There’s no denying that the Ohio State football program currently has one of the most iconic helmets in the game. But the current, traditional version hasn’t always been what each player strapped on. In fact, you might be surprised to know that the current, classic look has been in place only since 1979.
Before that, players running out of the tunnel to play for the scarlet and gray had some subtle differences as the helmet evolved through the years, while other times the changes were very drastic and changed the look of the team entirely.
And with more and more alternate jerseys and helmets making the rounds, the piece of the football wardrobe known as the image of the program has had a lot more designs and variations.
We decided to take a look at the history of the Ohio State football helmet so you can get a little more acclimated to where things started, what other designs have been introduced, and where things stand today.
Here’s a brief look at the history of the Ohio State football helmet designs through the years.
1957: Number on the side
Iowa halfback Bill Happel (40) skirts around left end for a first down deep in Ohio State territory during a first-quarter Hawkeyes touchdown drive in Columbus, Ohio, Nov. 16, 1957. On the right is Ohio State fullback, Bob White. On the left is Ohio State quarterback Frank Kremblas (22). (AP Photo)
It’s not just Alabama that’s had numbers on the side of the helmets. Not every player on the 1957 team displayed this look, but there were some that had their numbers stamped on the side. It’s simple and clean without the traditional everyone is used to.
1958: Bigger numbers on the side
Oregon’s halfback will finds a hole in the Ohio defense in the second period of the Rose Bowl game and carries the pigskin 14 yards to the Ohio State 31-yard line on Jan. 1, 1958, in Pasadena, California. Clearing Willie is his teammate, end, Ron Stover. (AP Photo)
Ohio State must have liked the number look so much that it decided to make it even bigger. Again, not all players had digits on the side, but some displayed an almost identical look to the 1957 helmet, but bigger and better.
1960-1961: Scarlet and gray emerges
Sep 30, 1961; Columbus OH, USA; FILE PHOTO; TCU quarterback Sonny Gibbs (11) and tight end Buddy Iles (88) tackle Ohio State Buckeyes halfback William Jones (45) at Ohio Stadium. Credit: Malcolm Emmons-USA TODAY Sports.
It’s a little hard to see in this picture, but welcome to the helmet scarlet and gray. Gone is the vanilla look, and in-play is a large red stripe down the middle with a gray base. We see the helmet starting to build on different things as numbers on the side also still appear.
1962-1964: A thicker red stripe
Nov 16, 1963; Columbus, OH, USA; FILE PHOTO; Ohio State Buckeyes quarterback Don Unverferth (26) in action against the Northwestern Wildcats at Ohio Stadium. Credit: Malcolm Emmons-USA TODAY Sports
In 1962, apparently, someone decided that they liked the look of the OSU helmet but wanted just a little more scarlet. So, the helmet took on a subtle change with a wider red stripe that flared out in the back of the lid. Fans probably couldn’t even notice the difference unless pointed out, but it was there, so we’re highlighting it.
1965: Bigger red strpe and numbers
Sep 1965; Columbus, OH, USA; FILE PHOTO; Ohio State Buckeyes halfback Thomas Barrington (25) during picture day at Ohio Stadium prior to the 1969 season. Credit: Malcolm Emmons-USA TODAY Sports
Ohio State went even wider with the red stripe and increased the font of the numbers on the side. Still, at this point, it all feels like an experiment on an almost yearly basis to figure out a helmet that truly works.
1966-1967: Scarlet and a smaller stripe (oh, and Buckeye leaves!)e
Sep 24, 1966, Columbus, OH, USA; FILE PHOTO; Ohio State Buckeyes quarterback William Long (24) lined up under center against the TCU Horned Frogs at Ohio Stadium during the 1966 season. Mandatory Credit: Malcolm Emmons-USA TODAY Sports
You can start to see the uniform take shape to what we’re accustomed to, but the helmet is still a work in progress. Things changed drastically from the last few years with an all-scarlet helmet and a thinner gray and black stripe down the middle. And — though not pictured here — 1967 was the introduction of the first Buckeye leaves on the helmet. It was truly a year to remember for tradition.
1968-1978 (The classic look is almost set)
Ohio State quarterback Rex Kern and coach Woody Hayes confer during the game with Michigan in Columbus, Ohio, on Nov. 23, 1968. Others are unidentified. (AP Photo)
The look of the entire uniform is taking shape and looks very close to the Ohio State uniform of today. The helmet has taken on the more traditional silver with red, black, and white down the middle. The only real, noticeable difference with the design of the helmet is a little thicker red stripe than what we see today. Still, this is widely considered the year in which OSU got its traditional look from head-to-toe.
