Washington Redskins Helmet

Controversy and Longevity: Washington Redskins Helmet History

When one looks at the Washington Redskins helmet, they see timelessness, a symbol that has stood the test of time. But, it wasn’t always like that. In fact, in my opinion, the Redskins have had TWO iconic helmets, one of which I wish they would wear with their home uniforms as they often did in 2002. As for their primaries, one featuring a Native American facing forward, has become one of the most popular helmet logos in the NFL, rivaled only by a few teams including the rival Cowboys.

 

Disclaimer

The short-lived 1982 helmet featuring swooping feathers.

While I realize not everyone takes to the Redskins’ name and logo due to some finding them to be racially unacceptable, I’m of the former group who has always taken to this look. I think it would help for some to mention the fact that I have Lakota blood running through my veins, so I’ve always loved Native American names and logos due to the fact they’re preserving an otherwise lost and forgotten culture. This team’s name also shares the nickname of the local high school whose track I love to workout at during those hot spring and summer days, and it’s always made me proud to see there’s no will to change the iconic name of neither the pro team nor the high school team.

That said, let’s dive deeper into the history of this iconic helmet.

 

==> Click Here for the Washington Redskins Team Profile <==

 

Beginnings

Redskins Leatherhead Throwback
Redskins leatherhead throwback worn during the 2012 season.

In 1932, the Redskins were founded as the Boston Braves and their old leatherheads bore the typical dark, old gold look.

In 1933, the Braves became the Redskins and the team changed to a patterned red and yellow leather helmet.

In 1934, the Redskins switched to red helmets.

In 1936, they became burgundy before switching to gold for the 1937 season.

In 1938, the team used both burgundy and gold helmets before switching to burgundy full-time until the 1948 season.

From 1949 to 1953, the now plastic helmet shell was gold with a burgundy crown stripe.

The Redskins flipped to burgundy shells in 1954 and 1955 with a gold crown stripe and reverted back to gold between 1956 and 1958

 

1958-1969

Updated versions of the Redskins’ 1955-64 and 1965-69 helmets.

When the modern-day helmet came into fruition beginning in 1958, the Redskins’ helmet logo was actually featured at the crown level, with the sides being logoless. The feather logo, as many call it, doubled as the team’s crown helmet stripe. This began in 1955 and lasted until 1964.

In 1964, the Redskins adopted a helmet logo similar to what the Florida State Seminoles wear, featuring a spear or arrow with feathers hanging from it. This helmet lasted until 1969, the year Vince Lombardi arrived to coach the team for a season.

 

1970-1971

Another short-lived helmet design that lasted from 1970-71.

After Lombardi’s departure and subsequent death in 1970, the Redskins adopted a helmet shell and logo eerily similar to that of the Green Bay Packers, the team Lombardi coached into a dynasty during the 1960s. This helmet dropped the burgundy shell in favor of yellow-gold, featuring an ‘R’ within a circle with two feathers hanging from the circle.

It was a look that critics and fans panned alike and demanded a return to the traditional burgundy shells, which both then and now have been a unique helmet color in the NFL, as no other team shares such a shell.

 

1972-1982

Redskins 1972-1977 Helmet

The Redskins answered demands and reverted back to a burgundy shell, this time featuring the now-familiar Native American head within a similar circle.

During this time, the Redskins switched from gray facemasks to gold facemasks, the change occurring before the 1978 season, which persists to this day.

Like its predecessor, two feathers hung from the circle but in 1982, the team temporarily experimented with the feathers encircling the circle. This look, however, was phased out by the 1983 season.

 

==> Click Here for the Washington Redskins Jersey History <==

 

1983-Present

The Redskins have since returned to their now-traditional 1972-1981 helmet and since then, there has been little to no change with the helmet. The Redskins have adopted a throwback uniform and wore a “leatherhead” colored helmet to go with the look until the NFL banned multiple-colored helmets in 2013, forcing the team to simply remove their logos and stripes when wearing the iconic look.

 

Shop Washington Redskins gear at FansEdge.com

 

My Take

If the Redskins revert back to the Washington Braves, I’ve always proposed the 1965-69 helmet to return.

The helmet is timeless, despite harsh outcries from critics calling for the Redskins to change their name. Though I believe a name change is imminent in the near-future or when owner Daniel Snyder decides to sell the team (that’s more of an if), I’d advocate for the name to be reverted back to the Braves, as the team was known as the Boston Braves when they first came into existence in 1932, so there’s some continuity here before becoming the Boston Redskins in 1933.

I’m also a fan of the spear logo, which is familiar at both the collegiate and high school level for teams bearing similar names.

If Braves isn’t an option, I’d also go with Warriors, keeping the same spear-headed logo. This option might be less desirable due to the Golden State Warriors’ existence in the NBA while the Atlanta Braves shared the name with the Redskins in the 1930s when both teams were known as the Boston Braves, as it was common for NFL teams to name themselves after their MLB brethren, ditto for the Pittsburgh Steelers (originally the Pirates), New York Giants, and others of the era.

 

Conclusion

Perhaps no other division in the National Football League bears a more storied history than the NFC East, with logos and uniforms of each team being seemingly iconic to the traditionalist football fan. The Redskins are definitely no exception even if there is a little bit of pushback from outsiders to change the name due to the Native American controversy.

Braves and Warriors are just two of many options for the Redskins if they decide a change is necessary, however if something similar is chosen, perhaps the look will survive for years to come, with simply changes in the logos showing us a difference in the team’s identity.

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14 comments

  1. Hi Todd,

    I appreciate this post about the Washington Redskin’s Helmet History. Its really cool to see how the helmet have evolved over time. My favourite helmet is the one used in the 1950’s and 60’s. I love the red and the graphics. I also like the name the redskins because I like native Indians both Canadian and American. Thank you for the article and keep up the good work!

