New Website Aims to Be the Last Word on Helmet History

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By now, most of you folks are probably familiar with the major uniform history online databases — Dressed to the Nines for MLB, NHLuniforms.com for the NHL, the Gridiron Uniform Database for pro football, and so on.

Another football resource is The Helmet Project, which documents all of the helmets worn by pro and college football teams back to about 1960 (see small excerpt at right; click to enlarge). Launched by Charles Arey back in 1999, it was one of the internet’s first uni databases, and Arey still diligently updates it — no mean feat considering the proliferation of college football helmets over the past two decades.

The Helmet Project is awesome — I’ve referred to it countless times over the years — but it also has its limitations, the most significant of which is that Arey’s default template shows only one side of the helmet — a problematic format, given how many college teams now have different designs on each side of the lid.

Now there’s a new helmet database: Helmet History. The person behind it is Blaise D’Sylva, who was featured on Uni Watch a little over a year ago because of his incredible Pocket Pro helmet collection. He’s taken an interesting approach with this project: Whereas other uniform databases feature templates and mock-ups that serve as representations of uniforms, Helmet History uses photographs. To my knowledge, it’s the first uniform database website to go that route.

If D’Sylva can show a helmet’s essential elements in a single photo, he does so. If it takes more than one photo, he runs more than one. His goal is to show everything that needs to be shown, not to shoehorn everything into a single image.

For now, Helmet History has deep historical coverage of the NFL, CFL, and FBS, with additional coverage on the way (more on that in a minute). There’s definitely some room for refinement — the site’s layout could be improved, and it would be so much better if the thumbnail-sized photos had a click-to-enlarge functionality (or, even better, hover to enlarge) — but this is clearly a major research undertaking, and a serious addition to the uni-verse.

Here are some thoughts from D’Sylva:

The website is at helmethistory.com. I was surprised that domain was still available! The purpose of the site is to show the helmet history of teams through actual game photos, rather than mock-ups or illustrations. I want to have the most accurate site that can serve as a historical record for football headwear, going back to the 1930s.

Photo research has been tricky. For my past projects, I’ve usually just needed a photo that was clear enough for me to verify which helmet had been worn in a given game. But for this new site, I wanted every photo to really show the helmet — not just be close enough to give an idea of what was worn — which meant I needed to find photos that showed specific angles, and they all had to be in focus.

Finishing all 130 FBS teams, in some cases going back to the 1930s, was an incredibly arduous process. There are over 5,000 helmets for these teams, and over 8,000 photos (because some helmets require multiple photos to show all the design details). School yearbooks are essential resources for photos, especially pre-1990. Student newspapers, local newspapers, opposing teams’ yearbooks, and media guides are also helpful (as are, of course, basic internet searches).

The NFL, CFL, and NCAA FBS sections are currently complete. Next I’ll start working on some FCS schools (the Ivy League will be tough, because their yearbooks are not readily available online), and eventually I’ll add some other pro leagues like XFL2, AAF, and possibly the USFL and WFL, assuming I can find good photos.

I also want to go back and do some more work on the FBS teams. I want to improve the quality of photos (especially on some of the first teams I worked on, when I was still figuring out the best approach to everything) and also add more information about special helmets.

I welcome any photos, information, suggestions, and feedback that others can provide. I want to make the site as great as possible, and I’ve already had people reach out to share photos and information that I’ve incorporated into the site, so please keep it coming!

Good stuff! Please join me in congratulating Blaise on the launch of this new project, and also in thanking him for creating this valuable new research resource.

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Chip off the old block: Back in December 2019, I ran a guest post from reader Loren Southard about his awesome DIY uni-themed building blocks. That post inspired reader Eric Wall to create his own uni-themed blocks. And now Eric’s post has in turn inspired Thomas Miller to create his own set (shown above).

I really love these projects — great stuff!

