Tradition is extremely important in college football. While we love the sport for the action on the field, the history and the pageantry really make college football what it is. For many programs, a consistent, easily identifiable uniform and helmet is a huge part of that tradition. While schools like Oregon have made big splashes with their rotating wardrobe, there is something to be said for an iconic look.
We’ve compiled our list of the 15 most iconic helmets in college football. When one of these teams hits the field, even the most casual fan knows who is playing. It isn’t a huge coincidence that these are some of the nation’s best programs, either.
Before the 2014 season, Oklahoma unveiled a set of alternate uniforms, including a new helmet which kept the same interlocking ‘OU’ logo and color scheme of the normal Sooners look, but added a wood grain and matte finish. While the players seemed to be big fans, even those slight updates were not popular among many Sooner fans. Fans of historic programs like OU don’t want to see their uniforms tampered with at all.
Despite some recent alternates, Oklahoma’s helmet has remained remarkably consistent throughout the years. The Sooners have been wearing a version of the interlocking ‘OU’ on their helmets since 1966, and while the shade of crimson has changed a bit, the design has been going strong for almost 50 years.
Last week, we ranked the primary logos of every power conference football program. We’re big fans of Clemson’s tiger paw logo, which ranked third on our list. The paw is the main feature of Clemson’s lids, which the program has used since the 1970s, after ditching a design with a big ‘C,’ which resembled the Chicago Bears’ helmets. We’re glad they did.
Clemson uses a very clean white-on-orange look, and with the paw, there is no question which ACC power is on the field. They always look good running down the hill at Death Valley before a big game.
For those of us who grew up in the 1990s and early 2000s, few college football logos are as iconic as “The U.” Miami was the dominant program of that era, and while the ‘Canes have been down, at least by their standards, the logo still carries some panache.
Miami has worn green, white, and recently, orange helmets, with some different base designs, but the U logo has remained consistent since 1972. In that time, Miami claimed five national titles, and conference championships while members of the Big East.
12. Texas A&M
Texas A&M’s ‘ATM’ logo has been a part of the design since 1965, and despite some one-off experiments with different colors and outlines, it has been the defining feature of the Aggies’ look.
Texas A&M significantly altered the course of its program’s history with the move to the SEC, leaving behind arch-rival Texas. However, when the Aggies hit the field, they still look like the same program that has 18 conference titles, 22 All-Americans, and two Heisman winners. Even as Kevin Sumlin helps transform the Aggies into one of the most hip programs in the country, Texas A&M holds on to its simple, defining look.
White helmets, orange ‘Power T,’ and an orange stripe. Since the 1960s, Tennessee has had the equation for a simple, iconic college football helmet. UT’s specific shade of creamsicle orange looks good against the white background, and the football program has used that combo to great effect in many ways, none better than the Volunteer helmet.
The block letter logos are always a solid choice as well, and Tennessee’s Power T has remained iconic, even through some lean seasons for the Volunteers. Clean looks like Tennessee’s helmet always lend themselves to becoming iconic and revered, and we doubt we see the Volunteers wear anything else anytime soon.