The 15 Best Vintage-Style Motorcycle Helmets

Jun 23, 2021

Category: Gear

Since the turn of the millennium, retro-inspired offerings have skyrocketed in popularity, permeating a slew of industries including the motorcycle world. In response to the growing number of vintage-inspired production models — and an increasingly influential custom motorcycle scene — many of today’s most reputable gear manufacturers have started producing items that draw visual inspiration from riding gear of decade’s past while still offering modern-day constructions and safety standards — or what a great many riders would call “the best of both worlds.”

With this nostalgia-grab at an all-time high, there is now more retro-style riding gear to choose from than at any previous point in history. However, just like regular modern riding gear, the overall construction and protective qualities of these items can massively vary from product to product and manufacturer to manufacturer. So, with this in mind, we’ve pored through hundreds of catalogs and websites from all over the planet to deliver this curated guide to the best retro motorcycle helmets. In addition to highlighting the best lids the market has to offer in the 3/4, enduro, and full-face segments, we’ll also be touching on what aspects to take into account when shopping.

Antiquated Aesthetics & Contemporary Coverage

The Main Areas To Consider When Shopping For A Retro-Style Motorcycle Helmet

While for most people, their hunt for a new retro-style lid is largely an aesthetically driven pursuit, there are a handful of other areas that are crucial to consider before making your purchase. Below, we’ll briefly be touching on the eight most important factors to think about when shopping for a vintage-style helmet.

Shell Construction: A motorcycle helmet’s weight, durability, and resistance to impacts is almost entirely owed to the type of shell that it’s built around, as well as the material that lines the inside of the shell (and absorbs impacts). These are typically made from composites, plastics, carbon fiber, or a combination of the two or three — which are often proprietary constructions. It’s also worth noting that the more premium manufacturers tend to produce more shell sizes than the budget brands — which often share one or two shells across the entire size range — which allows for lighter and better-fitting helmets.

Pads & Liner: In addition to weight, the comfort of a helmet is primarily determined by the interior liner and cheek pads. Some pads are not only markedly more plush and luxurious than others, but also boast sweat-wicking, quick-drying, and antimicrobial properties. More often than not these pads and liners are also removable and machine-washable. Some helmets also sport emergency release systems for emergency medical teams and first responders.

Safety Certification(s): To give a better and more objective sense of a helmet’s overall protection, several official outfits have created legal safety tests and standards that helmets must meet in order to obtain legal status on public roads. In the US this means DOT-certification while Europe uses the ECE-rating system. There’s also the supplementary SNELL and SHARP standards, as well as the FIM certification for use in racing. it is important to note that some retro-style helmets — especially of the enduro-style variety — often lack the DOT or ECE certification needed for legal use on the street.

Weight: How much a helmet weighs is determined by its size, shell and liner construction, and several other factors. Considering these items are solely supported by our neck, a low weight is immensely important. Fortunately, in addition to boasting modern-day safety standards, most new retro-style helmets also distinguish themselves from actual vintage lids by their lightness, with many of today’s more high-end offerings tipping the scales at between three and four pounds.

Price & Value: Spending a larger amount will almost always ensure that you’re getting a better, more premium helmet. Having said that, there are plenty of more accessibly priced helmets that offer far better bang-for-your-buck than their high-dollar counterparts.

Noise: Excessive wind noise is not only annoying but can actually be damaging to your hearing. At 40mph, riders are typically exposed to around 90dB of wind noise, though this figure climbs to 110dB once a rider hits 100mph. As a point of reference, an ambulance siren is about 120dB. For this reason, it’s extremely worth your while to explore how effectively a particular helmet is at mitigating wind noise. It’s also worth mentioning that full-face helmets will almost always provide markedly better protection from wind noise than enduro and 3/4-style lids.

Color & Livery Options: Because style and aesthetics are such a pivotal part of retro-style helmets, a great many of the brands producing these items offer these helmets in a host of unique patterns, designs, and liveries, as well as plain gloss and matte solid color options. If you’re ever on the fence between two particular retro-style helmets, we’d advise exploring the different paint options available, as this will often help guide your decision.

Accessories & Attachments: Many of the retro-style helmets on the market can be further customized or personalized using accessories and add-ons. This includes flip-up and bubble-style shields, different color drop-down visors, snap-on visors, removable chin-bars, and even some custom-anodized hardware on some of the most premium models. There are also several helmets from boutique brands that are available with bespoke goggles made specifically to pair with a given full-face, 3/4, or enduro-style helmet.

Old-School & Open-Faced

The Best Retro-Style 3/4 Helmets

Modeled after the very first motorcycle helmets ever created, 3/4-style — or “open-face” — helmets offer a distinctly old-school aesthetic that pairs particularly well with standard motorcycles, cruiser bikes, and bobbers. These helmets can also be accessorized with goggles and visors.

