The Evolution of Our Gridiron Headgear

Stony Brook first took to the gridiron in the fall of 1922, the inaugural year of our school. Since the time of that fledgling group, the helmets worn by our weekend warriors have gone through a plethora of cosmetic and structural changes.

  • 1935 – In the first photographic evidence of a Stony Brook football helmet, the boys are displaying two-tone lids in the team picture. They match their striped socks.
  • 1936 – A white leather helmet makes a brief appearance, perhaps because, well, football is dirty.
  • 1937-1938 – A different two-tone helmet is donned for two years. It is the first to have a face mask, though the prototypes look like they were made by detention students in O. Floyd Johnson’s garage. Most players opt to wear one without facial protection.
  • 1939-1948 – The classic monochromatic, brown leather helmet is sported by the Blue and White for a decade.
  • 1949-1950 – For two years the puritan-like simplicity of our helmets is spruced up with a stripe down the middle.
  • 1951-1953 – The stripe proves too ostentatious. Back to the brown leather.
  • 1954 – For the first time in history the boys wear a hard plastic helmet instead of leather. GPAs skyrocket.
  • 1955-1956 – After decades of broken noses and lost teeth someone thought, ‘Hey, why don’t we put something between our faces and the other team.’ So in 1955, for the first time, clear plastic face masks are affixed to every helmet. Two words: Hannibal Lector.
  • 1957-1977 – The first modern helmet with a single stripe down the middle becomes a staple for the next two decades. I can almost hear the 1950s educational film about them: “The modern helmet is a wonder. Made of high quality American plastic, it protects the modern athlete from concussions while on the gridiron and Communists while off.” In 1964, numbers appear on the back of the helmet for the first time and in 1968 a slight variation to the design surfaces when a handful of helmets incorporate two stripes on the lid.
  • 1978-1979 – For two years the helmet design remains the same, but the colors are reversed. A dark stripe splits the top of a white dome.
  • 1980-1985 – In 1980 a logo appears on a Stony Brook helmet after our mascot goes from the Blue and White to the Shrikes. It is also the same year that “Stony Brook” is written across the chests for the first time. From 1980-1982 the dark stripe on the helmet remains, but from 1983-1985 it is changed to a solid white helmet with a Shrike affixed to the side.
  • 1986-1987 – The shrike logo changes to a large “S” on a whitewashed helmet.
  • 1988-1991 – A bear paw logo replaces the Shrike as we say goodbye to our fine-feathered mascot.
  • 1992-1993 – A bear head makes an appearance on the bleached lids, although it more closely resembles a wolverine.
  • 1994 – A plain silver dome lasts for only a season.
  • 1995-2008 – The Brook adopts a striking design invented by the coach of Princeton University in the 1930s and made famous by the maize and blue of the University of Michigan. The wings on the front represented the pinned back ears of Princeton’s mascot, the Tigers, and the three stripes down the back enabled the quarterback to more easily recognize his receivers downfield.
  • 2009 – Back to plain silver.
  • 2010 – A bear paw adorns the shining silver surface for the first time since 1991.

Bear Paw Thumbnail


  1. Hi All:

    I’m not sure if you realize it, but the Bill Strong (class of 1954) in the 3-point stance and featured in the 1953 Brown Helmet is the father of my 1979 teammate and QB Bill Strong (class of 1980) featured in the White Helmet and talking to our coach John Engstrom…

    Small world!!!


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