Is it my imagination, but does it seem that the helmet designs that one sees today are so stylized that they aren't as attractive as the team logos or mascots that were pictured on the helmets of the 1950s-1970s era? For example, the bull decal on the South Florida helmet, which is near our home, is almost unrecognizable as a bull. If you look at the University of Colorado helmet from the early 1960s, the horns are so distinctive, that they remind one of a herd of buffaloes charging across the field. Compare the new style Wisconsin decal to the old-fashioned but distinctive ‘W’ on the front of the old Wisconsin helmet. One is fancy and could belong to any school, the old one told everyone that Wisconsin was on the field.
-Tommy O., Florida
You will get no argument from the
crew here at HELMET HUT. We not only love the suspension era helmets, we
really like those older logos too. The Wisconsin helmet we added to the
site in August was typical of the late 1950s and early 1960s where schools
had distinctive logos, not something Madison Avenue ad firms seemed to
have designed and which are so stylized that they lose any attachment to a
specific school. That big red “W” in the front and back of the helmet did
let everyone know that the Badgers were playing. The overly stylized logos
now seen are very much a reflection of the marketing thrusts that began
with the NFL and which has trickled down to the colleges. The simple yet
elegant Buffalo horns on a plain silver helmet screams “Colorado
Buffaloes” whereas the attempts to be slick and modern have diluted the
beauty of those earlier designs that one could associate with their
Do you know why some teams, especially colleges, have had so many helmet changes while others seem to hang on to one particular style or color combination through the years? Penn State and Alabama are obvious examples of schools that have stayed with one color combination and style, but others like Oklahoma State and Kansas are examples of schools that seem to change their helmet designs almost every year or two.
-George Kasimatis, New Hyde Park, N.Y.
The answer to your question lies with three major factors.
1. Changes in coaching staff 2. Changes in athletic director 3. Change in the success of the program
Very often a coach will be hired and insists on putting his personal stamp on every aspect of the program. Not only will his contract stipulate that he can alter the offense and defense and hire the assistants he wants and needs to do so, but that he can also have full reign over uniform design. Schools that don't change coaches often, may have a helmet and overall uniform design that is more long lasting. We agree that Penn State is perhaps the modern eras most obvious example of this and of course, an example of a head coach that has been in charge of his program for years (decades in Paterno’s case). Alabama did on occasion, switch from their dominant crimson shell with white stripe and number application, to a dominant white shell with crimson trim during the 1960s and again in the early 1980s. Jackie Sherrill’s Mississippi State teams switched dominant colors throughout his tenure at MSU, often in response to options he also chose for uniform jerseys and pants. If you want an SEC team that has been consistent in its design, look to the Razorbacks of the University Of Arkansas. Except for occasionally altering the size of their “running Razorback” decal, they like Penn State, have been wearing the same design for decades. This might fall under the influence of their Athletic Director Frank Broyles who was the head coach when that decal was placed upon the Arkansas helmets and this brings up our next point. Sometimes changes in Athletic Directors will result in uniform changes as they may want a particular look for their school while in competition. At Division IAA Hofstra for example, the school president mandated that every team would display the Hofstra name on all items of attire so that the school could achieve more “name recognition.” Since this edict in the early 1980s, Hofstra has displayed the school name on their helmet, jersey, and pants every season. Finally, if a school is not successful, they may want a change in public perception that involves a change in uniform style or dominant color to separate themselves from their “bad years.” Conversely, and we can think of Kansas State University who had the nations longest losing streak at one time, once they begin to win, they may wish to stay with a specific color combination and/or logo that their fans can now associate with winning. Bruce Snyder’s reign at KSU has been marked not only by winning teams, but a stable uniform design that features the silver helmet and distinct KSU Wildcat logo that is immediately recognizable.