United in Orange: A Colorful History of the Denver Broncos

Only in Denver can you walk down the street wearing bright orange and completely blend in. It doesn't matter what time of year it is, what the Denver Broncos' record is or who's playing quarterback -- this city represents its team to the fullest.

Mayor Michael Hancock, who once played mascot Miles, might be the team's biggest fan. As Denver prepares for the Indianapolis Colts on Sunday, he wants to see so much orange that he proclaimed today "United in Orange Day" in Denver-- calling on Broncos fans city-wide to proudly display our orange pride with the same fervor and chestiness we do every Sunday.

See also: Top Twelve Broncos Fans You've Probably Met

But why orange? Most of us are too pumped on Peyton Manning or liquored up to ever give the color a second thought, but after more than fifty years of that hue defining and adorning this city, it's time for a replay.

The Beginning

The Broncos were founded in 1960 as one of the original members of the American Football League. The team's owner, Bob Howsam, was so cheap that he bought the first Broncos uniforms used from the 1959 Tucson Copper Bowl. The uniform's former owners probably couldn't get rid of the hideous brown and mustard-yellow uniforms fast enough, and neither could Broncos players. The team would go on to hold a public bonfire after one season, with Denver fans cheering as the uniforms were burned.

Orange you glad you're not wearing shit-brown and mustard-yellow today?

Move to Orange

When then-Broncos head coach Jack Faulkner finally got his wish for new uniforms in 1963, he was expecting to receive uniforms with a burnt orange tint similar to what you'd see the Texas Longhorns wearing. Considering how much Colorado loves Texas, Faulkner didn't know how lucky he was when bright orange jerseys arrived instead.

Keep reading for more colorful history.

Bring in the Blue

The blue and white additions to the uniforms came on the shoulders of 1965. This was the same year the Broncos almost left Denver. After several partners voted to sell the team and move it to Atlanta, Colorado heroes Gerald and Allan Phipps stepped in to purchase the team and keep it in Denver.

Arrival of the D

Three years later, 1968 brought us the classic "D" helmet logo that our dads grew up loving. The blue addition from the '65 home jerseys jumped from the sleeves to a vertical strip down the middle of the helmet, with the away-jerseys adopting the same scheme, but vice-versa.

Despite the fresh uniform additions, the Broncos continued to struggle on the field, posting their ninth-straight season without a winning record in 1968.

On the Cusp

The colors kept moving in 1971, as the pants changed from white to orange, but the team stayed mired in mediocrity. Still, this marked the start of a true, hardened fanbase. While this current generation is used to John Elway, Peyton Manning and even Jake Plummer (he got to an AFC championship- - give him some credit), the fans of the early '70s continued to sell out Mile High despite going 53-123-6 until the team's first winning season in 1973.

Keep reading for more colorful history. The Crush All of that misery finally paid of. With linebackers Randy Gradishar, Bob Swenson, Joe Rizzo and Tom Jackson leading a bruising defense, Denver became known for a brand of football very different from the passing drills we see today. The 1977 jersey changes (richer, darker orange and switching up some stripes) aren't credited with a 12-2 record that ended with a Super Bowl XII loss to America's former team, the Dallas Cowboys. Nevertheless, the jerseys inspired Denver sportswriter Woody Paige to nickname the defense after the popular orange soda -- forever in our hearts. Transition to the Future

With a revamped offense, it's only fitting to modernize the jerseys. Although 1997 marked a change from the uniforms and logo Denver so loved, at least the the new, fiercer look wasn't unlucky. Terrell Davis, Rod Smith and some guy named Elway led the Broncos to two straight Super Bowl victories in in 1997-'98, and the uniforms haven't really changed since. The navy blue represents the Pat Bowlen era of excellence, while the bright orange continues to remind us just how far this franchise has come as the Broncos continue to hunt for a third Super Bowl.

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Thomas Mitchell has written about all things cannabis for Westword since 2014, covering sports, real estate and general news along the way for publications such as the Arizona Republic, Inman and Fox Sports. He's currently the cannabis editor for
Contact: Thomas Mitchell

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