If one follows the evolution of the Buffalo Bills helmet history, there’s no story quite like it. Starting in 1960 from the numbered helmets to the standing bison, all the way to the charging buffalo seen today, no team in NFL history has gone through such numerous helmet changes, and for various reasons at that.
So, let’s take a look at the evolution of the Bills’ helmet from 1960 all the way until present-day, sixty seasons later.
Related: Buffalo Bills Jersey History
In 1962, the helmets were changed to white and the red standing bison, one of the most recognizable logos in NFL history, took place on the sides. The team also phased out the silver completely, replacing it with red, and giving the team its familiar red, white, and blue look. In 1965 the single white helmet stripe was replaced by one that included red and blue center stripes, further modernizing the Bills’ look.
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The 1970s and 1980s
A few more changes were made in 1974, with the blue charging buffalo logo replacing the standing bison.
In 1977, the facemask was changed from gray to blue, which remained so until 1983.
Related: Buffalo Bills Uniform History
In the 1980s, the entire AFC East bore white helmets other than the New York Jets, who’d switched to green a few years back. However, AFC East rivals the New England Patriots, Baltimore (Indianapolis) Colts, and Miami Dolphins all possessed white helmets.
Then-quarterback Joe Ferguson could not distinguish his players from the opposing teams during games and requested the white helmet shell to be replaced with red. Coach Kay Stephenson agreed, and the change was made.
The only other change made in the 1980s occurred in 1987 when the team switched to white facemasks.
In 2002, the Bills underwent a radical redesign, which included a minor tweak to the helmet. Navy blue and nickel gray were added to the helmet stripe, which was panned by both critics and fans alike, with many claiming the uniform bore too much resemblance to the Montreal Alouettes of the Canadian Football League.
Related: Buffalo Bills Team Profile
However, with the uniform, the Bills did resurrect the standing bison helmet logo and white helmet as an alternate, wearing the look twice each season and even more when the AFL celebrated its 50th anniversary in 2009, where all original AFL teams wore their original uniforms other than the Bills, who opted to wear the standing bison look.
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In 2011, the Bills finally ditched the infamous Alouette look and returned to wearing white helmets full-time, which became a modernized version of their 1975-83 look, but opted for gray facemasks instead of blue. While the charging buffalo remained a fixture as the primary helmet logo, the standing bison logo and uniforms remain during select games, which can be worn up to three times a year, per NFL rules.
With more NFL teams slated to return to their past looks or a modernized version of, such as the Jacksonville Jaguars last season, Minnesota Vikings in 2013, Detroit Lions in 2017, and per the rumor, the Cleveland Browns in 2020, it appears the Bills classic white helmet will be here to stay for the long haul, and for good reason at that.
In 1994, the NFL celebrated its 75th anniversary and in doing so, the league’s then-28 teams all wore throwback uniforms. Some of these uniforms were odd in nature, with many teams opting to wear the same color helmet for their throwbacks as their modern uniforms of the time.
The Bills, still wearing the red helmet at the time, were no different, and with it they, like the Green Bay Packers and New York Jets, wore a historically inaccurate look. The helmet shown above depicts the first and only time in their entire history of wearing such a look.
However, with the NFL’s 100th anniversary coming this season, perhaps such unique looks will return to the playing field once again. As of right now, there are no plans that teams will wear their throwbacks any more than they do on a regular basis, and as mentioned earlier, each team is allowed to wear an alternate look up to three times in any given season.
The Bills made the right move by switching from those dated-2000s-era helmets with the navy and nickel gray that wrecked an otherwise traditional look to the classic white helmets. While the standing buffalo may be more iconic than the charging buffalo, and probably better-received by the traditional, blue-collar Buffalo fan base, the compromise of a white helmet is just fine.
My hope is that they continue to don the white, especially these days since the rival Patriots have chosen to wear silver and the Jets switched back to green, it only makes sense for the Bills to continue on with their white helmets.
Further, the Bills are also one of few teams who can don accurate throwback uniforms with the white helmet, simply changing the decal on it to the old-school standing buffalo, something few teams are able to do these days due to the one-helmet rule the NFL implemented back in 2013.
The red helmets of the 1980s-2001were good, but the white helmets are great, whether the Bills are wearing them with their uniforms of today or their uniforms of yesteryear.
From the old AFL days resembling the Lions’ look, who at the time were the NFL’s monarchs, to taking a path of their own, the Bills have seen a little bit of everything in their looks, from something iconic to solid, to complete duds, and back to solid, good, great, and ugly can likely describe this team’s complete helmet history.