Buffalo Bills Helmet

Standing and Charging: The Buffalo Bills Helmet History

If one follows the evolution of the Buffalo Bills helmet history, there’s no story quite like it. Starting in 1960 from the numbered helmets to the standing bison, all the way to the charging buffalo seen today, no team in NFL history has gone through such numerous helmet changes, and for various reasons at that.

So, let’s take a look at the evolution of the Bills’ helmet from 1960 all the way until present-day, sixty seasons later.

 

The 1960s

Both the Bills’ helmet and uniform were based on the Detroit Lions‘ of Honolulu blue and silver, where the Bills took on the silver helmet with helmet numbers as their first logo.

In 1962, the helmets were changed to white and the red standing bison, one of the most recognizable logos in NFL history, took place on the sides. The team also phased out the silver completely, replacing it with red, and giving the team its familiar red, white, and blue look. In 1965 the single white helmet stripe was replaced by one that included red and blue center stripes, further modernizing the Bills’ look.

 

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The 1970s and 1980s

Bills 1984-1986 Helmet

A few more changes were made in 1974, with the blue charging buffalo logo replacing the standing bison.

In 1977, the facemask was changed from gray to blue, which remained so until the 1980s.

In the 1980s, the entire AFC East bore white helmets other than the New York Jets, who’d switched to green a few years back. However, AFC East rivals the New England Patriots, Baltimore (Indianapolis) Colts, and Miami Dolphins all possessed white helmets.

Then-quarterback Joe Ferguson could not distinguish his players from the opposing teams during games and requested the white helmet shell to be replaced with red. Coach Kay Stephenson agreed, and the change was made.

The only other change made in the 1980s occurred in 1987 when the team switched to white facemasks.

 

The 2000s

The familiar red helmet with white facemasks from 1987 to 2001.

In 2002, the Bills underwent a radical redesign, which included a minor tweak to the helmet. Navy blue and nickel gray was added to the helmet stripe, which was panned by both critics and fans alike, with many claiming the uniform bore too much resemblance to the Montreal Alouettes of the Canadian Football League.

However, with the uniform the Bills did resurrect the standing bison helmet logo and white helmet as an alternate, wearing the look twice each season and even more when the AFL celebrated its 50th anniversary in 2009, where all original AFL teams wore their original uniforms other than the Bills, who opted to wear the standing bison look.

 

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The 2010s

The nickel gray and navy stripes were added to the helmet in 2002. This version lasted until 2010 .

In 2011, the Bills finally ditched the infamous Alouette look and returned to wearing white helmets full-time, which became a modernized version of their 1975-83 look, but opted for gray facemasks instead of blue. While the charging buffalo remained a fixture as the primary helmet logo, the standing bison logo and uniforms remain during select games, which can be worn up to three times a year, per NFL rules.

With more NFL teams slated to return to their past looks or a modernized version of, such as the Jacksonville Jaguars last season, Minnesota Vikings in 2013, Detroit Lions in 2017, and per the rumor, the Cleveland Browns in 2020, it appears the Bills classic white helmet will be here to stay for the long haul, and for good reason at that.

 

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Bonus Material

The Bills wore this helmet during the NFL’s 75th Anniversary in 1994.

In 1994, the NFL celebrated its 75th anniversary and in doing so, the league’s then-28 teams all wore throwback uniforms. Some of these uniforms were odd in nature, with many teams opting to wear the same color helmet for their throwbacks as their modern uniforms of the time.

The Bills, still wearing the red helmet at the time, were no different and with it they, like the Green Bay Packers and New York Jets, wore a historically inaccurate look. The helmet shown above depicts the first and only time in their entire history of wearing such a look.

However, with the NFL’s 100th anniversary coming this season, perhaps such unique looks will return to the playing field once again. As of right now, there are no plans that teams will wear their throwbacks any more than they do on a regular basis, and as mentioned earlier, each team is allowed to wear an alternate look up to three times in any given season.

 

My Take

The Bills made the right move by switching from those dated-2000s-era helmets with the navy and nickel gray that wrecked an otherwise traditional look to the classic white helmets. While the standing buffalo may be more iconic than the charging buffalo, and probably better-received by the traditional, blue-collar Buffalo fan base, the compromise of a white helmet is just fine.

My hope is that they continue to don the white, especially these days since the rival Patriots have chosen to wear silver and the Jets switched back to green, it only makes sense for the Bills to continue on with their white helmets.