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Podcast update: As I mentioned last week, SportsLogos.net founder Chris Creamer and I are launching a new podcast, called Unified (we’ve decided to go without the hyphen). Here are some updates on that:

• The audio and video versions of the first episode are edited and should be ready for your enjoyment either later today or tomorrow. After that, we aim to have new episodes each week, probably on Wednesdays or Thursdays.

• We hope to have a recurring segment in which we take questions from our listeners. If you’d like to submit a question for next week’s episode, you can do so by replying to this tweet. (And if you haven’t already followed the show on Twitter, you can do so at @unifiedcast.)

• We’ve hired the excellent sports designer Brian Gundell to create the show’s logo. We had a meeting with him yesterday to outline the basic direction, and I can already tell that it’s going to turn out really well.

• Longtime reader/pal Michael Princip has generously volunteered to create a motion graphic for us once the new logo is done. He’s already created a sort of shell/placeholder version, and it looks sensational — thanks, Michael!

• In another very generous move, reader Chris Fraterrigo, who has lots of experience with this kind of thing, has volunteered to be our producer. Thanks, Chris!

That’s it for now. Thanks for all the enthusiasm you folks have expressed about this project — it’s really nice to have something new to be excited about during these stressful times.

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Click to enlarge

Pin Club reminder: In case you missed it on Monday, the Uni Watch Pin Club’s design for February is now available. It’s a shout-out to the Super Bowl, with the year 2021 rendered in Roman numerals.

Again, the pin is available here. My thanks, as always, for your consideration.

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The Ticker
By Lloyd Alaban

Baseball News: New all-gold unis for Georgia Tech (from Michael Zoid). … New Sox IF Enrique Hernandez will wear No. 5 (from our own Anthony Emerson). … The Appalachian League’s Johnson City Cardinals will now be called the Doughboys (from Chandler Parker). … Miller Park Way in Milwaukee has now officially become Brewers Boulevard (from R. Scott Rogers).

Football News: New helmet design for the University of North Dakota. Previously it was a green logo on the right, numbers on the left. This year they’ll go with a black logo on both sides (from Dan Ullsperger). … Nike and the NFL have partnered for a $5 million grant for girls’ flag football (from our own Brinke Guthrie). … EA Sports is bringing back a college football video game.

Hockey News: Capitals D Zdeno Chara appeared to have a hole cut out of the palm of his glove the other night. “Not entirely sure what the purpose of this modification is,” says Brandon Weir. “As a hockey player, I can tell you that this type of thing happens over time as glove palms wear down with use, but to do it intentionally?” … ЯR unis last night for the Blue Jackets and Kings (from multiple readers). … Kings analyst Jim Fox got into the ЯR spirit with a retro-themed Kings tie (from Jakob Fox). … The Flyers are the latest NHL team to release their uniform schedule. … Devils G Scott Wedgewood’s new mask for is inspired by Seinfeld character David Puddy’s face-paint pattern (from Wade Heidt). … New mask for Jets G Connor Hellebuyck as well (from Ted Arnold).

Basketball News: The NBA has released more stringent mask protocols (from multiple readers). … Pistons F Blake Griffin, apparently experiencing some frustration, ripped apart his jersey while walking off the court at halftime last night. … Penn State men’s went with the school’s original black/pink color scheme last night (from Deb Seymour). … Baltimore photographer and activist Devin Allen is releasing a sneaker and apparel line with Under Armour, and Warrior G Steph Curry wore Allen’s sneakers last night (from Andrew Cosentino).

Soccer News: New match ball for the Ekstraklasa (from Ed Zelaski). … Atlanta United will be the only MLS club to get a third shirt this season (from Matt Austin). … Liverpool DF Ozan Kabak is going FNOB (from @blakesjerven).

Grab Bag: Sports Illustrated has instituted a paywall for much of its online content. … Business Insider will now just be called Insider. … Teespring, the platform where lots of Uni Watch’s merchandise is sold, is now just Spring. … Some very solid jersey-redesign concepts by @petemrogers on Instagram (from Tamás Szalai, checking in all the way from Budapest).

