The Real Meaning Behind The Dallas Cowboys Logo

Few franchises in professional sports can elicit a visceral response at the mere mention of their name like the Dallas Cowboys. Despite about two decades of very little post-season success (not a slam, just the truth), the Cowboys are still the most divisive team in the National Football League and maybe — just maybe — all of sports. Those who love them let you know, and they let you know often, while those who loathe them even have a hard time choking out their name, like Arthur Fonzarelli trying to admit he was wrong.

According to Britannica, the Cowboys are often called America's team, which is strange because a substantial portion of Americans hates them with a blistering passion. So while there's room to question the America's team label, you'd be hard-pressed to find anyone who would argue that the Cowboys aren't at the very least Texas' team ... sorry, Houston Texans. That sense of Texas pride is reflected in the team's simple yet instantly recognizable navy blue star logo that's plastered on the team's helmets and merchandise sold around the world.

The founding of the Dallas Cowboys

The Dallas Cowboys joined the NFL in 1960 under the majority ownership of Clint Murchison Jr., a man who hailed from a wealthy Texas oil family. According to The New York Times, Murchison grew up loving football, which led to the formation of the Cowboys, who became Dallas' first professional sports franchise. A team based in Texas and owned by a member of a family who struck it rich in one of Texas' most famous industries was already dripping with Texan pride, so why not bring aboard a general manager named Tex Schramm to complete the trifecta of Texas-ness? Earlier in Schramm's career, he worked as a sportswriter before starting his career in the NFL by taking a job with the Los Angeles Rams, according to the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

Murchison also hired legendary coach Tom Landry. Landry, like Murchison and Schramm, was a Texas native. With so much Texan blood coursing through the team's front office and a name that conjured up images of rodeos and 10-gallon hats, the team needed a logo that would do the same.

The Cowboys debut their iconic logo

With the team's top brass in place, the Dallas Cowboys needed a logo, the symbol that would become instantly identifiable as the team's mark. The powers that be turned to the greatest source of inspiration, the state of Texas — or perhaps, in this instance, it's better to say the Lone Star State — when it came time to design their logo. They certainly, didn't overthink the logo, but they didn't underthink it either. It would've been easy to just scribble some designs of a cartoonish cowboy (which they did do; more on that shortly) and call it day. Instead, the team opted for a simple navy blue star.

Of course, the star was a reference to the Texas state flag and the Lone Star State moniker, per Sports Logo History. The navy star appeared on the team's white helmets from 1960 to 1963 before the decision was made to give it a slight and subtle upgrade. Perhaps realizing that they had the foundation of something solid, the franchise maintained the five-point star design and its navy color but added a white line just inside the edges of the logo. This minor change made a big difference in making the logo more visually pleasing, and there's no doubt that it was a success because it's still in use today.

The Cowboys' cowboy logo

As is the case for any professional sports team, the primary logo was just one piece of the team's logo set. According to, this also included a wordmark that the team has used for its entire existence — a blocky version of the team name in a font that would look right at home on an Old West wanted poster. However, that wasn't the end of the set, as in the 1960s, the team also used a lesser-known secondary logo.

According to Logos My Way, the team drew up a version of what most would've considered the logical mark for a team called the Cowboys: a cowboy. This design featured a cartoonish cowboy perched atop a galloping horse. In place of a traditional cowboy hat, the logo's cowboy was wearing a facemask-less helmet, and tucked under his arm (perhaps a reminder of the importance of ball security) was a football. Strangely, especially when considering the team's famously simple color palette of navy, white, and silver, the cowboy logo came in an array of colors. In addition to the expected white and blue variants, red and black ones with slight design tweaks were used for a few years. The original use of the cartoon cowboy logo came to an end in 1970.

The logo's importance in becoming America's Team

The Dallas Cowboys are one of the most valuable sports franchises in the entire world, with five Super Bowl victories to their credit. For this reason, it's easy to forget that the team's early years were lean, to say the least. Despite being under the tutelage of Tom Landry, the team didn't post a winning record until 1966, per the NFL. Things were starting to click, and the team rapidly found unprecedented success, including a run of 20 straight winning seasons (via the Pro Football Hall of Fame).

The onfield success helped the team's popularity grow, but nothing helped get the team's iconic five-pointed star in front of more eyes than Thanksgiving. According to Britannica, in 1966, the Cowboys — along with the Detroit Lions — started the tradition of playing nationally televised games on Thanksgiving. Millions loosened their belts, made themselves leftover sandwiches, and hunkered down to watch the games. This tradition still stands to this day, and it gave the Cowboys more national attention than other teams in the league.

The onfield success continued in the 1970s, with a pair of Super Bowl victories led by Hall of Famer Roger Staubach. The national exposure, the immense success, and the visual element of the Cowboys — which included their logo, uniforms, and the sideline spectacle that is the Dallas Cowboys cheerleaders, who have gained massive notoriety in their own right — all combined to make the Dallas Cowboys America's team.

The Cowboys and their logos today

Current Cowboys owner Jerry Jones bought the team in 1989, and that ushered in another era of success and popularity that saw the team taking three Super Bowls. According to the NFL, in 2015, the Dallas Cowboys became the first professional sports franchise to be valued at $4 billion. It's reasonable to assume that a large portion of that stems from the power of the Cowboys brand and the star logo that has been in use in some form or another for more than 60 years.

According to Sports Illustrated, the Cowboys used to occasionally bust out a throwback uniform set that included a white helmet with the franchise's earliest start logo (the one without the white outline). However, these disappeared in 2012 and haven't been seen since due to the NFL's so-called "one-helmet rule," which did away with alternate helmets and required the team to stick with their modern silver lids (via USA Today). But beginning with the 2022 NFL season, teams are once again allowed to use two sets of helmets, which means that the original Dallas Cowboys logo may see the light of day once again.