The Indianapolis Colts helmet history dates all the way back to 1953 when an expansion team known as the Baltimore Colts returned to the NFL after the previous incarnation folded after the 1950 NFL Season. This version of the Colts could actually trace their history back to 1913 as the team was really the remnants of the 1952 ill-fated Dallas Texans.
Some believe the Colts to have been a continuation from the original Baltimore Colts, who were founded in 1947 as members of the All-America Football Conference (AAFC) and played in the NFL in 1950 before folding, but as mentioned above, the Colts were founded in 1953, and can be considered a continuation of the old Dallas Texans, not to be confused with the AFL’s Texans who played in Dallas between 1960 and 1962.
The team kept an identical color scheme as the Texans and changed their name to the Colts as a nod to the previous franchise who wore green and silver.
Back to the team’s helmet discussion. While the iconic horseshoe has remained throughout the team’s existence, had seen its fair share of changes, but they grow more subtle as time ticks by.
Related: Indianapolis Colts Logo History
When the team debuted in 1953, their helmets were white with a blue stripe at the crown.
Come 1954, the Colts had a unique look around the league at the time, placing their helmet logo on the back of their navy blue shells, or perhaps a shade lighter than navy. They were one of the first teams in league history to don a helmet logo, and the first future AFC franchise to do so, as both the Pittsburgh Steelers and Cleveland Browns were logoless at the time (Pittsburgh only places a decal on one side of their helmet while the Browns have remained logoless).
The navy blue remained until 1956 when the team switched to their now-familiar white helmets.
The decal in the back look would’ve become even more unique these days had the Colts decided to ultimately keep it, but was soon dropped in 1957 to resemble the familiar helmet we see today.
Related: Indianapolis Colts Jersey History
The 1960s to Present
The only elements that have seen changes to the Colts’ helmet were the shades of blue and the facemask. Some state the horseshoes on the helmet were thinner and wider from 1957 until 1977, which can be evidenced with this visual.
The team’s facemasks were also gray during this 20-year stretch before switching to white from 1978 until 1994, by which time the Baltimore Colts became the Indianapolis Colts prior to the 1984 season. Also in 1978, the team switched from the navy-esque look to royal blue, which remained so until the early 2000s.
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In 1995, the Colts switched to a royal blue facemask, matching their jersey and logo and finally in 2004, reverted back to gray and have remained so ever since.
The team did revert to a darker shade of blue called speed blue, which is almost a hybrid between navy and royal blue.
The Colts did go retro, wearing the 1956 look in 2004 for a Thanksgiving Day tilt against the Detroit Lions.
They brought back the 1954-55 helmets in 2010 against the Philadelphia Eagles in a 26-24 loss at Lincoln Financial Field.
In 2020, the Colts made a slight upgrade to their helmet by featuring their new wordmark on the front, replacing the traditional mark.
Related: Indianapolis Colts Uniform History
By far and away one of the best helmets in pro football and the best helmet in the AFC. I love looks that stand the test of time and are iconic across NFL cities and fan bases. The Colts’ helmet is one of those helmets and I’m glad to see the few changes that’ve been made, namely in going more classic with the reintroduction of the gray facemask back in 2004.
The team has resisted temptation even if they did relocate 35 seasons ago. It’s refreshing to see things like this in a time when teams are trying to get “too cute” with their uniforms. This look should remain the same fifty years from today.
Either way one looks at it, it’s not often you see a team hold an identity so well between two different cities, especially when the team is named after certain possessions and events of that city, as was the case with the Colts.
Even the throwback looks can be used since the team has predominantly had a white helmet for the majority of its existence. Looks with nods back to the early Peyton Manning era featuring the royal blue facemasks can be used, as well as throwbacks to the classic, wider horseshoes of the Johnny Unitas era. A lot can be done with a helmet that links greats like Unitas and Manning to present-day stars like Andrew Luck.
There’s a lot of good to be done here.
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Whether the team is in Baltimore or Indianapolis, the helmets and for the most part, the colors, have stood the test of time, embraced by fans from both cities and they continue to do so. The Colts were one of the pioneers of the logo-adoption trend that started in 1948 with the Los Angeles Rams and continued throughout the early-1960s until only the Browns remained without a logo on the sides of their plastic shells.
Not just in the helmet department, but the entire uniform itself holds a lot of hisotry and tradition spanning over two cities, giving the AFC’s third-oldest franchise a chance to hang with the Steelers (started play in 1933) and the Browns (started play in 1946, 1950 in the NFL) in terms of a storied timeline, unless of course one wishes to state the Colts go back, all the way back, to the days of the old Dayton Triangles in 1913, who played in the NFL from 1920 to 1929.
Being that the Triangles also wore a similar color scheme to the Colts makes the connection that much similar, but of course, such a curious case of the Colts-Triangles relationship might be due for another article. But such an article might take a little bit of soul searching for actual color images in an odyssey to find some old school, and I mean old school uniforms of the era.