Dear Doc:
I have a question about the color of the Bears helmets (especially in the older days) -- were they black or dark navy? Were the original Bear colors black and orange and then gradually switched to dark navy? What can you tell us about the Bears uniform colors?
Thanks, Jim, Jr.
Dear Jim, Jr.:
Let's try to clear this up once and for all. The Bear's colors have always been orange and dark blue. 
Prior to forming the Bears, George "Papa Bear" Halas played football for and graduated from the University of Illinois. After college he joined the Navy during the tail end of World War l. In the Navy he was assigned to Special Services at the Great Lakes Naval Training Center where he played for and coached their outstanding service football team.
George adopted the Illini's traditional orange and blue uniform colors for the original Bear's uniform colors. He darkened the Illini blue to pay homage to the dark blue hue used in the Navy military uniform. Depending on the background lighting, the actual dark blue trim on a sailors uniform may mistakenly appear to be black. This is the same phenomenon that has caused so much confusion regarding the Bear's dark blue uniform and helmet color.
The Bear's painted their helmets with this original dark blue color until the early 1980s (the earlier era leather helmets were dyed this color). In the subsequent years and continuing through today they quit painting their helmets and instead have used molded helmets that have been impregnated with a navy color by the helmet manufacturer. This impregnated navy color is slightly lighter than the Bear's original dark blue hue. The team rationalizes this slight color variation by the maintenance savings realized by the elimination of painted helmets.


Dear Dr. Del:
In the 1967 season the Denver Broncos redesigned their uniforms and wore helmets without a logo. In 1968 they came up with the "D" logo with the horse inside. Why did they eliminate the logo for that 1967 season?
thanks, Tom E.
Dear Tommy:
Good observation. In fact the 1967 Bronco helmet might be the answer to an interesting trivia question: Who was the only NFL or AFL team who did not wear a logo on their helmet for an entire season after previously wearing a logo on their helmet in a prior season? We will answer your question with information straight from the (Bronco) horse's mouth. According to legendary coach Lou Saban, he was hired by the team prior to the 1967 season and given a 10 year contract as head coach and general manager. He was also given instructions and the authority to entirely revamp the struggling Bronco organization which prior to 1967 had won only 26 of its first 98 games since the team started play in 1960. Lou immediately implemented a two year plan to design and build new training facilities, modernize the stadium (including replacing the antiquated locker rooms) and increase capacity from 32,000 to 50,000, upgrade the office, scouting and coaching staffs and completely overhauled the playing roster with upgraded talent.  Lou felt it was also important to completely redesign the player uniforms as part of this major effort to change the image of the organization. Although Lou was able to redesign the uniforms prior to the start of the 1967 season, with all the other changes being made, there was not enough time to redesign a new helmet logo and this task was postponed until the next year. Rather than use the team's old "bucking" bronco logo which Lou felt was too symbolic of the previous organization he decided to leave the team's new royal blue helmets logo-less for the 1967 season. An artist was eventually hired to design the new logo and the resulting "D" logo with the puffing horse head was approved and implemented at the beginning of the 1968 season.
Editorial comment: (Not that you asked for it Tommy but we just couldn't resist)
We at Helmet Hut appreciate the Bronco's efforts to change their image where their image needed changing such as the aforementioned facility and personnel improvements. But we do not agree that you need to change things that are not broken just for the sake of change. Those 1962 regular season uniforms were classic should have never been changed. Even the minor "fancy detailing" that was added in 1966, prior to the Saban era, was a mistake. Perhaps the Broncos have finally been taught a lesson about excessive uniform redesign. The team allowed Nike to redesign their uniforms for the 2000 season and the running shoe company (what do they have to do with uniforms anyway?) ingeniously created a new pant stripe style that unintentionally (we think not) metamorphoses into the Nike "swoosh" when a Bronco player assumes his three point stance prior to the start of a play. Now that Nike no longer licenses the Bronco's uniform it must be somewhat embarrassing for the team (and the league) to "unintentionally" advertise the Nike logo on their uniforms prior to each play.  And especially since all the NFL uniforms are now licensed by Nikes main competitor Reebok!  MESSAGE TO THE NFL -- PLEASE LEAVE THOSE CLASSIC UNIFORM STYLES ALONE.


