If one starts looking at a coat of arms, after the actual shield itself, the crest is the next most important part.
The heraldic crest, based on a cockerel’s comb (Latin crista) sat above the wreath or tort, made from twisted fabric.
Roman legionaries would have a ‘Mohican’ style crest of dyed fur upon his helmet – perhaps a clue to early crests? In early heraldry this crest was called the ‘panache’.
Wings and horns were shown on helmets, mainly from central and northern Europe. In medieval tournaments, it was an ideal place for knights to ‘show off’ with colourful shields, tabards, helmets with an ornate crest on top.
This image of a helm, painted by Caroline of 1066 Heraldic shields, shows a ‘tort’ (twist of rope) holding the mantling in place (that’s the fabric protecting the knight), with a crest of wings, and in this case, a Scottish ‘chapeau’ or ‘cap of maintenance’ between them.
Royalty or Nobility may have a crown, or coronet showing their rank, above the helm, as shown here, on the below right – being from The Duke of Somerset’s coat of arms…