Pittsburgh is the only city whose major sports teams all wear the same colors. Black and gold are powerful symbols of the city, and I don't think any Pittsburgher would have it any other way. At the same time, though, anyone can buy a black-and-gold Ward or Crosby jersey and call themselves fans. This list is for those of you out there who really want to prove your allegiance to Pittsburgh sports. Find one of these on eBay, and you're in.
I'm not sure I'd want to walk around wearing these uniforms every day, and I'm as glad as anyone that the Pittsburgh black and gold are so powerful and iconic. But at the same time, novelty and creativity are good things, and they're vanishing from sports culture. Take baseball, for example. In the majors, teams like the Padres and Rays have replaced their flamboyantly strange former unis with blandly classy duds that are nearly indistinguishable from one another. And in the minor leagues, where teams have all the more reason to take chances and try strange things (the word "minor" is right in your name! So be minor!), more and more teams are wearing safe, classic colors like red and blue.
Variety is the spice of life, people! Here are five Pittsburgh unis that made things just a bit tangier. I'm sure I missed a few, so feel free to post links to your own choices in the comments.
1. The Penguins' blue jerseys. These just look great, particularly the 1968-1969 model. Black and gold truly are the Pens' colors now, but variants of the blue jerseys are nice on occasion, and the new CONSOL Energy Center apparently features blue as part of its design scheme. Relatedly, check out these awesome Pittsburgh Hornets jerseys from 1961. The Hornets were a minor league hockey team that vanished when the Pens were founded in 1967. These powder blue road jerseys were quickly discontinued because on black-and-white television, they were indistinguishable from their opponents' home jerseys, which in those days were dark. It's a shame -- they're beautiful.
2. The Pittsburgh Condors' 1971-72 home uniform. The Condors were Pittsburgh's entry in the American Basketball Association. They were founded in 1967 as the Pittsburgh Pipers and changed their name to the Condors in 1970. Their 1970-1971 season, in which the Condors used a cartoon bird as their logo, was marked by poor play and terrible fan relations. For the 1971-1972 season, they replaced the cartoon with a simpler, more striking logo, and pinned it to these cool home jerseys. (Here are some photos of Condors star John Brisker wearing them.) The new unis didn't help the Condors stay in town, however -- the ABA ended the franchise in June of 1972.
3. The Steelers' "Batman" uniforms (1966-67). In the mid-1960s, many NFL teams emulated the successful Packers franchise, right down to the uniform designs. Dan Rooney wanted to try something more original, so the Steelers started wearing a new uniform that featured a triangular burst of gold that covered the shoulders. This was supposed to be symbolic of Pittsburgh's "golden triangle" downtown, but it also looked like a cape, so these jerseys quickly, and perhaps unfortunately, became known as "Batman" uniforms. The Steelers also had trouble washing them. After 1967, the Steelers never wore them again. (Also regarding the Steelers, check out this do-it-yourself white helmet.)
4. The Pittsburgh Spirit home jersey (this model is from 1979-1980). For those of you who don't remember, the Spirit were an indoor soccer team that played in Pittsburgh in the late '70s and early '80s. They were relatively popular, even outdrawing the Penguins for a while. The Internet doesn't have much evidence of what they actually looked like, but at least some of their uniforms left something to be desired. Nonetheless, I really like the all-black uniform -- it has the classic Pittsburgh black and gold, and the Spirit's excellent logo stands out nicely against solid black.
5. The Pirates' "Turn Ahead The Clock" Jerseys (1999). I can't even pretend I actually like these, but I do have to marvel at how sublimely awful they are. The idea was supposed to be a look at what baseball would be like in 2021. Well, since 1999, we've gotten halfway there, and these uniforms, with ridiculous gold undershirts and gigantic off-center Pirates logos on gaudy red vests, don't seem like any better of an idea. The Sporting News memorably described these as "pajamas designed by color-blind preschoolers." In the Pirates' defense, they were far from the only team that tried this ridiculous idea. However, I don't think other team revived them later, as the Pirates essentially did with their awful "Ronald McDonald" alternates a few years back. (By the way, this is a terrific website about Pirates' uniforms.)