Iowa Hawkeyes football helmets through the years

Among college sports fans, uniforms often spark some of the greatest debate. Which threads are the best and which are total duds?

Fortunately for college football fans, legendary former Iowa head football coach Hayden Fry knew the program needed a fresh start with its image. When Fry arrived in December of 1978, the Hawkeyes had not enjoyed a winning season since 1961 and he represented the fourth head coach in nine years.

Fry enlisted the help of then-Iowa sports information director George Wine to spread the word that the Hawkeyes were in the market for a change and wanted a different, distinctive decal on their helmets. Wine reached out to Charles Edwards, whose firm Pepco Litho printed Iowa’s media guides at the time and worked with a lot of commercial artists.

Edwards then contacted Bill Colbert, the art director for Three Arts Advertising in Cedar Rapids. On a plane flight home from the Twin Cities, Colbert sketched out a rough design of a helmet decal with his pen on a paper napkin. After presenting the final design to Fry, the result was iconic. The Tigerhawk was met with rave reviews in the 1979 season and has become Iowa’s signature logo for all sports.

What did the Hawkeyes’ headgear look like before the Tigerhawk and what wrinkles have Iowa’s helmets seen over the years?

1957-64, numbered gold

Malcolm Emmons-USA TODAY Sports

From the 1957 through the 1964 seasons, the Iowa Hawkeyes wore solid gold helmets with a black stripe splitting their headgear and players’ numbers on the side. Pictured here is Hawkeye halfback Larry Ferguson running the football against the Ohio State Buckeyes in a 28-14 win at Kinnick Stadium during the 1962 season. In 1962, Ferguson led the Hawkeyes in rushing with 547 yards and was named All-Big Ten.

1971, the flying Hawkeye

Malcolm Emmons-USA TODAY Sports

Iowa quarterback Rob Fick and his Hawkeyes sported these flying Hawkeye helmets during the 1971 season with the then-Hawkeye logo on the side and a black stripe with white outlining splitting the helmets.

1977-78, script 'Iowa'

Register file photo, Des Moines Register via Imagn Content Services, LLC

In the 1977 and 1978 seasons, the black cursive script “Iowa” adorned the Hawkeyes’ gold helmets with a black helmet stripe down the middle. Fry wanted a change when he arrived and the program wound up with the iconic Tigerhawk next.

1979-present, the Tigerhawk

Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports

When Fry enlisted help to create a new helmet decal, even he couldn’t have imagined it would have lasted until present day. That’s precisely how it’s played out, though. The solid black helmets with the gold Tigerhawk are synonymous with Iowa football still today.

1985, the 'ANF' logo debut

AP Photo/McLendon

In the back half of Iowa’s historic 1985 season, the Hawkeyes and Maxwell and Davey O’Brien Award-winning quarterback Chuck Long debuted the “America Needs Farmers” logo for the first time. The gold circle logo with the letters “ANF” sat atop the right side of Iowa’s helmets.

1991, the United States flag decal

Getty Images file photo

To honor the military, Iowa added the United States flag on the top left of its helmet during the 1991 Rose Bowl against Washington.

2004, solid gold

AP Photo/Iowa City Press-Citizen, Zach Boyden-Holmes

In Iowa’s 39-17 season-opening win over Kent State in 2004, the Hawkeyes donned throwback solid gold helmets.

2009-present, smaller "ANF" logo

Don McPeak-USA TODAY Sports

In the 2009 season, Iowa and quarterback Ricky Stanzi began donning the smaller, circular “ANF” logo.

2010, throwback numbered gold

Iowa City Press-Citizen

Iowa fullback Brad Rodgers and the Hawkeyes rocked these throwbacks in a 45-0 win versus Ball State in 2010. Gold helmets with a black stripe down the middle and numbers on each side.

2011, Tigerhawk for America

Reese Strickland-USA TODAY Sports

In the Hawkeyes’ 24-16 win over Michigan during the 2011 season, fans got their first look at a United States flag themed Tigerhawk.

2012, gray helmets with the United States Tigerhawk

Byron Hetzler-USA TODAY Sports

Iowa wore these gray helmets with the United States flag Tigerhawk decal on the right side and a black Tigerhawk on the left. From the realm of alternates, this helmet has to be among the worst.

2012, the 1921-22 throwbacks

Reese Strickland-US PRESS WIRE

In the 2012 battle for the Cy-Hawk Trophy against Iowa State, the Hawkeyes wore these gold throwbacks versus the Cyclones to commemorate their 1921-22 back-to-back Big Ten championship teams that went a combined 14-0. Iowa lost that rivalry game, though, 9-6.

2014, the camo Tigerhawk

Caylor Arnold-USA TODAY Sports

Against Northwestern in 2014, the Hawkeyes donned these camo Tigerhawk decals. Iowa blasted Northwestern, 48-7.

2015, "ANF" logo with the state of Iowa outlining

Photo by Matthew Holst/Getty Images

During Iowa’s 40-35 win over Minnesota in 2015, the Hawkeyes had the outline of the state of Iowa with the “ANF” logo inside. The win improved the Hawkeyes to 10-0 on the season en route to a perfect regular season.

2017, 'Blackout' alternates

Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports

These alternates were sharp. The gray in the helmets are actually small letter I’s. The Tigerhawk is black with gold outlining and numbers on the side. Add to it that Iowa routed Ohio State, 55-24, and it really just doesn’t get much better than this.

2019, honorary absent Tigerhawk

Bryon Houlgrave/The Register

To honor the late Hayden Fry, Iowa removed the Tigerhawk logo from its helmets during the 2019 Holiday Bowl win over USC. The Hawkeyes rolled the Trojans, 49-24.

2019, gold numbers

Joseph Cress/Iowa City Press-Citizen

Iowa broke out its “golden” uniforms complete with gold numbering on the backs of the helmets for an October home game against Penn State in 2019. The color rush style was definitely a departure for Hawkeye traditionalists. Those fans will quickly remind any supporters that Iowa lost the game, too, 17-12.

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Story originally appeared on Hawkeyes Wire