When the University of Hawaii football team hits the practice field on Wednesday morning to begin fall camp, it won’t be just the roster and coaching staff that features a new look.
The Rainbow Warriors will also be donning a brand new helmet design. For the first time since being introduced 22 years ago, the tapa trim used as the center stripe has been replaced by feathers as the Manawa pays homage to Hawaii’s warriors and chiefs in celebration of the state’s unique culture.
The helmet also features the island chain on the left side near the ear hole and will be decked out with the Hulu Moa (chicken feather) helmet stickers, which will be earned throughout the season. White merit stickers will be handed out for defensive players and black for the offense as a nod to King Kamehameha’s white and black stones, which represented being on the offensive or defensive in battle.
Tasked with creating the look was Oahu’s Keola Rapozo, co-creator and owner of Fitted Hawaii and the Fitted Art and Development Studio. According to him, he took great pride and responsibility in providing a chance to both educate and motivate.
“I would love for the connection to be about place and representation of identity. Our identity is exclusively tied to this place being kanaka, being local. To be able to share that same intimate idea and concept of ali’i and aarrior and the moa and their fierce competitiveness and how they fought on the battlefield,” Rapozo told KHON2 sports director Rob DeMello. “This is the same representation that we hope that these kids are feeling when they’re out there. I’m a warrior and we’re going to go out into different parts of America and represent this place with our stories. I think that’s incredibly powerful.”
Rapozo worked with head coach Timmy Chang and a handful of Hawaii historians and educators in an attempt to tell stories and honor Hawaii’s past through the Rainbow Warrior football team, which stands tall as a program that can take pride in the uniqueness of the islands and its people.
“Man, it’s still very surreal. I’m very, very honored to be a part of this,” Rapozo said. “We think about these things growing up, or I think about these things growing up as a designer, what is the ultimate project? And this would be the ultimate project. To be able to help represent our state and start to tell authentic stories.”
Regarding background on the new look, Rapozo offered these additional comments on the center decal, helmet stickers and repositioned (and smaller) island chain.
“The manawa, which is the crest, manawa means time, but it’s also the space in between two times. We have the last generation of Warriors and then now we have Timmy and this new generation of warriors and we’re kind of in this middle part. We wanted to represent what a Warriors means to their chief.”
HULU MOA –
“The Hulu Moa, which is the chicken feather, the merit based feather will be given out for exceeding expectations on the field. Tackles, touchdowns, however the coaching staff decides to hand these out. We decided to have two different colors: One for offense and one for defense.”
ISLAND CHAIN –
“It’s who these kids represent. Who they play for and where the support for them comes from. Although these are decals, it opens up the space to further tell our stories through these decals, maybe things in the future. It all ties into identity. We didn’t want to come in and change anything. We just wanted to add a layer onto the concept. So the design language is still very sharp. As it gradually grades, the feathers grade into the Manawa and the center it still carries that feel so it still works seamlessly with the current mark and current logo and current uniforms. That was important to us.”
Less than a dozen players will debut the helmets on the first day of training camp on Wednesday morning with a team-wide launch of the new look set for Aug. 27 in the team’s season opener against Vanderbilt. Over the next few weeks, multiple team meetings will be held to educate the team on what the helmet represents. Stories will be told about the warriors that walked the land before them.
The Rainbow Warriors will not be receiving new jerseys for the 2022 season but a complete redesign of the uniforms will take place ahead of the 2023 season.