February 5, 2016 12:00 PM EST

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.

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.

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Write to Lily Rothman at lily.rothman@time.com.

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