Helmets, Helmets and More Helmets!

November 01, 2012 | Dwayne Showalter

I have confessed in this space before about being a sort of “Super Bowl Nut.”  I have another weakness when it comes to football too.  It’s helmets.  I have a bit of an addiction to uniforms in general and especially the lids worn by football players.

One of my frequented websites is The Helmet Project.  The site is hooked to Todd Helmeck’s NationalChamps.net.  It is one of, if not the most, comprehensive site on the web dedicated to professional and college football headgear.  It was probably quite an undertaking to get off the ground.  Then, like most projects, it probably leveled off and was a neat hobby for the site creator, Charles Arey, to update occasionally when teams switched logos or colors.

Then a funny thing happened.  Under Armor and Nike (and to some extent, Adidas) decided to have a uniform war at the same time a new technology was emerging called “water transfer printing”.   One of the leaders in the industry is HydroGraphics Inc based near Portland, OR (hmmm, wonder what school might have given them their big break?).  HydroGraphics is responsible for many of the off-the-wall designs you see on Saturdays around the country.  The client list for college football is pretty impressive…Ohio State, Maryland, Notre Dame, West Virginia to name a few.  Oh yeah, Oregon too.

This weekend, in Washington D.C., they show off another entry to their portfolio when the Redskins debut the leather helmet to go with a 1930′s throwback uni.  They are also responsible for the new Seahawks helmet that debuted this season.

The finance aspect of this uniform and helmet explosion intrigues me.  There was an interesting article linked to in UniWatch.com that explains a lot of the uniform aspect in the agreements between schools and provider companies in the Indy Star.  Let’s just say there is a lot of give and take involved.  In a recessed economy where athletic schools like Maryland and Towson are dropping some sports, where does the money come from to parade out in front of 30,000 fans in a different uniform and helmet every week?  It also goes against the whole theory in business of product recognition.  I personally am interested (a little) in seeing the designs that come out.  At the same time, however, a lot can be said for the instant recognition of a Michigan, Alabama or Southern Cal helmet.  In the end, I really only care about the game itself.

A couple things are assured however by the helmet explosion.  The helmets that I have in my basement collection (most of which can be seen here and here) will probably be considered design dinosaurs unless this is a passing fad deemed to expensive to survive.  Charles Arey from the Helmet Project will have a 40-hour-a-week job updating his Helmet Project each week during the football season.  And you probably won’t recognize your favorite team from week to week.  This collection below of Terrapins helmets is just from the last two seasons!  As Seinfeld said, “Really!?”

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