Pith Helmet

The pith helmet (also known as the safari helmet, sun helmet, topee, sola topee, salacot or topi) is a lightweight cloth-covered helmet made of cork or pith (typically pith from the sola Indian swamp growth). Designed to shade the wearer’s head and face from the sun, pith helmets were once often worn by Westerners in the tropics.

Crude forms of pith helmets had existed as early as the 1840s, but it was around 1870 that the pith helmet became popular with military personnel in Europe’s tropical colonies. The Franco-Prussian War had popularized the German Pickelhaube, which may have influenced the distinctive design of the pith helmet. Such developments may have merged with a traditional design from the Philippines, the salakot. The alternative name salacot (also written salakhoff) appears frequently in Spanish and French sources; it comes from the Tagalog word salacsac (or Salaksak).

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