In 1990, Mike Ditka‘s Bears made a throwback change to their uniform. “Back in the day,” before shoe company endorsements became a multi-million dollar industry, football shoes were black. Just reading Billy “White Shoes” Johnson’s nickname (he dyed his shoes white on a dare) confirms this. So in 1990, at the time when all NFL teams wore fashionable white shoes, Ditka’s Bears decided to buck the trend and wear black footwear. I loved it.
When Dave Wannstedt took over, one of the first announcements to come from his new regime in February 1993 was that the Bears would again wear white shoes. Wannstedt wanted to break from the Ditka era in every way, even down to this little detail.
A funny thing then happened. Starting in the mid-1990′s with the Indianapolis Colts, led by Bill Tobin and Jim Harbaugh (both men with Chicago connections), more NFL teams began adopting black shoes. I was excited to see the Bears re-join the trend they started in 2000, after wearing white from 1993-1999. The trend has become prolific that the Green Bay Packers, notorious for never tinkering with their uniform (they never adopted an alternate jersey or the captain patch), even went to black shoes in the late 2000′s.
For at least six or seven years, the Bears’ shoes truly looked black, with black athletic tape being used, as shown in the above photo of Nathan Vasher embarrassing Brett Favre in 2005. Sometime between 2007 and 2009, it seems, NFL shoes began to adopt an undefinable color pattern. Teams started wearing multi-colored shoes that seemed to feature white, black and sometimes their primary-secondary colors. So over the last few years it’s been hard to really define what the Bears’ shoe color has been. But I do believe they still used black athletic tape.
I just noticed in the last preseason game that the Bears seem to have gone back to a base white shoe look, as evidenced by the white athletic tape. Again it’s hard to tell because of the many different colors in shoes in this era, but the white tape answers the question for me. Could Marc Trestman be following in the footsteps of, gulp, Dave Wannstedt by wanting his team to break from the past? I hope not, because to me football teams look like tough football teams when they wear black shoes.
The only authority that can ask this question is the Bears organization, and I have a question in to them. Let’s see if they answer.