Not really. These padded suits as modeled by the 1959 Bucknell University gridders were standard practice attire at a number of schools in the late 1950’s. In theory, they were probably a reasonable idea but the reality of the heavily padded full body “armor” was short-lived. It was believed that players could engage in more frequent and longer full contact drills and scrimmages as the additional padding, worn over the standard uniform’s fully padded areas, would provide added protection. Unfortunately, mobility was curtailed, body temperature increases and fatigue due to the lack of air circulation on the skin, and a decrease in reaction time due to the cumbersome outfits made this attempt at enhanced protection no more than a footnote in college football history.

Dear Dr. DelRye;

We wore a few different kinds of face masks when I was in school but from the picture I sent to you, could you identify this one? I apologize for the photo, it is very small and from my high school yearbook but I think you can see it pretty clearly. I always wondered if this was a common mask. Thanks.

Carl N.

Olympia, Washington


Dear Carl,

I agree that your high school yearbook photo was not as clear as our readers might like. Please don’t be offended with the substitution of this photo of Harry Oliva from Yale’s 1957 squad that shows the same facemask you inquired about. This was one of the numerous masks offered by the Marietta Company in the late 1950’s and early 1960’s. Please note the information from the Marietta catalogue featured in the February 2002 Helmet News column [ http://www.helmethut.com/Marimask.html ] .









These masks were of course, considered to be quite advanced for the era and demonstrate a variety of style and materials. Your specific mask was available for a number of seasons and seen at all levels from high school to the professional leagues in the mid to late-‘50’s. Thank you for bringing this interesting facemask to the attention of our readers.

Truly yours,

Dr. Del Rye



Doctor Del Rye,

Hi, I am writing you to ask about helmet colors. I looked at your stuff and it’s all great, really great. I’m an Iowa boy so like the Iowa teams, Iowa State of course since I live in Ames, and Kansas teams too and looked at all of the college helmets you have. All are really great.  I saw many of those teams play in person as a Big 8 fan. On the Kansas State helmets, some of those later years have an odd color and I wanted to know if it was a special color. I read the description but still, I think it’s very different than other painted helmets. Thanks too for doing all of those Kansas and Iowa helmets, I really like them.

Jason M.

Ames, Iowa



Dear Jason,

All of us at HELMET HUT appreciate the e mails we receive. The comments, suggestions, and questions allow us to give our readers the information they really want to have. I agree with you that most of the Big Eight helmets that we have presented are terrific in appearance and many are unique like the various horned Colorado helmets as an obvious example. First, let’s examine the Kansas State helmets you mentioned. From 1975 through 1977 the Wildcats wore a silver helmet shell. When Jim Dickey was named head coach for the 1978 season, he introduced a new helmet and it was described in the seasonal summary [ http://www.helmethut.com/College/KansasState/KSU1978.html ]

 as being a “shade of light slate gray that had a purple tint to it.” The striping consisted of a one-inch purple center stripe with half-inch white flanking stripes. The helmet was set off by a diagonally patterned purple “KSU” lettering that was trimmed in white. The jerseys worn were purple at home and white on the road with the latter trimmed in purple and silver. The same shell color, helmet striping and logo were maintained for the 1979 through 1981 seasons with the addition of a purple mask. In 1982 Dickey altered the striping slightly but otherwise kept the same basic appearance. Before we take a look at these KSU helmets, please observe these Houston Oilers helmets from the mid to late-1960’s:


A close look makes it “obvious” that the helmet worn by the incredible George Webster, number 90, is bright silver. The helmet worn by number 78 George Rice, is a flat gray color. The helmets worn by Kenny Houston, number 29 and quarterback Charlie Johnson appear to be a shade of silver somewhere in-between Webster’s bright sterling type of silver and Rice’s standard gray model. Of course, the lighting, jersey color, and trim colors all influence what our eyes see and in the case of these Oilers helmets, they are all the same standard silver color that was used by Riddell during that time period. Webster’s helmet is no more of a “brighter silver” than that worn by George Rice but all of the aforementioned factors influence what we perceive as exact color when we view it.


The beautiful and somewhat “different appearing” Kansas State helmets of 1978 through 1985 were actually what was accurately termed a “slate gray.” The proprietary blend of black and white paints that translated to KSU’s exacting specifications has been kept under wraps, but the “purple tint” actually resulted from the striping and decals and their positioning. Please observe the two photos of the Kansas State Wildcats from the 1978 season. In viewing the photo of running back Eugene Goodlow, both the ambient lighting and white jersey “allow” the helmet to appear gray. The photo of KSU’s game against Colorado features the purple home jersey. Though the hue of the gray helmet may appear to be slightly darker than it does in the Goodlow photo, it still looks to be a standard gray in color.


In the following photos taken during the 1984 season against rival Kansas, the lighting, the slight alteration of the striping pattern, and the change in the jersey design all serve to “darken” or lend a purplish cast to the gray headgear. Thus, the “purple tinted” gray helmet was actually a standard gray colored shell.

Riddell like many other helmet manufacturers of the 1970’s and 1980’s had numerous standard or base colors of their impregnated plastic shells and on occasion, a specific team may have requested a custom paint color but for the overwhelming majority of universities, a standard “simple” shell color was used and alterations to the tint, hue, or shade of the same shells resulted from the color and arrangement of the striping and decal patterns and placement, the uniform colors, shades, and trim patterns, and of course, the available lighting at the time photographs were taken.


Your question is greatly appreciated. Please review all of the Kansas State and other Big Eight helmets at our College site.

Thank you,

Dr. Del Rye