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53 comments to New Website Aims to Be the Last Word on Helmet History

  • Aled Thomas | February 3, 2021 at 8:37 am |

    From the Soccer Ticker.
    Ozan Kabak plays for Liverpool (Liverpool FC if you want to be more precise.)

    Anfield is Liverpool’s ground, hence the Twitter account Anfield Watch

    • Paul Lukas | February 3, 2021 at 8:45 am |

      Already fixed. Thanks!

  • Peter | February 3, 2021 at 8:37 am |

    I find it funny that yesterday in the ticker it was mentioned how one team altered their logo to remove military themes to attract younger fans, whereas Doughboys are doing the opposite (love the name btw).

  • Bob | February 3, 2021 at 8:39 am |

    Regarding Chara’s gloves… used to be a good way to grab onto an opposing player’s sweater without detection by slipping your hand through the glove hole. Don’t know how effective the strategy is nowadays with the way the game is called.

    • Peter Wunsch | February 3, 2021 at 8:46 am |

      According to Rule 24C, “a glove from which all or part of the palm has been removed, or cut, to permit the use of the bare fingers shall be considered illegal equipment.” The user is subject to a two‐minute penalty

      • Chris B | February 3, 2021 at 10:25 am |

        Also found in 12.2 Illegal Equipment

      • Tim | February 3, 2021 at 6:02 pm |

        Can’t wait for that Billy Martin/George Brett moment where some coach asks a ref to check Chara’s gloves and then Chara explodes…

    • Andy | February 3, 2021 at 9:59 am |

      Can’t speak for Chara/Hockey Gloves, but many club and professional lacrosse players cut the palms out of their gloves. Old leather palm gloves used to get super messy in the mud and torn and ruined so people would just cut the palms out and found out that it gives you a great feel on the stick. Now people will just cut the palms out by default. I believe it is illegal at lower levels.

    • Brandon Weir | February 3, 2021 at 11:30 am |

      I thought the same at first, I used to do that in High School. The placement of the hole in the base of his palm doesn’t make a lot of sense for clutching and grabbing purposes. Maybe for a better feel on the stick? I’m not sure, but very curious to find out!

  • Clint Richardson | February 3, 2021 at 8:42 am |

    Regarding the “hover to enlarge” comment made about Blaise’s website, there is an incredible Chrome browser extension called Hover Zoom that does just that. It will pop up any image when hovering over a thumbnail or even a hyperlink.

    It’s an amazing life hack that I use daily. It speeds up reading through items like the Ticker, too.

    • Paul Lukas | February 3, 2021 at 8:47 am |

      Thanks for that tip, Clint! Now added to my browser.

    • Roberto | February 3, 2021 at 1:08 pm |

      ¡Esto es excepcional! Muchas gracias por Hover Zoom.

  • Michigander | February 3, 2021 at 8:44 am |

    Seems like Milwaukee missed an opportunity to honor Hank Aaron with the renaming of Miller Park Way.

    • Chance Michaels | February 3, 2021 at 9:28 am |

      That still might happen – the new name was requested and approved last summer. Takes a while to get these things in action.

      Also worth pointing out that most of Miller Park Way (everything south of the yellow road) is in the City of West Milwaukee, who have steadfastly refused to change the name.

      Miller Park Way in Milwaukee is essentially just the stadium. Miller Park Way in West Milwaukee is a commercial road with businesses on both sides, businesses that West Milwaukee didn’t want to inconvenience with a name change. Not to mention the expense. Asking businesses to do that to honor a private business is one thing, asking them to do it to honor a genuine American (and Milwaukee) hero is quite another.

  • Jon R. | February 3, 2021 at 8:48 am |

    The Brooklyn Nets debuted their City jerseys and court last night. They are Basquiat inspired (and licensed). Probably the most high-art unis I’ve ever seen.

