1960s vs Modern Football Gear
Trevon Brooks, Nick Colaluca, Cameron Cole, Julian Saborio
The 1960s were a pivotal era in the evolution of football equipment. A huge shift in colors, design, and safety can be seen throughout the sixties. Modern day football equipment has evolved as well, yet still shares similarities with the 1960s. Comparing the 1960s to modern day gear allows us to further understand the direction football gear and the game of football in general has taken, and how LSU’s equipment pays homage to its predecessors.
Shoulder and Pants Padding
The 1960s were significant in the advancement in padding for college football players. Leather shoulder pads used before the 1960s did not allow heat to be released and caused many cases of overheating, while football pants were still similar to when they were first invented. Football at all levels began to enhance shoulder and pants padding by introducing materials such as plastic, nylon, and foam rubber. These enhancements had many medical and performance implications which started the era of modern football.
Leather shoulder pads were still being used in college football in the early 1960s, but they were quickly replaced with plastic shoulder pads, as shown by the photo “Vintage 1960’s Johnny Unitas Spalding Football Shoulder Pads” (Figure 2), due to the plastic pads ability to ventilate heat to prevent players from having heat strokes.
The plastic shoulder pads were also light, yet able to absorb damage better than leather pads, which raised the performance of all football players.
The evolution of football pants had been minimal before the 1960s with the only change coming with how the pads were inserted and how the pants themselves fit. In the mid 1960s rubber foam replaced cotton for the padding in football pants. Rubber foam, similar to plastic shoulder pads, were lighter, absorbed shock better, and insulated less heat than cotton. Nylon became the standard for football pants, which allowed teams to have distinguishing colors. As can be seen in, “The Talented Toe” (Figure 3), the exterior view of football pants still remained the same.
Modern day padding has not changed externally, but the technology inside of the equipment has advanced relatively fast. Russell Athletic’s use of carbon fiber in shoulder pads is a perfect example, because it is light yet still stronger than steel. Many shoulder pads can now be seen with strong inner guards such as in “LSU Shoulder Pad” (Figure 1)
Football pants are now able to use molded plastic instead of foam, which adds a greater layer of protection to players. The padding used by LSU football players visually are not very different as “LSU Spring Football Game Colby Delahoussaye” (Figure 4) shows, but the amount of protection and performance enhancements inside the padding is incredible with the lack of the visual changes.
When comparing a 1960s era football jersey to a current one, the main differences that can be seen are sleeves, fit, neckline, length, and design. The sleeves on football jerseys from the 1960s are much longer compared to modern sleeves. The sleeves originally ended near the elbow, as can be seen by “Fred Haynes is #11” (Figure 5)
and “Doug Moreau, LSU Flanker” (Figure 6),
while modern sleeves, “LSU Added to Football Jersey” (Figure 7) and “The Sports Troll” (Figure 8), barely cover the far tips of the shoulder pad. The underside of the sleeves on modern jerseys offer no sort of material. Modern jerseys can be compared more closely to a tank top than the long sleeves of the 1960s. The fit of these two era’s jerseys differs greatly as well. In the 1960s, jerseys fit much looser especially around the abdominal region. Modern-day jerseys are tailored to fit shoulder pads as opposed to the 1960s jerseys that were big and loose. The collar on these jerseys have changed over the years as well. It has evolved from the circular collars like a t-shirt to the v-cut collars of today. The length of jerseys has also changed. Players in the 1960s could often be seen with their jerseys tucked in, but when the jerseys came untucked they were very long. The modern jerseys barely reach the top of a players pants and are rarely seen tucked in.
The design of these jerseys has also changed over the years. The numbers on the older jerseys sit higher up on the jerseys near the top of the shoulder pads. On modern jerseys, the number appears to sit lower on the jersey; the number on the top of the shoulder pad has now been moved to the bottom of the sleeve. The stripes on top of each shoulder have remained the same since the 1960s and has become a timeless trademark of LSU’s traditional jerseys.
