There are certain sports uniforms that are seen as iconic since they haven’t changed with each passing generation. Teams in the NFL like the Jacksonville Jaguars or Atlanta Falcons seem to have a new uniform every year, but then there are teams like the New York Giants or Pittsburgh Steelers that remain largely unchanged.
Out of all of those classic uniforms, many consider the Chicago Bears to have the best of the bunch. While some minor details might change every few years or so, the overall concept remains the same. Let’s take a look at the Bears uniform, how it came to be, and some details that are still included as part of the uniform today.
The Staley Days
The early days of organized professional football didn’t offer a lot of variations between teams. Back when they first started, the Bears were known as the Decatur Staleys and their uniforms featured red jerseys with gold highlights for a few years before the iconic blue and orange colors became a staple.
The original Staleys uniforms featured three vertical stripes at the front of the jersey which was popular back then before switching to numbers upon becoming the Bears. In fact, the franchise was the first to feature jersey numbers.\
Those that are watching the Chicago Bears play for the first time might ask why the Bears play with the letters “GSH” on their sleeves. While there have been memorial patches for plenty of NFL teams, the “GSH” on the Bears uniform is permanent and has been there since 1984. That was the first full season following the death of George Stanley “Papa Bear” Halas.
Halas wasn’t just the owner of the team but was also the founder. On top of that, Halas coached the team from their time in Decatur starting in 1920 all the way until 1967 with a few brief breaks in the action including World War II. The eight-time NFL champion will forever be etched onto the Bears uniforms with the “GSH” initials.
The winged helmet in football is something that dates back to the early 1930s, and these days is more synonymous with the University of Michigan Wolverines football team. During the early days of the winged helmet concept, though, the Chicago Bears were among the pioneers with two seasons bearing the pattern.
Leather helmets were still in use by football teams during that time, and the Bears wanted to add some color to stand out. Though the concept was ultimately abandoned after a couple of years, the Bears throwback uniforms do feature the winged helmets.
The Helmet Logo
Though advertisements as part of sports uniforms are much more common these days, the Chicago Bears were one of the first teams to feature advertising. That was before they were the Bears, though. During the time of the Decatur Staleys, the team had the A.E. Staley Manufacturing Company logo for a year.
Since the early 1960s, though, the Bears have had the iconic ‘C’ logo on their helmets. The wishbone-style letter has a bit of an underbite, which has irked some people, though the origins are a bit difficult to find for historians. The logo is most synonymous with the Bears, but is also used by the Cincinnati Reds and had already been used by several colleges before the Bears got their hands (or paws) on it.
Just like every other franchise in the NFL, the Chicago Bears have experimented with a lot of alternate uniforms over the years. In addition to their Staleys throwbacks, the Bears have used orange as the primary jersey color for many of the alternates. The helmets, outside of the winged helmet, have largely remained untouched until 2022.
That was when the Bears debuted an orange alternate helmet for the first time, catching a lot of attention. For the most part, though, the uniforms have remained true to their classic look or have thrown back to the early 20th century look.