This weekend, Millions of Americans will gather around televisions and computers to watch one of the biggest spectacles in sports: The Super Bowl. For more than 40 years, the top two teams in the NFL have met to duke it out on the field. But long before the merger of the American Football League and the National Football League, people were passing the pigskin on muddy fields around the country. In fact, the game of American football predates the Super Bowl by a full 100 years.
More than just the way the teams decide who’s the best has changed, though; the rules, the style of play, and, most visibly, the uniforms have all changed dramatically as time has rolled on. Thankfully, photography archivists have held on to some of the images of the good old days of gridiron, and we have these vintage photos to show us how the game (and the players) used to look.
Here’s a page from “The Official National Collegiate Athletic Association football guide. The official rules book and record book of college football,” circa 1907. The only thing recognizable is the football itself.
This kicker’s uniform, estimated to be from between 1905 and 1910, is a far cry from the one worn by players today.
At least this guy, circa 1913, has some modicum of padding on.
Coaching attire has also changed. It’s unlikely that either Pete Carroll or Bill Belichick will be wearing bowlers this weekend.
Cheerleaders, too, had a different look. This dapper fellow, photographed in 1914, is a cheerleader for Miami University.
These canvas “foot ball pants” were advertised in The Official National Collegiate Athletic Association football guide.
Even pee-wee football was charmingly vintage at the turn of the century.
Most modern football players would not be caught smoking a cigar.
Some things, like fans showing up rain or shine, never change. The caption from this photo reads: “To conserve electricity, all Portland High Schools had their football games rescheduled for daylight hours at Multnomah Stadium. Normally they were played at night. A few fans are shown camped under rain gear watching a game.”