How Football Equipment Has Evolved

Football has become an integral part of North American culture, and Super Bowl Sunday has practically become an annual holiday at this point. The sport is filled with excitement in the form of rambunctious running plays, epic tackles, and last-minute touchdowns. It’s no wonder it has gained so much popularity.

With that said, football isn’t all fun and games, and it can actually be quite dangerous for players. Strains, sprains, dislocations, fractures, and even concussions are commonplace in this full-contact game, and there’s only one thing that can protect players from the physical demands of football – equipment.

In today’s blog, we’ll be divulging everything you need to know about the evolution of football equipment.

football gear


Football helmets are probably the most critical piece of equipment that players wear. They serve as a barrier to protect player’s heads from hard hits and life-altering head injuries that can occur during a game. Today, football helmets are composed of a hard plastic shell with thick padding inside, a face mask, and a chinstrap. While the design of football helmets has proven effective in terms of reducing the overall amount of concussions, this hasn’t always been the case.

Early forms of football helmets that were used during the 1920s consisted of leather with some padding on the interior. These handmade helmets didn’t have any sort of facemask and, not surprisingly, they provided very little protection.

The first plastic helmet first became available in 1939, but it took ten years for the NFL to officially adopt plastic helmets. In the mid-1950s single face bars were added to the plastic helmets, and by the 1980s Riddell added circular earholes, a rounded dome, and clean face mask lines to their helmets.

football helmets

Shoulder Pads

The first shoulder pads came to be in the late 1980s when players DIYed them out of pillows that were connected via a cord. By the turn of the century, shoulder pads became more widely adopted, and manufacturers began creating leather shoulder pads that could be sewn into players’ jerseys.

By the time the 1940s came around, harness shoulder pads were introduced. This pad resembled the same style used in modern-day football – they were placed over the head and sewn to the chest. Forty years later, another revolutionary change came about in the form of synthetic pads. The synthetic material was a real lifesaver for players as it was lighter and stronger than previously used materials.

shoulder pads


Pants are probably the piece of equipment that have experienced the least amount of change over the years. Padded football pants were adopted in the 1880s, though the pants were composed of canvas and the pads were sewn into the thigh and knee regions.

Hip padding was added to the mix at the close of the century, and since then the materials used in football pants has changed drastically. Like other football equipment, pants made the transition from materials like wool and canvas to more synthetic and practical materials including nylon and rubber.


Early forms of football shoes are a far shot from what they are today and resembled a boot more than an athletic shoe. It was only at the turn of the 20th century that football shoes took the form of cleats after players expressed an interest in playing in various field conditions.

The first cleats used were made by players that attached a cleat-like metal to the soles of their shoes. Manufacturers began to catch on to the popularity of this style shoe shortly afterwards, and ready-made versions were produced.

Today, there are a wide-array of cleats available that are designed specifically for different climates and field positions. Player’s shoes are lighter than ever before, and they come in leather and synthetic materials.

football gear

Evidently, football equipment has come a long way over the years, but despite revolutionary advancements in the technology of materials, they still retain sweat and can get very smelly. That’s why we’ve made it our mission to completely eliminate bacteria, viruses, and odour at Love Your Gear. Our state-of-the-art machines and experienced odour elimination technicians can remove all odours and bacteria from your football equipment. Contact us today to get a free quote.