The New England Patriots are an NFL powerhouse. With four Super Bowl Wins in 15 years to their name, they have built a dynasty that won’t soon be forgotten. When businessman William H. Sullivan Jr. and his cohorts captured the 8th and final franchise in the new American Football league back in the 1950s, it is doubtful that they knew what their investment would become.
People rarely give much thought to the intricacies of the team’s brand. Today the New England Patriots Logo is a household name. However, that wasn’t always the case. People who know the Patriots’ history will talk at length about its highs and lows on the field over the years. But they rarely talk about the transformations the New England Logo has undergone over time. It hasn’t been an easy journey, though most would agree that the rigors were worth it.
Back then, Sullivan chose to call his side the Boston Patriots and a vote in the newspapers cemented his choice. Pat Patriot was created in 1960, the product of Phil Bissell, a Boston Globe cartoonist who took $100 from Sullivan to authorize the Patriots to use his drawing for a year.
At the time, the team had no official material and the only branded products they could afford were stationary, and it was there that pat patriot made his appearance. The Patriots initially used a tri-corner hat for a logo.
But by 1961, Pat Patriot’s popularity was such that he came to adorn the helmets of the players. He then jumped to the team’s jerseys, pendants and every other product the Patriots made. And they never bothered to change Pat. They slapped him on their merchandise exactly as Bissell had drawn the mascot.
There was something about the mascot, who was drawn to look like he was preparing to snap a football that was appealing. Bissell said he wanted Pat to look tough like he had just gone digging in the trenches.
And it seemed to work for fans, at least at the start. After a while, some Patriots officials noticed that Pat looked a little too cartoonish like he had leaped from the pages of a comic book.
Once it was decided that Pat would officially represent the Boston Patriots, they did a redesign that eliminated his clownish white face and pinpoint eyes and gave him more of a realistic look. This involved coloring in his flesh and making him seem like he was part of the real world.
That was in 1965. Most teams generally endeavor to give their fans what they want. And by the late 1960s, everyone from the players to the fans had a sentimental passion for Pat.
So you would have expected the administration to keep throwing the logo at the fans. However, New England Management was starting to fall out of love with Pat primarily because his complex design made him difficult to reproduce in different mediums, especially television ads.
So they tried to ditch Pat. Billy Sullivan was the team owner at the time. His son in law, Mical Chamberlain, designed a whole new logo in 1979. Once his design was approved, Mical wanted to immediately discard Pat and roll his replacement in.
However, Sullivan got cold feet. He wasn’t sure how the fans would react. So he decided to put the change up to a vote. While people did not completely hate Mical’s design of a Minuteman Patriot with a flag streaming from the back of his head, Pat ultimately won the vote.
That basically ended the logo debate for over a decade. It wasn’t until 1993 that Pat’s time in the spotlight came to an end. The Flying Elvis, the logo that replaced Pat wasn’t Mical’s 1979 design.
But the Flying Elvis was definitely inspired by Mical’s work, though Ken Loh and Steven Evenson—the people behind the Flying Elvis—have always been quick to dismiss the connection between their design and Mical’s work.
Evenson said that he saw Mical’s 1979 design beforehand. However, he remembers being told that the fans hated it, so he worked hard to deliver a design that was as different from Mical’s work as he could possibly get.
Evenson believes that his design is far more streamlined that Mical’s logo and that the presence of generic elements like a flag and a soldier does not mean the flying Elvis was inspired by the 1979 logo.
Most contemporary fans do not care about that debate, though. They love the 1993 logo and they have shown no signs of tiring of it—though, the logo did undergo minute changes in 2000.
When you think about the strength of the Patriots’ brand, it is difficult to imagine that they let amateurs design their logo.
Mical was no design maestro when he was hired to create the 1979 logo. He was merely the cheap and convenient option. The same thing can be said about Phil Bissell and Evenson.
There wasn’t as much drama attached to the team uniforms. In the 1960s, the Patriots favored red jerseys with white block numbering at home. They reversed this design on the road.
The team started out with a hat logo over the player’s numbers. Then Pat came into the picture in 1961. His injection into the design was followed by two red helmet stripes, then a blue outline over the numbers on the jerseys, then the combination of red pants with white jerseys came into the picture.
That was in 1979. The red pants kept coming and going for the next several years.
The big change for the Patriots came in 1993. By then, they had become the New England Patriots and they had the Flying Elvis logo. They adopted royal blue jerseys for home games and white jerseys for road games.
They initially settled on using white block numbers with a red outline. Then they started to experiment with a modern rounded number font, one of the first teams to do this sort of custom work. But that only lasted from 1995 to 2000 at which point the block numbers were reinstated.
It was around this time that the team not only turned the jersey’s shade of blue to nautical blue but they also eliminated the white on silver uniforms for the road games in favor of blending blue pants with white jerseys. They completed this look by making the red numbers blue.
The New England Patriots have seen their uniforms change hundreds of times. However, the alterations in design rarely elicited complexities or drama. The fans were happy so long as their team looked good.
New England has never really stopped experimenting in this arena.