Last Updated: 24 April 2023, Season 11, Helmet 6
In 2014, I built my first DCFC helmet at the suggestion of John Kersey (aka JPK), and so all credit where credit is due: I might be famous-ish for my helmets, but the whole thing was JPK’s idea. The concept grew out of our war horns, which we started bringing in 2013. John had the idea to start a “horns crew,” which I think we thought might wind up being a proper brass band…but that never really caught on. Instead, in 2014, John and I both showed up with DCFC-themed helmets bedecked with devilish horns.
The first helmet, “Next Level Sh*t,” was so named for my joking desire to “take it to the next level.” I worked on it in my spare time before the season started. It was insanely hot to wear since unlike future helmets it was thickly padded inside. I also learned a lot about how to make a helmet, mostly by figuring out the hard way what *not* to do.
All the helmets are a combination of readily accessible elements: ABS plastic helmets (also called “airsoft helmets” or “costume tactical helmets”), super glue, two-part epoxy, costume horns, and glitter.
Lots and lots of glitter.
To create Next Level, I glued the horns to the helmet, filled in the gaps with two-part epoxy putty, primed it black, and then used Krylon spray glitter (gold) for the base. The adhesion was good, but the coverage wasn’t great. Furthermore, that left me hand-mixing glitter with craft paint for my accents and never quite getting it right. The Fleur-de-lis on the sides of the helmet are paper cutouts painted with glittery craft paint…a trick I would perform again to much better effect on the Bloody ‘Ellraiser. Finally, I painted a glittery racing stripe on the top (wonky, lumpy, and generally pretty amateurish), stuck an NGS patch on the front, and called it a day.
Next Level also has some after-market parts in the form of ruby sequins along its stripe and on the eyes of the NGS skull. I had initially planned to keep adding more and more junk to this helmet, but it was hard to stay disciplined, and I wanted to move on to other things.
Next Level would have been the only helmet in my collection had it not been for an errant kick in one of the first games of season 4, which knocked off one of Next Level’s horns. I played around with the idea of leaving the horn off, replacing it with something else, and just generally doing something goofy with the wound until I made up my mind to do a new helmet, and furthermore to do a new helmet every season.
Enter “Lets Pretty Beautiful,” named for a charmingly quirky translation of what some Japanese fans said of the Northern Guard’s boisterous chanting and billowing smoke. In tribute, I took the quote as a name and decided I would try to make something both pretty and silly.
LPB features horns erupting directly from the side and framing a soccer trophy topper. This is the only non-glittery helmet. It is coated in gold Rustoleum, which frankly has taken quite a beating. The horns and accents (Fleur De Lis) are painted in Rustoleum “Plastic” burgundy paint.
LPB was not especially durable. The trophy topper got knocked off a few times, some of the fleurs broke, and the paint, which at debut was a nearly reflective almost chrome-like gold has now settled into a rather dingy yellow brass.
I went back to using glitter with the Keyworth Cannonball, named for DCFC’s new Hamtramck home. Design-wise, my time living downriver was having something of an effect on me, and I was feeling rather Rat Fink hot-rod, etc. etc. The wind-swept horns and hood ornament are a direct allusion to muscle car culture, as is the glitter-glass paint job. All hail Mod Podge!
I also learned to stop trying to paint with glitter spray and to instead sprinkle glitter over glue, and then varnish over it. This not only gave me the glitter-glass look I was going for, but it also shaved hours (literally, hours) off construction time.
The skull hood ornament has become brittle, and must be handled with care lest it snap off at the stem. Similarly, I learned on the Cannonball not to paint the vinyl trim of the helmet since it doesn’t take paint or glue well (read: at all). Consequently the cannonball leaves a little bit of gold glitter whenever I set it down on something to which it can stick (Note: I refurbed this helmet in 2022 – the skull is gone, and so I replaced it. I cut off the old vinyl trim and replaced it with gold links).
