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NFL number fonts

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Does each NFL team have a unique jersey number font, or do some teams share similar fonts?

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To my knowledge 17 teams use unique numbers and are as follows:

Bears

Bengals

Broncos

Cardinals

Chargers

Dolphins (only really due to the drop shadowing)

Eagles

Falcons

Jaguars

Lions

Patriots

Rams

Ravens

Steelers

Texans

Titans

Vikings

All other teams use traditional block, or a slight variant.

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We've come a long way from the days of the early 90's when teams wore traditional block or Champion block, and rarely anything else. Were the Steelers' move to that stylized Nike font the first of the custom fonts, or do the Bears or Dolphins pre-date them?

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The Bears predate everyone. They've had their numbers since at least the '60s.

The Patriots' drop-shadow italic hhad to be one of the first custom fonts. Eagles had their numbers before the Steelers had theirs, too.

Ever since the 21st century, every new uniform has been virtually required to use a proprietary font to guard against counterfeiters, who have easy access to public-domain varisty block typefaces. This has made for a lot of weird number sets, like the Cardinals and Vikings who are trying for all the world to use plain old block numbers but still need some quirks to them.

EDIT: I suppose this ended with the Bills?

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I think the custom font thing was not to guard against counterfeiters (they make the stuff, anyway). It was so someone couldn't buy a $5 jersey or shirt from Walmart, take it to his local screen printer and have authentic numbering put on. Other than possibly the Packers font with the notch in the 5, screenprinters could likely use any block without having to pay. Yet for some reason, they always end up using the garbage font the Sixers and Jazz use.

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Admiral is correct...Bears were first, the Patriots had shadow-italic in '95, then the Eagles' font and the Ravens' font debuted in '96 I believe the Niners went full time shadow-block in '96 as well. Steelers, Jaguars, Broncos, and Dolphins changed fonts in '97.

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Colts are using Champion block. not sure if anyone else uses it or not. maybe Green Bay?

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You must be confused about what Champion block is. For most of us, Champion block is the thick, rounded block numbers which the Bills, Jets, Bengals and Saints wore in the '90s when Champion made their unis. The Colts wore it for a few years in the Jeff George era, but they don't use anything close to these numbers now:

medium_brucesmith.jpg

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Yeah, you could always tell a Champion font by the awful slanted '2's and curvey '7', not to mention the helvetica-looking nameplates. I remember silently laughing at kids in school who wore those. Kinda like the original Korean counterfeit of the jersey world ^_^

Personally, I don't think custom fonts need justification, other than they're pretty cool and give a team a unique look (other than the Bengals totally ripping off the Bears). I think in a day and age when we have such ability to do different things with jerseys, why not break away from the antiquated block numbers?

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The Redskins wore something close to Bodoni Bold in 1945.

Football+gear+in+the+40s.jpg

...and the Browns wore shadowed blocks when they were in the AAFC.

pi_1537.jpeg

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Yeah, you could always tell a Champion font by the awful slanted '2's and curvey '7', not to mention the helvetica-looking nameplates. I remember silently laughing at kids in school who wore those. Kinda like the original Korean counterfeit of the jersey world ^_^

Personally, I don't think custom fonts need justification, other than they're pretty cool and give a team a unique look (other than the Bengals totally ripping off the Bears). I think in a day and age when we have such ability to do different things with jerseys, why not break away from the antiquated block numbers?

Possibly because block fonts aren't antiquated at all and most of the teams which use custom fonts would look better with a variation of a block font.

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Yeah, you could always tell a Champion font by the awful slanted '2's and curvey '7', not to mention the helvetica-looking nameplates. I remember silently laughing at kids in school who wore those. Kinda like the original Korean counterfeit of the jersey world ^_^

Personally, I don't think custom fonts need justification, other than they're pretty cool and give a team a unique look (other than the Bengals totally ripping off the Bears). I think in a day and age when we have such ability to do different things with jerseys, why not break away from the antiquated block numbers?

Possibly because block fonts aren't antiquated at all and most of the teams which use custom fonts would look better with a variation of a block font.

Custom for Custom's Sake is bad, as is Block for Block's Sake. The worst is when the two extremes meet, as seen with the Vikings. They have a "designed" contemporary uniform, yet wanted traditional block numbers, just 'cause. They made minor mods to the block just to make it proprietary, making it a custom block for custom block's sake. They really should have come up with a font that better complemented the design of the uniforms.

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FWIW, the AFL had two teams that used non-block numbers as well:

1962Fleer74Williamson.jpg

1962 Raiders - in black and gold, with :censored: ing huge numbers

Charli19.jpg

1960 Oilers - similar to Raiders, worn as part of the 2009 AFL Throwbacks

Also, during a stint in the 1970s (this photo says 1973) the Bears wore regular block before switching back. Not sure why.

McGrath_Butkus2ab.jpg

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The Bears only wore regular block on the road, and I believe it was for one season.

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Some of the "blockiest" block numerals I can recall were on the Rams' old Royal Blue/Yellow uniforms, and I thought they worked pretty well. Is there an official name for that particular style?

