Hi Dr. Del Rye, would you please explain what is the difference between KRA-LITE, KRA-LITE- II and KRA- LITE-8? Keep up the GREAT work!
Jay from Ellicott City, Maryland.
Thank you for a question that I believe many readers will benefit from. First, a bit of helmet history will provide a foundation for our discussion and using the HELMET HUT “CUSTOM BUILD YOUR OWN HELMET” page will be of significant helphttps://www.gridironmemories.com/shop/customdesign.asp
The Riddell RT-2 helmet was produced between 1946 and 1953. The material that the helmet shell consisted of was a plastic termed Tenite II by its manufacturer, the Tennessee Eastman Corporation. The helmet was manufactured as two halves that were then joined and reinforced by a piece of extruded Tenite II. Riddell upgraded this product in late 1954, introducing the RK-4 model. This employed the same shell mold as the RT-2 but used a different plastic. The chemical name of this plastic is Acrylonitrile Butadiene Styrene or ABS which was manufactured by the U.S. Rubber Company. Riddell eventually received its supply of ABS from the Marbon Corporation using the trade name Kra Lite for the ABS material. The RK-4 model helmet remained in production until 1966.
Riddell also began making a one piece plastic helmet in 1955, the Tru-Kurv or TK-5, still utilizing the ABS or Kra Lite material for the shell. In 1961, Riddell changed the suspension webbing from a three loop/six point configuration as was used in the RT and RK-4 models, to a six loop/twelve point suspension using the name RK-2 and this model remained in production until 1969.
In 1962, Riddell had a short-lived flirtation with a Polycarbonate shell that lasted approximately one year. Used for the one-piece TK model headgear, the TK-2 designation referred to the new plastic material model but it proved to be too brittle to be enduring relative to the stress of football contact. Riddell ceased using this specific Polycarbonate material but retained the TK-2 designation, now assigning it to their TK one piece model helmet that featured the six loop/twelve point suspension interior and it was manufactured using the same Kra Lite as their other TK and RK helmets. In 1969, there was a breakthrough in the industry and Riddell began to utilize an alloy or combination of ABS and Polycarbonate for all of its shells. The addition of Polycarbonate allowed for improved stiffness and high impact resistance over conventional high impact ABS and the alloy was easier to process and less brittle than Polycarbonate alone. This alloy was termed Kra Lite II. In the catalogue that Riddell presented for the 1970 season, they introduced the term “Kra Lite 8”. Quoting their copy, Riddell stated, “Now Kra Lite 8, a new Polycarbonate alloy plastic that provides unequalled strength and impact resistance. These shells are lightweight and perfectly balanced and guaranteed for two years.” Interestingly, the designation “Kra Lite 8” is not seen in the Riddell literature after this although, even as the shock-absorbing components of the helmets interior changed over a number of years, “Kra Lite” remained the material of choice in the various model Riddell helmets.
If the designations of the various plastic compounds seem confusing, there is an explanation for HELMET HUT readers. Gathering information from a number of plastics engineers, individuals well entrenched in the helmet design and manufacturing industry, and with input from a source at Riddell, it is likely that the “Kra Lite” moniker is maintained as a trade name for a Polycarbonate alloy provided to Riddell from a number of manufacturing sources such as General Electric, Bayer, and others. It is plausible that as the polymer technology and injection molding machines were improved, that some slight variations in the alloy were made to then also improve the quality of the finished product. Over time, the actual chemical formulation of both ABS and/or Polycarbonate would change slightly. As Riddell continued to improve the impact absorbing materials and design of the helmet interior over the course of those years, impact modified ABS was assigned as the material of choice for their youth line of helmets. The varsity line of helmets including the new Revolution Helmet, is made with Polycarbonate-Lexan which has the Kra Lite II designation. The plastic face masks that are supplied by Riddell are made from this same material. I hope you have found this answer helpful.
Dr. Del Rye,
The onslaught of NFL records in 2008 got me thinking about the Boston/New England Patriots history. I like the minuteman hat design from 1960 and love the “Patriot Pat Hiking Patriot” design. Can you furnish your readers with a little history of why this specific design was developed and used?
Needless to say, even with the February 3, 2008 Super Bowl ending with a 17-14 upset win by the New York Giants over the New England Patriots, this has been a historic season for the Pats. While considering their 18-1 record and viewing the Super Bowl game, I thought how wonderfully timed your question was. The Patriots, as one of the original eight American Football League entries has a rich history and like all of the franchises, had their ups and downs during the first few seasons of existence. Procuring a permanent site for both practice and games proved to be challenging and until playing their first contest on August 15, 1971 at Schaefer Stadium in Foxborough, MA, they had utilized four different venues: Harvard Stadium, Boston University Field, Fenway Park, and Boston College Alumni Stadium. Public relations executive William Sullivan was the majority owner when the team was formed and was very involved with business and community affairs, thus it was natural perhaps to have a public contest to give the area’s new professional football team a name. As a stronghold of the New York Football Giants, Sullivan also wanted to attract attention and involve the Boston area public with his new team as much as possible. “The Patriots” proved to be the most popular name choice and the patriotic colors of the American flag were used for the team’s new uniforms. In what has become a part of the official New England Patriots’ history, it is noted that Boston Globe newspaper artist Phil Bissell drew a cartoon of a Revolutionary War Minuteman in a center’s stance, getting ready to snap the football. Sullivan loved the logo and adopted what became known as “Pat Patriot” as the official team logo.
