Winged football helmet

The winged football helmet is a helmet bearing a distinctive two-toned painted design that typically has sharp outward curves over the forehead forming a wing. It is worn by many high school and college American football teams, most popularly by the University of Michigan Wolverines.


Early football helmet designs incorporated panels of leather, which were sometimes manufactured using strips of contrasting color. The Ohio State Buckeyes football featured with a winged front panel in a lighter color than the rest of the helmet. The team had returned to the single-tone leather helmets by 1934. The Indiana and Michigan State football teams also adopted variations on the design. Michigan State's helmet used a colored stripe (matching the color of the wings) running down the spine of the helmet, while Indiana's version featured three such stripes, nearly identical to the form used today. The Georgetown Hoyas also used a winged helmet for several seasons during the 1930s and 1940s.[1][2]

Famed football coach Herbert "Fritz" Crisler is credited with popularizing the winged helmet nationwide. In 1935, while head coach at Princeton University, Crisler ordered stock helmets bearing leather wings out of the Spalding catalog. He had the leather panels painted in contrasting orange and black colors, believing the design to have practical advantages on the field.[2] In 1938, Crisler became head football coach and athletic director at the University of Michigan, where he added maize and blue coloring to the stock design. These helmets made their debut at the Wolverines' 1938 season opener against Michigan State and have been worn ever since. It has become an icon of Michigan's football program, which held it exclusively for more than seventy years.[2]

Crisler once recalled his rationale for the design: "Michigan had a plain black helmet and we wanted to dress it up a little. We added some color and used the same basic helmet I had designed at Princeton."[3] There was one other consideration. Crisler thought this unique helmet could be helpful to his passers as they tried to spot their receivers downfield. "There was a tendency to use different-colored helmets just for receivers in those days, but I always thought that would be as helpful for the defense as for the offense," said Crisler.[3]

Princeton abandoned the design after Crisler left in 1938, but in 1998, resurrected the winged design (in orange and black) for the Princeton Tigers.[4] When David M. Nelson, a former Michigan player, became the head coach of the University of Delaware's football team in 1951, Delaware began using a blue and gold winged helmet, which they use to this day.[5] Several high school teams across the country have also adopted the design. Other athletic teams from the University of Michigan have incorporated the design into their headgear, including ice and field hockey, baseball, softball, lacrosse, rowing and swimming. [2]

In 1996, the Connecticut Coyotes of the Arena Football League wore red, white, and blue winged helmets,[6].

There is also evidence that several early National Football League teams wore the winged helmet. The New York Giants wore an early version of the winged helmet in 1930–1931.[7][8] The Chicago Bears used the winged helmet in 1931 and 1932.[9][10] The Frankford Yellow Jackets wore the winged helmet in 1931 before the franchise folded due to the Great Depression.[11] The Yellow Jackets successors, the Philadelphia Eagles, used the Yellow Jackets old uniforms (including the winged helmets) for their first two seasons in the NFL, and would later use replicas as a throwback uniform during the 2007 season.[12][13] The short-lived Cincinnati Reds also used a winged helmet in 1933.[14] The Pittsburgh Pirates (now the Pittsburgh Steelers) wore the winged helmet in 1935 and 1936.[15][16] Finally, the Giants would wear the winged helmet again from 1937 to 1947, making them the last NFL team to wear the winged helmet on a regular basis as well as the last NFL team to wear them in any occasion until the Eagles wore the Yellow Jackets throwbacks in 2007. As well, the British Columbia Lions of the CFL used a winged helmet in 1960 and 1961. [17][18]

Colleges currently and recently using the winged football helmet

Division I FBS

Division I FCS

Division II

Division III

Junior colleges


  1. "Winged Helmet - The Complete History (1930 - Present)". Spartan Jerseys. Retrieved 31 July 2017.
  2. "University of Michigan Football: Michigan's Winged Helmet". University of Michigan Athletics History. Bentley Historical Library. 2006-04-10. Retrieved 2011-02-24.
  3. "Michigan Winged Helmet, Michigan Tradition: Athletics Website". Archived from the original on 15 September 2009. Retrieved 5 October 2018.
  4. "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2012-10-21. Retrieved 2016-03-31.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  5. "Colonial Athletic Association". Retrieved 5 October 2018.
  6. "Arena Football League". Retrieved 2016-04-17.
  7. "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2014-02-09. Retrieved 2013-07-19.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  8. "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2014-02-09. Retrieved 2013-07-19.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  9. "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2014-02-13. Retrieved 2013-07-19.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  10. "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2014-07-01. Retrieved 2013-07-19.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  11. "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2014-02-13. Retrieved 2013-07-19.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  19. "Princeton Football -- Tiger Uniform & Helmet". Retrieved 5 October 2018.
  20. "Delaware Blue Hens Football". Retrieved 5 October 2018.
  21. "Page Not Found". Retrieved 5 October 2018.
  22. "Helmets of Discontinued College Teams". Retrieved 2016-04-17.
  23. "Grove City College Athletics". Retrieved 5 October 2018.
  24. "Gustavus Adolphus College Football". Retrieved 2018-10-05.
  25. "Middlebury College Athletics". Retrieved 5 October 2018.
  26. "Alfred State Football". Alfred State College Athletics. Retrieved 5 October 2018.
  27. "San Bernardino Valley College Football, photos". Retrieved 5 October 2018.
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