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Admiral is correct...Bears were first, the Patriots had shadow-italic in '95, then the Eagles' font and the Ravens' font debuted in '96 I believe the Niners went full time shadow-block in '96 as well. Steelers, Jaguars, Broncos, and Dolphins changed fonts in '97.

The Bears were not the first team to use numerals other than a standard athletic block. Far from it. Teams had been doing custom numerals decades before the Bears. The Redskins, for example, used both a curly, UCLA-esque numeral as well as a style similar to what the Pirates wear in MLB. The Bears just happen to be the first team who stuck with their custom numerals and made it part of their trademark look.

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On another note, there are a handful of teams that use 'standard' block numerals, however, many of them have little quirks that make them unique, and even teams that share the same torso numerals may use different TV numerals. The company that produces the on-field uniforms, Ripon Athletic, actually has a standard block numeral set that is shared by a few teams (Browns, Chiefs, etc.) This used to be standard practice, as each manufacturer used to have their own unique block numeral set, so the Champion teams would have a certain set of numerals, while the Wilson teams would have another (I think this might be what the 49ers use), and so on.

Personally, I wonder if we will see all the block numeral teams switch over to the standard Nike block numerals, which are a bit more crisp and modern than many of the NFL teams' numerals.

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On another note, there are a handful of teams that use 'standard' block numerals, however, many of them have little quirks that make them unique, and even teams that share the same torso numerals may use different TV numerals. The company that produces the on-field uniforms, Ripon Athletic, actually has a standard block numeral set that is shared by a few teams (Browns, Chiefs, etc.) This used to be standard practice, as each manufacturer used to have their own unique block numeral set, so the Champion teams would have a certain set of numerals, while the Wilson teams would have another (I think this might be what the 49ers use), and so on.

Personally, I wonder if we will see all the block numeral teams switch over to the standard Nike block numerals, which are a bit more crisp and modern than many of the NFL teams' numerals.

I'm sure I have seen it before, but what is Nike block? Who uses it?

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Clemson, Missouri, Pitt (now), just to name a few.

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FWIW, the AFL had two teams that used non-block numbers as well:

1962Fleer74Williamson.jpg

1962 Raiders - in black and gold, with :censored: ing huge numbers

I honestly had no idea Tommy Gibbs played football. I'm stupid.

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You must be confused about what Champion block is. For most of us, Champion block is the thick, rounded block numbers which the Bills, Jets, Bengals and Saints wore in the '90s when Champion made their unis. The Colts wore it for a few years in the Jeff George era, but they don't use anything close to these numbers now:

medium_brucesmith.jpg

probably, lol. well, whats the font with the slight modifications to the 6 and 9 serifs?

dwight-freeney.jpg

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We've come a long way from the days of the early 90's when teams wore traditional block or Champion block, and rarely anything else. Were the Steelers' move to that stylized Nike font the first of the custom fonts, or do the Bears or Dolphins pre-date them?

The Bears' number font has been around for decades. The current Steelers' font isn't even custom, it's just a variant on the common Futura font.

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Personally, I wonder if we will see all the block numeral teams switch over to the standard Nike block numerals, which are a bit more crisp and modern than many of the NFL teams' numerals.

I hope not. Nike's font works for some teams, but it is too thin to pass as a standard block font.

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You must be confused about what Champion block is. For most of us, Champion block is the thick, rounded block numbers which the Bills, Jets, Bengals and Saints wore in the '90s when Champion made their unis. The Colts wore it for a few years in the Jeff George era, but they don't use anything close to these numbers now:

medium_brucesmith.jpg

probably, lol. well, whats the font with the slight modifications to the 6 and 9 serifs?

dwight-freeney.jpg

That'd be Wilson block if I'm not mistaken, also currently used by the 49ers...I think they are the only other NFL team that currently uses it.

This used to be used by several different teams in the league, including my Buccaneers back in the creamsicle days. If memory serves me correctly, I believe the Detroit Tigers also use this style of block number. (Not sure about the Yankees, though.)

For what its worth, I have no clue if the style of block the Buccaneers currently use actually has a name, but I do know that even though they, for all intents and purposes, pretty much own that style of block now, they were beaten to the punch by, of all teams, the 49ers, who I believe started playing around with that style of block number in '96. (Those with razor-sharp memories might remember the 'Niners nice little hodgepodge of jersey number styles circa '96-'98, wherein some players had the bevel-block style numbers akin to what the Jaguars first had when they came into the league, and some with the block numbers the Bucs now use...all on the field at the same time.)

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(Those with razor-sharp memories might remember the 'Niners nice little hodgepodge of jersey number styles circa '96-'98, wherein some players had the bevel-block style numbers akin to what the Jaguars first had when they came into the league, and some with the block numbers the Bucs now use...all on the field at the same time.)

Were the Niners mismatched in those years? I thought they used the bevel-block font in 96 and switched the year after. Either way, I think the 49ers set looked better with that font, as did the Jaguars'. It wouldn't work for every team, but that is one of my favorite football fonts.

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