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5 Things // DTN Q & A with Jay Shelton of Southwest Conference Helmet History

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Five Things is a handful (i.e., five) of thoughts about a single topic. Hopefully, discussion ensues.

I'm pretty excited about today's 5 Things, as we're pretty lucky to have Jay Shelton, who runs the website, Southwest Conference Helmet History. Jay's been gracious enough to answer a couple of questions regarding Texas Tech's past uniforms and provide some photos as well. For those of you who ever wanted to know something about any team's uniforms during the old SWC days, then I can't recommend enough Southwest Conference Helmet History. Also, for those of you who have made it down to College Station for a game, Jay was responsible for putting together the tremendous uniform and helmet display at Texas A&M. If you ever get the time to take a tour and you're a uniform aficionado, then I highly recommend you take a look.

Join me after the jump for a Q & A with Jay, as well as photos of uniforms and helmets from yesteryear.

  Jay, it appears that Texas Tech has had about 14 different looks, at least in terms of helmets and uniforms. What can you tell us about the uniforms and helmets from the very early leather helmet days utilized in the 1930's and 1940's?

As I understand it, Texas Tech wore the "normal" brown or dark brown leather helmets (generally Macgregor at this time) before painting their leather helmets red and adding the double-T in the front, which was a very unusual design for the times. I think this rivals the 1939 A&M leather helmets in terms of visual identity. As you may know, the Aggies had their leather helmets painted maroon and had the front "wing" design painted white. The uniforms were typical of that era. Many teams wore khaki colored pants or a similar colored material.

****Seth C aside:  This predates the uniforms mentioned above and I didn't find this picture until after I had received Jay's answers, but I found this great picture of the second football team in Texas Tech history, the 1926 Texas Tech Matador Football squad.

1926_texas_tech_matador_football_squad_medium

****End of Aside.

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1938 Texas Tech Uniform.

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Check out the helmet and the very early Double-T on the leather helmet.

  The 1950 Texas Tech teams went through silver, red and then silver helmets in their early years. Can you tell us anything particular or unique about the 1951-55, 1956 and 1957-58 helmets and uniforms?

Texas Tech wore predominately silver helmets during the 1950s in two distinct stretches. This is the only time in Tech history that the Red Raiders wore silver helmets. The only difference in the two stretches is that the later edition helmets in 1957-58 had red numbers added to the sides of the helmet, along with facemasks (most were single or double-bar). Very little black was worn on the uniforms, which were predominately red and white. I find the 1956 helmets very interesting, as it was the only time Texas Tech has worn red helmets with a white-black-white stripe combination (seen years later in the NFL with the Atlanta Falcons).

1951-1955.  The first year of the
silver helmet for Texas Tech
1956.  Red helmet with white stripe
and black middle stripe and white
numbers.

1957-1958.  The Red Raiders go
back to the silver helmet with red
numbers

**Photos from Southwest Conference Helmet History.

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1951 uniforms, with what I would guess are the red jerseys and silver pants.

  Through lots of research, you determined that Texas Tech wore red helmets, only the second time in their history, but the first time with only a white stripe, in the 1959-1960 year. Tell us a little more about the helmet and the uniforms.

These were the first (and unfortunately only) time that the Red Raiders have worn red helmets. In many occasions, schools change helmets and/or uniform designs when a new head coach is hired, as coaches generally like the team to be a visual embodiment of whatever they deem visually "successful" on the field. Such is not the case, however, with these uniforms, as Coach DeWitt T. Weaver was coach from 1951-60, and during his tenure Texas Tech wore four different helmet and/or uniform designs. Modern day examples of this are Pat Sullivan at TCU (three helmet designs) and Ray Alborn at Rice (three helmet designs). The uniforms during the 1950s did not change significantly, but the helmets did. From what I can gather in research, it looks as if the team may have worn silver pants with the silver helmets on occasions. I have not been able to determine if Tech wore red pants with the red helmet (to create an all red look at home). The last-look red helmet (with the white stripe) was the last helmet that E.J. Holub wore before being drafted by the Dallas Texans of the AFL.

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That's E.J. Holub, front and center (#55) right next to the very rare red Texas Tech helmet for the 1960 Playboy All-American team.  Looks like he could whip everyone there.

****Seth C Aside:  Although I didn't ask about these helmets, I did want to post pictures of the two helmets from the 1960's.

1961-1963.  This is the first year of
the black helmet for Texas Tech
165-1969.  This helmet is important
because it was the first time the
double-t appeared on a Texas Tech
helmet.

**Photos from Southwest Conference Helmet History.

****End of Aside.

  I think my favorite period for Texas Tech helmets was in the 1970's where there were numerous stripes along the helmet, the famous double-t and stars! What was unique and different about those 1970 uniforms and was Texas Tech being relatively unique in their uniform and helmet design?

