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2021 Browns alternate uniform: 1946 shadowbox?

If this is the Browns’ thought process, they can’t use a historically accurate white helmet until next year

On June 24, DBN’s Thomas Moore broke a story about the NFL allowing clubs the opportunity to wear an alternate helmet during actual games beginning next season. Here’s the link:


As Thomas’ story unfolded, he revealed the following:

“Teams also have to let the league know if they are going to use an alternate helmet by the end of this July, so while fans may not know what a team has planned, they will at least know which teams are going to sport alternate helmets next season.”


And then, Thomas wrote another article that might give some clues. Click the link to read this article:


So, are the two announcements similar? First, the NFL states an alternate helmet can be used next year, and then the Browns announce they have a major announcement on July 24. As Thomas explained, …..”let the league know if they are going to use an alternate helmet by the end of this July.”

That sounds too much of a coincidence.

The tease apparently is a reference to the Browns introducing a throwback uniform.

And the Browns aren’t the only club that has a major announcement at the end of July. The Los Angeles Rams are set to unveil a new alternate white home jersey, which coincidentally to Cleveland’s impeding announcement, is a historical throwback jersey except with TV numbers added to the sleeves.

The thought process here is that the Browns will announce their news for this season or the next that they will wear the maiden-season 1946 uniform. Not every game mind you, but several. And those games will all be at home.

This is not based on anything other than a hunch. An educated guess. A feeling. There isn’t any “my sources tell me” to back any of this up. But 2+2 still equals 4.

Let’s take a look at what the 1946 uniforms looked like

Above all other uniforms the Browns have used throughout their 75-year history, these are exceptional looking uniforms. The biggest feature is that the numbers on the 1946 jersey had a separate colored drop-shade, or shadowbox.

Later, from 2015 to 2019, a drop-shade numeral jersey was also used.

First off, let’s begin with the accurate colors for the 1946 version. The original colors were listed as white, seal brown and burnt orange. This was the color palate from 1946 to 1978 when the orange changed from burnt orange to just “orange.”

Browns head coach Paul Brown believed in simple things. Nobody in the NFL nor the All-American Football Conference (AAFC), where the Browns first played, was using brown as a color. And only one other team was using orange: the Miami Seahawks of the AAFC. While looking for a suitable college campus for the first training camp prior to 1946, Coach Brown visited many Ohio campuses. When he toured Bowling Green University, he saw a jersey in a frame with the orange and brown color scheme and fell in love with the color combination.

Leather helmets were the standard in those days, and Coach Brown decided upon solid white hats. The same was used for the pants: solid white with one brown stripe capsuled around two thin orange stripes that could be used for home and away games. The fact that one set of helmets and one set of pants were used cut down operational costs as well.

The Browns used three different jerseys in their maiden-season of 1946:


Body: solid white

Number font: Jersey M54

Number color: seal brown with burnt orange lower leftside wide drop-shade

TV numbers on sleeve: No

Striping: both sleeves three seal brown with two burnt orange in between


Body: solid seal brown

Number font: Jersey M54

Number color: burnt orange with white upper rightside wide drop-shade and thin white outline

TV numbers on sleeve: No

Striping: both sleeves three white with two burnt orange in between


Body: solid seal brown

Number font: Jersey M54

Number color: white

TV numbers on sleeve: No

Striping: both sleeves three white with two burnt orange in between

The drop-shade jerseys, also known as shadowboxed, were worn for the 1946 season. And get this: the brown drop-shade variety was only used for two games.

The Browns had their only preseason game in Akron, Ohio and wore the white uniform. They would wear this variety for nine regular season games plus the AAFC Championship Game in which they defeated the New York Yankees 14-9 thus capturing their first-ever pro football title. Two of those nine games with the white jersey were played at Cleveland Municipal Stadium plus the home title game.

The brown shadowboxed jersey was worn in Cleveland’s very first game in the opening week on September 6, 1946 at home against Miami and then again on the road in Week 2 against the Chicago Rockets.

And that was it. It remains a mystery as to why they used these drop-shade brown uniforms in the very first two games, and then abandoned them.

“Keep in mind, for the Browns’ first regular season home game ever - played in Cleveland Municipal Stadium - the field was arranged from home plate straight out to the center-field wall. With a tremendous amount of ‘foul territory’ to either side of the playing field,” said Bill Schaefer, lead researcher for The Gridiron Uniform Database. “Fans and reporters were already a sizable distance from the field to begin with. Combine that distance with the orange-on-brown numbers and only a thin white drop-shade.”

The second brown jersey version was used in Weeks 7, 8 and 11 – all home games. With these second set of brown jerseys, the orange drop-shade was no longer present while the numbers were simply solid white.