  • AlMaFi | February 3, 2021 at 8:51 am |

    Unified has arrived to Stitcher. Can’t wait to hear the first episode!

  • Wade Heidt | February 3, 2021 at 9:20 am |

    Blaise’s Helmet History website is awesome. So detailed and I tip my hat to him for the painstaking effort that would be required for this project.

    The Helmet Project launched in 1999 does have its limitations. There are big inaccuracies in there with regards to Canadian football, both pro and college.

    • Jasper | February 3, 2021 at 6:01 pm |

      I was about to say the same thing. Incredible attention to detail.

      With all the crap that goes on with Twitter and other social media, I sometimes wonder if the internet was a huge mistake.

      Then I come across sites like this and remember how awesome it can be. Information that would take years to find on my own now available in seconds, thanks to the selfless efforts of people like Blaise!

      Thanks for putting this together, Mr. D’Sylvia.

  • Carl Anderson | February 3, 2021 at 10:01 am |

    Agreed. And a number of hockey players that grew up playing lacrosse do the same. It’s illegal in both sports, but often gets overlooked. FWIW I did find it was a much better feel on my stick for both sports.

  • Harold Flieger | February 3, 2021 at 10:24 am |

    I love the new helmet site! How awesome. I will spend hours there today.

  • BvK | February 3, 2021 at 10:30 am |

    I love Blaise’s new website! It always seemed this something like this might be the logical conclusion for all that research he did for his miniature helmet collection. I’m glad he chose to share that knowledge with the world, and that you helped share it with us, Paul!

    I’ve been thinking about a way to compile a directory of all the most crucial uni-related resources on the internet. Blaise’s helmet website would automatically jump to the top of that list.

  • Brinke | February 3, 2021 at 11:08 am |

    A paywall…for SI. This is the website I deleted the bookmark for, right?

    Right.

    • Matty J | February 3, 2021 at 12:04 pm |

      Ditto. $8 a month for what? Archived material or the entire site? SI Vault was/is awesome.

  • John Chapman | February 3, 2021 at 11:31 am |

    New name (err advertiser) for the West Michigan Whitecaps’ home stadium: LMCU Ballpark (Lake Michigan Credit Union)

    https://www.mlive.com/whitecaps/2021/02/west-michigan-whitecaps-unveil-new-name-for-ballpark.html

  • Judy A | February 3, 2021 at 11:54 am |

    Confession: before I looked at Thomas Miller’s alphabet blocks – which are amazing, by the way – I had never noticed the V in the negative space of the Golden Knights’ logo.

    My nephew and his wife are expecting in May. I’m now inspired to attempt to make a set of blocks for their son.

    • walter | February 3, 2021 at 5:28 pm |

      Excellent project! I liked the “X” blocks using crossed sabers and saber-handled bats. What baseball team is that, anyway?

  • Richard J Paloma | February 3, 2021 at 12:19 pm |

    Thanks, Paul.
    Killed over 90 minutes today on Helmethistory.com because of you

  • Wade Heidt | February 3, 2021 at 12:39 pm |

    Re: Philadelphia Flyers uniform schedule. Came here to say I really do not like their black alternate uniforms. Especially the fact they still have the huge sleeve numbers intended for when this was a jersey to be worn for a stadium game. Flyers you could do much better.

  • Nate | February 3, 2021 at 12:44 pm |

    The Helmet History may want to find a way to credit the sources for all of those pictures. It looks like an awesome resource, so it’d be unfortunate if some takedown requests from rights’ holders upset the applecart.

    Unless all the photos were already licensed or something.

  • mike chamernik | February 3, 2021 at 1:09 pm |

    Helmet History is awesome.

    I can’t wait for an NBA uniform database some day.