Further, the Bills are also one of few teams who can don accurate throwback uniforms with the white helmet, simply changing the decal on it to the old-school standing buffalo, something few teams are able to do these days due to the one-helmet rule the NFL implemented back in 2013.

The red helmets of the 1980s-2001were good, but the white helmets are great, whether the Bills are wearing them with their uniforms of today or their uniforms of yesteryear.

 

Conclusion

From the old AFL days resembling the Lions’ look, who at the time were the NFL’s monarchs, to taking a path of their own, the Bills have seen a little bit of everything in their looks, from something iconic, to solid, to complete duds, and back to solid, good, great, and ugly can likely describe this team’s complete helmet history.

12 comments

  1. All of these helmets look very good. I like the 2000s the most.
    I didn’t know it would be up to $239, but I can imagine why it costs that much. You just can’t go into field without it unless you want to end up in hospital.
    Great info.
    Thanks for sharing

    1. Thanks, Stephen. And yes, $239 is simply for the replica, so the on-field version is probably far higher. They do get better as time goes on. My favorite Bills helmet by far is the 2010s version, which is the throwback to the 1970s-early-80s version. I was ecstatic back in 2011 when I learned the team was switching back to a white helmet.

  2. Look at how far they’ve come. each helmet with a little more protection and aerodynamics than the one before. I wonder what made them put the line straight through the bull?

    1. They’ve come a long way and there’s still a lot of advancement to be done. You know, I’ve always wondered that myself. It’s a helmet mystery I’ve yet to solve but when I do, I’ll definitely update this article. Uni Watch or Sports Logos, headed by Paul Lukas and Cris Creamer, respectively, might have the answer to such a question.

  3. Hi Todd,
    Thank you for putting this together. Finally i know what those helmets stand for. They have change during the years. The bonus one is personally my favourite.

    1. Yes! One thing that’s always fascinated me about the helmets is that they all stand for something, even that of my Browns, where the logoless helmet represents timelessness, linking players like Otto Graham to Baker Mayfield and Jim Brown to Nick Chubb. It’s quite amazing how these helmet logos came into being, along with each team’s name.

  4. What a great insight of the evolution of the Buffalo Bills helmet.
    It goes to show that these guys are game changers in the football game because they were bold the do many changes despite critics.

    But I must say I like the helmet of the 2000s better than all other designs.

    1. It was a bold move back in 2002. Reebok took over exclusive rights to design the uniforms for all thirty-two teams back in 2002 and initially announced new uniforms for all thirty-two teams. However, traditional teams like the Cleveland Browns and Pittsburgh Steelers stood their ground and refused to make changes to their uniforms. The results of the 2002 rebrand for the Bills and Seattle Seahawks, among other teams, were disastrous. Throw in the Falcons (2003), Bengals (2004), Cardinals (2005), and Vikings (2007), and these teams continue to rank toward the bottom of the league. The Seahawks, Bills, and Vikings have since rebranded while the Falcons wear throwbacks three times a year.

  5. I was amazed that football helmets had such historical significance. Probably every football has a helmet evolution story. I think there should be some standard where any two teams have enough of a design difference so as to not confuse spectators what team the player is from. I know that there is also the uniform that distinguishes the players. But in a huddle that could be confusing.

    Jay Neil has an affiliate marketing training site based on Football Snack Helmets. Does the Buffalo Bills have one of those? I imagine they would.

    Thanks for educating me in this very unusual subject for my sphere of life.

    Edwin

    1. Hi, Edwin, every single one of these helmets do, especially with the older franchises. I’ve been fortunate to view Jay Neil’s site, and it’s one of the most successful in the NFL niche today. I believe there is a Bills snack helmet offered over there. 

  6. It is great to see how this helmet pattern evolved with time. There is definitely tangible reasons behind every actions. Am very sure every changes has their own unique reason. The only comma I have with the 1970s helmet is just the logo there in. If not that, I would have settle for that due to the eye catching blended color patterns. The one I love most is the one of the 2010s. I like how the pattern is designed. This is a great review from you Todd. I always love the history behind each state sport helmets you do write about. They are enlightening. More greese to your elbow. 

    1. I was elated to see the 2010s look return; a fresh rebirth from the 2002-2010 look that plagued the team. The 2010s helmet is really identical to the 70s-80s design, so there’s some history there. 

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