After just five seasons in their current modernized set, the Cleveland Browns are expected to return to a more traditional look when they unveil new uniforms at noon today. With that, we decided to take a look back at the Browns’ logo history, which has centered around different variations of Brownie the Elf or an orange helmet since the franchise began play in 1946.
Founded by former Massillon Washington and Ohio State football coach Paul Brown and Cleveland businessman Arthur B. McBride, the Browns did not initially have a logo. But during a string of four straight All-American Football Conference championships, the franchise sought submissions for a new mascot and chose Brownie the Elf as the new face of the team in 1948.
According to British folklore, a brownie is an elfish creature that comes out at night to perform various household chores and farming tasks so long as the owners leave them some sort of offering, such as a bowl of milk. The original Brownie wore a brown coat and white pants and was depicted with an orange crown on top of his head, signifying Cleveland’s run of titles.
The Browns joined the NFL in 1950 and found continued success, winning the league championship in their first season, as well as in 1954 and 1955. They gave Brownie an update in 1959, swapping his crown for a floppy, elf-like hat, flipping his orientation and updating his clothing to a more vibrant color scheme.
That logo remained intact until Art Modell, who became the owner in 1961, eliminated it in 1970 in favor of a logo that depicted the profile of the team’s two-bar orange helmet with a white facemask. It received updates in 1985 and 1992, becoming more three-dimensional and modernized with time-appropriate facemasks. The shade of orange also changed with the first update.
Modell moved the team to Baltimore ahead of the 1996 season, but was required to leave the name, colors, logos and history in Cleveland for a future expansion franchise. The Browns resumed operations in 1999, and continued to use the same logo the franchise used before the move.
Brownie the Elf was also resurrected that season as a secondary mark of sorts, and made appearances on merchandise, sideline gear, media guides and even helmet visor tabs over the next few years.
“I think it’s a great anchor for our tradition and for the look and feel of the Browns,” then-owner Randy Lerner said. “But I also understand that there is something to freshening up the act, so I think that’s a balancing act we’re having right now.”
A small update was made to primary logo in 2006, meanwhile, when the Browns switched to gray facemasks on the field as a way to celebrate their 60th anniversary.
Cleveland underwent its last significant update in 2015, just a few years after Jimmy and Dee Haslam purchased the franchise. The Browns introduced modernized uniforms that season that included a brighter shade of orange and a brown facemask, and those changes were reflected in the primary logo — though the shade of brown notably remained the same.
Cleveland is not expected to make any updates to their logo with today’s unveiling, as multiple reports and sources of our own have indicated the removal of the carbon fiber pattern in the stripe will be the only change to the helmet.
Photos via the Cleveland Browns.