Iconic accessories: Get ahead, get a hat

1956 Manx helmet from J Compton, Sons & Webb

Trials riders notwithstanding – where the cloth cap reigned supreme for years after the helmet law – there was a reticence on the public’s part to wear a helmet for fear of being labelled ‘racer’.

Gradually though the idea of having something between the hairstyle and the public highway in the event of an accident caught on.

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There has always been some dispute over what material is best for a safety helmet and there is a fine line between a helmet so heavy it causes neck trauma and a light one being strong enough to do the job. Carbon fibre is the material of choice these days – light and tough – but when this Manx helmet from J Compton, Sons & Webb came on the market in 1956 resin impregnated asbestos material for the shell and a ¼in cork lining were considered the way forward.

A webbing harness provided adjustment and a leather headband with sponge rubber backing provided comfort. It isn’t easy to see from the sketch but the helmet came in white with a black peak and the price for this headwear style? A snip at 55s – younger readers can marvel at this being £2.75. bike

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