Dear  Dr. Del Rye,
I'm a regular visitor to your site and I wonder is you can confirm a suspicion I have.  In photos of the Denver Broncos helmets from the 1970s, most of the players appear to have a V-cut incision at the top of their Riddell nose bumpers, so much so that the word "Riddell" is not visible.  I'm assuming this has to do with an air inflation valve located behind the nose bumper and that this was something the equipment manager did to make his life easier.
Can you tell me if this is the case?  Were the Broncos wearing some type of air-inflation helmet during that period?
Thank you.
Bill K.
Colorado Springs


Dear Mr. K.:
You are correct on all counts. In 1970 Riddell introduced their first protective air and fluid cell helmet. It was named the "Micro-Fit" helmet. It was also the first Riddell helmet to use the now conventional "Wildcat" sweatband which replaced the diminutive nose snubber pad used on prior suspension type helmets.
The "Micro Fit" helmet had a series of protective inflatable air cells and permanently sealed fluid filled cells rather than the heavy cotton webbed suspension system used in the traditional Riddell suspension helmet. The inflatable cells were located in the front, top and rear of the helmet. Properly inflated, these cells precisely conformed to each player's head shape to provide significantly increased protection. The front inflation valve was located directly behind the "Riddell" logo that was stamped on the "Wildcat" sweatband. It was hard to access the front inflation valve because it was blocked by the sweatband. The front inflation valve was also to the one that required the most frequent access; the front of the helmet incurred a majority of the collision force during play which often resulted in a loss of air pressure in the front protective cell. The Bronco's simply cut a "V" shaped slot in the sweatband that allowed direct access to the valve. Most other teams forced the sweatband slightly forward until the inflation needle could be angled behind the sweatband and into the inflation valve.
In 1983 Riddell redesigned the front padding system for this (and their other models) helmet replacing the inflatable front cell with a solid cushion pad that fitted in a newly added pocket of the sweatband. Riddell renamed the helmet the "M-155" and the non inflatable front pad system is still used in their current "VSR-4" helmet.
The original "Micro Fit" helmet offered superior protection to a players head compared to the traditional suspension helmet and a majority of Bronco players wore this helmet in the 1970s. The helmet did have several drawbacks including leaking air valves, unfavorable impact during cold weather on the fluid material, and the significant increased weight of the helmet resulted in more neck sprain type injuries especially with younger or non professional athletes. Most of these problems have been eliminated over the years with the development of improved air valves and elimination of the fluids filled cells.


Dear Doctor:

Here is a question I haven’t seen before and I think it applies to the old suspension era as well as to today’s type of helmets. In fact, it might apply more to the older helmets because there were more styles and companies to choose from. Okay, on any NFL team or even college team, who was the one to pick the type of helmet that would be worn for that year? Was it the equipment manager, the coach, the athletic director, the team owner (in the pros)? Also, who decided on the colors and things like that? I love the new store, thanks, just looking at the things there is great.

Rocco F., Detroit, MI



We have staff members from the glorious state of Michigan and the Detroit area so its always great to hear from a loyal HELMET HUT fan from that area. Go Lions! This question covers a lot of ground but like most other bureaucratic organizations, decisions regarding uniform appearance can be made by one or many individuals. The changes in college helmet design was covered in the November 19, 2004, edition of ASK DR. DEL RYE but here is a summary with a bit more information:

In most cases when a new coach is hired at the college level, they are given a free hand to bring in the assistant coaches they want, and often, their choice of athletic trainer, strength coach and other supportive personnel. At Indiana University for example, while the athletic trainer is under long term contract, the new coach Terry Hoeppner, hired Dean Kleinschmidt who has the title of Athletic Trainer For Football because Dean was the man that Coach Hoeppner wanted in this key position. The newly hired coach, unless there is a very established tradition of having a certain helmet appearance at that school, will usually be given the discretion to change the uniform design in accordance with his preference. Thus, if you look at the history of college helmet design, the schools with a history of losing a lot of games and making a lot of coaching changes usually have the most frequent number of helmet design changes. This is a reflection of each coach “starting with a new slate” or putting his own stamp on the program. A new AD might also want a change to mark his or her entrance to their new position in the program.


In the pro ranks, any uniform changes must now be cleared by the league itself. The NFL marketing agreement is such that any helmet design changes cannot be made by the individual teams because it might in some way hurt the national marketing scheme of the NFL licensed products. The mass marketed merchandise is presented and sold as part of an overall league package and thus, any changes must be approved to coincide with the marketing package. This might make you wonder who was making such decisions when the Seahawks made their recent uniform color scheme change! Adding black trim or more black to the current uniforms is a reflection of the marketing that follows the national trend towards providing males between the ages of 14 and 30 with clothing that is black based or has more black trim as this current fashion trend is a driving force in the garment market place. This is why teams such as the Eagles, whose primary color is green, has seen their helmets and jerseys slowly creep towards black. Their very dark green jerseys and alternate black jerseys are almost indistinguishable and you would be hard pressed to call their current helmet color “green” as the black accent has “muddied” it to the point where it no longer is the “Eagle green” that they have proudly worn for so long.