"Color and Glitter"



Color and Glitter

By Dr. Ken

A number of HELMET HUT readers responded to the July HELMET NEWS/REFLECTIONS column with surprise that few schools wore silver as part of their primary uniform representation in the 1950’s and 1960’s. A state by state review of individual high school official color schemes gives a ready explanation: few schools had silver as an officially designated school color. Even today, with a proliferation of silver as part of numerous high school and collegiate uniforms, it isn’t truly an official school color for many, if not most of the institutions sporting silver upon their uniforms. It was and remains more common to see gold or its variations as part of a high school or college uniform because gold is in fact, the official school color at many high schools and colleges. A quick look at HELMET HUT’S College Section indicates that Army, Navy, Colorado, Florida State Purdue, Vanderbilt, and West Virginia proudly wear the gold as part of a uniform that reflects official school colors. Notre Dame of course, as well as what seems to be the vast majority of Catholic universities at the lower division levels also feature gold as part of the official school color combination and as expected, the football uniform. In the Metropolitan New York/New Jersey region, the majority of Catholic high schools have been wearing gold helmets for decades. I have no hesitation in stating that a review of institutional colors that included gold would stretch from Alaska Pacific Union College in Anchorage, to Akron, Ohio, and Valparaiso, Indiana with more stops in between than one could “shake a stick at.”

Silver as noted previously, has always been less frequently seen though well known collegiate programs like the United States Air Force Academy and perhaps lesser known Virginia Wesleyan College feature this as one of their official school colors. Georgia is known for their black and red uniforms but the curiosity of unaware fans had to be aroused when the tradition of the “Georgia Silver Britches” was discussed but of course, red, black, and silver are the official school colors.
feature on the University Of Georgia helmet history (HELMET HUT http://www.helmethut.com/College/Georgia/georgiaindex.html ) clearly displays a tradition of utilizing silver shells during the suspension helmet era.

Kansas State went from their traditional white helmets with royal purple trim (see HELMET HUT feature at http://www.helmethut.com/College/KansasState/KSU6768.html ) to silver headgear in 1967. When Vince Gibson took the head coaching position in Manhattan, Kansas, he pushed his “Purple Pride” program and topped off purple home jerseys with silver helmets. As the HELMET HUT feature notes, “Silver became the helmet's primary color, an allowable decision as royal purple and only purple was the school's official color, opening up  any number of ‘trim’ or augmentation possibilities.   Silver has remained a mainstay in the K-State uniforms since, through numerous coaching changes and uniform alterations.

Kansas State uniforms have featured silver as a primary color for decades with the 1976 variation shown here 

Some colleges like the University Of Colorado have proudly displayed both silver and gold as primary uniform colors and “legitimately” so as both are included as the official colors of the school and athletic department. In the suspension era, the 1950’s through the ’61 season featured a series of beautiful silver helmets while the shift to gold as the shell color, often delivered what were considered by many football uniform aficionados to be among the most beautiful outfits in many specific seasons.

Colorado cheerleaders exhibit the school colors of gold and silver on their uniforms while the squad, circa 1959-1961 enters Folsom Field donned in silver headgear. 

A great uniform appearance for the Buffaloes in 1973 

Though gold is by far the more frequently seen helmet and trim color relative to silver and it was noted in the July HELMET NEWS/REFLECTIONS piece that some high schools seemed to arbitrarily adopt silver as a primary color even when the school colors did not justify this, there have been cases where gold was not a school color, yet was adopted for the official school football uniform. Sporting school and athletic team colors of orange and black since the incorporation of the Village in 1900, the East Rockaway, N.Y. football squad surprised opponents and home town fans by eschewing their traditional school colors in the mid-1960s, and taking the field in gold helmet and pants.

The only use of orange and black was on the pant and sock striping and and most players often did not wear team issue socks.

Thus, for reasons that lie with the preferences of a coach, budget limitations that might demand purchasing equipment that does not reflect the official school colors, and most recently, cultural considerations where it seems acceptable in many places to utilize so-called “neutral colors” like gold, silver, and black as trim or primary wear, any fan would be wise to know the official school colors of his or her team of interest so that they could determine whom to cheer for!