The History Of The Football Helmet

The football helmet is a piece of protective headgear used mainly in the American football game. It consists of a hard plastic outer shell with thick comfort padding on the inside, a face cover made of one or more plastic-coated metal bars, and a chinstrap. But have you ever wondered, what is the history of the football helmet? Or who invented the football helmet?

In 1893, Admiral Joseph Mason Reevewent to his shoemaker and had him fashion a Moleskin Hat with Earflaps. So this hat becomes the first football helmet in history.

Football Helmets are a requirement at all levels of professional football, excluding non-tackle variations such as flag football. Even though they are defensive, players still suffer head injuries, such as concussions.


Joseph M Reeves after a physically brutal season Reeves’s doctor told him that one harder hit to the head could lead to what he referred to as instant insanity or even death determined to play in the traditional rivalry game against army briefs went to a local shoemaker and had him fashion a moleskin hat with earflaps and that’s what would become the first helmet in football history.

It wasn’t much, but it was revolutionary for its time so innovative that Reeves took the design back with him to the Navy after graduating in because of him similar helmets worn by pilots and paratroopers in World War I.



After a physically brutal period, Joseph M Reeveswent to a local shoemaker and had him fashion a moleskin hat with earflaps, and that’s what would become the first helmet in football history.


In the early 1900s, soft leather helmets introduced as optional headgear for players, but many prefer to play without the helmets because of its leather material, which made it hot and the ear flaps, which made it difficult to hear the players.


In 1917 they rectified these problems with fizz also known as the Zeki helmet named after Illinois coach Bob Zemke who came up with this design that consisted of air holes for ventilation holes in their flaps and straps of fabric lining in the helmet that helped absorb and distribute impacts this soft leather material.


The Zeki Helmet replaced in 1920’s football helmet equipped with hardened leather creating the iconic look warmly referred to as leather heads.


In 1939 high school football coach John T Rydell introduced the first plastic helmet in the following few years; an attached chinstrap added to the helmets along with an improved suspension lining that allowed for a more comfortable fit.

After seeing these Redell helmets worn by theGreen Bay Packers, General George Patton contracted Redell and licensed the technology.

The army was redesigning the World War 1 era’s helmet because it was uncomfortable and offered inadequate protection, so the Redellsuspension system implemented into the M1 helmet, which was utilized by soldiers in World War II.


In 1948 Los Angeles Rams Halfback Fred Gerke, an art major while in college, had the idea of painting a design directly onto the helmet.

He took a helmet home with him and spent the entire night meticulously painting his design, which consisted of gold horns on a blue helmet.

Luckily, coach Bob Snyder and owner Dan Reeves loved the design and commissioned Gerke to paint the design onto the helmet of every single player at $1 apiece.

At the beginning of the 1948 season, when the Rams players first emerge from the tunnels of the LA Coliseum donning these decorated helmets, they met with thunderous applause and a standing ovation that lasted for over five minutes.

These helmets offered protection for the player’s head and ears, but they weren’t offering any protection for the player’s face.


In 1955, Cleveland Browns Otto Graham Quarterback took a vicious hit to the face requiring 15 stitches across his mouth during halftime of the game.

Coach Paul Brown worked with the equipment manager to quickly come up with a makeshift device made of clear plastic that would offer protection to Graham’s mouth so he could finish the game.

Later on, this new plastic for the protection of face became a part of the helmet, and that’s the evolution of the football headgear.


These headgears helped, but they would become brittle in cold weather and would sometimes shatter on impact.

Coach Paul Brown went to Redell at the end of the 1955 season and described a revised facemask concept to their Technical Consultant.

He said, give me something that will fit across the front of the helmet and will be about as big as my little finger with tensile strength. So it can withstand a straight kick or deliberately thrown fist or elbow and take away the inclination to punch someone but keep it light.

Brunel came up with a single gray bar made of rubber and plastic, all Cleveland players required to wear the bar by the coach and other teams quickly followed.

The following year in 1956, electronics salesman George Sarles and GE engineer John Campbell approached the Cleveland coach with a radical idea. They explained how they could improve the communication and hurry up the speed of calling plays by placing a transistor radio inside the quarterback’s helmet.

It will allow the coach to deliver plays directly to the quarterback as opposed to substituting players onto the field to provide the next game to the huddle.

Coach Brown loved the idea and immediately tested the device in an exhibition game when the news of this invention caught on throughout the league; other teams scrambled to devise their methods, but none of which was as useful as Sarles &Campbell’s device.

The Clevelandabled to use the Radio System for only three games before NFL Commissioner Bert Bell outlawed the use of the device.


Throughout the 1960s & 1970s, thicker Foam Padding added to the lining of the helmets and an array of intricate facemask designs made available to the players.

However, the single bar face-mask was a vital innovation, and soon it replaced by increasingly complex styles of face protection.

With the first full-face mask appearing in 1975 equipped with a high-quality outer shell, comfort inner padded liner, and face-mask made of clear plastic to defend the player’s face.


