Fashion and Style, Inside the Museum, Sports History

Some Big Shoulder Pads to Fill

By: Petra Slinkard
Apr 22 2015

Costume curator Petra Slinkard reflects on the life of Chicago Bears linebacker Doug Buffone.

I distinctly remember the day when I came across these shoulder pads in costume storage. Costume collection manager Jessica Pushor and I were pulling objects for an upcoming private tour, and they caught my eye. I wanted to pull something that would represent the breadth of the collection and that our group would not expect. You see, it is commonly believed that the Chicago History Museum’s costume collection is comprised of only high-end clothing or couture. While those items do make up a large portion of our holdings, we are fortunate to own many other types of garments and accessories that reflect the city’s diverse history. The recent passing of Chicago Bears linebacker Doug Buffone represents such an event and serves as a reminder of how fortunate the Museum is to house a variety of objects such as this one, which honors the legacy of a significant Chicagoan.

Shoulder pads worn by Doug Buffone, 1978. Gift of Mr. George Halas. 1978.38a. All photographs by CHM staff

Chicago Bears owner George Halas donated these shoulders pads to the Museum in 1978. They represent Chicago Bears linebacker Doug Buffone (1944–2015), No. 55, in our collection. His number is marked on the pads in three locations, as his is autograph. Buffone, who was a husband, father, professional athlete, and entrepreneur, passed away at his home on Monday, April 20, at the age of seventy.

The right shoulder pad has “55” marked on it.

Doug Buffone arrived in Chicago in 1966, when the Bears selected him in the fourth round of the NFL draft. Prior to that, he played linebacker and center for the University of Louisville from 1962 to 1965. Buffone played fourteen seasons—his entire playing career—with the Chicago Bears, during which he served as the defensive captain for eight seasons beginning in 1972. He held Bears records for most career interceptions at linebacker, as well as most sacks in a season (1968). He also holds the distinct honor of being the last active member of the Bears to play for the team’s founder and owner, George Halas.

Buffone’s helmet and shoulder pads, 1978. Gift of Mr. George Halas. 1978.38a,c

Following his retirement in 1979, Buffone was inducted into the University of Louisville Hall of Fame and became involved in broadcasting. He cohosted shows such as Chicago NFL Live on the 670 The Score, The Wise Guys with Mike North, and The Bear and The Bull with Norm Van Lier. The Buffone family remained in Chicago, and Buffone invested both his time and energy into several Chicago businesses, with one of the better-known being Gibson’s Bar & Steakhouse on Rush Street.

Doug Buffone is remembered by his fellow players, fans, and colleagues as a man of honor and humor. He is also remembered for his fierce love of the city, the game of football, and above all, his team. We look forward to preserving Buffone’s legacy and that of his team’s with this invaluable artifact. Here’s to you, No. 55.

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