History of Sports Uniforms


Although it may be difficult to believe, there was no such thing as designated team uniforms for players in the past. In fact, designated team uniforms are more of a modern innovation that sports teams all over the world have widely accepted and advanced over time. If you have ever wondered at the history of sports uniforms, you came to the right place. In this article, we take a trip through time to discover how uniforms have evolved since the early days of mankind.

History of Sports Uniforms

Since humans were able to stand upright, running was a requirement for survival. The first humans needed to run in order to hunt for food and escape predators, all of which has turned athletes into what they are today. It wasn't until the start of the Olympic Games that activities such as running became competitive events.

Ancient Olympic Games began as part of a religious festival in honor of Zeus, the king of Mount Olympus. Starting in 776 BCE, every male citizen from city-states in all corners of Greek civilization gathered in Olympia to compete in various races. Oddly enough, competing without clothes was a sign of cultivating a truly civilized society. Male athletes began competing in the nude as early as 720 BCE. Although it is unclear who the first nude athlete was, ancient records report that the first athlete to compete in the nude was a runner by the name of Orsippos. He began the race wearing traditional athletic garments of the time – most likely a loincloth held up by a band of fabric. As Orsippos ran, his loincloth fell off, he won the short sprint, and a tradition was born. In true Greek fashion, the Spartans also claim to be the first athletes to exercise naked. This was meant to distinguish the Greeks from "barbarians" who thought that nudity was shameful.

Though it took more than a millennia for the Olympic Games to return, there were many other ancient sports being played throughout the world. Soccer, for example, is believed to have begun as early as 200 BCE in Ancient China. This early version of football or soccer was used to train soldiers as part of a physical education program. In 14th century England, shepherds created the game of cricket as we know it today, playing on short grass pastures where it was possible to bowl a ball made of rags or wool at a target. Some modern sports, such as baseball, basketball, rugby, and American football, were not developed until the 1800s, but the history of their uniforms is interesting, to say the least.

Starting in the 1860s, the first modern-day soccer uniforms were primarily made of cotton or wool knickers and a knitted or woven pullover with a buttoned welt opening as well as knee-length socks, a cap, and leather work boots or metal cleats. In order to differentiate one team from another, some soccer teams utilized colored stripes while others donned badges that were sewn onto their jerseys. As the sport progressed, woven materials were used less and less, giving way to synthetic fibers. It wasn't until 1984 that shin guards became mandatory, and the earliest shin guards were made of leather and boning with horsehair stuffing. Today, soccer uniforms are generally made of high-wicking fibers with very little or no seaming at all and shin guards are made of synthetic plastics and high-performance foams.

Traditional dress for cricket players was often cream or white in color, which symbolized cleanliness and confidence on the field. Cricket uniforms usually consisted of cotton or polyester trousers and a buttoned-down shirt. Some players even chose to wear cabled or heavily ribbed V-neck vests and sweaters. When rugby began, it was primarily a sport played by upper-class university students that wore their school uniforms, which included white trousers, suspenders, a white shirt, and a tie. As the sport progressed, players began wearing knicker-length trousers in darker colors for their ability to hide dirt and stains. Rugby players also wore caps in designated team colors, badges, and collarless jerseys with numbers. The first baseball players took to wearing white flannel collared shirts, woolen trousers, straw hats, and leather shoes. However, baseball teams quickly took to wearing knickers and leagues used colors and patterns to differentiate players, positions, or teams. Baseball players also traded in the straw hat for one made of wool.

In both basketball and American football, there were no rules regarding what kind of clothing a player could wear. In fact, basketball players and football players often wore everyday clothing. Today, athletic uniforms look totally different than they did when sports were just being created. Athletes depend on top-of-the-line moisture-wicking or cooling technologies and high-quality fabrics that make uniforms more durable, aerodynamic, and easier to handle.

Now that you know more about the history of sports uniforms, it is easy to see how and why we arrived at some of the uniforms that athletes wear to compete in modern times. You probably also realize the necessity for high-performance materials and innovative technology. Dynamic Team Sports makes it easy for you to outfit your team with custom uniforms. We cater to all sorts of sports communities, including field hockey, lacrosse, soccer, track, and so much more.