In the NFL, the decision of which uniform to wear for home games – colored jerseys or white jerseys – is left up to each individual team. While most teams opt to wear their colored jerseys at home, as it provides a more imposing presence, some teams have chosen to wear white. There are a few reasons why a home team may choose to wear white instead of their colored jerseys.
Heat and Humidity
One of the most common reasons a team will choose to wear white at home is to combat heat and humidity during early season games. Teams that play in hot climates like Miami, Jacksonville, and Tampa Bay will often opt for white to reflect heat and keep players cooler. Dark jerseys absorb and trap heat, while white reflects the sun’s rays and keeps players more comfortable in sweltering conditions. This can provide a competitive edge when playing in extreme heat.
|Team||Stadium||Location||Average September High Temp (F)|
|Miami Dolphins||Hard Rock Stadium||Miami Gardens, FL||89|
|Jacksonville Jaguars||TIAA Bank Field||Jacksonville, FL||88|
|Tampa Bay Buccaneers||Raymond James Stadium||Tampa, FL||89|
As the table shows, teams in Florida and other southern locations can experience temperatures near 90 degrees Fahrenheit in early fall. Wearing white jerseys helps reflect the sun’s rays and keep players cooler in these conditions.
Helping the Quarterback
Another reason teams may opt for white at home is to help their quarterbacks better see the colored jerseys of their teammates. This is especially true for teams with quarterbacks who struggle with vision or distinguishing colors. The white jerseys provide higher contrast with the darker colored jerseys and make it easier for quarterbacks to spot receivers downfield. Teams like the Baltimore Ravens, who have an aging quarterback in Joe Flacco, may utilize this strategy to make passing easier on their field general’s eyes.
For some teams, the decision to wear white at home comes down to superstition. If a team has experienced success wearing white in certain games, they may continue to wear them in an effort to continue that lucky streak. The New England Patriots, for example, opted to wear white during their Super Bowl wins against the Falcons and Rams, creating a superstitious preference for the white uniform at home.
Wearing white at home also provides a more visually appealing look for teams that have colors like navy blue or black as their main uniform colors. The white jerseys contrast better with the green grass of the field and make game highlights and photos look sharper. Teams with darker jersey colors may lean towards white uniforms for the visual pop it provides.
Some teams use white jerseys at home as a way to confuse or disrupt the visiting team. After years of visiting teams wearing white and home teams in color, switching it up can be disorienting. It flips the script visually and makes the visitors feel less at home. The Dallas Cowboys have employed this strategy, hoping the unfamiliar look gives them an edge against road opponents who expect to see the navy blue jerseys when playing in Dallas.
Connection with Fans
Wearing white at home also forges a connection with fans in the stands, the majority of whom wear white themselves. It gives the entire stadium a cohesive look and feels inclusive of the supporters who wear team colors but rarely purchase an authentic jersey. The “white out” concept has been embraced by many fan bases, bringing fans and team together under one white color scheme.
Early Season Temperature Data
To demonstrate visually how heat impacts the decision to wear white at home, here is a table comparing average temperatures in September and October for a sampling of NFL cities:
|City||September Average High Temp||October Average High Temp|
The data shows how teams in warmer climates deal with temperatures 10-15 degrees hotter in September compared to northern cities. This visual representation demonstrates why heat is a significant factor in the white jersey choice.
Examples of White Jersey Use
Here are some examples of teams that frequently opt for white jerseys at home and their potential reasons for doing so:
|Team||Potential Reasons for Wearing White|
|Dallas Cowboys||Heat, visual appeal, confuse opponents|
|Miami Dolphins||Extreme heat|
|Pittsburgh Steelers||Superstition based on road success in white|
|New England Patriots||Superstition from Super Bowl wins in white|
|Baltimore Ravens||Help quarterback Joe Flacco’s vision|
As the table shows, each team has their own specific reasons for gravitating towards white at home, whether it be weather, superstition, visual appeal or helping their QB. The flexibility to choose allows teams to maximize any potential advantage.
Fan reaction to the white jersey trend has been mixed. Many fans prefer to see the vibrant, official team colors on display for home games. However, some fan bases have embraced “white outs” and enjoy the unique look it creates. A few notable examples:
- The Pittsburgh Steelers have experienced massive success wearing white at home, including in Super Bowl 40, so their fans eagerly anticipate the white jersey games.
- The Philadelphia Eagles staged dramatic “White Out” playoff games on their way to Super Bowl 52, endearing fans to the white jersey home look.
- The Dallas Cowboys ignited controversy in 2012 when they wore blue for their Thanksgiving game instead of the customary white due to fan uproar.
While old school fans still prefer the classic colored jerseys, more modern fans have embraced the white out as an innovative trend.
Historical Use of White Jerseys
To understand why white at home goes against traditional football uniform etiquette, it is helpful to look at the history of NFL jersey choices. Here is a quick historical overview:
- 1940s-1950s: Home teams wore colored jerseys, road teams wore white.
- 1954: The Washington Redskins wore white at home for an entire season as coach Joe Kuharich superstitiously thought it brought him good luck.
- 1955: NFL standardized rules so home teams wore dark and road teams wore white to uphold tradition.
- 1964: Cowboys GM Tex Schramm reversed league’s rules so Cowboys wore white at home to showcase their road success and new tradition.
- 1970s: Other NFL teams began wearing white at home more regularly.
- Present: Each team can choose week-to-week whether to wear colored or white jerseys at home.
As the timeline shows, wearing white at home was a rarity before the Cowboys made it famous in the mid-1960s. Since then, the practice has seen a steady rise across the league.
In summary, NFL teams choose to wear white jerseys at home for many potential reasons – heat, superstition, visual appeal, helping quarterbacks, or confusing opponents. It goes against the traditional practice of home colors, but has now become a league-wide trend. Fan reaction is mixed, as some prefer the classic home look but others have embraced the “white out.” It is now commonplace to see visiting teams in color and home teams in white, which would have been unheard of decades ago before the Dallas Cowboys revolutionized jersey selection. While a controversial practice steeped in history, the option to choose white or color week-to-week allows teams flexibility to maximize competitive advantage however they see fit.