Football players wear jerseys, fitted short pants, and helmets. They also wear football gear, or protective equipment, that meets specific standards set by the NFL.  This includes special pads like knee pads and shoulder pads, but it also includes the design of the protective helmet.

Football--technically known as gridiron football--is a dramatic sport that involves tackling, body slamming, and high-speed impacts. The high risk of injury makes all the protective gear necessary. Football has remained the most popular sport in the United States since the 1970s and draws millions of viewers each season.

Panaprium is proud to be 100% independent, free of any influence, and not sponsored. We carefully handpick products from brands we trust. Thank you so much for buying something through our link, as we may earn a commission that supports us.


football players wear uniform

The outfit a football player wears is called a uniform. This includes the jersey, pants, cleats, helmet, and all of the protective apparatus necessary for the game. The exact specifics can vary from one position to another and even from one game to another, depending on the weather and other conditions. 

For example, in very cold weather football players sometimes wear a small waist pouch filled with hand warmers. Conversely, in hot weather, a team might not wear the tall football socks that usually form a part of the uniform. You can find out more about how the football uniform developed in this article from the Bleacher Report.

NFL Dress Code

football players dress code

In professional football, the NFL (National Football League) mandates a specific dress code for all players. This includes rules like the fact that all players have to wear their jerseys tucked into their pants. It does not allow players to wear items like bandannas or pants shorter than knee-length.

But the main purpose of the NFL dress code is actually to enforce safe equipment for all players. The NFL uses all the latest sports research to determine what kind of knee pads or grids on helmets will keep players safe during the grueling and forceful game. If you want to learn more about the NFL rules for football player dress, check out the explanation on the official NFL website.


football players wear jersey

The most distinctive and colorful part of a football uniform is the player’s jersey. The jersey has short sleeves and a fitted shape, though it looks bulky because it stretches over the shoulder pads and other protective gear beneath the shirt. Players wear jerseys that sport their team colors, as well as their name and number.

Because all of the protective gear can chafe, players often wear a compression shirt beneath the pads and jersey as well. The prominent football team the Pittsburgh Steelers provides an inside view into how a football jersey is made here.

Football Gear 

football players wear gear

The helmet, pads, and other protective items a football player wear also form part of the uniform, but players sometimes refer to all of this equipment separately as football gear.

A lot of science goes into the design of a football player’s helmet. Many helmets have an air gap as well as special padding and a protective face grid. In this article from Forbes magazine, you can learn about the physics and research used for NFL helmets today.

Besides the helmet, many players wear special pads and even a new innovation called a Q collar, which is a neck brace designed to lessen the impact on the brain in case of collisions.

Football Pants

football players wear pants

Short, fitted pants form the bottom of the football uniform. The pants often feature side stripes in team colors. They contain high-performance sports fabric that can stretch easily. 

Football pants come in three popular styles:  integrated pad, slotted waist pants, and snap-in pants. Integrated pad pants have seven different protective pads sewn into place, including knee and thigh pads. Some professionals wear these for practice because you can put them on more quickly. Slotted football pants allow the player to insert pads through slots in the pockets. And snap-in pants have snaps to hold the pads in place inside the pants. You can learn more about the design of football pants in this article from Rookie Road.

Football Socks

football players wear socks

Pro NFL football players have to wear tall socks as part of the uniform because of a rule created way back in the 1940s. However, players in other leagues like the NCAA do not always follow this rule, so you will also see football players in short socks or no socks depending on the weather.

The tall-sock rule was intended to make football uniforms look nice, not for any practical purpose! You can find out more about the history of football socks in this article from Metro League.


football players wear cleats

All football players wear cleats, or shoes with spikes on the sole, to provide a grip on the grassy turf as they run. RevUp Sports explains the different designs commonly used in football cleats, including low, mid, and high cuts. 

Players often choose a cleat design based on their position. For example, linemen often wear the taller, heavier high-cut shoe for extra protection in their defensive task, while running backs and receivers prefer the lighter low-cut design.


football players wear gloves

Football players often wear special “sticky” gloves to help in passing and catching the oblong football at high speeds. The gloves sometimes give them a 20% better grip on the ball! Dress codes and uniform rules do not mandate the gloves, so sometimes only players in positions focused on throwing and catching like quarterbacks and wide receivers will wear the gloves.

Actually, the science behind football gloves develops constantly, as you can see in this article from the New York Times.

Long-Sleeve Shirt

football players wear long sleeves

In cold-weather games, football players commonly wear a tight-fitting long-sleeved thermal shirt beneath their jersey and pads. Football games go on outside even in fairly extreme conditions like snow, so players need help staying warm!

Some players wear a base layer of a long shirt even in warmer weather, to protect from friction and grass burns. You can find out why some teams prefer long sleeves in this article from NBCSports.


football players wear suits

Finally, football players commonly wear a stylish suit and tie during official events like awards ceremonies, press briefs, or when traveling to another team’s stadium. Football players have an incredibly high profile in American media and often achieve celebrity status during the football season. Because of this, teams strive to present a professional and successful image even off the field.

If you want to dress up in a stylish suit, take a look at the 20 best affordable and sustainable suits for men and women here.

Was this article helpful to you? Please tell us what you liked or didn't like in the comments below.

About the Author: Hannah Cobb

What We're Up Against

Fast fashion groups overproducing cheap clothes in the poorest countries.
Garment factories with sweatshop-like conditions underpaying workers.
Media conglomerates promoting unethical, unsustainable fashion products.
Bad actors encouraging clothing overconsumption through oblivious behavior.
- - - -
Thankfully, we've got our supporters, including you.
Panaprium is funded by readers like you who want to join us in our mission to make the fashion industry entirely eco-friendly.

If you can, please support us on a monthly basis. It takes less than a minute to set up, and you will be making a big impact every single month in support of sustainable fashion. Thank you.

More, More, More