Dear Dr. Del Rye,

In looking at helmets and their design, are there any factors more important than others that have gone into figuring out how big, how thick, or how long the helmet sections should be? When I talk about sections I am referring to how long the area is to cover the cheeks or length of the face for example, how much room there is for the head inside, how low the suspension should be, things like that? How do the engineers figure out what’s correct? I am sorry I can’t be more clearer so I hope you know what I mean to give an answer. I really enjoy everything on Helmet Hut especially the new autographed line of helmets. Joe Namath was a hero to me. Thanks.


Myron, Illinois


Dear Myron,

Thank you for your inquiry and allow me to first say that when the staff at HELMET HUT can get former collegiate (and professional) football heroes such as Pete Dawkins , Roger Staubach ,  Joe Namath and Earl Campbell to autograph their authentic, correctly reproduced helmets, its as much a thrill for us as it is for our customers. Regarding helmet design, a great deal of study and research has gone into the science and specifics over many decades. In addition to the study and development of materials for the shell and energy absorbing internal components, a surprising amount of work goes into the dimensions too. As you know, long term research has revealed differences in the measurements of the various parts of the human head as well as total head measurement. Correlation among dimensions that include head circumference, length, width, various facial dimensions and shape, and bone thickness have led to a set of measurements for the different aspects of helmet design that make this piece of equipment practical and useable. The goal of course is to provide a product that can be used with the absence of, or minimal adjustment to the majority of users. Any correlation of numerous measurements requires compromise and this leads to necessary adjustment procedures. In part, this accounts for different though standard sizing and the use of adjustable or interchangeable internal energy absorbing components. The Microfit and PAC series of Riddell  helmets were obvious examples of this issue, with the use of inflatable cells in the Microfit and changeable pre-inflated air cells in the PAC to assist in achieving a proper fit.


Length of the head and features of the facial bones determine the area to be protected which in turn alters helmet measurement. The ability of the helmet to sustain impact forces and remain in place is a function of the fitting and sizing system and thus, a key design consideration. For those who wore the Riddell suspension helmets, the required fit for safety often made the actual helmet introduction onto the head and then its removal uncomfortable and of course, this too was and remains a consideration when designing the “fit” aspect of the helmet.


Texas A&M Great Mo Moorman, a strong, large man with large features that needed protection. Moorman also starred with the KC Chiefs

Anthropomorphic measurements demonstrate a wide range of ear, nose, and chin sizes and shapes, requiring yet more consideration for helmet design and construction where safety is maintained yet the headgear remains practical in size, weight, shape, heat dissipation, and of course, all of the considerations that go into energy absorption and transfer. Geometric consideration is related to the task of impact deflection as well as providing safety to the specific anatomy of the head and face. In the suspension helmet, the standoff space, the space inside the shell between the head and the interior shell surface, was provided by the suspension webbing system and had to be determined through both research and trial-and-error. Greater standoff provided greater impact protection but there was a limit to practicality as increased standoff space then affected the action of the helmet when the player was in motion and the subsequent effect to the facial region when contact was made. Over time, standards were established that allowed for suspension related protection while maintaining the player’s ability to move without hindrance from the headgear or damage to body parts upon impact.


As you can see, a tremendous amount of consideration has gone into the design and construction of the football helmet, even those suspension helmets that we may love so much, but often consider “antiquated.” Note that although past columns in “ASK DR. DEL RYE” and the HELMET NEWS sections have discussed aspects of helmet construction materials, we did not even touch upon that here yet have a lengthy list of items that needed study, research, and solution in order to provide a self and practical football helmet.




Unlike most quarterbacks, Joe Namath often wore what most considered to be “linemen” facemasks to achieve greater facial protection, and why not? Broadway Joe was well known for his man-about-town adventures and good looks that made the ladies swoon and perhaps early in his professional career he knew that Hollywood and the theater’s stage would be calling. Before switching to one of his better known early cage type of masks such as the bolt on 1960’s vintage “Cow Catcher” as per his 1977 Los Angeles Rams helmet (and note the tape in the corners that served as protection from the worn off rubber dip)



The beloved Joe Willie and his state of the art mic and headphone setup for huddle use.



Namath’s Pro Football Hall Of Fame teammate, wide receiver Don Maynard, is shown with custom-made cheek protection pads. Knowing of Maynard’s ingenuity and thriftiness, it might be assumed that Don made these himself!



Oakland Raiders great center Jim Otto shows the “standard” look for him with the double bar mask and U-Bar addition. As expected, the rugged Otto wears a helmet complete with the scars of battle but also note the many rivets on the sides of his headgear. This extra hardware was necessary to hold additional internal padding so that Otto could, not surprisingly, play with a broken jaw! 




Dear Dr. Del Rye,

I am a Miami graduate and always liked our uniforms even in the days when I was there and the team was not very good. Your Miami helmet section is wonderful [  ] and although this was before I attended, I liked the 1956 model the best. My question is, did other schools have angled stripes like that and how were those stripes put onto the helmet? Thank you for your answer, keep up the good work.


Pahokee, Florida


Dear Joseph,

Our wonderful HELMET HUT staff always appreciates compliments and we are pleased that you enjoyed the Miami helmet presentation. Your alma mater has enjoyed great football success and a number of beautiful helmets. The helmet worn during the 1955 and 1956 seasons consisted of a Green Bay gold shell and a one-inch center stripe that was forest green. This was a very standard appearance for the era but for the November 26, 1955 clash against rival Florida and again for the 1956 Florida and Pitt contests, head coach Andy Gustafson altered the stripe arrangement and presented something a bit unusual. The center stripe was removed from the shell and replaced by two forest green stripes that formed a V-shaped design.


This was indeed a great look. The Riddell RT helmets of the 1950’s had a center stripe that consisted of a molded plastic strip in the contrasting color of choice (or same color as the shell) that served to hold the two halves of the helmet together. In some cases, paint or  tape may have been used over the existing molded strip to provide a contrasting center stripe. When the Riddell RK and the one piece TK model helmets were introduced, the contrasting stripe or stripes were either painted on or made with the use of 4-6 ml. vinyl tape manufactured by the 3M Company. The University Of Miami stripes were taped on while the angled stripes of the Purdue helmet that was worn from 1949 through the 1954 seasons were painted onto the helmet shell.


Another university team that featured angled stripes on their helmets were the Vanderbilt Commodores.