When Purple Ruled the World

Fads come and go. In my life, I saw corduroys, Tomagotchi, DigiMon and pogs blow up, and then fall by the wayside… and that was just in elementary school.

Our tastes, no matter what topic we’re talking about, are always changing. As a designer, one of the things that I have always paid attention to is color, and the 90’s were a special time for sports in that regard.

Call me crazy, but it seemed to me that American pro sports teams, no matter the sport, flocked to purple and teal/turquoise for their colors during the last decade of the millennium.

By my count, there were 11 expansion or relocated teams in the 1990’s that used some form of purple, teal, or turquoise in their main color schemes. The breakdown by sport is as follows:

NBA: 2 new teams

  • Toronto Raptors – joined the league in 1995. Used purple from 1995 until 2006.
  • Vancouver Grizzlies – joined the league in 1995. Between 1995 and 2001 (when they moved to Memphis), they used “Pacific Turquoise” and “Spirit Turquoise.”

NFL: 2 new teams

  • Jacksonville Jaguars – joined the league in 1995 and have used teal as their main color ever since.
  • Baltimore Ravens – joined the league in 1996 and have used purple as their main color ever since.

MLB: 4 new teams

  • Colorado Rockies – joined the league in 1993 and have used purple as their main color ever since.
  • Florida Marlins – joined the league in 1993. They used “marlin blue” which is a glorified teal until 2012 when they changed their name to the Miami Marlins and rebranded.
  • Tampa Bay Devil Rays – joined the league in 1998. They used purple in their branding until 2008 when they changed their name to the Tampa Bay Rays and rebranded.
  • Arizona Diamondbacks – joined the league in 1998. They used “Arizona Turquoise” AND purple from 1998 until 2007 when they updated their color scheme.

NHL: 3 new teams

  • San Jose Sharks – joined the league in 1991 and have used teal ever since. In the last 22 years they’ve 7 ‘different’ kinds of teal: Teal, Pacific Teal, Deep Pacific Teal, Dark Teal, Medium Teal, Medium Teal 2, and Light Teal.
  • Mighty Ducks of Anaheim – joined the league in 1993. In case you forgot that this team was born from a Disney movie, they used “eggplant” as on of their main colors until 2006 when they rebranded and changed their name to the Anaheim Ducks. Quack!
  • Phoenix Coyotes – joined the league in 1996 and used purple until 2003 when they rebranded.

Even some existing teams jumped on the color bandwagon, despite having developed their own successful brands up to that point.

The Sacramento Kings and the Los Angeles Kings of the NBA and the NHL respectively had both been in their leagues for years before they updated uniforms in the mid-90’s to utilize purple. (Sacremento joined in 1985 and adopted purple in 1994. L.A. joined in 1967 and used purple from 1998-2011.) The Detroit Pistons too, who had been red, white, and blue since before they even became the Pistons in 1957, adopted a tealish green between 1996-2001 before going back to their old color scheme.

Maybe it’s because teams thought all of the “classic” colors were taken by the time the 90’s rolled around, but there was definitely an explosion of purple and teal in the 1990’s sports world. Nearly half of the teams have moved away from those colors in the last decade, which fits into my theory of the fad, though there are still many other teams (like the Lakers, Suns, Dolphins and Vikings) who have made these colors work for them over their entire existence.

If teams like the newly relocated Brooklyn Nets are any indication, we may be headed towards more simplistic logos and colors schemes (they use only black and white, and the logo doesn’t even have a hint of the “3D” look that teams tend to love), but that remains to be seen. Maybe I can revisit it in another 20 years!

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