The San Francisco 49ers and Kansas City Chiefs are going to face off in Super Bowl LIV in a couple weeks and one of the first big news stories that came out this was the uniform matchup for the game.
The designated home team rotates every year and this year the AFC team is the home team. The Chiefs are going with the red jersey and white pants for the game. That means the 49ers will be in a white jersey. However, it was reported that the 49ers petitioned to be allowed to wear their throwback uniforms for the game.
The NFL denied that request and the image you see above is what the Super Bowl matchup will be.
It is the best move by the league.
The emotional connection to the 1955 throwbacks (which were popularized in the team’s Super Bowl season in 1994) makes a lot of sense for the team. That 1994 season the team wore throwbacks throughout the last part of the regular season and throughout the playoffs. It was the NFL’s 75th anniversary season and this year is the league’s 100th season. Given that the 49ers wore these throwbacks in both these seasons, it would have been a nice touch and tribute to that team.
However, in 1994, special permission had to be granted. In that Super Bowl championship season, the 49ers were not expected to wear throwbacks for most of the season. A few games were designated and that was it. But because of superstition, the team petitioned to wear it for the rest of the regular season (both red and white jerseys) and the league allowed it. Even extending that grant for the team’s playoff run. It was unprecedented but the uniform rules and licensing deals were different 25 years ago.
(The NFL has allowed throwbacks/alternate uniforms in the playoffs only twice ever since throwbacks were introduced to the league in the early 90s. The first incident is the 1994 49ers team. The other was the San Diego Chargers wearing their powder blue alternates versus the Indianapolis Colts in the 2008 playoffs. Both incidents required league approval. Also note that last year, the Los Angeles Rams wore a throwback design for the Super Bowl but that did not count as a throwback/alternate uniform because that design was their designated home uniform for that season, so no special permission was required.)
Today, Nike and the NFL’s branding is at the forefront as the league is bigger and more international.
If the NFL did allow the 49ers to wear their throwbacks for the Super Bowl this year. it would pose some issues.
First of all, the all white throwbacks are not a common look for the team. It isn’t as recognizable among fans outside of the 49ers fan base. With the NFL looking to establish brand identity, having the team wear their standard road set would be better for the biggest game of the year.
Additionally, a throwback look would require the team to put a throwback logo on the helmet. The helmet is the biggest identifier for any NFL team and altering that for the Super Bowl would definitely not fly with the league. Despite having worn their current logo in Week 17 against Seattle while wearing throwbacks, that was not a good look and the league wants to avoid a mismatching uniform design.
NFL merchandising will be placing the Super Bowl logo on current inventory in preparation for the Super Bowl. Throughout the NFL season, the 49ers only sold four player jerseys in the throwback jersey design (Nick Bosa, George Kittle, Jimmy Garoppolo, Richard Sherman — with the latter now being the only ones available now). This would mean that if the 49ers were to go throwback, they would have to reproduce a whole line of throwback jerseys and add more players to the production. Whereas taking their standard road jersey, it would be an easier task to reproduce or just use old inventory, which would also include player shirts in the standard design.
What the NFL wants to do is establish branding and to make the best decisions for merchandise marketing. By sticking with the standard sets for both teams, they ensure that but also provide the game with a uniform matchup between two classic designs.
The 49ers in white tops and gold pants is a modernized version of the uniform they wore in the team’s glory days of the 80s (and the design they wore in two of their Super Bowl wins). Contrasting with the Chiefs home set, it will provide us an excellent visual for the game.
This was the best decision that had to be made.
Also worth noting is that both teams had throwback end zone designs for their playoff run to the Super Bowl. With the NFL and its branding initiative, it is unlikely that both teams will feature any throwback designs in the end zone for the Super Bowl. Expect the designs to be modern and feature their current font and logos.