What to Wear: The Evolution of the Firefighter Helmet
If you could point to one item of clothing that clearly distinguishes the firefighter, it would undoubtedly be the helmet.
What you see most firefighters wearing today, however, is a blend of progress and tradition. The classic shape dates back to the early 1900s, a time when helmets were made from leather and metal. The wide brim was designed to protect the firefighter from falling debris, water and burning embers. The style took hold, and firefighters everywhere adopted it as their own.
The 20th Century brought with it the invention of new materials, such as aluminum, fiberglass and a wide variety of plastics that could be used to improve the durability of the firefighter helmet. But although new designs were introduced, firefighters resisted the new styles, and they continued to wear the traditional leather head coverings. Helmet manufacturers solved the problem by making helmets using new materials and technologies, but with the traditional shape and decorative features. That included an outer leather covering. The most noticeable improvements are found on the interior headliner and suspension system.
Today’s firefighter helmets are a blend of the old and the new. They feature the traditional style with a leather look that is crafted using Space Age materials. The materials are OSHA approved, but the design is based on the traditional leather fire helmet. It’s interesting to note that many fire departments tried significantly more modern-looking styles, but most of them returned to the traditional look.
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