Sunday, April 28, 2013

Slouch Hats, Bush Hats, Big Game Hunters, and Explorers


The hat makes the adventurer and although it’s a slouch hat, historically wearers of the slouch hat are no slouch and number among explorers, military men, adventurers, and rogues.  They are worn in the tropics and in the desert, in the deepest jungle and on the veldt; bush hats are de rigor wear only second to the pith helmet in the genre of high adventure.

The slouch hat goes back centuries to the late 1500s, with a brim that went from large to huge.  Eventually these hats had one to three pin ups making a bicorn and a tricorn respectively.  But in this little essay, we will talk about those hats that have either only one side or no side pinned up.  Traditionally they are made of felt from a blend of fibers of wool to beaver fur, although some extra light weight hats are made of cotton cloth or canvass, some with heavy stitching to make a stiffener. 

A slouch hat is a soft hat that is not highly stiffened or having an internal frame to keep its structure.  A slouch hat is soft enough to be reshaped easily.   Versatile, easy to carry, they give good head cover and the wide brim keep off sun and rain.  It won’t crush like a pith helmet and can be packed away easily.  It has a chinstrap to hold on in wind and the hat can be pushed back off the head and hang down the back with the strap holding it on.  You really can’t ask for a more useful, forgiving and simple to store hat.


The Australian/New Zealand military hat has one side pinned up so that a rifle can be carried on the shoulder.  Although that might have been the case previously, slouch hats with one side pinned up have become traditionally associated with military and paramilitary forces.  Even stiffened hats such as the Hardee or Jeff Davis hat of American Civil War fame had the side pinned up, although that hat was stiffened and not a slouch hat.  Although both sides in the conflict wore slouch hats, Confederates were generally depicted as wearing slouch hats in writing and depictions of the time.


British military hats often had a puggaree, which was a cloth hatband in distinctive colors or pattern indicating a regiment, mostly worn by the British military overseas.  Other countries also developed military slouch hats for overseas wear.  US military in Vietnam wore a slouch hat for jungle wear with one side pinned up and a handy mosquito net stored inside.

Military hats often had a puggaree, which was a cloth hatband in distinctive colors or pattern indicating a regiment, mostly worn by the British military overseas.  Big game hunters in film use animal pelts like leopard for tiger as a hatband.  Other countries also developed military slouch hats for overseas wear.  US military in Vietnam wore a slouch hat for jungle wear with one side pinned up and a handy mosquito net stored inside.

Traditionally, the American southwest is associated cowboy hats, which are a form of slouch hat, although many of the later forms make it hard to tell its origin.  The slouch hat became so ubiquitous that it often goes unnoticed.  The great thing is that the slouch hat can be worn anywhere for that rugged outdoor look and its clean lines and simple upkeep makes it proper headgear for men and women alike.  Made of felt or canvass, stiffened slightly or crusher style they remain with us both as an icon of times gone by and a useful piece of practical headgear.
Consider adding a slouch hat to your costuming collection or just for wear while camping, hiking or big game hunting.  As always buy quality hats, which will give you years of wear and don’t overlook thrift shops and eBay as sources for headgear and costuming items.

                       CoastConFan


Other of my posts that might be of interest on hats and costuming in general: