense, a "nametag," and a clunky back collar swirl logo. I also think having Sol wrap all the way around under the shoulders looks a bit odd with the wide-set horns and the way players crop their sleeves these days, but this is a small quibble.
With that being said, I think the new throwback jersey is solid, all thins considered. The Rams have announced that the look will be featured in three games this season: the season opener on 9/12 vs. the Bears, 11/7 vs. the Titans, and 11/15 at the 49ers. Presumably, we'll see the Sol pants used, but there's no guarantee this will exclusively be the case, considering how the Rams weren't afraid to mix and match their options last year.