It is assumed that the brown jersey with the orange numbers/white drop-shade were difficult to read. Orange, especially burnt orange, is considered a dark color and of course so is brown. Apparently, there wasn’t enough of the white drop-shade to give a definite separation for sportscasters, referees, newspaper sports writers and patrons to clearly see not to mention the opposing coaches on the other side of the field.

“They were too difficult to read from the stands,” Schaefer surmised. “Paul Brown was a traditionalist, as well as a minimalist as noted by the lack of logos on the Browns’ helmets. It’s no wonder the Browns ‘dropped the drop-shadow’ on the brown jerseys.”

And with poor lighting back in those days for night games, perhaps this was the determining factor. The white jerseys weren’t changed and continued to use the drop-shade numerals all throughout the 1946 season.

In 1947, Cleveland introduced what is now known as the “classic” Browns uniform. And for whatever reason, the drop-shade brown and white jerseys were only used that opening year until a newer version popped up in 2015 when stadium lighting was no longer an issue.

Another question is: if pro football teams didn’t make much money back in those days, why would the Browns go to all that expense to make a set of brown and white jerseys using drop-shade and then never use them again? In all probability, were the drop-shade numbers unstitched and solid numbers were then sewn in their place? Or were a completely new set of jerseys bought and worn?

Another curiosity: why were the white jerseys with the brown/orange drop-shade numerals abandoned for 1947 after just one season?

Not historically accurate

If the 2021 Browns use this 1946 jersey at any point during the season, they will not be donning white helmets since the NFL only approved of using this for next year. That means, if this year’s squad will use a 1946 jersey, then some other helmet color would have to be used.

And right now, only solid orange is what is approved for Cleveland to use this year.

That means, the use of the 1946 jersey won’t be historically accurate. Even if it is a solid helmet without any stripes, the combination with the solid orange lid is wrong.

Currently, the one helmet rule will remain for one final year before teams are able to utilize a second helmet design/color.

Cleveland’s thought process to play in the 1946 jersey hasn’t exactly been a tightly guarded secret. In fact, eBay has had these jerseys for sale as early as March.

“While there are already a lot of guesses and supposed ‘leaks’, there has not been anything that has fully unveiled our players in full uniform like our launch video will on July 24”, said Dino Bernacchi, SVP, Marketing, Media, Fan and Brand Development for the Cleveland Browns.

However, those jerseys sold on secondary sites are not necessarily accurate. The most glaring observation is that the original white jerseys had a solid numeral with a different color as the drop-shade. The newer jerseys are shown with a heavy drop-shade, but also have an outline to the number itself - which look good but isn’t accurate.

Of course, other things are added to these supposedly throwback jerseys which aren’t accurate either such as the NFL shield, the Nike swoosh and a 1946 commemorative patch. And if the player’s name is listed on a back nameplate, this did not officially begin in the NFL until the 1970 season so add that to the list of things erroneous.

The big reveal is July 24. If this unveiling is indeed the 1946 jersey, now you have some insight and background to go along with the celebrated news.

Use of orange numbers on a brown jersey revisited

The 1946 season has not been the only year that the Browns have experimented with orange numbers on a brown jersey.

As stated earlier, any form of the color orange is considered a dark color and of course so is brown. There just isn’t enough contrast with orange on brown or brown on orange. This is similar to say, placing white numbers on a yellow jersey. Lack of contrast is the issue.

The fix is to have a white outline to separate the colors. However, the outline has to be substantial instead of thin because at a far distance, the outline just isn’t wide enough to actually see enough of a separation. The end result is that the orange and brown simply blend together.

1954 Browns preseason uniform

The 1954 Browns wore an orange jersey with solid brown numbers in three of their four preseason games. These were all night games and were never worn in the regular season. The following year Cleveland wore this same jersey in a single preseason game. The numerals themselves on this jersey were a lot thicker than normal. Perhaps the plan was to place a white under-number or a white outline that never made it to the shirt. In any event, Coach Brown must not have liked them enough for an actual game so they were mothballed.

In 1984, Cleveland wore a brown jersey with orange numbers with a thin white outline in one preseason games only against the Pittsburgh Steelers. The concept jersey was scraped and became a one-hit blunder. During the season, the numerals were solid white with a thin orange outline.

Every five years an NFL club can change their uniforms. This happened in 2015 when the Browns unveiled three sets of pants and three sets of jerseys. One of the jerseys was brown with solid orange numbers and a white top leftside drop-shade with the word “Cleveland” above the player’s number on the front. These were very similar to the 1946 brown jersey used for just two games. The exception is that the white drop-shade is top lefside whereas the 1946 version was top rightside along with all of the other modern day additives such as the NFL shield, back nameplates, sleeve TV numbers plus the manufacturer’s logo.

