So I graduated from college about three weeks ago. As part of my university’s commencement weekend activities, there’s a tradition where the seniors all wear crazy/cool/interesting hats during the Class Day exercises (yes, we do wear the mortar boards too—just on a different day). I hadn’t given any thought to the matter until one afternoon during finals when I was talking to my parents about graduation logistics:
Me: “Oh my God. I just realized…I need to get a hat! What am I going to wear for Class Day??”
Parents: [without missing a beat] “A WWI helmet, of course.”
Me: “Oh…” o.O “Of course.”
My parents aren’t particularly WWI-savvy (apart from what they pick up from my ramblings), but they were conversant enough to help me rule out a pickelhaube or an Adrian helmet. “You’re British to the bone,” they said. (Even before my WWI interest, it was a truth universally acknowledged [within my family] that I was born on the wrong side of the Pond.)
But where do I get a WWI-style Brodie helmet?
I put out the call on Facebook and Tumblr, looking for suggestions (of which there were many) and promising photographic evidence of the helmet if/when it happened. I considered everything from making one myself from papier-mâché to purchasing a legit WWI Brodie on Ebay. Finally, I hit upon something that worked with my time, resources, and finances.
So AT LAST, as promised: me, with my WWI-style Brodie helmet, in front of my university’s WWI memorial (Photo 1).*
Also, when I was walking around campus in my full Class Day getup (i.e. this + black graduation gown), an elderly man in a wheelchair noticed my helmet and got very excited. “You need a _______!” he called out (last word unintelligible) before he was wheeled away. (I wish I’d heard what he’d said. He was old enough to be a WWII veteran, so I’m guessing he couldn’t see the leather chinstrap and thought it was a WWII Brodie. But maybe not?)
Anyhow, thank you to everyone who helped with Operation Repping WWI Soldiers at [redacted] University’s Class Day—#ProjectBrodieHelmet was a success, and it’s all because of you!
Photos 2-4: Some close-ups. The original helmet, when it arrived, was a WWII-style plastic Brodie replica. I altered it in several ways:
- Removed the nylon chinstrap and replaced it with a leather one (which I made by cutting up an old leather belt I had—worked out very well!).
- Following the directions of my friend Asya (who works at the U.S. WWI Museum), I sprayed the helmet with a coat of paint and then, before it was dry, sprinkled it with sand and added another coat of paint. Repeated this until I was satisfied with the texturing (to reduce reflectivity; can’t be too careful about those Class Day snipers).
- Added a newspaper-and-duct-tape liner that actually works pretty darn well, all things considered (I’m crafts-y enough that I could probably come up with a more authentic one, but as a college student, I was kind of limited to what I had in my room).
Photo 5: Now that I’m home, I’ve taken to wearing the helmet around the house for no real reason. Because everything (even cleaning your room, as pictured here) feels more badass in a Brodie.***
* Photo artistically blurred to protect the innocent. Or whatever. Also, I’m doing the British salute** because that’s literally the only kind I know how to do.
** (minus the left-hand-aligned-with-trouser-seam thing because…no trousers…) *** Yes, that’s Edmund Blunden’s Undertones of War in my hand, in case you’re wondering.
** (minus the left-hand-aligned-with-trouser-seam thing because…no trousers…)
*** Yes, that’s Edmund Blunden’s Undertones of War in my hand, in case you’re wondering.