How Have Basketball Uniforms Changed Over the Years?

Basketball team

Throughout time, the basketball uniform has changed dramatically, featuring such trends as lengthening and shortening hemlines, improved footwear for play and adding accessories for flair. The trends have affected both the women's and men's games.


The first basketball uniform was not used until the 1920s. It consisted of shorts with padding and a wool jersey. Spalding was one of the first companies that produced the padded shorts. The 1930s introduced the jersey material to uniforms. This material allowed players to be more active while feeling cooler, and producing less sweat. The materials also washed well. At first, the uniforms were quite long for men. In the 1950s they shortened and then during the 1970s and 80s men wore short shorts. In the 1990s, the length increased to what it is today


Michael Jordan was one of the first players who helped lengthen the hemlines of basketball shorts. He complained that the shorts were too tight and bothersome while playing. Over the next 10 years, the hemlines kept lowering until the baggy look became the norm. Today, players feel that these shorts allow you to move, breathe and even play better.


One major change in uniforms for basketball was footwear. Players started out wearing simple high-top sneakers, which provided ankle support to prevent injuries. Converse was synonymous with some of the first high-top sneakers used in the NBA. Footwear today contains features that help players jump and cut across the court. Two other popular accessories that caught on during the 1970s and 80s were headbands and tube socks. Both eventually faded, though some players still sport the headband to help keep perspiration off their face and eyes.

Women's Uniforms

Today women’s uniforms are similar to men’s. The size may be smaller, but they wear the same sleeveless shirts and shorts. This was not always true. During the 1890s, women were required to wear shirts with long skirts and slippers while playing basketball. In the early 1900s, women’s uniforms changed to bloomers that fastened above the knee. This prevented injuries while playing. As times changed and hemlines shortened so did women’s basketball uniforms, which increased game attendance by the public.