When the team took to the field for what used to be termed, the “exhibition season”, the Patriots immediately distinguished themselves. In the first AFL game, the exhibition or pre-season game played on July 30, 1960 against the Buffalo Bills, Pats' defensive end Bob Dee from Holy Cross College fell on a fumbled ball in the end zone to score the first official AFL touchdown! Featuring the colors of the American flag, the uniforms included a white helmet shell with two red flanking stripes and a blue Revolutionary War Minuteman’s tricorner hat logo that was placed on both sides of the helmet. At least for part of the exhibition season, as was common among the AFL teams, identifying player numerals were not placed onto the helmets. Perhaps this was a cost-saving measure which was no small consideration to the new league ownership. It may have been that the sheer number of players that were brought through those initial camps made it impractical to number the helmets until the regular season began. The Patriots for example, had more than 350 players try out for their debut squad.
Once the regular season began, red player identifying numerals were placed beneath the tricorner hat. The change to a new helmet logo for the 1961 season.
may have come because the Minuteman hat proved to be confusing to some, especially those not from the New England region. Many sportswriters and fans from around the country had speculated on the exact nature of the Patriots logo, offering guesses in identifying it that ranged from “a flying saucer” to “a sting ray.” Others believed that Mr. Sullivan’s extreme fondness for the Pat Patriot logo that adorned the team’s stationery and other items, moved him to change the helmet logo to Pat for 1961’s season. Often referred to as “Hiking Pat” this proved to be one of the most popular helmet logos in professional sports.
As the striping on the Patriots helmet changed over time, progressing from two red flanking stripes used from 1960 through 1964 to the addition of a blue center stripe accompanied by white and red flanking stripes, the Pat Patriot logo endured.
The Boston Patriots officially became the New England Patriots in March of 1971 and with the opening of Schaefer Stadium in Foxborough on August 15, 1971, they had a new permanent home stadium yet the helmet logo remained. In 1982, a larger Pat logo was placed on both sides of the helmet and the “new look” also incorporated the replacement of the standard gray facemask with a white mask. Used through the 1989 season, the white mask was replaced in 1990 with a red mask, but Pat Patriot remained a fixture.
In 1985, Schaefer Stadium was renamed Sullivan Stadium but the Sullivans would not remain involved with the team for much longer. On July 28, 1988, the Sullivan family sold the team to Victor Kiam, the CEO of The Remington Company. The financial condition of the team was not good and on November 23, 1988, Mr. Robert Kraft, a successful area businessman, bought the stadium from the bankruptcy court. In 1990, the stadium was renamed Foxboro Stadium. St. Louis businessman James Orthwein bought the controlling interest in the team in 1992 and in 1993 introduced a new color scheme and logo. There were claims that financial considerations led to the change in helmet logo as the Pat Patriot decal was considered to be the most intricate design in the NFL if not in all of professional sports, with the greatest expense dedicated to its graphic design and reproduction. Much to the chagrin of Patriots fans, the primary color of the team uniform was changed from red to blue and worse, Pat Patriot was removed from the helmet. The iconic Hiking Pat was replaced by the silhouette of a Patriot’s head wearing a tricorner hat in the official red, white, and blue color scheme but the effect was such that the new logo was almost immediately christened “The Flying Elvis”, and was viewed quite derisively by most fans in and out of New England. The white helmet shell that had been part of the Patriots uniform since its inception was changed to silver. On January 21, 1994, in order to prevent a threatened move of the team out of its home base, Robert Kraft and his family purchased the team and to solidify his commitment to providing the fans of the Northeast a great team, he also provided them with a new stadium in 2002. Originally called CMGI Stadium, the naming rights were sold to Gillette and the edifice took on the nickname, “The Razor.” Unfortunately, the Patriots, despite their incredible on-field success and beautiful home field are still wearing “The Flying Elvis” helmet logo.
Dear Dr. Del Rye,
As a fan of the old Southwest Conference, I still have difficulty getting excited about games played between former SWC schools like Rice or SMU against Marshall for example. Even Texas playing against Big 12 schools isn’t the same as the drama of the old days when we had an important in-state shoot out every weekend. Thinking of this reminded me of the Texas games I attended as a youth and I wanted to ask if you knew when Texas changed their uniform colors to the burnt orange they have worn for a long time because I can remember them wearing a lighter type of orange jersey. Helmet Hut always brings back great memories. Thank you for your time.