For 2015, these orange drop-shade on brown were worn once in the preseason and in seven regular season games. In 2016 and also 2017, this jersey saw the field in one preseason game and just three contests during the season.

Baltimore Ravens v Cleveland Browns
Browns color rush uniforms
Photo by Kirk Irwin/Getty Images

For 2018, the brown jersey with orange numbers with the white drop-shade also adopted a sister brown version. These were the “color rush” uniforms which featured absolutely no white on any part of the uniform (with the exception of the NFL shield). Solid brown jersey, pants and socks were the norm. The jersey had solid orange numbers, three orange sleeve stripes, orange TV numbers, orange wording “Browns” and orange player nameplate on the jersey back.

The only white seen at all with the color rush unies were on gloves, cleats, the helmet stripes and chin straps. The color rush uniform was used for three games while the other brown jersey saw two games.

In 2019, the Browns played in the color rush uniform a record seven games while the brown jersey with the orange/white drop-shade was utilized twice during preseason and twice during the regular season.

The year 2020 marked the final year of this color combination of uniforms. The orange number drop-shade version was dropped, but Cleveland used the solid brown color rush uniform only once in the Week 4 victory over the Dallas Cowboys. The Browns brought back the brown jersey with the solid white numbers and became their go-to dark jersey.

Add gray, black, tan or even silver to the Browns uniforms?

Traditionalists have stated that the Browns must not waiver from their current color scheme of brown and orange with white. The three have worked in unison as primary semblance.

The trendy thing regarding uniforms in recent years with numerous NFL teams has been to add black as a secondary color, and to offer a completely black ensemble on game days.

The Philadelphia Eagles and the Arizona Cardinals are two prime examples of this trend.

Other teams have added subtle colors such as gray, tan or silver as an alternate color used as a highlight or an accent.

The New York Football Giants have always been red, white and blue, but now add gray as a fourth color. The Boston/New England Patriots used the same American flag color palate, but in 1993 came out with silver as another major visual property and today is their standard helmet choice.

And a lot of NFL teams have eventually added - or subtracted - a primary or secondary color.

The Dallas Cowboys began as just blue and white and eventually added silver in their fifth season. Denver began as brown and yellow. The Green Bay Packers’ original uniforms were navy and yellow. Chicago started with just black and white and later added fire red. The San Francisco 49ers once used silver with their red and white and later changed to today’s standard of gold.

But the Browns using black? Gray? Tan? Silver?

The naysayers of course say no way and find it their mission to teach the younger generation of Browns’ faithful the same message - which is keep the simplistic uniform and color combination just that: simple, basic, traditional.

However, that hasn’t always been the case.

In 1995, the final year in Cleveland before the original club relocated to Baltimore, the official colors were listed as orange, brown, black and white.

Not that black saw its way onto any uniform that year – it didn’t – but black was seen as a way to be used as a separator of colors. For instance, with a Browns’ white jersey the sleeve striping is usually three brown stripes with two orange ones sandwiched. Black could be used to separate the orange and brown lines and for the most part could only be seen up close, but black is definitely a divider attribute.

The color tan was listed as alternate colors from 2006-2008. These three seasons the Browns used the 1957 uniform as a throwback unie which they wore one game in each of the three years. Back in the 1950s, a standard-issue football pant was tan wool. These were also the least expensive pants offered and the majority of football squads at all levels utilized these pants.

To accommodate the NFL’s requirement of listing all colors to be used, for those three years Cleveland listed tan as a secondary color so that they may use the throwback pants.

And did you know that in 1950 the Browns wore silver pants? When Cleveland was a member of the AAFC, that league played with a white football for night games because of poor stadium lighting. When the Browns merged into the NFL in 1950, that league also used a white football for night games - but with stipulations. With any night game, no team was allowed to wear white or light-colored helmets, jerseys or pants.

Cleveland played in their usual white helmets during day contests and switched to orange helmets for night games. And instead of their normal white pants, the Browns played in silver pants for the 1950 season only. The shade of silver was so light, however, that it is difficult to know with 100% accuracy if they are silver/grey and they certainly were not the bright metallic silver the Eagles, for example, wore.

The Browns played four preseason games in 1950 with the silver pants: at Toledo, at Cincinnati, at Akron and a home stand; plus two regular season games: at Philadelphia and at Pittsburgh.

The following off-season, the owners passed a resolution allowing clubs to wear white or light-colored pants for night games beginning in 1951.

There have been other colors listed for use with several Browns’ uniforms throughout the ages such as dark gray, red, medium gray, off-white, light brown, beige and light gray, but these were used specifically for various patches sewn onto uniforms.


Would you purchase a 1946 Browns drop-shade throwback jersey?

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