The NFL's Uniform Policies Are Even More Tight-Assed Than You Thought

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Everyone has always known that the NFL’s uniform policy was incredibly strict—this is made clear every time a player is fined for wearing the wrong color or length of socks—but thanks to the documents dumped in the NFLPA’s lawsuit against the NFL, we now know that the policy is in fact a monument to useless, bureaucratic policy-making.

The official NFL uniform policy is, no shit, five pages long, and two of those pages are presented single-spaced in very small font. The first page lays out a broad overview of the rules players must follow:

NFL players are required to dress to the highest levels of professionalism. A player’s appearance on the field conveys a message regarding the image of the League and directly affects the League’s reputation and success. Accordingly, the NFL Uniform and Equipment policy was implemented primarily for player safety and to ensure that the game and its players are presented in a professional manner. For easy reference, please review the 10 bullet points below to make sure you are in compliance with the League’s on-field dress code. Should you have additional questions, please direct them to your equipment manager or your club’s League uniform inspector. In addition, this section contains illustrations of the NFL Uniform and Equipment Rules and also includes ad etailed description of the Player Uniform policy.

  • Players are not permitted to wear bandannas, stockings, or other unapproved headwear anywhere on the field, even if such items are worn under the helmets.
  • Headwear is part of the NFL Uniform Code. No commercial endorsement agreement entered into by a player can alter his obligations under the NFL Uniform Code. The only headwear (e.g., caps) that the players are permitted to wear on the field is headwear provided by an NFL authorized supplier, currently New Era.
  • Players’ pants must not be altered or cut in any way and must be pulled over the knee.
  • The stockings worn by players must be white from the top of the shoe to mid-calf and an approved team color from mid-calf to the bottom of the pant leg, which is pulled down below the knee.
  • Tape used on shoes and stockings must be black or white to match the selected dominant shoe choice of the club.
  • The team jersey must be tucked in at the waist.
  • Towels must be tucked into the front waist of the pants and are limited to a maximum of 6 inches wide and 8 inches long.
  • Shoulder pads and thigh and knee pads are mandatory equipment and must be worn by all players, except punters and kickers.
  • Players must be examined by a club physician with a report submitted to theLeague office for approval prior to wearing a non-standard/ customized face mask.
  • All points of a chin strap, whether there are two points or four points, must be fastened to the helmet prior to the snap.
  • Clubs must obtain approval from the Football Operations department before any new product can be used by one of their players in a game. The use of any product by a player during a game without prior League approval may subject the player and/ or the club to significant fines if it is determined that the product violated NFL rules.

One of the revelations contained in a lot of these NFL documents is that the league has reached a level of self-seriousness that has robbed it of all perspective. Read this sentence again: “A player’s appearance on the field conveys a message regarding the image of the League and directly affects the League’s reputation and success.”

Does anyone in America not named Roger Goodell or Anonymous League Office Lackey actually believe that sentence to be true? Nobody actually cares about this stuff!


Anyway, in case the bullet points weren’t clear enough, the league also provides players this helpful diagram:

A reasonable person might assume 10 bullet points and a diagram to be all that’s needed to convey the uniform and equipment policy, but such a person would be wrong. What follows next are two solid pages of small type laying out every minute rule that must be followed. Parts of it read like case law:


Shoes must be of standard football design, including “sneaker” type shoes such as basketball shoes, cross training shoes, etc. Each team must designate a dominant base color for its shoes, either black or white (with shoelace color conforming to the dominant base color of the tongue area of the shoe). Each team must also designate one of its Constitutional uniform colors as a dominant team color for its shoes. Each team must also designate one of its Constitutional uniform colors as a secondary team color for its shoes. Each team may also designate a third uniform color as a tertiary team color that may be used for accents on its shoes. The designation of team shoe colors as described above must be reported by each team to the League office no later than July 1 each year. Each player may select among shoe styles previously approved by the League office. All players on the same team must wear shoes with the same dominant base color. A player may wear an unapproved standard football shoe style as long as the player tapes over the entire shoe to conform to his team’s selected dominant base color (i.e., white or black). Logos, names, or other commercial identification on shoes are not permitted to be visible unless advance approval is granted by the League office. Size and location of logos and names on shoes must be approved by the League office. When a shoe logo or name approved by the League is covered with an appropriate use of tape, players will be allowed to cut out the tape covering the original logo or name, provided the cut is clean and is the exact size of the logo or name. The logo or name of the shoe manufacturer must not be re-applied to the exterior of taped shoes unless advance approval is granted by the League office.


There’s a whole damn paragraph on glove color:

Approved Glove Color

Gloves, wrappings, elbow pads, and other item sworn on the arms below or over the jersey sleeves by interior offensive linemen (excluding tight ends) must be of the color that is mandatorily reported to the League office by the club before July 1 each year. Such reported color must be white, black or other official uniform color of the applicable team, and, once reported, must not be changed throughout that same season. Players at other positions (non-interior linemen) also may wear gloves provided they are either (i) a solid white, solid black, or a solid color that is an official uniform color of the applicable club, (ii) a bi-color combination of black or white with one (1) official uniform color of the applicable team, or (iii) a tri-color combination of black or white, and/or up to two official uniform colors of the applicable club. For clubs with a third official uniform color, player (non-interior linemen) gloves may also incorporate a third official uniform color as an accent only. Clubs are not required to designate to the League office by July 1, the color of gloves that will be worn by their non-interior linemen.


The primary concern of the rules laid out on these last two pages seems to be ensuring that no player takes the field sporting an unapproved corporate logo—protect the shield!—and that nobody tries to look like anything other than a football-playing robot. Imagine being the person who had to write all of this!

You can read the entire policy for yourself below: