J.F. (John Forrest) Hayward was the son of an army musician at the Royal Military School of Music. He was educated at St. Paul's School and read history at Oxford University, graduating in 1937. He joined the Economic Research Department, a conservative think tank, but his passion was collecting arms and armor, particularly from the Renaissance. In 1939, he married Helena Martyn Hayward, who became a prominent furniture historian. During World War II, Hayward worked in Special Operations, and at its close was appointed to the Monuments and Fine Arts Office in Austria, where he helped find and restore looted art and cultural artifacts to their rightful owners. He also worked with the Austrian Imperial armor collection. On his return to England, he went to work at the Victoria and Albert Museum in its metalwork department. He published several works on armor, metalwork, and fine arts, including Viennese Porcelain of the Du Paquier Period (1952), Huguenot Silver in England (1959), Art of the Gunmaker (1962), and Virtuoso Goldsmiths and the Triumph of Mannerism (1976). In 1965, he joined Sotheby's as associate director of the Arms Division. He was elected to membership in the Society of Antiquaries in 1983.