Dear Dr. Del Rye,


I like all of the helmets on the site mainly because I am new to all of this. I played high school ball, like college and the pros, but really never took the time to look at helmets, uniforms, etc. until a friend put me on to your Helmet Hut web site. Its great. I like Notre Dame and know that Paul Hornung wore a leather helmet or what looked like a leather helmet after almost everyone else didn’t. Your site explained the differences between different helmet types but could you give me information about the Notre Dame helmets from those years? Thanks.



Hutchinson, Kansas

Dear Jason,


Thank you for the compliments and yes, HELMET HUT has many features that could enhance your general helmet knowledge. It seems as if you have probably already found and read through the “Build Your Own Helmet” area [ ] and specifically, the various models of the Riddell suspension helmets. You are absolutely correct in your observation, Notre Dame was rather late in giving up its MacGregor leather helmets while the rest of the college football world switched to plastic. Through the early 1950’s, Notre Dame sported a beautiful leather helmet as seen on Heisman Trophy winner Johnny Lattner in 1953.

The helmet that Lattner and the other Golden Domers sported was little changed, other than the addition of a single bar face mask on most, during Paul Hornung’s senior season of 1956. Of course, like Lattner, Hornung too was the recipient of the Heisman Trophy.


In 1957, Notre Dame still failed to take the plunge and change over to the plastic helmets. While there were a scattered few programs and certainly individual players at a number of schools who continued to wear leather helmets, even while all of their teammates wore the more modern headgear, Notre Dame did not change.

Fullback Nick Pietrosante is sprung loose by great block on Oklahoma defender by Dick Lynch in classic 1957 match up


In Head Coach Terry Brennan’s final season of 1958, the Fighting Irish switched to the Rawlings HC 4 and HC 10 helmets with the primary difference being related to the internal padding.


Notre Dame prepares for the kickoff in their Rawlings helmets


When Joe Kuharich was named as head coach for the 1959 season, most of the team was issued the Riddell RK helmet though some continued to wear the Rawlings models from the previous season.


Notre Dame captain for 1959, Ken Adamson, poses with his new Riddell RK helmet

The Fighting Irish sidelines in 1959 with most of the players wearing the Riddell RK helmet

By the start of the 1960 season, the entire Notre Dame football team had been issued Riddell RK model helmets and this remained the standard throughout Kuharich’s tenure which went through the 1962 season.




Dear Dr. Del Rye,


Our high school colors were yellow and blue but when I played football in the middle of the 1970s we had white helmets. My question came from a discussion I had with some old teammates the other day and we all agreed that our helmets really weren’t white. It wasn’t silver like the Raiders, it wasn’t really a gray color either, but we agreed that a good description would be that it was like a transparent type of whitish gray. I hope this description makes sense to you. We didn’t have any stripes or decals on it either. I checked my high school yearbook but the photos are small and only in black and white so the helmets look white. Do you know if these were special kinds of helmets or if there was a special color like this? Thanks.




Inwood, N.Y.


What appear to be white helmets in this black and white photo were actually unpainted, light gray impregnated plastic shells

Dear Pasquale,


Your question is appreciated. What you seem to be describing is an impregnated light gray helmet. Rawlings used these as a base helmet to then apply silver paint for the helmets sold as “silver.” They similarly used an impregnated tan shell as a base to paint gold helmets. There were a number of high schools around the nation that purchased and used these “base shells” that were impregnated but otherwise unpainted in any color, as their game helmet. This was most often done for cost cutting purposes as what was presented as a “white game helmet” was actually an unpainted, light gray shell. The HELMET HUT staff hopes that the jersey and pants were vibrant enough to give you and your teammates an attractive uniform despite the helmet.


Best Wishes,

Dr. Del Rye


Dr. Doctor,

I remember that we wore Spalding helmets in my day. My high school in Colorado was quite small and supposedly we had what were the very latest helmets when we got a new coach. This was in 1962 for my junior year. Reading through your materials, all of the materials at Helmet Hut, I saw a lot of these padded helmets. Our helmets were padded too but these were Spalding. Have you seen these? Thanks.



Aurora, Colorado



Dear Richard,


Please read through the newspaper article that I have included in my response. The A.G. Spalding Company has been a venerated and long established sporting goods manufacturer and supplier. The company was founded by Albert Goodwall Spalding who attained a measure of fame as both an excellent baseball player and one of the founders of what eventually became the Major Leagues. He and his brother founded their company in 1876 and Spalding became known as one of the game’s first “stars” or well-known players to wear a baseball glove to protect his catching hand. His new Chicago based company of course, produced these gloves, giving the endeavor a very fast start and foothold in what would become a new industry. His focus remained baseball as he became owner of the Chicago White Stockings, authored baseball’s first rules book, and published the first baseball guide or magazine dedicated to the sport. Through the latter part of the Nineteenth Century, his company expanded into the manufacturing of a wide assortment of baseball gear and balls, while promoting the increasing number of retail outlets that eventually outgrew the Midwest regional roots of the company. Manufacturing also expanded to many other products as the Spalding Company acquired knitting mills and bicycle manufacturing facilities and moved their primary operation to Massachusetts.  They provided rifles to the U.S. military during World War II, baseballs to the Major Leagues through the years, basketballs and footballs to the professional leagues, and of course, to anyone who was a child during the 1950’s through ‘70’s, the famous pink, Spalding rubber ball used for punch ball, stoop ball, stick ball, and many other urban based games. Most recently Spalding provided the official football to the Arena Football league but at one time, was one of the major suppliers of football helmets to youth through the pro leagues.


If you were issued your new Spalding football helmet for the 1962 season and recall that it had external padding and perhaps appeared similar to the ones in the newspaper article photos, you no doubt received that shown with the internally suspended leather covered padding to accompany the external padding. The shells were made from “Gardite,” Spalding’s specifically named plastic compound that was altered within the next two to three years and renamed “Titanite” in 1965.  


The above article’s highly touted external padding mimicked that already offered previously by MacGregor but what is most interesting is the identification of the “hard” plastic helmet as “potentially dangerous to opponents” and a possible cause of injury. Unfortunately, as the numerous articles in both this column and the HELMET NEWS sections have revealed, the external foam and either leather or vinyl covered padding led to an increase in cervical spine injuries and by the mid-1960’s was for the most part, phased out of use at most collegiate and high school programs. By the time the Spalding catalogue was published for the 1964 football season, their external padding, so highly touted in 1962, was already relegated to an “Optional Safety Feature” that could be added at additional cost, but was no longer offered as a standard, primary helmet feature. I hope that this answer reinforces some of the wonderful high school memories you no doubt have.


Truly yours,

Dr. Del Rye