LSU’s football helmets have been as traditional as the rest of the uniform. After World War II, the game of football began to take significant measures to enhance player safety on the field. This began with the invention of the plastic helmet in the late 1930s which also led to the development of the chin strap. Due to the war, these helmets were not commonly used until the conclusion in 1945. In 1955 the single bar facemask was invented, but it was not until the early 1960s that the facemask was required to play in the game. In the early sixties, the all-important foam padding was developed for the helmets which changed the game forever. This saw a spike in production on all levels of football because it led to harder hits and more aggressive play styles. The LSU helmets in the 1960s featured the plastic outer shell, foam padding inside, the single bar facemask, and a leather chin strap as shown in “LSU Football Helmet 1960’s” (Figure 9). The helmets used now have a plastic outer shell, a full face mask, and plastic chin straps as shown in “LSU Revolution Speed Authentic Helmet” (Figure 10).
The most significant change has come to the foam used inside the helmets. Today there are three different types of foam including: Expanded Polypropylene Foam, Expanded Polypropylene Foam, or Soft foam. Some helmets also include air bladders that help tighten the helmet to a safe level without sacrificing the comfortableness.
The design of LSU’s helmets has not changed much since the 1960s. Despite four games where LSU wore white helmets, the “gold caps” have been a tradition for the Tigers since the use of plastic helmets became popular. In the 1960s, the helmet held the classic gold color with three stripes stretching through the middle of the helmet including: two purple stripes on each side of one white stripe. On each side of the helmet, there was the player’s number in purple and a grey facemask. As you can notice these helmets are very simple and matched the same design as most of the collegiate helmets of the era. The helmets the Tigers now use are somewhat similar to the helmets used in the sixties. They maintain the gold tradition and still have the two purple stripes with one white stripe in the middle. The differences between the helmets are the changes in the side emblems and the facemask. The side emblems include the letters “LSU” in purple above the famous tiger head logo. The facemasks are now colored purple instead of the old grey facemasks.
Footwear in the world of sports has been described as the most important part of the attire by many athletes. It is what holds them to the ground and what helps them move with stability and quickness. Cleats have been one of, if not, the most revolutionary garment in football gear.
The 1960s were very important in cleats history because of changes in material and color which were the first steps to what they have become today. In this decade, the shoes were made out of thick leather, which ran to the ankle for protection. They were a lot heavier, and they were all the same color: black. The players wore the same shoe for every position except for the kicker. The kicker used to have one square tip and one round tip as shown in, “Gino Cappelletti’s Kicking Shoe” (Figure 11).
The square tip was for the shoe on the side of their kicking foot; this helped kickers back then because of the kicking style called “Straight Ahead.” Eventually, soccer kicking style took over the kicking world in football and the square tip was no longer present.
Cleats in the NFL were all black because it was the standard color. Innovations in material and fabrication allowed all white shoes and colored shoes to be introduced into the game. This is what opened the doors to crazy designs and colors that are now used in the NFL. One of the only photographs taken of a football player in the 1960s wearing all white shoes was when Joe Namath, who wore Puma cleats in 1967. Also in this decade, the cleat studs had to change with the invention of the AstroTurf in 1965. In the year 1969 Adidas released all-white Astro Turf shoes that revolutionized the game. AstroTurf is not used anymore but caused a great impact in the manufacturing of the cleats used in later years.
Now the cleat game has really changed. All the innovations driven by the 60s have culminated in custom cleats for every single athlete and position. For example, Nike commercially offers three lines of football cleats for players in distinctive positions. They offer the Vapor for quick receivers, the Alpha for linebackers and running backs that make sudden changes of direction, and the Force for Offensive or Defensive linemen. The studs are now lightweight but stiff and made of Thermo Nylon for momentum, even the size and style are determined by studying and analyzing how a player behaves on the field. The colors and designs that the NFL players wear are unique, stylish, and sometimes hold sentimental value as shown in the LSU colored, “LSU Cleats” (Figure 13).
We have seen everything, from a skittles design to drawings of players family members, while still maintaining the technology literally right under our feet as shown in, “Magista’s Rotational Traction Pattern” Figure (14).
Modern-day LSU football equipment has exceeded the capabilities of 1960s gear, but still shares most of the same characteristics. Modern day gear allows for enhanced performance while also remaining stylish. LSU has managed to advance the technology inside of their football gear while maintaining traditional characteristics. The Bayou Bengals are known for their traditional uniforms on the gridiron, and it represents all the great traditions involved with LSU football.
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