Big Blue throwback: Giants to don ’80s-90s unis

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. — The New York Giants are bringing back their classic 1980s and 1990s uniforms for a pair of legacy games this season.

The jerseys will be modernized versions of what the team wore during the franchise’s first two Super Bowls.

The Giants will wear the blue Nike jerseys with white and red trim, along with a secondary helmet that has the “GIANTS” wordmark on the side, for home games against the Chicago Bears on Oct. 2 and the Washington Commanders on Dec. 4. The Giants also will have game day events around those classic matchups to encapsulate a celebration of that successful era.

Wednesday’s announcement continues an offseason filled with teams introducing new uniforms, a trend that traces back almost two years ago to when the NFL changed its rules and allowed teams to use introduce a second helmet.

“I get letters from [Giants] fans all the time about different subjects. A lot of them write to me about the uniform,” co-owner John Mara said. “They wanted to see this uniform used again for at least some of our games. That’s kind of what led to it.”

The Giants wore these now-throwback uniforms and helmets from 1980 to 1999 before going back to the interlocking “NY” on the helmet for the 2000 season.

It was a natural choice to use the 1980s-90s uniforms for legends games since the Giants franchise still is defined by those teams, built around a ferocious defense led by Hall of Fame linebacker Lawrence Taylor and coach Bill Parcells. Those teams also featured all-time fan favorites such as Harry Carson, Phil Simms, Carl Banks, Mark Bavaro, Leonard Marshall and Joe Morris — star players who wore those uniforms and helped the Giants win Super Bowls after the 1986 and 1990 seasons.

Players such as Michael Strahan and Rodney Hampton also wore those jerseys, beginning in the early 1990s.

“That era really defines success of Giants football,” Giants senior vice president and chief commercial officer Pete Guelli said. It was a natural fit for the Giants to reintroduce the uniforms, which are available for purchase to the public immediately, against Chicago and Washington — two classic NFL franchises intertwined in history with the Giants.

New York beat Washington, 17-0, in the NFC Championship game on the run to their first championship in Super Bowl XXI. The Giants beat Chicago, 31-3, in the divisional round on their way to a Super Bowl XXV triumph over the Buffalo Bills.

“They were playoff opponents of ours during some of our more successful seasons,” Mara said. “Just thought that would be appropriate to bring them out for those games. Washington obviously was in that ’86 championship game. Played Chicago in the playoffs also [in that era]. Two traditional teams that have been around for a long time. We thought they were the right games.”

The Giants aren’t an organization that tinkers with its uniforms often. Mara admitted they have been pretty conservative and traditional over the years in terms of uniform choices, and even laughed thinking about a pitch several years back of a red-on-red uniform that was referred to as “The Fireman” combination.

The most recent modification they made was introducing a red stripe down their white pants last season, which was met with a “great response,” according to Guelli. They also brought back the helmets with the “GIANTS” wordmark to use with their color rush uniforms.

Getting to this point has been a multi-year process and part of a five-year plan instituted by Guelli upon his hiring in 2019. This particular uniform project was spearheaded by vice president of digital marketing Nilay Shah. Head equipment manager Jackie Miles and director of creative services Doug Murphy were also heavily involved, along with ownership.

“Historically we haven’t made a lot of changes and we’re always going to be very strategic with what we do, but this is the second — what I would call a relatively significant change — in the last two years. And I don’t think we’ve made any modifications since 2000 prior to this,” Guelli said. “I think it shows a willingness on our part … and also maintain the history.”

The jersey announcement sticks with the Giants’ desire to remain true to their history. The modern-evolved classic uniform that will debut this season does include some Giants-specific touches. The classic red-white-red heritage neck line has “Once a Giant, Always a Giant” stitched on the inside collar.

That phrase, which has become a Giants staple, is strategically placed for players and fans to see each time they put on the jersey.

“Obviously that was my father’s motto and something he’s used all the time,” Mara said. “It’s a big part of our tradition and our history. We thought it would be a cool thing to add in there. It’s something we try to live by. It’s a tough business. Players do come and go. But most of the ones that I run into after their careers are over are always appreciative of the fact that they were Giants at one point in time and are still always welcome back here and are treated well when they do come back. I think that is an important part of our legacy and our history.

“It’s more than just a motto. It’s something we try to live by.”

There could be more of these kinds of uniform changes in the future for the Giants, who are always looking at different tweaks. But for this season, at least, they’ll be dipping into their storied history for a new-old look.

“I think it will be well-received,” Mara said. “It never ceases to amaze me how excited people get for the slightest change you make to your uniform.”

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