For decades, pilots in the U.S. Air Force were forced to sport drab uniform grey flying helmets while lusting after the customization offered to their Navy counterparts. But in 2019, in a bid to up morale (and the number of cool helmets) the branch decided to begin allowing airmen to personal their caps.
The problem? The artwork has to be removable, and no one knew how to wrap a helmet. Maj. Brad “Scooby” Hunt, a T-38 pilot now serving in the Air Force reserves, and his buddies at Sheppard Air Force Base in Texas spent time looking for someone to wrap their helmets to no avail.
In an effort to spice up his headgear, Hunt decided to give it a try on his own, buying vinyl from a car shop and teaching himself how to do a wrap job over a long weekend.
“You couldn’t paint your helmet or anything like that,” Hunt told Military Times. “I was like, ‘Well, there has to be some some way to do this.’ So I figured out a basic technique that it looked good and I had my helmet wrapped the next week.”
It didn’t take long for the other members of Hunt’s squadron to get helmet envy.
“I’m the only airplane taxiing around with a helmet wrap on, and people started seeing it,” Hunt added. “A couple buddies of mine asked me to wrap their helmets, and more and more people started asking me to wrap their helmets.”
Once the pilots at Sheppard were kitted up, requests started pouring in from airmen stationed around the world, including some from the Middle East.
Thus, “Nugget Wraps” was born.
Up until this point, Hunt had not only been designing the vinyl, he had also been the one doing the wrapping. In order to ship the decals abroad, he had to find a way to make sure his customers could peel and stick the wraps themselves.
He spent two weeks working on a kit that could be mailed, which would contain his wrap design and instructions for application. Hunt settled on filming an instructional video, and began shipping the wraps abroad.
“The wraps actually turned out really good, and so that that was kind of when I started thinking this could turn into like a side business,” Hunt said.
Since 2019, Hunt estimates he’s wrapped between 1,500 and 2,000 helmets. Each DIY kit ranges from about $100 to $135, while he charges about $175 to $255 for custom wrap jobs, depending on how intricate the design is.
His designs range from call signs in iconic text to pop culture icons, with decals including things like the ‘Punisher’ skull, KISS bandmates, the shark from ‘Jaws’ and Canada’s Maple Leaf.
To date, however, Hunt doesn’t have a favorite helmet wrap. He sees them as murals, artwork he creates with subtle nuances — bigger pictures made up of small things that most people overlook. Hunt, in essence, is to Air Force pilot helmets what street artist Banksy is to a dilapidated city sidewalk.
“For me, I get really excited over details,” he noted. “A lot of times, they’re not even something that most people would necessarily notice.”
Sarah Sicard is a Senior Editor with Military Times. She previously served as the Digitial Editor of Military Times and the Army Times Editor. Other work can be found at National Defense Magazine, Task & Purpose, and Defense News.