Tin-foil hats — DIY headwear that supposedly protects wearers from mind reading — are the classic apparel of conspiracy-obsessed paranoids who believe the government is out to trap them. Now a company is aiming at hip millennials with fashion-forward beanies and snapbacks in a sporty shade of gray.
Shield Headwear, which seems like a pitch-perfect parody of earnest fashion-tech startups, is launching its inaugural line of fresh headwear, and these lids are fast on their way to being fully funded on Kickstarter. It's racing toward its odd goal of $19,628, with almost $17,000 raised at time of writing.
According to its Kickstarter page, the Shield uses special fabric to protect you from "electromagnetic smog." The project claims that the hats will use cotton with 100% "pure silver" coating to reflect and bounce off any kind of offensive electromagnetic or radio waves — a dubious claim, even if the project is entirely real. (With Kickstarters, sometimes it's hard to tell.)
The science is bad. The project hedges its claims with the kind of language that just raises questions about the safety of radio waves and Wi-Fi signals without actually backing them up, or even claiming that these hats will work very well.
"We are not saying that it protects 100% against all kinds of electromagnetic waves that are bad for your health," the project creators write. "What we are saying is that if you care about yourself, be smart and put on this first signal-proof apparel instead of the usual one — no one will spot it and it will protect you."
Claims that signals like Wi-Fi and radio waves can negatively affect the average person's health are sketchy to begin with. Moreover, actual tin-foil hats are counterintuitive: One classic study has shown that the bowl-like shape of a hat, when exposed to radio frequencies, can contain and even greatly amplify those frequencies.
But the worst thing about the Shield project isn't the bad science or the paranoia, or even that the beanie model doesn't look nearly as good as the snapback. It's that the project has all of the hallmarks of a crowdfunding scam.
Sketchy details: If you wanted this kind of hat for yourself, and even if it really did protect you from assorted harmful signals, be warned: Many internet sleuths have noticed details buried in the project that suggest its creators aren't who they say they are.
The skeptical claims check out. The project has no names attached to it on its official site. There is no trademark, patent or filing with the Intellectual Property Office in the United Kingdom. (where the company was recently registered), though judging from phone area codes pulled from press releases, Shield is based in Slovakia. The project's verified author is named Martin Novak, while the project appears to be the creation of Marek Schweigert (a Slovak designer whose Facebook makes no mention of the project) and an elusive partner named Igor Kaluzay.
Given Schweigert's multimedia design portfolio, the project could easily be a marketing experiment, if not an outright scam. We've reached out to Shield Apparel, and will update this story with comment if we hear back.
Check out the fundraising video for yourself below: