The San Francisco 49ers helmet history looks traditional on the outside but in reality, the team went through several helmet changes throughout its existence, including the infamous one-day logo.
The iconic SF interlocked within an oval is familiar to all NFL fans, but it wasn’t until 1964 did the team decide on and keep a look, one they nearly abandoned in 1991.
The 49ers went through four different changes in the 1950s when the NFL phased out the old leatherheads in favor of a plastic shell. In the early part of the decade, the team wore white helmets.
Here’s a brief timeline.
By 1953, white had switched to red.
In 1956-57, the color reverted back to white.
In 1958, the 49ers moved to a similar shade of gold we’re accustomed to today.
By the turn of the decade, gold switched to silver.
The silver helmet was the first to incorporate a logo in 1962 and remained so until the end of the 1963 season.
By 1964, the 49ers changed back to the now-familiar gold shell along with the interlocking SF. By this time, changes to the helmet were subtle and it remained so well into the 1990s.
It was with this iconic helmet did the team see five Super Bowl appearances, and five victories, throughout the 1980s and another to conclude the 1994 season.
1991: The One-Day Logo
The 49ers announced a prototype for a new helmet design, with which a new logo accompanied the helmet. The traditional interlocking SF would be scrapped in favor of a stylized 49ers script in white with a red outline and black drop shadow.
The look was panned by so many fans the team scrapped the idea the following day.
Despite fan backlash to the 1991 redesign, the 49ers, as with many in pro sports at the time, embraced the color black and darker colors in general. The team switched from their usual cherry red to a black cherry red, along with a red facemask and an updated SF logo, which now held a double outline in both gold and black, rather than just black as had formerly been the case.
It was with this updated helmet and logo did the franchise begin to see turbulence. After some success in the late-1990s and early-2000s, the Niners sunk to newer lows come the mid-2000s and remained near the bottom of the league until a resurgence in 2011.
In 2009 the 49ers reverted to their original shades of cherry red and gold but retained the updated logo design, called the ‘Championship Colors’ by some within the organization.
The team also reverted back to the gray facemask in doing so and have since made a Super Bowl appearance and multiple NFC Championship appearances wearing the look in the early 2010s.
As one can see in both the featured image and in the one below, the 49ers retained the ‘updated’ logo they adopted back in 1996, simply lightening the shade of red.
Yes, one of the best moves the Niners made was ditching the darkened, now-dated black cherry look in favor of the original red. While I’d love to see the team revert the logo back to pre-1996 status as well and remove all the remaining black within it, I can most definitely live with this color scheme. The championship colors should be here to stay for the long haul.