Football Uniform Decoration Rules

Your football uniform says a lot about your team. So before designing your team football jersey, make sure you're familiar with the rules. Also check with your local organization, as rules may vary. The following information is intended to serve as a general guide for decorating high school football uniforms, and meets or exceeds NFHS standards.

The High School Football Uniform

Players must wear properly-fitting and professionally manufactured uniforms and equipment. A standard high school football uniform consists of a jersey, pants and socks.

Equipment generally includes knee pads, helmet with face mask and chin strap, pads (including shoulder and hip pads with tailbone protector and thigh guards), a visible mouthpiece that covers all upper teeth, and shoes with cleats.

The Jersey, Numbers, Colors

Jerseys must display clearly visible numbers 1 through 99 on the front and back. The jersey must be long enough to reach the top of the pants or be tucked in, and contain sleeves that completely cover shoulder pads.

The number must be horizontally centered and at least eight inches high on the front, ten inches high on the back, and one-and-a-half inches wide. Color and appearance of the number must be the same on both sides of the jersey. The number's color must contrast with the jersey color, or have a contrasting border at least a quarter-inch wide.

Home team uniform colors must contrast with that of the visitors'. The home team must wear dark-colored jerseys, visitors light-colored. Visitors are responsible for changing jerseys in the event both teams wear dark; with the referee's permission the home team may change jerseys.

The Visiting Team Jersey

Starting in 2012 the following rules will apply to visiting players' jerseys:

  • The body of the jersey (from inside the shoulder area including the yoke or shoulders, below the collar, to the bottom of the jersey) must be white and display only allowable ornaments and numbers that contrast with white which include:
  • Number and team and/or player name on body or shoulders
  • Decorative stripes added during production that follow the curve of the sleeve or shoulder seam of the yoke and doesn't exceed one inch within the jersey's body; or is added after production to the shoulder area and doesn't exceed one inch per stripe, or a combination of stripes not exceeding a total of 3.5 inches.
  • Decorative stripes on the collar, not more than one inch wide
  • Decorative stripes on the side seams not more than four inches wide, but must be white if on the body of the jersey, with exceptions.

The Home Team Jersey

Beginning 2012, the body of the home jersey may not include white except for the jersey number, the team or player name on the shoulders or body, decorative stripes on the sleeves or shoulders, or stripes on collar or side seams.

Protective Equipment

Mandatory protective equipment must be covered by the jersey and include shoulder pads and "hard surface auxiliary attachments". Unsafe, confusing, or "inappropriate" equipment is not allowed. Illegal gear includes:

  • Tear-away jerseys, or jerseys that have been altered in any way
  • Jerseys or pants that contain:
    • A visible logo or trademark larger than 2-1/4 square inches
    • More than one manufacturer's logo or trademark on the outside of jersey or pants
    • Non-logo labels on the outside of the items
  • Ball-colored helmets, jerseys, patches, pads or gloves
  • Jerseys, undershirts, or exterior arm covers or pads made to "enhance contact with the football or opponent"

Flags and Patches

Flags not exceeding two inches by three inches can be worn. Commemorative patches may be worn with state approval provided they do not exceed four square inches, or interfere with the visibility of the number.

The College Football Uniform

The following information is based on the Official NCAA 2009-10 Football Rules and Interpretations, Rule 1, The Game, Field, Players and Equipment, and is intended to serve as a general guide for decorating the college football uniform.

The standard college football uniform consists of: jersey, pants and socks. Equipment must be professionally manufactured and include: knee pads, helmet with face mask and chin strap, pads (including shoulder and hip pads with tailbone protector and thigh guards), a visible mouthpiece that covers all upper teeth, and shoes with cleats.

The Jersey, Numbers, Colors

The jersey must be full-length, able to be tucked in, and contain sleeves that fully cover shoulder pads.

Players are numbered 1-99. Numbers may not be preceded by a 0.

Rules recommend that player positions assume the following numbers:

  • Backs: 1-49
  • Snapper: 50-59
  • Guard: 60-69
  • Tackle: 70-79
  • End: 80-89
  • At least five offensive players in a scrimmage must be numbered 50-79, with exceptions
  • No two players on the same team in a single down may have the same number
  • There can be no markings in the number area
  • Numbers on the front of the jersey must be eight inches high, ten inches on the back, and be of a contrasting color to the jersey, with the style and color of the number the same for all team members
  • Individual bars must be about one-and-a-half inches wide
  • Numbers on any other part of the uniform must correspond to the jersey number

Jersey colors worn by opposing teams must contrast. Team players must wear identical jerseys. Visitors wear white, however home may wear white if both teams agree. On condition, both teams may wear colored jerseys. See rules for conditions and violations.

Jersey Markings

A white jersey must contain a colored number, the name of the player and the school, school logo, and may contain approved insignias and the American flag. See rules for details.

Stripes may be placed on sleeves. One-inch borders around the collar and cuffs and a four-inch stripe along the side seam are acceptable.

Colored jerseys may contain white if the white part is a number, number border, player and school name, a stripe on the sleeve, or a collar or cuff.


Backs of gloves or hand pads must be gray; preferably the palms also. See rules for penalties.

A memorial insignia of a team player worn on the uniform or helmet may not exceed one-and-a-half inches in diameter.

Socks must be visible, and be the same length and color for all team members.

Illegal Equipment includes:

  • Dangerous artificial limbs or ones that place a player at an unfair advantage
  • Hard, abrasive or "unyielding" objects on the hand and other areas of the body unless covered with one-half-inch foam
  • Unpadded thigh guards or exposed knee braces
  • Metal projectiles
  • Unnecessary tape or bandage on hand, wrist, forearm or elbow
  • Helmets, jerseys or attachments that are the same color as the ball
  • Substances applied to a person or equipment that effect contact
  • Face mask constructed of breakable material
  • Non-approved shoulder pads
  • Anything on the uniform other than approved numbers, names, symbols, etc. (see rules for details)
  • Non-gray gloves or hand pads, and other non-approved gloves (see rules for details)
  • Taped or tied jerseys
  • Uniform attachments, with exceptions
  • Non-covered rib pads and other protectors
  • Bandanas
  • Non-approved eye shields
  • Certain detachable and non-detachable cleats (see below)
  • Detachable cleats:
    • More than one-half inch long, with exceptions
    • Made of material that can chip or fracture
    • Lacking a locking device
    • Lacking concave sides
    • Oblong, circular, or steel
  • Non-detachable cleats:
    • More than one-half inch long
    • Made of material that burrs, chips or fractures
    • Containing abrasive or cutting surfaces
    • Made of metal