By the mid-1980s, the History Of The Football Helmet had become a complex, highly engineered piece of equipment.

A typical helmet weighed three pounds, with an outer shell constructed with polycarbonate over a layer of aluminum and vinyl foam on top of plastic and then a thin layer of leather.

The inside of the helmets features foam padding and plastic shells or an inflatable layer designed to absorb the shock &impact and create a tight fit.


In 1995 the football helmet went advanced when a new rule legalized quarterback to have a radio transmitter in their helmets.

This breakthrough makes it possible for a team’s coach to call in plays without the need for an elaborate sideline.

The last significant official change to the helmet came in 1998 when transparent face shields allowed protecting players’ eyes.

During this era, football helmets feature Tinted visors, though they may look stylish, are only acceptable by the league with the approval of appropriate medical certification.


Safety is a priority. So it’s become a scientific arms race between the three largest football helmet producers Riddle, Schutt, and Zenith as they continually seek new ways to advance and enhance their helmets for player safety.

They’re lighting headgears with newer material like Thermoplastic Urethane for better shock absorption.

Besides, helmets lined with Chalk Data Loggers and Shock Detectors, which monitors the force of impacts.

More than two decades after the previous significant helmet change, Riddell’s Revolution Speed model became the NFL standard. It features impact-absorbing foam padding and a more spherical design, all with an eye toward improved safety. In 2004, the National Football League also banned single-bar face masks.


In 2017 the Seattle-based sports technology company Vicis introduced a new helmet that would reduce player concussions.

With reflexive technology, the helmet can absorb linear forces, but more importantly, it can also absorb rotational forces that are more prone to caused concussions.

The Vicis Zero1 is one the top-line football headgear features multiple layers work together to slow impact forces. The Vicis Zero1 features a soft outer shell and an underlying layer of columns designed to mitigate impacts from numerous directions.


In 2018 the NFL and NFLPA released their annual helmet laboratory performance reviews, which already have Vicisas the one and number two rated helmets for safety.

Much more will need to happen in the evolution of football helmets to keep players safe and to keep the game of football in life, but these technological advances are steps in the right direction football helmets have certainly come a long way since Reeves and his moleskin hat.

Recently, a wide range of helmet has come into the game. Vicis, Riddell, Schutt, Rawlings producing helmets that have a softer outer layer.

The softer layer absorbs more energy from impacts — besides, the inside of the helmet equipped with foam-like substance, which absorbs heat and improves comfort.

As the time passing, the designs of the football helmets are changing. Let’s take a look at best football helmets for 2020

Find out the components of the modern helmet down below:



The function of the outer shell is to protect the head from a specific impact delocalizing the force.

Polycarbonates are ideal materials for outer shells construction, for they are lightweight, sturdy, and exhibit good impact strength, even in extreme temperatures. The first molded polycarbonate football helmet appeared in the NFL back in 1986.

The helmet’s outermost layer constructed from various materials listed down below:

  • Polycarbonates
  • Thermoplastic Polyurethane
  • Thermo Polymer Alloy
  • Carbon Fiber
  • Kevlar


The performance of a football helmet based on its capacity to decrease the rotational force to the head from a specific impact.

The most crucial energy absorbing elements are the compression shock and shock bonnets, while the secondary items are comfort pads. 

Most of the latest football helmets constructed with Polyurethane or Nitrile foams, for they keep the force peak under the load recommended for head health without collapsing. Above all, these forms are relatively lightweight and easy to manufacture.


The latest addition to the football helmet is the visor or eye shield, which is attached to the face mask to guard players from glare or eye injuries.

The first player to use a protective visor was Mark Mullaney of the NFL’s Minnesota Vikings in 1984, to shield a healing eye injury.

Nike, Oakley, Under Armor, and SHOC are the top-leading manufacturers of visors in the industry.

Materials Used in Helmet’s Visor:

  • Acrylic: Itis a transparent thermoplastic widely used to made helmet’s visors for it is lightweight or shatter-resistant and alternative to glass. It protects the rider’s eyes from ultraviolet rays, as well.
  • Polycarbonate: Polycarbonates are strong & sturdy materials, and some grades are optically transparent, used in the construction of visors — some of the best-quality screens created with polycarbonate materials because of their high impact-resistance and low-resistance


The components of modern helmet include the Shock Data Loggers and Shock Detectors, which monitor the impacts a player receives, such as the force and direction of the effect.

If the sensors recorded force over 100 Gs’, it signals a possible unconsciousness. The objective of using sensors is to detect concussions earlier to get players’ immediate medical care.


Face masks for football helmets today are multi-bar typically constructed out of metal, such as titanium, stainless steel, or most common carbon steel.

Each facemask layered with PolyArmor G17, a powder coating that is resistant to impact and corrosion.

  • Schutt Sports
  • Riddell
  • Rawlings
  • Vicis
  • Xenith

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