Michigan State football helmets through the years

Michigan State football has one of the most iconic logos and uniforms in all of college football, but we have seen many variations over the history of the program.

Below, we take a look at how Michigan State’s helmets have evolved over the years, including some of the recent new variations seen under Mel Tucker and Mark Dantonio.

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1934-46: Leather with an 'S' logo

Oct. 8, 1946 AP Photo/Detroit News

This was still in the era of the leather helmet, but the first one MSU used that had a real design with the ‘S’ on the front.

1947-55: The first plastic helmet

Nov. 5, 1949, AP Photo/Detroit News

One of the ugliest things you will ever see, this was Michigan State’s first plastic helmet.

1956-1964: Stripe and player number

Malcolm Emmons-USA TODAY Sports

Before the Spartans used the Sparty logo or the block S on their helmets, they used each player’s jersey number as Alabama still does to this day. We will see this come back in the 70s for a season.


1965-66: First appearance of Sparty

Malcolm Emmons-USA TODAY Sports

Here we see the first appearance of Sparty.

1967-68, 1970-72: Slight variation on Sparty

Oct 7, 1972, Malcolm Emmons-USA TODAY Sports

With the exception of the 1969 season where they wore a special helmet to commemorate the 100th season of collegiate football, the Spartans wore this helmet from 1967-72, which is just a slight variation of the original Sparty helmet. This one has a little more definition of the Sparty logo.

1973-75: Big Sparty

Nov. 10, 1973, Malcolm Emmons-USA TODAY Sports

The program started to experiment with a bigger Sparty logo on the helmet. It hadn’t quite found the sweet spot here, as I think having it this size with this particular artwork looks a little awkward.


1976: Return of the numbers

AP Photo/Joe Raymond

In a callback to the glory days of Spartan football, MSU brought back the numbers on the helmet for the 1976 season. It didn’t work out: This was arguably the worst season of the decade for the Spartans.

1978-82, 1995-98: The classic Sparty look

Sept. 9, 1995; East Lansin; Michigan State Spartans tackle Flozell Adams (76) in action against the Nebraska Cornhuskers at Spartan Stadium. USA TODAY Sports

In the late 70s and early 80s, Michigan State finally introduced the classic Sparty logo we all associate with the school, and it was used for four years on the football helmets. There was a 10-year gap before this design version returned in 1995, and it has been the template for all subsequent Spartan helmets.


1983-94: The Block 'S'

Malcolm Emmons-USA TODAY Sports

I’d say this is the second most iconic Spartan helmet. The Block ‘S’ is a look the team kept for over a decade, and it continues to bring it back at different times.

1999-00: The metallic variation of the classic Sparty look


At the turn of the millennium, the Spartans sported this cool, shiny metallic version of their classic helmet.

2001-02: Return of the Block 'S'

Darron R. Silva/Getty Images

Now, the block ‘S’ helmet is used more as a novelty once or twice a season, but the team brought it back full time in 2001 and 2002.


2003-06: All green helmet variation of the classic look

Nov 20, 2004; Craig Melvin USA TODAY Sports

What makes this helmet stand out is the lack of a white stripe down the middle.

2006 vs. Notre Dame: Old school Sparty throwback

AP Photo/Bob Brodbeck

In their Week 4 game against Notre Dame, the 2006 Spartans brought back the original Sparty logo.

2007-09: The stripe is back

Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

In 2007, the Spartans shocked the world and brought the stripe back.

2010-14: The modern classic

Matt Kartozian-USA TODAY Sports

Of the full-time helmets, this is my personal favorite and what i think of when I think about Michigan State. This version of the helmet has a sleek polish and deep shade of green that looks especially awesome under lights.


2011 vs. Michigan: First bronze sighting

AP Photo/Al Goldis

Bronze is the perfect color for Michigan State variations since, you know, the actual Spartans wore bronze. We first saw bronze incorporated into the team’s jersey and helmet variations in the 2011 Michigan game.

2012-13: The super shiny Sparty

Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

This variation was used twice during 2012-13, and it definitely stands out, for better or for worse. This one isn’t my cup of tea, but it is definitely unique.

2015-Current: The new go-to

Mike Carter-USA TODAY Sports

This has been Michigan State’s most used helmet since 2015. A slight tweak of the 2010-14 look, this all-green helmet has more of a matte finish and a slight smaller Sparty logo.


2015-16: Another bronze variation

Sept. 12, 2015, Mike Carter-USA TODAY Sports

For four games between 2015-16, the Spartans brought back the bronze. I personally like the first attempt more, but I appreciated them giving it another go here.

2017-Current: The white helmet!!!!

Sep 9, 2017; Mike Carter-USA TODAY Sports

The all-white helmet has become such a fixture at Michigan State, it’s shocking that it was introduced in 2017. The white helmet, along with it’s variations, has been a huge hit for the Spartans, and I expect it to be a part of the team’s uniforms for years to come.

2019-Current: Neon

Nick King/Lansing State Journal


Now we have arrived at our most controversial helmet: the neon ones. In Mark Dantonio’s last season, he ushered in these bad boys, and they have been met with … mixed reviews to say the least. They were originally ridiculed, but then some fans really got behind them. You can be the judge.

2020: Gruff Sparty appears!

Scott Taetsch/Getty Images

The gruff Sparty logo variation became a cult symbol in the Michigan State universe after it was used by the basketball team in the late 70’s. Mel Tucker became a hero after he brought the logo to the football team for the first time in 2020, where it has immediately become a favorite among fans.


2020-Current: Modern block 'S'

Nick King/Lansing State Journal
Nick King/Lansing State Journal

Nick King/Lansing State Journal

This is an updated version of the classic block ‘S’ helmet that was used from 1983-93 and was brought back to honor former MSU head coach George Perles after he passed away in 2020.

2021-Current: Dark green variation

Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images

This is definitely the darkest shade of green MSU has ever used for its helmets, almost looking black in parts. It used the shade twice in 2021, once against Michigan (good) and once against Ohio State (bad).

2021-Current: Script State basketball tribute

Michael Hickey/Getty Images

The MSU basketball team has used the cursive script version of State from time to time for years. The football team opted to try it in 2021 on two occasions, only changing the facemask color, using white once and green the other time.

2021-Current: White helmet Gruff Sparty

Nick King/Lansing State Journal

Last, but certainly not least, we have the all-white gruff Sparty helmet the team wore against Western Kentucky in 2021. In my opinion, this is the best variation and should be used many times in the future.