As children, my friends and I galloped our ponies, Man-From-Snowy-River style, bareback and hatless, without a thought to our safety, and somehow managed to survive. Nowadays I’m a bit more cognizant of my mortality. So despite the fact that they are annoying and totally mess up my hair, I wear a helmet every time I ride.
I’ve had my current hard hat for several years. While still perfectly functional, it’s kinda faded and beat up and…well….smelly. I should probably get a new one. But there’s something stopping me. It’s not an issue of time, or opportunity, or sentimental attachment. The issue is that the cost of a “good” riding helmet has broken the $600 mark.
For a HAT.
Like the plastic wind-up rice bowl with wheels, the concept of a $600 riding helmet begs the question, …..What The F*ck????
Okay – keeping your brains from exiting your skull is worth some sort of investment. I’ll give you that much. But ALL ‘approved’ riding helmets are constructed to the same safety/impact regulations to be certified as ‘approved.’ There is no argument you can make to convince me that a $600 ‘approved’ hat is going to keep my brains off the fencepost ANY more effectively than a $150 ‘approved’ hat.
The $600 hats boast ‘cutting-edge technology’ construction and materials. They have ‘advanced features’ such as extra padding for comfort and ventilation to keep your head cool (not to be confused with keeping a cool head; no hat can guarantee that). Some brands even offer customized colors so that you can behat yourself in, say, navy and cerulean (um, for an even bigger price).
I’m sorry. You’ll have to do better than that.
If I’m going to pay $600 for a helmet, it better come equipped with gadgetry to rival anything James Bond ever had. It better come complete with satellite radio, HBO and text messaging features. I want built-in audio reception and a channel directly to my trainer so, like Obi Wan Kenobi, he can be that voice in the back of my subconscious saying ‘use the Force, Luke,’ or, in my case, ‘slow down, Dumbass.’ Barring that, I’ll take a built-in On Course GPS, with programmable features and a little soothing voice that offers helpful information such as “Oxer in six strides. Apply leg now,” and “Pace has exceeded escape velocity. Triple Combination not advised.”
Instead of some advanced composite plastic alloy, I’d like the hat made of something that is both microwaveable and dishwasher safe. I’d like a brim of sharpened, surgical grade steel so I can take the hat off, fling it and use it as a weapon, ala James Bond’s nemesis, Oddjob. Instead of spending all that money and technology making something that can absorb greater impact, how about eliminating the impact danger all together? Put airbags in the damned thing. And for that price, those vents in the top of the hat better be good for something more than airflow. I should be able to turn the hat upside down and, say, drain pasta or pan for gold.
For all the amazing ‘advanced technology’ and design, these hats are still woefully deficient very basic areas. Why is the interior padding of EVERY hat not removable, washable and replaceable? That cushiony inner padding that they charge $200 extra for? After you wear the hat for a few weeks, it compresses. The result? Your $600 helmet no longer fits you. So you have to shore it up with something to MAKE it fit. Something that has its own adhesive that you can take off and toss after it gets sweaty and smelly. DON’T sell me a $600 hat and then tell me I also have to buy a box of ultra-thin maxi-pads to stick in it to keep it to keep the damned thing on my head.
As if the price isn’t painful enough, the Bad Hatters add insult to injury by making the things butt-ugly. Whatever happened to the elegant black-velvet look? Modern hard hats look more like the exoskeletons of alien insects. Okay, some of them are kind of cool looking. But the majority of them are just a facemask attachment away from being something Darth Vader would wear. In what alternate universe is THAT a good look?
Seriously. If you’re going to have the balls to charge $600 and upwards for your ugly hats, you’d better get your act together and chock them full of features we can actually use. It better be something that would do Steve Austin (TV’s Six Million Dollar Man) proud. Until then, you won’t see me wearing one.
Addendum: Since writing this blog, I am happy to report that I am the proud owner of a brand new, state-of-the-art riding helmet. It's safety approved, kinda cool looking, and has a removable, washable and adjustable interior lining. It's comfortable. It's functional. It's goodlooking. And it cost me $75.