The Arizona Cardinals helmet history spans across three different cities and four different names. We have the Chicago Cardinals (prior to 1960), the St. Louis Cardinals (1960-1987), the Phoenix Cardinals (1988-1993), and finally, the Arizona Cardinals (1994-present).
Chicago Cardinals Era
The Cardinals were founded in 1898 as the Morgan Athletic Club and went by various names in their early history, but for the purposes of this article, we’ll look at the team’s helmet history starting with their entry into the American Professional Football Association, later known as the NFL, in 1920.
For the 1920 season the team wore dark beige leatherheads before switching to a lighter color between 1921 and 1924. They switched back to their original beige color in 1925 and 1926 before seeing two more seasons in lighter colors in 1927 and 1928. Also during this time, they adopted an alternate leatherhead that was cardinal red on the bottom and white on top.
Images of each of these helmets can be found at the following link.
Cardinal red leatherheads came about between 1929 and 1934 before a lighter shade of red took hold from 1935 and 1936. The 1935-36 leatherheads bore a red and white pattern at the crown.
From 1937 to 1947 the team swapped out the red for plain white leatherheads before reintroducing the red which continued into the 1950s.
When the NFL started using plastic helmets over leather in the 1940s and 50s, the Chicago Cardinals wore two shells from 1948-1957, cardinal red for some games, and plain white for others.
In 1958, the team went with an all-white shell and held the look until 1960, the year after moving to St. Louis.
St. Louis Cardinals/Phoenix Cardinals
The Cardinals added the cardinal head logo in 1961, when it became a trend to add logos to helmets in the late-1950s and early-1960s as a means of providing teams better identities.
This continued throughout the league in the early part of the 1960s, starting as far back as 1948 with the Los Angeles Rams and ending in 1965 with the Cleveland Browns, who ultimately opted to remain logoless as opposed to placing a helmet logo on the sides of their helmet.
The familiar cardinal head debuted along with a gray facemask, which stuck with the team until their move to Phoenix after the 1987 season.
When the Cardinals switched their name from ‘Phoenix’ to the Arizona Cardinals in 1994, the look remained the same.
However, in 2005, twelve seasons after the name change, the team updated their helmet logo for the first time since incorporating the cardinal head. This logo brought a fiercer cardinal with more detail in the outline. This look has accompanied the team since the 2005 season and saw its first and only Super Bowl appearance a few years later in 2008.
You know, as historic of a team the Cardinals are, the logo just never became iconic, unlike most of their NFC brethren. The team never had a great helmet or logo, so I would say that the Cardinals would be ideal candidates for a redesign.
Even if they had to completely change the team’s identity, including the name, it wouldn’t bother me one bit, despite my purist NFL ways. Bouncing from city to city for most of their existence along with four name changes means the team has never had a great identity.
The Arizona Hotshots of the now-defunct AAF had a helmet and uniform more interesting than the Cardinals have had over the course of their existence, and the Cardinals were founded in 1898 as the Morgan Athletic Club.
Maybe it just has to do with the team’s perpetual losing, which it has seen far more often since its last championship in 1947, when they were still playing in Chicago.
The Cardinals’ helmet hasn’t seen many major upgrades, but the one time they did, it was an atrocious turnout. However, they might be one of those few teams who could get away with (and probably look better in) a plain helmet with no logo or markings, much like the classic Detroit Lions.