A peaked cap, forage cap, barracks cover or combination cap is a form of headgear worn by the armed forces of many nations, as well as many uniformed civilian organisations such as law enforcement agencies and fire departments. It derives its name from its short visor (American English, known as a peak in British English), which was historically made of polished leather but increasingly is made of a synthetic substitute.
Other principal components are the crown, band and insignia, typically a cap badge and embroidery in proportion to rank. Piping is also often found, typically in contrast to the crown colour, which is usually white for navy, blue for air force and green for army. The band is typically a dark, contrasting colour, often black, but may be patterned or striped.
In the British Army, each regiment and corps has a different badge. In the American armed forces, the cap device is uniform throughout service branch, though different variants are used by different rank classes.
- 1 History
- 2 Austria
- 3 Canada
- 4 Germany
- 5 Denmark
- 6 Hong Kong
- 7 Indonesia
- 8 Israel
- 9 Macau
- 10 Poland
- 11 Russia
- 12 United Kingdom
- 13 United States
- 14 Civilian usage
- 15 "Crusher Cap"
- 16 References
- 17 External links
The peaked cap originated in early 19th-century Northern Europe, usually worn by working-class men. In the later years of the Napoleonic Wars, it began to appear in the senior ranks of the Russian and Prussian armies, being popular because of its comfort and light weight, as opposed to the cumbersome bicorns and shakos that were standard duty issue. During the Biedermeier period (1815–48), they became universal dress for German and Austrian civilian males of all classes, and for the entire 19th century, they were popular with the working classes all over Northern Europe, although in Britain the flat-top cap was preferred by civilians towards the end of the century.
In 1846, the United States Army adopted the peaked cap during the Mexican-American war due to the unsuitability of the shako in the hot Mexican climate. In 1856, a form of peaked cap was adopted by petty officers of Britain's Royal Navy, in imitation of an undress headdress worn by officers from as early as 1827. The British Army adopted peaked caps in 1902 for both the new khaki field dress and (in coloured form) as part of the "walking out" or off-duty wear for other ranks. A dark blue version was worn with dress blues by all ranks of the U.S. Army between 1902 and 1917.
During the 20th century, the combination or peaked cap became common in the armies, navies, air forces and police forces of the world, forgone in combat by common soldiers in favour of more practical headdress.
Throughout the 19th century, the Austro-Hungarian army were issued with shakos, originally in black leather and later in pike grey wool. Gradually, the height of the shako decreased and the cardboard stiffening removed until, by 1908, it had evolved into the ski cap. This was worn by Austrian officers and enlisted personnel during both World Wars, but when the postwar Austrian Bundesheer was established in 1955 an olive drab peaked cap and American style uniform were introduced.
In the Canadian Forces, the peaked cap (French: casquette de service) is the primary headgear for men's Royal Canadian Navy service dress. It has been abandoned in the Royal Canadian Air Force in favour of the wedge cap. It has also been eliminated from the Canadian Army in favour of the beret, with two exceptions. General officers wearing army uniform can wear either a beret or a peaked cap with service dress. Royal Canadian Infantry Corps members of foot guards units such as the Canadian Grenadier Guards wear the bearskin cap with full dress but the peaked cap with undress and service dress.
On navy caps, the peak and chinstrap of the service cap are always black. The cap band is black with the exception of navy military police, who wear a scarlet cap band, and members of Canadian Special Operations Forces Command, who wear a tan cap band.
On both navy and army caps, the chinstrap is affixed to the cap via two small buttons, one roughly over each ear; these buttons are miniature versions of the buttons on the service dress tunic, and as such bear an RCN or regimental device.
The peak of the cap of non-commissioned members and subordinate officers is left plain, and officers' caps are adorned with one or more bands of braid (depending on rank) at the forward edge of the peak. The peak of the junior officer's cap has a gold band along the forward edge, that of the senior officer has a row of gold oak leaves across the forward edge, while that of the flag officer has two rows of gold oak leaves, one along the forward edge and one near the cap band. The same oak leaves are worn by the Governor General of Canada as Commander-in-Chief of the Canadian Forces.
The service cap is theoretically unisex, although there exists a service hat (French: chapeau de service) for women. The service hat does not have a crown top and has a stiff brim all around. The front of the brim is formed into a visor and the sides and back are folded upwards.
Police forces across Canada also wear a peaked cap. The cap is basic black with colour cap band of either of red (municipal forces), blue (Ontario Provincial Police (OPP)) or yellow (Royal Canadian Mounted Police).
