History of Michigan’s Winged Helmet

The original winged helmet design debuted in 1938.

As the safety of helmets in college football has progressed over time, so have the designs on the protective headgear. In the early days of college football, the leather helmets were plain. Today, institution’s designs can now range from a letter from the alphabet to an extravagant pattern, distinguishing schools from others. Although maybe colleges and universities have changed their helmets throughout the years, the one that has remained consistent for over seventy years is the winged helmet at the University of Michigan.

The tradition started in 1938 when Herbert “Fritz” Crisler left Princeton University to coach football at the University of Michigan. When he arrived on campus in Ann Arbor, he brought his winged helmet concept, which he developed at Princeton, along with him. At the time, Michigan’s helmet was a plain black and brown leather helmet. Crisler’s new design consisted of a blue helmet with a maize (yellow) wing, and three stripes running to the back of the helmet. One of the benefits of the new helmets was to assist the quarterback find his receivers downfield. In the debut game of Michigan’s winged helmet, the Wolverines shut out the Michigan State Spartans 14-0 on October 1st, 1938.

Today, the University of Michigan helmets have not altered from the design that Fritz Crisler presented to the school, making the concept one of the most iconic and recognizable images in all of college sport. The winged helmet design has been adopted by other varsity sports at the University of Michigan, including ice hockey helmets, baseball/softball catcher’s helmets, and the paddles of the crew team.

About: Brett Smith

Brett hails from the great state of Delaware, and is a recent University of Michigan graduate, earning a degree in Sport Management. While at UM, Brett served as the Vice President of Michigan's Club Baseball team. Go Blue!