Here's Exactly How Far Helmets Have Come In 100 Years, In 150 Seconds

(Image credit: Donut Media)

In the good old days, men were “men,” America was apparently “great,” and the only helmet anybody needed was a dashing cow-skin hat with cute little ear flaps. Then a lot of people died, and over a century later, heads go racing with the comfort of padding, radios and water straws.


This quick clip from our friends at Donut Media isn’t a historical explainer as much as a visualization, but the images are pretty dramatic. And holy crap has safety tech come a long way.

Some of the key points on Donut’s helmet timeline:

  • In 1908, at basically the earliest auto races, drivers were rocking “soft cloth” headcaps. Probably more to stay warm than safe.
  • Their first example of a “hard shell” was 1949, for which they found what looks like an equestrian helmet as the era’s standard.
  • 1957 supposedly marked the first “mass produced” helmet, made by Bell and designed a few years earlier.
  • Fireproof Nomex came into play in 1968, with the rise of “full-face” helmets apparently taking place a couple years later. Around the same time Snell safety standards were first published.
  • We started seeing helmet restraint devices to mitigate a driver’s head pin-balling in the mid 1980's and communication equipment being introduced shortly after.

By 2010 fancy race helmets had fresh air intakes. Today they’re made from lightweight materials with supplementary safety systems, water straws, radios and lots and lots of stickers.

What’s next, augmented reality?

Reviews Editor, Jalopnik | 1975 International Scout, 1984 Nissan 300ZX, 1991 Suzuki GSXR, 1998 Mitsubishi Montero, 2005 Acura TL

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