Dear Dr.:
Last year the Lions added black trim to their helmet logos and striping, who was responsible for adding the white trim to the helmet markings prior to that?
Draz from Chicago
Dear Draz:
Do you mean who was responsible or who was to blame? Needless to say we much prefer the handsome earlier 1960s Lion's silver helmets with the solid blue striping and roaring lion logos. We tolerated the white center stripe that was added in 1968 followed by white trim around the logos in 1970 but we have to protest the excessive look of the current helmet. I guess the Lions are trying to follow the lead of another playoff absent franchise, the New Orleans Saints, who also felt compelled to add excessive black trim to their helmet logos a few years ago. Maybe someone should tell these two teams that the best teams in the league have traditionally had the most simple and tasteful uniforms. Sorry to digress, let's get back to your question. The Lion's head coach and former Hall of Fame player Joe Schmidt implemented the white center stripe in 1968. According to Joe, as a player he had always admired the Cowboys silver-blue helmet with the blue and white trim. After conferring with the Lion's general manager he asked the team's reconditioner to paint a white center stripe on the Lion helmets prior to the 1968 season. About six weeks into the season the team received a written reprimand from the league headquarters for changing the uniform design without formal league approval. Joe couldn't believe the apparent league nitpicking --
all he did was add a white stripe! (Can you imagine OLE Joe trying to deal with the voluminous amount of NFL rules that pertain to today's team uniforms?)
The Lions subsequently decided to also add white trim to their lion helmet logos (and jersey numbers and striping and pants striping) but this time they followed league procedures, which at that time included notification 15 months prior to the change, and explains why the remainder of the white trim was not added until the 1970 season.


Dear Doctor:
I love looking at pictures of 1950s and 1960s football action. I have noticed that the "bubble ear" Rawlings helmets worn by the Steelers and Cardinals look almost identical to the shape of the same era Wilson helmets worn by the Bears and Forty Niners. Is this a correct observation and if so, do you have any idea why they would seemingly have the exact same shape?
Thanks, Dr. Marc

Dear Dr. Marc:
As a matter of professional courtesy I will be happy to answer your question but first did you hear about the vain middle aged Beverly Hills wife who last October told her eager to please Japanese husband that it was time for Botox -- so he turned on the World Series?
Sorry about that Marc (and loyal readers), but you should be happy to find out that your helmet observations are much better than my attempts at humor! The "bubble ear" Rawlings style shell that you refer to is exactly the same as the Wilson variety. In fact they were produced from the same mold. In the late 1940s Rawlings was looking to upgrade their traditional line of leather helmets with a more contemporary plastic shell version. Rather than wait to develop their own plastic shell helmet Rawlings initially contracted Riddell to produce the Riddell "RT" plastic shell suspension helmet for them substituting the Rawlings trademark. Rawlings marketed this helmet under their name for a few years while they worked on their own design. The Rawlings legendary product designer Charles Hagemeyer did not like the Riddell design because it was formed from two pieces which he felt made it weaker. He also felt that the Riddell suspension system did not efficiently dissipate the force of impact. In the early 1950s he developed a revolutionary molding process involving a collapsible inner core that allowed parts, such as a helmet shell, to be molded in one piece. He also painstakingly researched extensive scientific studies that the military had commissioned in an effort to improve the M-1 military helmet that ironically had a Riddell suspension system. Aided by the study findings Mr. Hagemeyer developed a leather padded system that, although heavier than the conventional suspension system, provided for superior head protection.
As a result of Charles Hagemeyer's brilliant work Rawlings introduced its own plastic shell helmet in the early 1950s. The shell was molded in three different sizes requiring three separate molds. Wilson Sporting Goods offered to pay for one half of the costly helmet molds in exchange for the rights to use the molds to produce their own line of helmet shells. Although the helmet shells were the same for both companies each company designed and manufactured their own internal padding systems.

Dear Dr. Dell,
What can you tell us about those red and green dots on the Schutt masks from the 1970s?
Thanks, RJ
Dear RJ:
The famous Schutt vinyl dipped steel face cage mask was originally designed as a "one size fits all" types of helmets and sizes. In the late 1970s the original Bike "Air Power" helmet was introduced and the conventional Schutt face mask was not large enough to fit on the Bike "large" and "extra large" size shells. Rather than pass on this potential business Schutt quickly introduced a larger size mask to fit the larger Bike shells. To help distinguish between the two sizes of the Schutt face masks a red dot was painted on the standard mask and a green dot was used for the new larger mask. Those colors were picked because it was best to use color codes that would contrast with the color of the mask and green and red masks were the least common colors manufactured. The red and green dot color system lasted until 1984 when Schutt invented the reverse strap or "RS" face mask. This mask featured a new patented design for the side mounts and also was designed, once again, as "one size fits all" helmets including the larger Bike helmets. Ironically Bike sold its helmet company to Schutt in the late 1980s. 



Dear Dr. Dell:

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 school.


Dear Doc: 

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.


Dear George-

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.