This turban for Sikh motorcyclists is also a protective helmet, thanks to incredible material innovation

Developed by creative agency Zulu Alpha Kilo with Pfaff Harley-Davidson, Tough Turban's chain-mail-like design features bulletproof laminate and a foam that hardens on impact.

17 June 2021


Until recently, Sikh motorcyclists were required to wear helmets or hard hats while riding, but now a helmet law exemption means Sikh riders who routinely wear a turban cannot be fined or charged if they are riding without a helmet. Yet, they still want to ride safely. This inspired Toronto agency Zulu Alpha Kilo and Pfaff Harley-Davidson to create Tough Turban, a fabric that can be wrapped just like a traditional turban, but also doubles as a protective helmet.

Utilising protective technology such as bulletproof laminate Dyneema and non-Newtonian foam – a material that hardens on impact and is used in military armour and helmets – the design prototype has been formed from 3D-printed chainmail and pays respect to the traditional turban.

“Tradition is really important for products like this,” explains design director Chris Pearen in the Tough Turban campaign film, stating that the team brought in a Sikh consultant to assist with the development. “We took a look at some plastic options to be able to create a chainmail like matrix that would be able to be incorporated into the traditional feeling of a turban. So the Dyneema is used in bullet proof clothing and we started to look at some non-Newtonian foams. One of the really exciting aspects of the foam is that it hardens on impact, so it really helps dissipate impact and protect the rider.”

Motorcycle enthusiast Shamsher Singh Sidhu states in the film: “Tying a turban to me is more than just a fashion statement, it’s a whole heritage, it’s your freedom to express yourself, your identity. And that’s what riding is to me – being on an open road, feeling the wind on you, it’s just freedom. It’s been a long time coming that the turban law finally got past.”

Harley-Davidson is an American motorcycle manufacturer founded in 1903, and ever since, it's built a global community of riders. The addition of Tough Turban comes as a welcome update, as Brandon Durmann, brand marketing specialist at Pfaff Harley-Davidson, explains in the release: “Pfaff Harley-Davidson is proud to help champion an idea that celebrates the diversity of our ridership. We are honoured to help advance the cause of diverse gear and to help build awareness for the potential of the innovation amongst our vast community of riders across Canada and around the world.”

“The Tough Turban further empowers Sikh riders to protect who they are,” adds Zak Mroueh, founder and chief creative officer of Zulu. “This initiative combines a lot of things we’re glad to focus on at Zulu Alpha Kilo – inclusion, innovation and our core belief in using design thinking to solve real world problems.”

Head below to watch the film.

GalleryPfaff Harley-Davidson x Zulu Alpha Kilo: Tough Turban (Copyright © Pfaff Harley-Davidson, 2021)

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Pfaff Harley-Davidson x Zulu Alpha Kilo: Tough Turban (Copyright © Pfaff Harley-Davidson, 2021)

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About the Author

Ayla Angelos

Ayla is a London-based freelance writer, editor and consultant specialising in art, photography, design and culture. After joining It’s Nice That in 2017 as editorial assistant, she was interim online editor in 2022/2023 and continues to work with us on a freelance basis. She has written for i-D, Dazed, AnOther, WePresent, Port, Elephant and more, and she is also the managing editor of design magazine Anima. 

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