Beyond saving lives, crash helmets can make a strong style statement – as Berluti’s signature hand-patinated leather version proves
Deconstructed: The Crash Helmet
Since the bicycle was invented in 1817, people have been trying to make it easier to use. In 1894, Hildebrand & Wolfmüller
succeeded in adding a combustion engine, thus inventing the motorcycle. As a result of the First World War, demand for motorbikes went up, and soon, engines were being improved. With better engines came faster speeds and, by 1937, motorcycle racer Joe Petrali set a new record, clocking up just over 219km/h.
More speed also meant more fatalities, but it was not until T E Lawrence was killed in 1935, that Dr Hugh Cairns started to investigate the link between deaths and helmet use. His paper, published in the British Medical Journal in 1941, declared unequivocally that crash helmets saved lives. That same year, the British Army introduced cork-lined helmets for its riders. By 1953, professor C F Lombard created the first double-lined helmet, specifically made to absorb and dissipate the impact of a high-speed crash, while full-face visors appeared during the 1960s.
On January 1, 1960, Australia became the first country to make wearing a crash helmet compulsory, followed by the United States in 1966, but this was rescinded in 1975. Evel Knievel – the motorbike daredevil – earned a world record for the greatest number of bones broken (433), yet owed his life to his crash helmet.
In 1993, they were made compulsory for camel jockeys in the UAE, while today, failure to wear one while riding a motorbike carries a Dh200 fine with four black points. Some riders still refuse to don one, citing lack of style. A collaboration between Berluti and Veldt resulted in the Helmet Berluti x Veldt (pictured), which is made from Japanese carbon fibre and finished with Berluti’s signature hand-patinated Venezia leather, so now there is simply no excuse not to obey the law.