After the Keyworth Cannonball came the “Bloody ‘Ellraiser.” That name wasn’t mine, but rather was thought up by my girlfriend Ambrosha who noted that the spiky Mohawk reminded her of the antagonist character Pinhead in Clive Barker’s 1987 demonic opus. Since she also knows I’m a fan of portmanteaus, she decided to condense the UK curse “Bloody hell” with that title…you get the idea, I’m sure.
The Mohawk on the ‘Ellraiser is made of old carriage bolts taken from the stands during restoration of the Keyworth stadium benches. The Spirit of Detroit representations on the side are paper cutouts painstakingly painted with glue and glitter.
This helmet is heavier than it looks, and could be exhausting to wear throughout an entire match. You wouldn’t think a couple of ounces would make such a difference. Or maybe you would – you live your life and I’ll live mine. Anyway, more than one sore neck resulted from this monstrosity.
My final helmet*, Dr. Demento Mori, is the result of a fortuitous trip to the pet store. In the Clearance bin I found an aquarium toy: a helmet with an uncanny resemblance to those I made for DCFC, horns and all. The hardest part of making this one was finding a skull to fit inside. I went online, I went to pet stores, I went to toy shops…finally, I found one that fit well enough at a Meijer near Grand Rapids. Once I cut and trimmed that skull into place, the rest was a breeze.
*Is it tho?
The name is a reference to my having completed my PhD, my affection for dumb ditties, parodies, and covers, and also to my acknowledgement that 2018 would be my last summer as a regular DCFC supporter. It was a bittersweet parting as I left the area, but I know that I will always be able to come back to my family of supporters, ready to sing and chant for the boys in rouge and gold.
In 2023, I saw Dr. Demento Mori in a Stroh’s commercial, which prompted me to write up this page for internet posterity.
UPDATE: 24 APRIl 2023, Season 11, Helmet 6
I’d taken about 5 years off from helmet building, but not from DCFC supporting. Obviously the COVID years were rough both on the club and on anyone trying to do anything club-related. That’s all compounded by me moving to Miami, having zero money shortly afterwards, and then not having reliable streaming to watch matches.
Long story short: I had no money for helmets from 2018 to about 2020. In 2020, COVID struck and there basically was no DCFC for the next year-plus. Then came the amazing 2021-22 season in which City earned its star and became NISA champs, just in time to leave NISA for USL-C. Throughout all of this, I watched matches on streaming whenever I could, and that was at best a mixed result. Sometimes there was no match, sometimes there was no stream.
But then the move to USL-C put the boys in rouge and gold in the big leagues (relative to where they were prior) and they not only moved up, but they even excelled more than a bit. They didn’t win the whole thing, but they proved their right to play in the league by making it to the championships their first year.
It was time for me to step up my own game.
In November of 2022 I started The Glamour Hammour, my most labor-intensive helmet to date. The horns are bone white for no particular reason, the rim of the helmet is black, and all around those two features are something like 15,000 individually glued sequins.
The front features a skull, and the back has a fleur-de-lis. The sequins are arranged in a windmill / whirl pattern for maximum psychedelia if looking at it from directly above.
It’s a lovely thing to look at, but I will never do that again – it was an insane amount of work. Next time, I’m back to glitter.
2014: “Next Level Sh*t”
– Glitter gold with rouge horns front-facing, rouge fleur-de-lis.
2015: “Let’s Pretty Beautiful”
-Chrome gold with glossy rouge horns to side, fleur-de-lis affixed throughout, trophy topper,
2016: “The Keyworth Cannonball”
-Glitter rouge with gold swept horns, gold skull hood ornament to front.
2017: “Bloody ‘Ellraiser”
-Glitter gold with rouge horns to side, rouge Spirit of Detroit on sides, rouge carriage bolt Mohawk.
2018: “Dr. Demento Mori”
-Glitter gold with glitter gold horns set slightly back, dripping blood motif, helmed skull at crest.
2023: “The Glamour Hammour“
-Rouge and gold sequins, white horns 3/4 front-facing, skull on front, fleur-de-lis on back.