Until recently the OPP's front line officers wore a black Campaign hat, but has since reverted to the peaked cap. The RCMP only use the Campaign hat for formal dress uniform or by members of the Musical Ride.
Peaked caps were first issued to German Landwehr troops during the Napoleonic Wars, since these were cheaper and easier to maintain than the heavy leather shakos and elaborate tailcoats worn by the British, French and Russian armies. The Prussian army was also the first to adopt the frock coat, so officers would not soil their dress uniforms on campaign.
When the Pickelhaube was introduced during the 1840s, enlisted German troops were issued with peakless forage caps resembling the sailor cap. Officers, however, continued to wear the peaked cap, or Schirmmütze, to set themselves apart from the French, who wore the kepi. Initially, German peaked caps were blue, but before the First World War a field grey hat was issued, with piping colour coded for infantry, artillery or cavalry. These caps, known as "crushers", could be worn beneath a Stahlhelm or stuffed into a pocket or knapsack. For more details on German colour-coded insignia, see Waffenfarbe.
SS and Wehrmacht
In 1935, the Nazis introduced new uniforms designed for modern mechanised warfare. Enlisted personnel were issued ski caps with a neck flap, as worn by Austrian troops during the First World War. Officers and non-commissioned officers, however, received a new Schirmmütze (German for "peaked cap", literally "screen hat") with black, white and red cockade, and a Nazi eagle badge. Panzer crews, SS men and the Gestapo were issued with black Schirmmützen featuring a death's head. On campaign, Wehrmacht officers often removed the wire stiffening so the cap would resemble the older First World War–era crusher.
Modern German army
After the Second World War, both the West German Bundeswehr and East German National People's Army continued to be issued uniforms derived from the Second World War pattern. East German caps bore the DDR State Cockade with the Hammer and Compass design, while West German caps had a cockade in the German national colours, and a badge featuring a pair of crossed swords. After reunification, the Schirmmütze remained part of the German army dress uniform.
In Denmark, the use of peaked cap has seen a gradual decline from official uniforms, but it is still used in the ceremonial uniforms the general corps of the Army, officers of the Airforce, officers of the Navy, the police and fire department.
The peaked cap and peaked hat are worn as formal dress by members of the Hong Kong Disciplined Services (police, fire, customs/excise, immigration, etc.) with influence from the British colonial services. All caps use black as base colour. The crown is flat and round in shape. Female police officers' caps have a coloured band.
Members of the People's Liberation Army Hong Kong Garrison also wear a peaked cap, but the design is more influenced from the former Soviet Union, but varies slightly with those used in Hong Kong. However, since from 2007, PLA started to change to adapt the Type 07 Service Uniform, the new uniform retains peaked cap but the style is more like the US and Commonwealth peaked cap instead of the Soviet style caps.
The armed and uniformed services in Indonesia use this type of headgear during ceremonial services nor active services also. It is widely worn by the Indonesian National Police, the Indonesian Armed Forces and other uniformed services in the country.
In the Israel Defense Forces, combination caps are used only by:
- Air Force Officers;
- Navy officers in ceremonial dress;
- Military Police soldiers in law enforcement duties;
- Military Band Soldiers;
- Some regimental sergeants major of other service branches, in ceremonial dress.
Russia was the first country to adopt the peaked cap. The official act of adopting the cap for military use was made by Alexander I of Russia in 1811. During the Napoleonic Wars, various early versions of the peaked cap were in use in the Russian army. Imperial Russia abandoned the cap for a short period in the second half of the 19th century for a forage cap similar to the one used by Americans during their civil war, but the peaked cap soon returned. Early soldiers' peaked caps were, in fact, peakless, hence the nickname солдатский блин (soldier's flapjack) for the headgear; officers' caps had peaks from the start and looked like modern peaked caps. The peakless version remained in use in the Russian navy under the name of beskozyrka (literally "peakless one") and is still worn by Russian seamen. Also during the Imperial period, peaked caps were introduced as part of government officials' uniforms. Serfs and peasants adopted an almost identical hat into their fashion after the Napoleonic Wars, known as a kartuz.
In 1914, peakless caps were abolished everywhere in Russian armed forces except the Navy, and modern peaked caps were issued to all soldiers. However, after the October Revolution of 1917, it was replaced in Red Army field uniforms by the budenovka, and later by the garrison cap. The dress uniforms, on the other hand, retained this headgear, and various paramilitary Soviet agencies like the NKVD or VOKhR kept using it in all uniforms. Agencies like railway workers, firemen, pilots, mining supervisors, foresters, customs officers in the Soviet Union also were organised along military lines and wore uniforms with peaked caps of various designs.
