Thursday, October 2, 2014

Haven't We Seen These Before?

Looking through "vintage" bicycle items on eBay today, I spotted an unusual, yet familiar item: "SPIN Foldable Vintage Crash Hats." I can't tell if the term "Crash Hat" is simply an effort to sidestep legal issues that might arise from calling them "helmets," or if it's an effect of the Taiwanese seller's tenuous grasp of English. I do know, however, that they are not actually "vintage." Regardless -- somebody has decided to resurrect the old leather (or at least, vinyl) hairnet helmets. Why, I'm not exactly certain. 

For people who value style over substance or safety, they come in lots of fashionable color combinations. For the price of a decent modern helmet that meets all the various safety standards, one can have the illusion of safety with none of the actual benefits. They are offered as "buy it now" on eBay at $79, though the text within the listing says $67 (there is no apparent way to actually purchase the "crash hat" for $67). Add another $25 for shipping from Taipei.

Pink, blue, polka dots, and other combinations. What fun!

Of course, I'm not overly convinced of the safety of any bicycle helmet. I usually wear one by choice, and I insist that my children wear them when riding, but I would never over-estimate the protection that a helmet can give. Nevertheless, if any person believes a helmet is a worthy piece of safety equipment when riding a bike, then they would only wear a proper helmet that meets the ANSI or Snell (or other similar) standards. And if a person doesn't believe a helmet is necessary, then why would they strap on one of these?

Actually -- the text in the eBay listing makes the reason perfectly clear (well, maybe not perfectly clear -- you'll have to excuse the tortured English):

"No more boring same old design, SPIN vintage crash hat come with over than
10 different color designs, you can even match up with your favorite caps and outfits

Please Note: SPIN Vintage Foldable Crash Hat is designed as fashion accessories,
it is NOT suitable to be used as safety helmet.

See? If you are not convinced a helmet makes you safer, but you just want to strap one on your head anyway as a "fashion accessory," then the SPIN Vintage Foldable Crash Hat is what you need! In fact, I'm wondering if it's a trend now in Taiwan for people to walk around with bogus bicycle helmets (sorry -- "crash hats") on their heads. How fashionable!

It's what all the Taiwanese "gangstas" are wearing these days.

In the interest of full disclosure, I should point out that I personally have a vintage (as in actual early 80s vintage, not new "vintage" style) leather helmet, which I've had since it was new, before I got my first "real" helmet. Now it's just a conversation/display piece I show the kids when I tell them what it was like to ride back in the stone age -- before carbon fiber and disc brakes.

Retrogrouch or not, I think these are evidence that not everything from the past needs to be resurrected.


  1. I owned a "leather hairnet" for years, but I never actually used it. Finally, I loaned it to someone who wanted it for a Halloween costume and never got it back. Oh, well. I guess I shouldn't be too upset: It was basic black, which is the old neon (contrary to everyone who says neon is the new black).

    Football (American) players used to wear very similar helmets. In fact, we used to joke that it accounted for Gerald Ford being, well Gerald Ford: It's what he and other players wore when he played for U Michigan during the '30's!

    1. Funny thing, you mention black and neon -- Do you remember the leather (or pleather, more likely) hairnets that Cinelli offered in the early 80s that came in neon colors? I remember seeing pictures or Alexi Grewal wearing one in races.

  2. Total hipster-bait. How long before BSNY is snarking about the salmoning fixie-riders that will inevitably be wearing these? Haha.

    I never had a hairnet, but I do remember my parents getting me a Bell styrofoam dome to wear. I never did, of course, because it looked like you were wearing a cooler on your head.


    1. I remember the Bell styrofoam domes -- that's a pretty good way to describe the Bell Biker. I could not bring myself to buy or wear one. My first "real" helmet was the V1 Pro, which was still a huge bucket of a helmet, but it was supposed to look more like the leather ones. Nobody was fooled.

    2. The first hardshell helmet I remember is the Bell "turtle shell". A couple of years later, some other company came out with a helmet called the "Skid Lid." It looked like a "leather harinet" made of plastic and styrofoam, with its done cut off. How much protection it provided, I don't know.

      The first helmet I actually rode was a Bell V-1 Pro.

    3. The Skid Lid was aptly named. A light skid was all it would protect a rider from. It wasn't a whole lot more than a hairnet with a bit of a plastic shell -- and yeah, for some reason, there was nothing on the top, as if "headers" never happen.

  3. Brooks makes a foldable retro helmet, it's rather more expensive than these hairnets of course.

    1. thanks for the link -- I'll say this about the Brooks helmet -- though I'd never get one myself (looks a bit clunky to me), at least it appears to offer more protection and apparently meets some relevant safety standards.

  4. Perhaps you need one to ride the L'eroica? Or just to fit in with old timers?