    Regards

    Pam

    1. Thanks, Pam! And I’m glad you also endorse the name Redskins. As I’ve stated in the article, I have Lakota blood in me and have always felt more of an honor to see Native American names continue to remember a history of this race, much like I was a fan of the North Dakota Fighting Sioux, who sadly changed their name to the Fighting Hawks.

  2. I really enjoyed learning the history of this helmet.  I personally like the one with the “Redskin” logo on it.  I don’t take it as racially offensive at all.  I think the native American Indians are beautiful, proud and warriors!.  It is an honor for them to be on the side of this helmet and they should hold their head high.  I would love to be represented by a Redskin!   

    1. Hi, Angela; I think the same. Neither the Redskins logo, nor the Chicago Blackhawks of the NHL, nor even the Cleveland Indians when they had Chief Wahoo on the cap (though I do like it when MLB teams have letters over pictures, as the Indians originally had) were intended to be offensive through any means. It was just a small minority complaining, and these days, the majority of people, even in the case of Native Americans whereas 90% were either not offended or had zero opinion regarding the logo, resided in the majority in numerous polls. 

  3. Hi! I agree with you Todd! If they have to change their name I would like it to be the Braves. And the 1965-69 helmet is awesome! It would be great to have it back! Love the golden spear with gold feathers hanging from it.

    “Warriors” is OK but I prefer “Braves”. I didn’t know they were also known as the Washington Braves until 1936. Thank you for that interesting fact.

    1. I feel the same, Henry. Logistically, Braves works, and since the team was originally called the Boston/Washington Braves, it makes even more sense. I’m a big fan of the 1965-69 look, too. 

  4. I like the burgundy helmet of 1965-1969, but I also like the current helmet. I am more of a SEAHAWKS fan, but also like the Dolphins and the Cowboys.

    I appreciate the history on the helmet, it is great that you have such a support for the Redskins.

    I personally am Apache/Cherokee and feel that the reason that they may or may not change the name from the “Redskins” to any other name would be based on the issue of race. That has always been my feelings on the thought of a name change regarding this particular team.

    For the longest time, this was an argument in my family. Not because of racism, but when they switched, my family constantly debated this issue in the elderly members of my family.

    I was told that I could never be considered “RED blood”. I was young and had no clue what they were even referring to. I am Native American (1/16th) and have to laugh at the whole racism thing from the past.

    There was even a debate as to whether or not I would be able to be classified as Royalty if I held true to my Native American Heritage. Pfff!

    “I am what I am”…and no old family football argument will put a lien on who I am.

    Thanks for the great article… I agree on the burgundy with the arrow helmet. It’s just satisfying to look at!

    Do you have an opinion on what name they might acquire if sold? Are they even in a position that the current owner will sell the team? Do you think if they had enough fans put a poll out they might change helmets again?

    1. Yeah, I’m a fan of the 1965 through 1969 look as well. I’d say anyone who has Native American blood in them should be considered as such. I’m 1/16th, myself, and I’m with you when it comes to the racist arguments. I too see the name and logo as royalty, honor even. 

      If or when Dan Snyder sells the team, and if he doesn’t place a written stipulation in the contract to change the name (much like how former Browns’ owner Randy Lerner placed one in the deal to Jimmy Haslam in regard to keeping the team’s helmet logoless) I wouldn’t be surprised to see the names ‘Braves,’ ‘Redhawks,’ ‘Warriors,’ ‘Senators,’ or something similar. 

      Braves would be the logical choice, as it was the team’s original nickname, with perhaps a revitalized look from 1965-1969. 

  5. The helmet with the spear-headed logo is also my favorite Washington Redskins helmet up until now. The 1982 helmet with the Indian guy and the feathers was my least favorite… Not due to any kind of racism of course, it’s just doesn’t appeal to my eyes…

    Always a pleasure reading your articles Todd!

    1. Hi, Harry, my least will always be the ‘R’ helmet with the yellow. Just an ugly shade all around; though I’m not fond of the 1982 look; which might be why it only lasted for a year. 

  6. Reading the history of the helmets (and their names) is always fun on your website, thank you!  I don’t exactly have an opinion about their name as I’m not offended by it, although I could see how some people could be.  I’m actually surprised it already hasn’t happened considering everyone is offended by historical statues and would rather spend money removing them then putting that money into the levees in New Orleans, but I digress.

    Hopefully, if they change the name it keeps a Native American flavor as I do think it’s an awesome representation on the NFL.

    1. I think it will, being that their original name was the Braves, which I’ve always been a big fan of; Warriors wouldn’t sound too bad as well, or even the Tribe for that matter! What’s cool is that if they were to switch to any of these names, they could simply revive the old 1965-69 helmet logo and even uniform combo. It’s arguably my favorite helmet. 

  7. Hi Todd!

    Very interesting article, especially for me as a European guy. Here in Europe, we are “crazier” for soccer. Football is not as popular as in the USA! However, reading about a piece of history in that field is definitely worth attention! Watching football on TV, especially the Orange Bowl and other major pro events are always fun. 

    Besides, It is great to see how helmets evolved through time. 

    Thanks for sharing such an interesting post!

    Best regards,
    Igor

    1. Hi, Igor, it is cool to see how helmets evolved, and it’s something I definitely want to write about later on. And the Orange Bowl? One of the New Year’s Six; glad to see the Europeans seeping into the college ranks as well as the NFL ranks. I’ve often thought of perhaps doing a college helmet history as well, but that’s a lot of schools. Lol.

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