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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.