Discover more from Football Archaeology
Today's Tidbit... Front and Back Helmet Logos
Logos on the side of helmets have been the norm since Fred Gehrke painted horns on the Los Angeles Rams' helmets in 1948, but logos on the front and back of helmets preceded the Rams' horns. The University of Chicago had their Wishbone C on the back of their helmets in 1921 and 1922. Logos on the back never became popular, though we'll see below that two other Big Ten teams had them about forty years later.
Besides Chicago, the earliest logos were small letters carved in the front padding of winged helmets, though only a handful of teams had them, including Purdue and Michigan State in the mid-1930s.
As teams began painting rather than carving their front logos, the logos got bigger.
While there are examples of front logos before 1955, the National Photographers Association advocated in 1955 for teams to add TV numbers to uniforms to help photographers, newspapers, and fans identify players. Some teams put TV numbers on their shoulders or sleeves, but most added them to the sides of their helmets because their conferences required some form of TV number. Once there, teams tended not to put TV numbers and logos on the same side of their helmets.
The front and back logo trend peaked from 1957 to 1963 when Wisconsin placed Ws on the front and back of their helmets and TV numbers on the sides. Indiana followed the Badgers’ theme by adopting front and back logos and TV numbers in 1960.
I am a Wisconsin fan, but even I consider the front and back Ws on the Wisconsin helmets and the IU logo on Indiana’s helmets to be butt ugly. They should never have appeared on either set of helmets or those of other teams, but they did, so they both belong in the football uniform Hall of Shame, along with most uniforms from the 1930s and the wings and straps painted on plastic helmets by Michigan, Delaware, Princeton, and others.
If you know of other teams with front or back logos, please share by commenting below.
An exceedingly knowledgeable reader who happened to grow up in the same household as me provided other examples of front and back logos.
Subscribe for free and never miss a story. Support this site with a paid subscription, buy me a coffee (or two), or buy a book, blog-used or logoed item in the store.