Winged football helmet

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File:Winged helmet.jpg
A miniature replica of the Michigan Wolverines 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.


File:M.S.C. 1933 Winged Helmet.jpg
A full-size replica of the 1933 Michigan State gold and black winged helmet

Famed football coach Herbert "Fritz" Crisler is credited with first painting the winged helmet in school colors. In 1935, while head coach at Princeton University, Crisler ordered stock helmets bearing leather wings out of the Spalding catalog, believing the design to have practical advantages on the field.[1] 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.[1]

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."[2] 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.[2]

While the Wolverines have traditionally and historically held a claim to the winged helmet as their own, several other organizations have employed similar or identical designs. Michigan State began wearing a variation of the winged helmet before 1938, predating the Wolverines and continuing until 1948.[1] Princeton abandoned the design after Crisler left in 1938, but in 1998, resurrected the winged design (in orange and black) for the Princeton Tigers.[3] The University of Delaware's football team, an FCS program has been using the winged helmet design continuously since 1951.[4] Several high school teams across the country have also adopted the design.

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.[5][6] The Chicago Bears used the winged helmet in 1931 and 1932.[7][8] The Frankford Yellow Jackets wore the winged helmet in 1931 before the franchise folded due to the Great Depression.[9] 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.[10][11] The short-lived Cincinnati Reds also used a winged helmet in 1933.[12] The Pittsburgh Pirates (now the Pittsburgh Steelers) wore the winged helmet in 1935 and 1936.[13][14] 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.[15][16]

Colleges currently and recently using the winged football helmet

File:20090905 Kevin Grady.jpg
Kevin Grady of Michigan in the winged helmet

Division I FBS

Division I FCS

Division II

Division III

Junior colleges


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 "University of Michigan Football: Michigan's Winged Helmet". University of Michigan Athletics History. Bentley Historical Library. 2006-04-10. Retrieved 2011-02-24.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  2. 2.0 2.1 Michigan Winged Helmet, Michigan Tradition: Athletics Website
  17. Princeton Football -- Tiger Uniform & Helmet
  18. Delaware Blue Hens Football
  19. Southwest Baptist University Football
  20. Grove City College Football
  21. Gustavus Adolphus College Football
  22. Middlebury College Football
  23. [1]
  24. San Bernardino Valley College Football, photos

External links