William of San Marcos, Texas
Thank you for your terrific question that I’m certain will stimulate memories for many HELMET HUT readers. With the January 21, 2008 passing of William “Rooster” Andrews, your query allows HELMET HUT to bring a small degree of honor to his memory. The University Of Texas began playing football in 1893 but it wasn’t until May 10, 1900 that the Board Of Regents officially approved a color scheme for the school and its athletic teams. Until then, the football team had dressed in various combinations of Old Gold, white, maroon, and orange. A vote of the students, faculty, and alumni favored orange and white above the combination of orange and maroon or royal blue and once approved, the colors were enthusiastically embraced. The inclusion of orange dated back to 1885 when some Texas students traveled to a baseball game and in accordance with the fashion of the day, adorned their lapels with a length of identifying ribbon. As popular lore goes, Clarence Miller and Venable Proctor, two young men who rushed from an about-to-depart train, ran to the nearest general store requesting rolls of ribbon of two different colors and with white and orange being the most plentiful in the inventory, these became the earliest identifying colors for UT. The approval of the Board Of Regents finally alleviated the confusion about school and uniform colors and the football squad adopted a bright orange and white combination. Unfortunately, the bright orange football jerseys, after a number of washings, would fade to a shade of yellow. For at least part of every season, this would allow opposing players and fans to derisively refer to the Longhorns as “yellow bellies” as they appeared in their now unsightly attire. Thus in 1928, football coach Clyde Littlefield ordered the team’s uniforms in a darker shade of orange, “burnt orange” that would not fade as the season progressed. This specific shade of orange became associated with Texas athletics but the dye used was imported from Germany and became scarce at the outbreak of World War II. The Texas jerseys returned to a bright orange color and remained that way until the 1962 season.
From1943 through the 1945 seasons, the Longhorns’ 4’11” William “Rooster” Andrews, earned notoriety as the first freshman to be the varsity football team manager. He gained further fame for being called upon to serve in the same capacity for the College All Stars in their annual game against the NFL champions. However, he gained the most notice for his role as a drop-kicking star for the Longhorns.
During the 1943 season, Texas head coach Dana X. Bible held weekly kicking contests with the winner designated as that week’s game kicker. “Rooster” often won these duels and in the TCU contest, caused a bit of controversy. As the Longhorns handily trounced an undermanned Frog squad suffering the effects of the wartime manpower shortage, their coach Dutch Meyer took great offense that the 46-7 game included Andrews’ two of three successful drop-kick for extra point tries. He refused to shake Bible’s hand after the game, believing that the Texas head coach was “rubbing it in” by having his water boy and team manager come in to score. A Fort Worth reporter termed Bible’s insertion of Andrews “an insult, a gesture of contempt for a helpless but courageous rival…” However “Rooster” Andrews was an excellent kicker and earned further acclaim as one of rowdy UT quarterback Bobby Layne’s best friends. While not rivaling the passing ability of his brother who was a successful Texas quarterback, Andrews enhanced his reputation by throwing an extra-point pass completion on a faked kick, to Layne in the 1946 Cotton Bowl. Following his college career, “Rooster” became a leading sporting goods dealer in Austin with the Texas football team one of his many customers.
Prior to the 1961 season Rooster approached his close friend Darrell Royal, the Texas head coach, and showed him a crayon drawing of the outline of a Longhorn head. Royal enthusiastically embraced it stating, “This is it and we can put it on a helmet!” For the ’61 season the Texas Longhorns’ helmet had the added “touch” of having an orange Longhorn head on each side of the helmet, with their three-inch player numerals placed above this new and distinctive decal. The previously used bright orange center stripe was maintained. Prior to the 1962 season, Andrews and Coach Royal discussed the team’s uniforms and Royal requested that the bright orange uniforms be replaced with the previously utilized and traditional shade of burnt orange.
Andrews procured the appropriately colored uniforms and as the University Of Texas team took the field, the home jerseys and trim on the entire home and away uniforms were now the “Texas shade of orange” so beloved by a previous generation of fans. There was a story that circulated in Texas, perhaps perpetrated by rivals from other SWC schools, that Royal preferred burnt orange so that his ball handling offense could better conceal the ball as that specific shade of orange more closely matched the football’s color and aided his quarterbacks’ slight-of-hand maneuvers. However, the tradition of previously wearing the identifying burnt orange no doubt motivated Royal’s request. On June 17, 1967, the University Board Of Regents voted to proclaim burnt orange as the official color of the university. Needless to add, the burnt orange and Longhorn head logo are now immediately associated with the great Texas teams. In summary, the return to the traditional burnt orange jerseys and trim occurred for the 1962 season while the Longhorn helmet logo debuted in 1961.