Up until a few days ago, if you had asked me what a “head badge” is, I would have guessed something like what you see at right — the badge that police officers often wear on their hats.
But that was before reader Stephen Walker taught me that a head badge is that logo plate thingie on the front tube of a bike. I’d seen them before, of course, but I didn’t know the proper term for them and had never really given them much thought. (Although I bike just about every single day in Prospect Park, I’m not really a biker guy; just a guy who bikes. Many of cycling culture’s nuances escape my notice.)
“I have cleaned and repaired a couple of older bikes and I have always loved the metal plaques fastened to the frames, which give the models distinct identities,” Stephen wrote. He went on:
Nowadays the head badge is usually identical to the company logo and is either painted on the frame or incorporated into the frame in some way. However, if you go back far enough you get all these wonderfully unique metal badges, or occasionally decals. There are some really great designs out there, often with quirky company names on them, like Rivendell Bicycle Works. Unfortunately, I don’t really know much about the history of head badges or what they are worth as collector’s items these days, but I did find some cool galleries if you want to check them out.
The galleries Stephen’s referring to are here (that page mostly shows the head badges by themselves, removed from the frame) and here (that one shows the head badges in situ). Lots of interesting stuff in both sites, as you can see in this very small sampling:
Nice, right? I love it when something becomes a little design subculture unto itself. Kinda reminds me of produce labels and typewriter ribbon tins (the latter of which I’ve thought about collecting for quite a few years now, although I’ve so far resisted the urge), both of which could have been blandly functional but instead developed their own design protocols with very high visual standards, just like head badges.
As it turns out, there’s a brisk trade in head badges on eBay. Most of them aren’t too pricey, either. But because they’re curved, they’re a little tricky to display — you can’t just tack them up flush against the wall or whatever. So collectors apparently tend to house in display cases with vertical columns.
All of which reminds me: You know those metal plates/badges/etc. on old appliances? One time, years ago, I saw a girl wearing a jeans jacket covered with those. Like, instead of cloth patches, she’d used those appliance thingies. I really liked that. It’d be cool to do that with head badges, but again, the curvature issue would cause problems.
Anyway: head badges — they’re cool. And until this week, I’d never devoted a single brain cell to them. Major thanks to Stephen for opening up this new aesthetic realm for me.
Uni Watch News Ticker: The new NHL all-star jerseys are very similar to last season’s design. … New stadium-centennial patch for the Red Sox. Kinda bogus to be wearing it on the road jersey, though. … Yesterday I paid a visit to the NBA offices, where I saw all the new uniforms for the upcoming season (and also posed next to a Lego version of Kevin Garnett). Can’t share any info or images yet, but I can tell you that many of this season’s throwbacks are really good. … Speaking of the NBA, I believe we’d seen the Kings’ new black alt in a video game leak, but here it is for real. … Don’t think I’ve ever seen a UCLA insignia styled like this one. … Reprinted from yesterday’s comments: Here’s an excellent piece on the guy who designed the Royals’ logo. … Here’s a breakdown of the top-selling NHL jerseys this holiday season. … A retired Philadelphia cop is in hot water for participating in Occupy rallies while wearing his old uniform. … Ryan Perkins notes that Giants kicker Lawrence Tynes has had some serious padding on his left ankle. That’s his non-kicking foot — odd. … Major pub(l)ic service by my old zine pal Steve Mandich, who scanned most of Tony Millionaire’s old “Batty” comics from the mid-1990s. … While he was at it, Steve also scanned a ton of Pacific northwest media guides, pocket schedules, etc. … Todd Droz decided to give his snowboarding helmet a Steelers theme. “Obviously, the Tennessee ‘power T’ doesn’t belong, but I didn’t want to take that off since I am also a fan/alum of Tennessee and it doesn’t bother me there.” … Here are all of Boise State’s uniform combinations for this season (big thanks to Geoff Baker. … Shops in St. Louis are giving away Albert Pujols merch (thanks, Brinke). … Check out this great shot of Lefty Grove during a 1931 tour of Japan (major thanks to Bruce Menard). … Metallica was selling some Giants-themed merch at a show in San Francisco a few nights ago (from Daniel Moraine). … Ryan Dowgin found a 1932 shot of Georgia Tech halfback Pat Barron with what appears to be his socks pulled down over his shoes.