In my opinion, the Texas Tech uniforms of the 1970s still are the best look that Texas Tech has ever fielded. The look was ushered in by Coach Jim Carlen in 1970 when Texas Tech went to white helmets for the first time with spaced black and red stripes and the predominate double-T. They also had red stars outlined in black on the front of the helmets, flanking the stripes. Although I am not sure, I have heard both that they were award stars and also the stars signified number of years lettered in football. During this time, the jerseys had TEXAS TECH above the numerals on the front of the jersey, a style that Texas Tech has continued to perpetuate. In 1974, Carlen switched the then standard gray facemasks for red, and created perhaps the best looking helmet in Texas Tech history. On a sidenote, Carlen dropped the red away pants after the 1971 season. Red pants would return under the short tenure of Coach David McWilliams in 1986. When Steve Sloan came to Texas Tech in 1975, he re-instituted black helmets (worn during the complete tenure of J.T. King), and the helmets became a "mirror reverse image of the white helmets, with black replacing white and white replacing black. The 1975 helmets are my second favorite helmets, as the design was very strong with plenty of red and black, thus fitting the school's colors. Also, during this time, the pants featured predominate black-red-black stripes, along with matching sock tops in the middle 1970s. A few years ago, I wrote Steve Sloan and sent him a copy of his book, "A Whole New Ballgame," for signing purposes. He graciously signed it, and agreed with me that Texas Tech, for the most part, featured too much black in their uniforms today. Unfortunately, when Jerry Moore took over the reigns, he made changes to the helmets and uniforms for the worst:

  1. removing the red facemask for black (which still exists to this day)
  2. instituting silver pants. The home look of black jerseys, silver pants was a hideous look in the 1980s
  3. dividing the pant stripes. Prior to his coming, the stripes were connected and matched the stripes on the helmets. He instituted a divided stripe look (possibly a carryover from his days at North Texas)

1971_texas_football_charles_napper_-_resize_medium

QB Charles Napper from the cover of Texas Football in 1971.  Notice that the team is still using the gray facemask as the team did in 1973.

1973.  The first design that adds
the stripe down the middle of
the helmet after having no stripe
for the entire 1960s.
1974.  The addition of the red
facemask is a thing of beauty. 
1975-1983.  This helmet was
featured during the Steve Sloan
era.

**Photos from Southwest Conference Helmet History.

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The 1975 Texas Tech squad.

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Did Texas Tech have a kicker with a prosthetic leg or is that just a hefty knee brace?  Also notice the stars on the back of the helmet.

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The great, Rodney Allison from the Texas Football cover in 1977.  A look I absolutely love.

  In 1993, we get the first look of what the beginnings of the current Texas Tech helmet (i.e., solid black shell with log on the side). Considering your love for all things helmets, uniforms and Southwest Conference history, what's your favorite Texas Tech uniform and helmet (they can be from separate teams).

Unfortunately, I don't have a lot of good things to say about Texas Tech's look when they abandoned the helmet stripes in favor of a solid black helmet. The team is called the "Red Raiders," yet for several years, you would not know that the school wore red at all. I realize that the red jerseys and black pants worn at home under Spike Dykes was a popular look with the students, but I thought that a poor look. I thought that Tech's helmet/uniform design hit a low point the first year that Mike Leach came to Tech, in which the "Red Raiders" wore solid black at home and solid white on the road. Slowly over the years the look has gotten some better, with the all red look (save for the all black helmets) coming back in certain forms at home. Still, I think Texas Tech would be best served by either going back to the white helmets of 1974 (incorporating the new 3-D double-T logo) or adding a red facemask to break up the all black helmet scheme. I'm not a big fan of the "Denver Broncos" Nike swoosh side stripes on the pants and jerseys, either. This has been toned down some with the move to Under Armor uniforms two years ago, but as a traditionalist, I think Texas Tech's best look was the 1974 or 1975 team. Good balance of red, white, and black.

Thank you, Seth, for the opportunity to answer your questions and be a contributor to Double-T Nation.

  Although I think we could argue about uniforms for a really long time, I couldn't agree more with Jay about Texas Tech's current look. I too love the 1970 helmets, and I'd be happy with a red helmet as well, but there's nothing truly noteworthy or historical about the current uniform, except that I think most people like (I could be way off base here) the solid black helmet, jersey and pants.  Personally, I think I'd prefer a different look and absolutely love the 1970s version of uniforms. 

I appreciate Jay for taking the time to answer all of these questions and I'm incredibly happy that someone has taken the time to document the old SWC uniforms and helmets.  Make sure and check out Southwest Conference Helmet History for lots of history about all of the old Southwest Conference teams.