Other than the Chargers, no AFL uniform has received as much attention as that worn by the Oakland Raiders. That has as much to do with the recently departed Al Davis, who played the major role in the design of the uniform as he did everything else associated with the franchise
Just as the first Oakland regime had copied the Chicago Bears’ look, Al Davis put his early stamp on the franchise by incorporating some of the military academies’ jersey features.
Davis wanted a “sleek military look” given his days as a coach at the Citadel and at some of the military teams at Fort Belvoir, Virginia he led in the early 1950s.
Gone were the gaudy oversized two-color white and gold curved numerals and the sleeve striping. In their place, silver replaced gold as the accent color; a simple full block numeral font with horizontal dominant sleeve numbers without striping became the look Davis favored, a perfect imitation of the great Army teams of the 1950s and early 1960s.
The Raiders helmet was painted silver with a single black stripe, and Davis introduced a menacing “eye-patched” Raider on the sides of his RK2 bubble-eared helmet that has endured to the present day and lends support to the franchise’s continuing mystique.
Davis didn’t rest, however, and in 1964 and again in 1970, he added silver numbers atop a black background on his jerseys. While popular, the bright silver became nearly invisible to television audiences and even to fans in the stands as the lighting refracted off the expansive silver surface making the numerals indecipherable. AFL commissioner Joe Foss later banned the new look as did Pete Rozelle.
Currently on display at the Chiefs Hall of Honor are original Raiders jerseys of both styles, one belonging to Daryl Lamonica and another to Jim Otto. Otto’s battered and bruised helmet complete with nose piece is also on display.
(Editor’s Note: this is the third in an occasional series on the development of the AFL uniform. Contributors to this series include historians and collectors Lou Lampson and Curtis Worrall. )