I do really like the figure 8's. =] I only use the flash because it does complete the look. I can easily fit a finger in there. It's simply for decoration, haha. Eventually, I'll buy a breast plate too, because I like the look of that as well. =]
If I do use a noseband, I leave it loose. Honestly, I have ridden western for years, as well as english, but my western headstalls really outnumber my english. I enjoy sporting a little bling bling with my english saddle, snaffle bit, and laced reins, mainly just to drive my trainer nuts and to avoid buying more headstalls.
I totally understand what you are saying JDI. I don't need a breastplate, but I use one because I think it finishes the "look". My old coach used to get so irritated with me because I would use my breast plate for no reason - but meh..whatever. Isn't hurting him in the least.
I do like figure 8's as well, they are sharp looking.
You can see how loose it is in this picture, the cavesson straps aren't even touching his nose and the "flash" part, if you will, is so loose you can see daylight :P
Justdressageit, a question about the fittingof your figure 8? I've never used one and rarely seen them used, but does the top part of your noseband finish too high up your horse's head? In that pic it looks like it finishes just under his eye and goes down over his cheek, shouldn't nosebands rest between the cheek and the mouth, not over the cheek.