When it comes to changes in uniform looks, Penn State’s won’t take very long to review. The classic look of the Nittany Lions football program has seen minimal changes throughout the years, but the helmet does have an interesting history with its design.
Aside from simple changes like the manufacturer of the helmet, the Big Ten logo changing itself, and more, the basic design of the helmet may have gone through more changes than you may realize. And for many, the design of Penn State’s helmet has lasted a lifetime depending on when you were born. But let’s take a look back at the evolution of Penn State’s signature helmet from when it was first introduced up to the current day.
1949-1956: The classic look is introduced
When the days of the old leather helmet went into retirement, Penn State introduced a white shell of a helmet with a single blue stripe down the middle of it. As they say, why mess with perfection?
Penn State figured out its signature look right off the bat with its helmet, as displayed by one of the all-time greats, [autotag]Lenny Moore[/autotag]in the above photo from 1955. Penn State wore this helmet, prior to the days of the facemask, from 1949 through 1956 and the overall concept of the design has never been messed with.
1957-1961: Numbers added to helmet
AP Photo/William Achatz
Over the course of the next five seasons, Penn State decided to add a player’s uniform number to the side of the helmet. The look was similar to the signature style of Alabama at the time, even more so as the Crimson Tide were actually wearing a white helmet at the time. Just take. a look at this photo from the 1959 Liberty Bowl between Penn State (dark uniform) and Alabama.
Penn State would tinker with the style of the number font on the helmet over the course of the next six seasons, with no real consistency. Some years saw more rounded numbers and others were thinner than others.
The facemask at this time had also become the standard, and it came in white according to some photos.
1962-1966: Back to the basics
After experimenting with the helmet numbers, Penn State went back to the more basic look in 1962 for the final years of the Rip Engle era. Penn State went back to the white helmet and single blue stripe with a gray facemask.
1967-1974: One last attempt at helmet numbers
The years of the helmet number went out with a bang, a Penn State’s only Heisman Trophy winner was among those who last wore it with regularity. John Cappelletti, shown above, was among some of Penn State’s greatest players to wear the helmet number in its ultimate form.
1975-1985: Numbers removed as Penn State builds for championship
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Penn State once again did away with the helmet number and once again returned to the most simple of helmet design with a white helmet and one blue stripe. The facemask had been locked in as a light gray for a while now, and that style continued in the late 70s and into the 1980s as Penn State was on its way to its first national championship in 1982.
1986-1987: A new shade of gray
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You have to look at it closely, but there was a slight modification to the Penn State helmet in 1986. The shade of gray used on the facemask was darker and, to the naked eye without realizing it, looks much closer to the modern form of the Penn State helmet today.
1988 – Today: Penn State’s signature look finally realized
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In 1988 the Penn State football helmet took on its final form. The dark gray facemask was replaced with a blue facemask, matching the stripe down the middle of the helmet, and this has been Penn State’s signature helmet style ever since.
Although Penn State would see modifications and evolution to the designs of the helmets over the years, the white helmet with one blue stripe and blue facemask has remained constant.
2012: The Michael Mauti Game
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The 2021 Penn State season was an emotional one for the entire program, and senior linebacker [autotag]Michael Mauti[/autotag] was as respected as they came for his leadership and devotion for the program. But a late-season injury sidelined him for senior day and his teammates showed the ultimate sign of respect for him. Each player on Penn State’s team wore a No. 42 on the left side of their helmet, in a similar style last seen in the 1970s. No uniform numbers were placed on the right side of the helmet for the final game of the season against Wisconsin.
2017: Generations of Greatness uniform introduces throwback helmet
Jeremy Long/Lebanon Daily News via USA TODAY NETWORK
Penn State was never a school to get caught up in the fun of alternate uniforms when every school under the sun seemingly dabbled in it to some degree. But that changed in 2017 with the introduction of the Generations of Greatness uniform, a specially designed uniform from head to toe to honor the history of the program by taking various signature elements from different generations of Penn State football.
A blue stripe down the pants, a slightly modified number font for the jerseys, and a helmet that brings back a uniform number on the sides and returned to a gray facemask. As part of the complete alternate uniform look, this is a home run look for Penn State.
Penn State has seemingly decided to make this look an annual thing. After not wearing the uniform in 2018, Penn State wore these uniforms again in 2019 (against Purdue), in 2020 (against Iowa) and in 2021 (against Illinois). Given how the two most recent games in this uniform have gone, perhaps it may be time to let greatness be left alone for a little while.