AGV X70

Taking inspiration from both mid-century lacing lids and the helmets AGV once produced for military fighter pilots, the X70 is a minimalistic 3/4-style lid that’s produced in a trio of shell sizes and in a variety of unique paint designs as well as solid colors. Adorned with ’60s/’70s-era AGV logos, the X70 also features an eco-leather and fabric interior that’s both removable and washable and boasts embossed AGV branding.

Shell Material: Advanced Composite Fiberglass
Weight: 2.24LBS
Origin: Italy

Purchase: $200+

Sena Savage

The Sena Savage looks like your average vintage-style open-face brain bucket while concealing a Bluetooth comm system with a one-mile range, Sena’s signature boom-less microphone, a built-in FM radio, and 11-hours of playback or talk time. The three snaps across the Savage’s forehead can also accommodate an MX or cruiser-style visor, both of which are included with the helmet. This helmet is also DOT-certified.

Shell Material: Composite Fiberglass
Weight: 2.43LBS
Origin: South Korea

Purchase: $299

Quinn McQ

Named after the “King of Cool” himself, the QUINN McQ is a more technologically advanced and feature-laden take on a 3/4-style lid, boasting a Bluetooth comm system with an integrated microphone and speakers, as well as a built-in SOS beacon and automatic crash detection system. Sold with a premium matte finish in a number of color combo options, the McQ also packs a tinted drop-down visor and a color-matched quilted liner.

Shell Material: Polycarbonate Thermoplastic ABS
Weight: 2.79LBS
Origin: China

Purchase: $299

Arai Classic-V

For the Japanese brand’s Classic-V helmet, Arai has taken its cutting-edge Peripherally Belted Complex Laminate construction from its X generation of helmets and used it to craft this traditional-looking piece of protective gear. Boasting both SNELL and DOT-certification, this helmet also sports a faux-leather trim, an antimicrobial liner with removable cheek pads, a hidden ventilation system with a trio of intakes and dual of exhaust ports, a goggle strap holder, and five snaps that can accept an optional face shield.

Shell Material: Peripherally Belted e-Complex Laminate
Weight: 2.62LBS
Origin: Japan

Purchase: $470+

Ruby Pavillon

A boutique brand based in France, Les Ateliers Ruby produces a decidedly top-shelf line of vintage-style helmets, including the company’s open-faced model the Pavillon. Built around a carbon fiber shell, this ultra-premium lid features a tri-density foam padding upholstered beneath a Napa leather liner with anti-bacterial lambskin and sports three snaps that allow the helmet to be paired with a range of equally high-end accessories that are made specifically for the Pavillon. This helmet is also sold in an enormous variety of hand-painted colors, patterns, and designs.

Shell Material: Carbon Fiber
Weight: 1.91LBS
Origin: China

Purchase: $795+

Off-Road-Flavored Lids

The Best Vintage-Style Enduro Helmets

Inspired by — if not directly modeled after — dirtbike helmets of the ‘60s, ‘70s, and ‘80s, enduro-style lids were once primarily popular with dual-sport and scrambler owners, though in recent years have been embraced by just about every type of rider seeking a stylish yet protective brain bucket. These helmets are largely characterized by their lack of a visor, pronounced, and typically pointed chin-bar, and the fact they are almost always worn with goggles. It’s also worth mentioning that some of these helmets aren’t rated for road use.

Bell Moto-3

A few years back when Bell was looking to produce a vintage-style enduro lid, the California company opted to reach back into their archives and recreate a modern version of their Moto-3 model that originally debuted in the late 1970s. Retaining the original Moto-3’s exterior design and silhouette, this contemporary rendition features a lightweight fiberglass composite construction shell paired with an EPS-lined chin-bar and a removable and washable anti-microbial terrycloth liner.

Shell Material: Composite Fiberglass
Weight: 2.77LBS
Origin: China

Purchase: $240+

Simpson M50

Just like with the Bell helmet directly above, the M50 is a modern-day recreation of one of Simpson’s retro offerings, gaining a composite fiberglass shell construction that affords it a DOT certification. Manufactured by the American brand in two different shell sizes and offered in half a dozen different matte and gloss color options, this helmet also comes with removable cheek pads and a five-snap visor.

Shell Material: Composite Fiberglass
Weight: 2.7LBS
Origin: America

Purchase: $260

Nexx XG200

Made in small batches in Portugal to ensure top-notch quality control and a top-shelf fit and finish, the Nexx XG200 helmet is made from an advanced X-Matrix shell that’s crafted from an amalgamation of multiaxial fiberglass and 3D organic fibers that are strategically reinforced using special Aramid and carbon fiber. Extremely lightweight and offering stellar protective properties, this helmet also sports an adjustable visor and a grilled and ventilated chin-bar and is offered in some of the coolest liveries and designs on the market.

Shell Material: Kevlar & Carbon Fiber-Reinforced Fiberglass
Weight: 2.62LBS
Origin: Portugal

Purchase: $350+

Shoei Ex-Zero

A neo-retro take on an enduro-style helmet, Shoei’s Ex-Zero model is made from the same state-of-the-art multi-ply Matrix AIM shell construction that’s used on the Japanese outfit’s world-class race helmets. The helmet’s pointed and pronounced grilled chin-bar gives off a decidedly old-school vibe while the spherical crown and drop-down visor keep one foot firmly planted in the present. Weighing roughly 2.5lbs, this item also boasts Shoei’s typically top-shelf quality and finish.

