Michigan's WInged Helmet turns 70

I stumbled on this calendar nugget while researching the eBay Watch post on Tom Harmon and the #6 jersey. It was seventy years ago today, October 1, 1938, new Michigan coach Herbert ‘Fritz’ Crisler made his debut as head man for the Wolverines. That day at Michigan stadium Crisler also unveiled the maize and blue version of the famed winged helmet. More from the Bentley Library on the game:

…the new helmet made a successful debut in the 1938 season opener against Michigan State. The Wolverines defeated the Spartans 14-0 behind two touchdown runs by sophomore Paul Kromer to gain their first win over Michigan State in four years.

Whether the helmet helped the passing game is hard to say, Michigan completed four of eight attempts for 46 yards with no interceptions. The game certainly marked a change in Michigan’s football fortunes. The Michigan Alumnus commented, “Michigan has a fighting gridiron outfit once more; a team that knows how to do things and a burning desire-and considerable ability-to do what it wants.”

Oddly, none of the newspaper accounts of the game make mention of the new helmet.

So go out and celebrate the 70th anniversary of the famed headgear. Suggestion: Head over to Vinology, order a bottle of Bo Merlot served in a sweaty winged helmet.


  1. FYI- Fritz took the design from Delaware. Article should give props where they are due

  2. Bob, read the Bentley Library article for the origins.

  3. Winged helmet originated with Princeton. When Michagan hired Princetons coach (Fritz), he took the design along as well.

  4. Pingback: Michigantailgate.net » Blog Archive » 70 Years ago today: Debut of Crisler’s Winged Helmet | MVictors.com: Michigan Football Blog

  5. Princeton Tiger

    Crisler and Michigan get no credit at all for the design.

    Spalding, the manufacturer, designed the helmet. Extra padding was added for areas likely to sustain collisions, and Spalding stitched it into the wing shape. All Crisler did was put paint on Spalding’s design.

    And to top it off, Michigan was not the first team to paint Spalding’s design; Princeton was. Crisler took the idea with him when he moved from Princeton to Michigan.

    Props to the Bentley Library for having enough class to admit that fact and the fact that the Michigan State Spartans also had painted the winged padding before Michigan did, and more props for posting the picture of the Princeton team wearing painted Spalding helmets in action against U of Chicago.

  6. Close, but not quite, Princeton Tiger. Michigan State used colored winged helmets before either Princeton or Michigan (as did, I gather, other schools). The difference was that their model, which could be ordered in custom colors from Spalding, had one stripe. Michigan and Princeton used the version with three stripes that were only available in black and tan. Hence the need to paint them.

    Other teams abandoned the design, Michigan turned it into an icon.

  7. FYI FRITZ .. get your facts straight !!!! Deleware didn't use the winged helmet until the mid 1950's.

  8. Pingback: eBay Watch: Those Corny Winged Helmets (1989)

  9. Pingback: eBay Watch: Fritz’s Secret Practice (1937)

  10. Pingback: Tom Izzo dials up Jim Rome (1/29 audio) plus asides

  11. As a helmet nut, it bugs me that the history of the winged helmet as stated above is incorrect. The complete and accurate history is found here: http://www.spartanjerseys.com/michigan-state-foot