    • BvK | February 3, 2021 at 1:38 pm |

      Ask and you shall receive:

      https://nbajerseydatabase.tumblr.com/

      I don’t see any evidence that this has ever been mentioned on Uni Watch before. I think I’ll submit it for tomorrow’s Ticker.

      • mike chamernik | February 3, 2021 at 3:34 pm |

        WOW!

  • walter | February 3, 2021 at 1:11 pm |

    Not sure this fits into the purview of Uni Watch but has anyone noticed how Tampa Bay is totally killin’ it this year? All three teams have reached their sport’s final playoff round. Oddly, because of COVID restrictions, the Lightning and the Rays played the Stanley Cup and World Series at offsite locations, yet the one game intended as a neutral-site contest- the Super Bowl- ended up being a Buccaneer home game. When’s the last time a city had a year like this? Boston in 2011? Philadelphia in 1983? Detroit in 1935?

    • Paul Lukas | February 3, 2021 at 1:14 pm |

      In January of 1969, the Jets won the Super Bowl. That fall, Mets won the World Series and the Knicks began what would be their 1969-70 championship season.

      • Peter | February 3, 2021 at 2:33 pm |

        Detroit is beyond special and has not been repeated in the same fashion.

        Joe Louis was also the Heavyweight champion so that also adds to the lore.

        A city may have been successful in consecutive seasons or had a window of winners, however no other city has won the championship for three of the four major sports the same sports season.

        Until that parameter is met, nothing can compare.

        • Peter | February 3, 2021 at 2:36 pm |

          …sorry, Louis wasnt champ until 37…my bad…but his popularity at the time was huge

      • John F. | February 3, 2021 at 4:05 pm |

        69-70 was a bad year for Baltimore.

        • Paul Lukas | February 3, 2021 at 4:32 pm |

          I dunno. Getting to the championship game/series in multiple sports sounds pretty good to me.

    • ChrisH | February 3, 2021 at 4:46 pm |

      Philadelphia 1979-1980:
      Flyers made it to Stanley Cup Finals (lost)
      76ers made it to NBA Finals (lost)
      Phillies made it to World Series (won)
      Eagles made it to Super Bowl (lost)

      • walter | February 3, 2021 at 5:36 pm |

        This was the year I tried to remember: more difficult to Google than you might imagine. Reaching the Finals is an honor. Winning the finals has a lot more to do with luck. Kind of like the Oscars.

        • Peter | February 3, 2021 at 8:53 pm |

          Making it and losing is not the same.

          Don’t compromise the accomplishment of Detroit.

          Just like 18-1 is not 17-0.

          No one wants to be remembered for being 2nd

    • Tim | February 3, 2021 at 11:25 pm |

      Not to split hairs, but Tampa Bay can’t be titleTOWN because there isn’t a town called Tampa Bay. They can maybe be the first Title Region…

      :-P

      • walter | February 4, 2021 at 12:52 pm |

        Title-Place.

  • Neil | February 3, 2021 at 1:46 pm |

    See in comment above that Unified podcast is on Stitcher. Will it be on Apple Podcasts or other platforms?

  • walter | February 3, 2021 at 5:56 pm |

    The gold Georgia Tech uniforms push every button. I can’t make up my mind about the soutache they used, because it’s the same stroke-width as the chest lettering. “Tech” is easy to read because it’s short and kind of iconic, but where it meets the soutache (or middy, if you prefer) sacrifices some legibility. Is it a feature or a bug?

    • Patrick in MI | February 3, 2021 at 8:50 pm |

      I too noticed this. The E and the C both touch the piping. I’m sure it’s driving some OCD people crazy!

  • Rydell | February 3, 2021 at 8:42 pm |

    Congratulations on the Podcast!
    Holy mackerel that’s a lot of snow in such a short period of time.
    New York is the new Great White North.

  • walter | February 3, 2021 at 8:58 pm |

    Podcast episode #1 in the books! It was great!! Can’t wait to hear what lies in the future for Unified. And maybe cook up some questions for you guys!