90th IDPG Reviews


Normandy Accessories
aka: Hawley Sweatband

Review Date: 6/17/2012
Author: Tom Kelly


TIME OUT FOR A REST: A short rest is welcomed by the members of this Marine intelligence and sniper unit during a 60 mile march to their base after a 30 day training period in the SoPac.
Location: Australia
Date taken: April 1943
Photographer: Corp. Geo Sylvester
Source: NARA


            Recently I have become interested in acquiring early war configuration helmet liners. I own two of Rob Lihani’s Hawley liner replicas, but as your impression spans later into the war these liners become less and less appropriate. Low pressure liners, are both hard to find and increasingly expensive. However, early production high pressure liners incorporated the early rayon lining and sweatbands of early production Hawley and low pressure liners. I had my friend Chris Guska re-web two Westinghouse liners with reproduction rayon kits from J. Murray for me.
  As recently as three years ago original NOS Hawley sweatbands in most sizes were available on Ebay from Suzy Surplus, but the supply has dried up and now they command around six times their previous price (around $130 in any size). As of the writing of this article, two such sweatbands sold on Ebay in the last two weeks, a 7 ½ for $134.50 and a size 7 for $124.74. As I recall these same sweatbands were sold by Suzy Surplus for less than $20. Luckily I was able to acquire three of these sweatbands a few years ago. Rob Lihani included a free 7 ½ sized sweatband which each of the liners I purchased from him, and I bought a third from Suzy Surplus as a spare. I used the spare sweatband in my first rayon webbed high pressure liner, but I was unable to locate another original 7 ½ sized sweatband for my second liner.

            I heard about Normandy Accessories from a thread on reproduction Hawley liners. Normandy Accessories sells all the parts necessary for helmet liner restorations, including rayon webbing kits and rayon sweatbands. I purchased my sweatband through their website at http://www.normandy-accessories.com/ , there is also an Ebay Store. Purchasing on the site was fairly easy, I had to enter in the “Comments” field of the ordering process what size I wanted and payment by credit card seemed to go through a third party site. It was unusual compared to ordering on domestic websites but I received an invoice shortly after my order.

The total for the sweatband and shipping from France was $23.70 and it arrived about two weeks after I placed the order.

            My first impression of the sweatband was not favorable. The rayon appears much grayer than my original sweatband. However, when I compared it to the reproduction rayon in my J. Murray kits the two were very similar. The overall construction is very good, the rivets seem to be well sunken and correctly placed. The stitching is also very close on the original even on the reverse of the band and along the edging of the leather. The only obvious difference between the original and the reproduction is the box stitching at the back of the band. The reproduction features a much larger rectangular stitching pattern, however that is a small distinction. I was impressed by the construction details the more I looked at the reproduction. My original example used tan colored thread throughout the band except for the box stitching at the back of the band which is silver, the reproduction uses a very similar tan thread throughout including the box stitching.

Note the color difference between the original and reproduction. Normandy Accessories appears to use the same rayon webbing as J. Murray.

The rayon used by J. Murray and Normandy Accessories appears to be almost identical (shown snapped into a liner with reproduction J. Murray rayon suspension).

The reproduction does a good job of copying the construction of originals including the tan colored thread used.

            The biggest flaws I can find with this reproduction are the size stamp and the leather padding along the front of the band. Unlike originals the reproductions are not size stamped along the leather but rather on the reverse of the band in European size increments and in enormous font comparative to original stamps.

The leather portion of the reproduction is uneven and sloppy compared to an original.

Size stamping on an original. It has the standard English sizing, and is stamped in black ink along the leather.

Size stamping on a reproduction. It is metric, large, and placed on the reverse of the band.
Secondly, though a small flaw the leather edging is not uniformly cut. I am also concerned with whether the leather is actually leather or vinyl which will resist darkening as it is used, a flaw with other reproduction sweatbands.

            The sweatband snapped into my J. Murray kit without a problem, though I need to clamp down on some rivets with a pair of pliers just to ensure a proper fit. I noticed however that the reproduction sweatband is actually larger than 7 ½ and in fact is closer to a 7 5/8.  Whether this was a production error, or these bands run almost a full size larger I do not know. This is not a determinative flaw for me because I fit almost too snuggly into an original 7 ½ sweatband. The generous sizing did produce an unattractive “bunching” near the front of the liner which is an aesthetic annoyance. Unfortunately Normandy Accessories does not sell a 7 3/8 (or 60) sized liner and I think a 7 ¼ (or 59) would be too small.

The reproduction laid flat against an original is over an inch longer. Not surprisingly it fits much looser when snapped into the suspension.

A comparison of how the reproduction (left) and original (right) sweatbands fit into liners. Both are size 7 ½.

Close up of an original sweatband installed, note that it is taut around the rim.

Close up of the reproduction installed, note the bunching around the front of the rim.

            Overall I am pleased with this piece, and I will likely buy another simply because the price of originals have sky rocketed in only the past few years. I thought that these sweatbands would be collectible some day, but I did not know that it would be so soon and that the value would increase so rapidly. These sweatbands allow collectors and reenactors to retire their valued originals without feeling self conscious about authenticity, especially when the only original piece of their helmet liner (excluding the liner itself) may be the sweatband. The flaws are relatively minor and I think that they could be easily corrected in the next production run.

Hospital corpsman taking down the information of a dead Marine.

Location: Peleliu
Date taken: September 1944
Photographer: Siderman
Source: NARA




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