The leather football helmet was first worn in an 1893 Army-Navy game. A shoemaker from Annapolis created the first helmet for Admiral Joseph Mason Reeves, who had been advised by a Navy doctor that he would be risking death or “instant insanity” if he took another kick to the head.
Some of the first ‘helmet’ designs were held to a player’s head by three heavy leather straps fashioned by a harness maker, which in turn, gave the first football helmets the nomenclature “head-harness.”
The helmet has gone through numerous changes over the past 100+ years. Helmets were not mandatory until the 1930’s. Most of the games played between 1890-1915 were played without helmets. It was common to see some players with helmets and some without.
Around World War I, helmets were so flimsy they were often mistaken for aviator caps. As years went on, more and more padding was added.
The creation of the dog-ear leather helmet in 1915-1920 was an interesting evolution in helmets. It included more padding, as well as better protection around the ears. Amazingly enough, some players still played in it with the flaps up.
From the 1920’s thru 1940’s, helmets were primarily of leather construction. Nearly all the games in this era were played in unadorned, undecorated helmets. School logos, colors and mascots were very rarely used during this time period.
In 1948, the first logo, the Rams horns, was painted on a pro leather helmet. Soon after, practically all high school, college and pro team followed suit and put their logos and/or mascots on their helmets.