Have you ever wondered about the history of football helmets? The first football helmet was not the sort of helmet we think of today. It was made out of leather by a shoemaker in Annapolis for a player in a 1983 football game between the army and the navy.
Football helmets were not a required part of the uniform until the 1930s. In fact, football helmets didn't even exist until Admiral Joseph Mason Reeves was told by a Navy doctor that he could not risk getting hit in the head again as it would place him at risk of death or permanent brain damage. This led a shoemaker to develop a leather helmet to serve as a cushion to protect against head injury. Three years later, a Lafayette College halfback, George Barclay, had a helmet made to protect his ears against cauliflower ear. He called it his playing hat and it was fastened by three leather straps, used as chin straps, designed by a harness maker.
Prior to being a required part of the uniform, not only were football helmets optional, but they also had little padding. It was common to see half a team wearing helmets while the other half didn't wear them.
During the 1920s through the 1940s, helmets continued to be made of leather but additional padding was added. When helmets became a requirement for players, there weren't any logos or designs painted on them. This made it difficult, if not impossible, for the quarterback to pick out the receivers, because all the helmets looked alike. It was during this time period that high school and college teams started hand-painting helmets.
The first logo, the Rams horn, was painted on a pro leather helmet in 1948. Soon after, logos and mascots were painted on helmets of all high school, college and pro football teams. The leather helmet faded in popularity by 1950. Today, helmets are made of hard plastics and padding with protective chin and face masks and visors.
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