Icons of England
  • Introduction
  • The Icons
  • Nominations
  • News
  • Learn & Play
  • Your Comments

The Pith Helmet

818 of 1160 nominations

PREVIOUS NEXT


The Pith Helmet

Is this an icon?

or

The Pith Helmet

That most familiar uniform item of the British colonial gentleman (and woman), the pith helmet, is made, literally, from the white pith of an Indian swamp plant, the sola. This makes it lightweight, breathable (helps stop you sweating too profusely) and very strong. The helmet was quickly adopted as an essential accessory by civilians in the sun-scorched corners of the Empire, although it began life as military head-gear – a development of German soldiers’ helmets of the 1870s. English soldiers during the Boer War (1899-1902) in South Africa used tea to dye their helmets the distinctive beige colour in order to give them better camouflage. They soon became standard issue and their popularity, which wasn’t limited to English colonial societies, spread. A variation on the design was used by the rebel fighters of the Viet Minh, adapting it from their French colonisers. Although hardly what you might call essential fashion nowadays, they still provide the best protection against harsh sun rays of any kind of hat. You can even buy rather natty customised designs to suit every occasion!

NOMINATION 818 OF 1160

Your comments

Because it is the most powerful visual symbol of the British Empire, 1847-1948. There are many of these beautiful old helmets on display in British musuems, and too few people either go and see them, or understand their history. The history of the army pith helmet is absolutely fascinating, and it involves both British and Indian history in equal measures. Originally invented by Indian hatters, these helmets were equally split in manufacture between India and London, and there were at least 25 main types in use dutring their 101 year lifespan.

Christopher Paul Mills


British not English. Even your own summary tries to indicate the existence of a separate English army during the boer war. Bizarre!
Derek Sinclair


Nominate

Nominate

My nomination is the garden shed.

FELICITY HAGUE

Nominate