Like most good ideas, it turns out that someone has already created a top hat helmet, laying the groundwork for a commercial product.
In an article on Equisearch, Jennifer Tilley writes of Megan Rust, a dressage rider who wanted to wear a top hat that also protected her head. As someone who had already suffered a traumatic brain injury (not riding related), she had the motivation to make it happen.
Rust’s first inspiration came when she saw Troxel’s derby helmet, a base helmet with a derby cover fitted over it. The helmet was certified by the American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM) and Safety Equipment Institute (SEI) approved. She immediately called Troxel to inquire about the concept of using a top hat cover instead of a derby, but they hadn’t had any interest in protective top hats and were not currently making any.
Rust decided the key was to find a company that could make a cover large enough to fit over the base helmet. She contacted the manufacturers of the derby cover in Arizona and commissioned them to make her a top-hat cover with traditional styling. The prototype was not close enough to a top hat for Rust’s liking, so she sent her idea to Baron Hats, a Los Angeles hat maker for the movie industry. They were able to narrow the rim and sharpen the corners, achieving the more traditional look that Rust wanted.
A year after her search began, Rust had her top-hat helmet. It is, of course, larger than a normal top hat. The helmet peeks out below the cover with a visible chin strap.
According to Shay Timms, CEO of Troxel, the thinnest ASTM/SEI approved base helmet can be purchased for $49 (troxelhelmets.com; 800-288-4280).
Mark Mejia, master hatter at Baron Hats, says they can make the cover in four to six weeks. “All our custom hats come with a leather sweat band, silk-satin lining, a lifetime guarantee and a signed and numbered certificate of authenticity,” he says. The price of the cover varies from $500 to $1,200, depending on the materials used and the cost of labor (baronhats.com; 818-563-3025).