We see them practically every day in many different situations, yet the helmet may not really be appreciated for how it has helped protect so many people over that past several thousand years. In forms that are both practical and symbolic, the helmet has been a part of many different cultures and is today used more often than ever before.
The very name “helmet” is the diminutive form of the word “helm” which was the Medieval word for protective headgear. In fact, the term “helmet” originally meant the part of the “helm” that partially covered the head
We’ve seen helmets on soldiers, athletes, construction sites, mining operations and in riding motorcycles and bicycles. Today, most helmets are made from a combination of materials that are far lighter and stronger than their old natural counterparts of metal and leather. The history of the helmet and how it has progressed through our society is certainly an interesting one.
Although it is certainly possible that they were created even earlier, the origins of the helmet can be traced back to the Assyrian Empire in 900BC where their soldiers wore either leather or perhaps bronze helmets to protect their heads from arrows and blows from swords and blunt objects. In fact, helmets have been used by soldiers in many different cultures since that time. Over the centuries, helmets were mostly used by soldiers that were improved from their primitive early forms of leather and bronze to be made from iron and eventually steel.
In the past few centuries, the protective qualities of the helmet spread to areas other than warfare as people used helmets for protection when mining and construction projects. As the ability to create helmets for non-military uses became easier, the uses for this remarkable protection spread to the most common people.
Arguably derived from the military uses, helmets were also created for decorative purposes as well. From the military to civilian services that use helmets in their profession, decorative helmets that indicate the formality of the event or the status of the individual have been created as well.
Helmets have been made from a wide variety of materials over the years ranging from leather to different metals and even ones created from the tusks of boars as used by the ancient Mycenea peoples. In the past few centuries, helmets made from straw and bramble were used by gamekeepers in Britain while the famous pith helmet was indeed made of pith or cork and used in tropical conditions.
Leather helmets were used by pilots and crews operating tanks during the 20th century and even automobile drivers in open-top roadster vehicles wore leather helmets as well along with football players. However, in both World Wars the predominant material for helmets was those made from metal.
Today, most helmets in both military and in non-military roles are made from different forms of plastic which is very hard, yet lightweight. These helmets are lined on the inside that helps separate the head from the outer edges of the helmet to better absorb impacts.
The combination of plastics and synthetic fibers such as Kevlar, Aramid and Twaron have helped reinforce the helmets of soldiers, football players and those in other professions to offer maximum protection.
The helmet has certainly come a long way since its origins almost 3,000 years ago, but in many ways is still providing the same function of protecting the head.
Armor History: Helmets