Sep 1984; Columbus, OH, USA: Ohio State running back (41) Keith Byars in action against the Washington State Cougars at Ohio Stadium. Credit: Photo by Malcolm Emmons-USA TODAY Sports
Welcome to what you see today. The scarlet stripe is narrowed in the middle of the helmet to where the red, white, and black are proportionate to what we all know and love today. Sure the silver base might be a little shinier, and the structure of the helmet has changed slightly, but the helmet is what you see today on Saturdays that don’t feature an alternate look.
NEXT … The Alternates
2009: Ohio State embraces the alternate look
ANN ARBOR, MI – NOVEMBER 21: Brian Rolle #36 of the Ohio State Buckeyes looks on during the game against the Michigan Wolverines on November 21, 2009, at Michigan Stadium in Ann Arbor, Michigan. Ohio State won the game 21-10. (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)
Ohio State begins the alternate jersey era against Michigan in 2009 by paying homage to the 1954 national championship team. It’s capped off with a clean, white helmet with a single red stripe down the middle and simple numbers on the side. It’s nothing flashy, but it works with the ensemble.
2010: Going alternate against Michigan again
COLUMBUS, OH – NOVEMBER 27: Quarterback Terrelle Pryor #2 of the Ohio State Buckeyes gets ready to call the play in the huddle against the Michigan Wolverines at Ohio Stadium on November 27, 2010, in Columbus, Ohio. (Photo by Jamie Sabau/Getty Images)
This helmet was a part of another nod to yesteryear and continued a trend of breaking out alternate uniforms for the Michigan game. The ensemble was patterned after the 1942 national title squad. The helmet was a simple red lok with a bronze star on the back (not pictured here).
2011: The first alternate against a team besides Michigan
Ohio State Buckeyes quarterback Braxton Miller (5) scores a touchdown against Wisconsin Badgers in the fourth quarter of their NCAA football game at Ohio Stadium in Columbus, Ohio, October 29, 2011. (Dispatch photo by Kyle Robertson) Credit: USA TODAY Sports Network
If this looks vaguely familiar, it should because Ohio State patterned this helmet and look after the 1961 team. Notice the wide red down the middle set on a gray base. While the look was amazing, the game was even better with Braxton Miller hitting Devin Smith on a Hail Mary play to beat Wisconsin.
2012-2014: Wider three color stripe for certain special occassions
COLUMBUS, OH – NOVEMBER 1: J.T. Barrett #16 of the Ohio State Buckeyes looks to pass the ball in the first half of the game against the Illinois Fighting Illini at Ohio Stadium on November 1, 2014, in Columbus, Ohio. (Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images)
These helmets were used for certain special occasions from 2012 to 2014 and will always be remembered for the national championship year of 2014. The Buckeye leaves are green and the three scarlet, white, and black stripes down the middle are a little wider. It’s a look that seems to scream big game for all Buckeye fans and is a great alternate look that never gets old.
Ohio State Buckeyes quarterback Dwayne Haskins Jr. (7) stands on the sideline during the second quarter of an NCAA college football game between the Ohio State Buckeyes and the Nebraska Cornhuskers on Saturday, November 3, 2018, at Ohio Stadium in Columbus, Ohio. Credit: USA TODAY Sports Network
This is a lot of Ohio State fans’ favorite alternate helmet. Ohio State first broke them out in 2018 against Penn State, but also wore them against Nebraska later in the season — and most recently — against Michigan State in 2019. The red Buckeye leaves against the black helmets really pop and many wouldn’t mind seeing them resurface again.
2017: Camo gray
Ohio State Buckeyes quarterback J.T. Barrett (16) reacts to throwing a 14-yard touchdown to wide receiver Terry McLaurin (83) during the second quarter of the NCAA football game against the Penn State Nittany Lions at Ohio Stadium in Columbus on Oct. 28, 2017. [Adam Cairns/Dispatch]
Ohio State broke out a gray camouflaged helmet for games against Penn State and Michigan in 2017. Both games were ones to remember for the Buckeyes, and the red Buckeye leaves once again made the helmet stand out. We haven’t seen these since, and it might be unlikely that we do in the future.
2022: Coming up roses
Sat., Jan. 1, 2022; Pasadena, California, USA; A special rose helmet stripe adorns Thayer Munford’s helmet before the start of the 108th Rose Bowl Game between the Ohio State Buckeyes and the Utah Utes at the Rose Bowl. Credit: USA TODAY Sports Network
It was a subtle look for the 2022 Rose Bowl against Utah, but the traditional scarlet stripe down the middle was graced with roses emblazoned in the paint job. Sometimes the most subtle is the most sublime, and this added to an all-timer of a game out in Pasadena.
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