Princeton University championship football team. Circa 1885.
Princeton University championship football team. Circa 1885.Sports Studio Photos—Getty Images
Princeton University championship football team. Circa 1885.
Glenn "Pop" Warner 1894
University Football Players 1904
College Football Players 1916
Football Players Red Grange and Earl Britton, 1925.
George Halas in Football Uniform on Field
Notre Dame's Angelo Bartelli, 1943.
Football player Charlie Conerly (right), quarterback for the New York Giants, attempts to assist his teammate, halfback Kyle Rote, by untangling the back of his jersey that has gotten caught in his shoulder pad, circa 1950s.
Dallas Texans Dick Szymanski, 1965.
University of Toledo Quarterback Chuck Ealey
Mike Webster of the Pittsburgh Steelers adjusts his shoulder pads during a practice in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, circa 1989.
NY Giants Michael Strahan, 1998.
Carolina Panthers v New England Patriots 2009
Radio-Frequency Identification by Zebra Technologies 2015
Princeton University championship football team. Circa 1885.
Sports Studio Photos—Getty Images
1 of 14

See How Football Uniforms Have Changed Over a Century

When the Denver Broncos take on the Carolina Panthers in Super Bowl 50 on Sunday night, the players will be decked out in the latest technology: super-lightweight pads, moisture-wicking jerseys and radio-equipped helmets. That wasn't always the case. As these photos show, football uniforms have come a long way from the heavy sweaters and baggy pants of the sport's early days.

History NewsletterStay on top of the history behind today’s news. View Sample

Some of the evolution has been driven by innovation: In the 1920s, one new idea was to have players wear silk pants, on the thought that they were lighter than other options—or, on the other side of the spectrum, to have players wear shoulder pads reinforced with sheet metal, an innovation of the famed Jim Thorpe. In the 1940s, walkie-talkie-type helmets were patented, to let coaches speak directly in players' ears. And, for the last few decades, protecting players from head trauma has been the top priority—not that early football games weren't dangerous too.

The NFL on the Cover of TIME

Nov. 29, 1954: Bobby Layne, Detroit LionsTIME
Nov. 29, 1954: Bobby Layne, Detroit Lions
1 of 8
TIME may receive compensation for some links to products and services on this website. Offers may be subject to change without notice.