Shell Material: Multi-Ply Matrix AIM
Weight: 2.51LBS
Origin: Japan

Purchase: $507+

Rough Crafts REVOLATOR

After searching for the ultimate retro-style helmet for the better part of a decade, Winston Yeh of Rough Crafts ultimately set out to design his own helmet from the ground up, resulting in the carbon fiber-shelled REVOLATOR. Blurring the line between an enduro and cafe-style lid, this high-end helmet is brimming with premium hardware and accents and features a bespoke anti-bacterial made by moto jacket and gear brand Merlin. This helmet is also offered in a plethora of hand-painted colors and designs.

Shell Material: Carbon Fiber
Weight: 2.53LBS
Origin: Taiwan

Purchase: $699+

Cafe-Style Cranial Coverage

The Best Retro-Style Full-Face Helmets

Vintage-style full-face helmets — which are often also referred to as “cafe helmets” — take their inspiration primarily from race helmets of half a century ago and as such sport fairly aerodynamic shapes and locking face shields. And, as the category’s name would suggest, these helmets pair wonderfully with cafe racer bikes.

AGV X3000

Modeled after the shape of the iconic Italian brand’s race helmets of the 1970s, the X3000 manages to cram AGV’s state-of-the-art safety standards into an unmistakably vintage-inspired package, complete with its bullet-shaped shell and off-set snap-locking asymmetrical visor. The interior of this premium cafe lid boasts a genuine leather and suede fabric liner while the outside of the helmet is offered in a variety of solid colors as well as some replica paint schemes from legendary racers like Barry Sheene and Giacomo Agostini (the latter of which is seen here).

Shell Material: Advanced Composite Fiberglass
Weight: 2.86LBS
Origin: Italy

Purchase: $380

Shoei Glamster

Rather than taking visual inspiration from ’60s- and ’70-era race helmets, this cafe racer lid from Shoei is modeled after retro superbike and race helmets from the 1980s. On top of the cutting-edge Matrix+ AIM shell and multi-density polystyrene foam liner, this helmet also sports a number of other thoroughly modern features such as a UV-protective visor that comes equipped with a Pinlock EVO fog-resistant insert and an emergency quick-release cheek-pad system for first responders.

Shell Material: Multi-Ply Matrix AIM
Weight: 2.65LBS
Origin: Japan

Purchase: $560+

Arai Rapide

Arai’s take on a helmet inspired by 1980s-era race lids, the Rapide — which is also known as the “Concept-X” in certain markets — gets an old-school appearance that retains the Saitama-based brand’s signature design language and, more importantly, world-class protective properties. Backed by Arai’s standard half-decade warranty, the Rapide also comes with the typical top-shelf array of features that grace the rest of Arai’s high-dollar offerings such as an emergency-release system, plethora of intake and exhaust ports, a pin-lock-ready visor sold with an insert, and a 3D moving latch system that was first developed for use on the company’s F1 auto racing helmets.

Shell Material: Peripherally Belted e-Complex Laminate
Weight: 3.49LBS
Origin: Japan

Purchase: $635+

Veldt FullFace

Created by the co-founder of Les Ateliers Ruby on the legendary motorsport proving ground that is the Isle of Man, Veldt is an extremely upscale boutique helmet brand that crafts distinctively modular retro-style lids using some of the finest materials available. Pieced together using titanium hardware, the helmet is built around a 3/4-style carbon fiber shell that can be outfitted with carbon chin-bars, visors, and face shields, including a locking unit on the FullFace model (seen here).

Shell Material: Carbon Fiber
Weight: 2.86LBS
Origin: Isle of Man

Purchase: $820+

HEDON Heroine Racer

Since the company’s inception in 2011, HEDON has been producing some of the finest old-school-style helmets that money can buy, combing vintage aesthetics with modern materials and old-world craftsmanship. Boasting a fit and finish only made possible through hand-made manufacturing, the ECE-certified Heroine Racer helmet comes with a carbon fiber and fiberglass composite shell that’s finished with an antimicrobial Merlin lining, natural calf leather trim, and brass hardware throughout — including the brass HEDON plate adorning the forehead of the helmet. This top-shelf cafe-racer-style lid is also available in an enormous variety of hand-applied designs and patterns, as well as several limited-edition variants.

Shell Material: Carbon Fiber & Fiberglass Composite
Weight: 2.84LBS
Origin: England

Purchase: $915+

The 15 Best Pieces Of Retro Motorcycle Gear

Want to check out a more expansive selection of vintage-inspired riding gear that isn’t limited to only helmets? Then be sure to cruise on over to our guide to the best pieces of retro motorcycle gear for a handpicked selection of gloves, boots, jackets, and pants modeled after items of yesteryear.

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