In 1990s, the Russian peaked cap was redesigned and widely issued to the armed forces and police. Caps of this shape are most associated with Russia among foreigners, since they are large and high. In 2012, after Sergey Shoygu was appointed Minister of Defence, the design of the peaked cap was changed again to a lower and more proportional style.
Royal Navy officers were first issued peaked caps during the 1820s to replace the old fashioned Napoleonic-era bicorne and tricorne hat. (Note - Lord Nelson at the Battle of Trafalgar in 1805 had a peak or visor added to his bicorn.) Later in the Victorian era, gold braid was added to ensure officers were instantly recognised by their subordinates. Senior officers had one gold wreath on their peaks, whereas admirals had two. Before the Second World War, naval officers were issued with two caps: white for summer and blue for winter. However, senior commissioned officers above the rank of captain preferred the white cap in order to stand out from their subordinates.
British army officers wore blue peaked caps as early as the Crimean War to distinguish themselves from enlisted men who wore the pillbox hat. The peaked caps were widely worn on campaign during the First and Second World Wars, until the more practical beret was popularised by generals like Bernard Montgomery. After the war, officers continued to wear khaki caps as part of the Number 2 dress uniform, but by the 1990s these had been phased out in favour of the dark blue and red caps previously worn with the Number 1 dress uniform.
Peaked caps were first issued to enlisted men in 1908 to replace the Glengarry caps and pillbox hats of the Boer War era. The new caps were made of khaki wool and sometimes had a neck flap to protect against the cold. Nicknamed the "gor blimey", these caps are associated with the First World War 'Tommy Atkins' and continued to be issued to members of the Home Guard and Territorial Army during the Second World War.
Royal Navy officers, Warrant officers, and Senior Rates today wear a framed cap with a white cover and a black band in Nos 1, 2 and 3 Dress; originally worn only in tropical climates, the white cover was adopted for all areas after the Second World War. Officers have an option of a cotton or plastic cover.
- The Royal Tank Regiment, Royal Regiment of Fusiliers, Army Air Corps, Parachute Regiment, SAS, Intelligence Corps and 4/73 Special OP Battery RA who wear berets;
- Personnel attached to the above also wear the appropriate coloured beret (For example, REME Mechanics or RLC Chefs attached to the unit)
- The Royal Regiment of Scotland who wear a regimental Glengarry with cockfeathers taken from the former ceremonial uniform of the Royal Scots;
- The Royal Irish Regiment who wear the Caubeen;
- The Brigade of Gurkhas who wear a round Kilmarnock cap in No 1 dress and the Slouch hat in No 2 Dress
- The Queen's Royal Hussars, whose officers wear a tent hat in No 2 Dress.
It has a cap band which may be coloured (red for all Royal Regiments and Corps), a crown (formerly khaki, now dark blue, except for Military Police which has always been red, and the Rifles who wear Rifle Green) which may have coloured piping or a regimental/corps colour and a patent leather peak and chinstrap. The chinstrap is usually secured above and across the peak and secured at each end by a small (20 line) button of the appropriate regimental or corps pattern.
Officers in some regiments are also required to wear a khaki version of the cap, often called the "Service Dress Cap" with Service Dress (the Officers' No 2 Dress) or Barrack Dress; the design of this dates back to the cap worn in the field until replaced by the steel helmet during the First World War.
- Black and polished for airmen, non-commissioned officers (NCOs) and warrant officers
- Blue-grey fabric for officers of the rank of Wing Commander and below. Officer cadets wear a white band instead of a black band.
- Black and polished with gold rank braid for officers of Group Captain and above
United States Marine Corps
In the United States Marine Corps, these caps are also worn, in two forms. For all ranks, the device is the Eagle, Globe, and Anchor device. In addition, officers wear a lace cross on the top, called the quatrefoil, a traditional mark of distinction from the Marine Corps' foundation enabling sharpshooters aboard ships to identify friendly officers from foes. For blue dress uniforms, the cap is white with a gold and silver device. Only the visor is black, and the chin strap is black for enlisted marines; it is gold and scarlet for officers. For the service uniforms, an olive drab combination cap is available; the device is black, and the chin strap is black for all ranks. In both cases, field grade officers (majors, lieutenant colonels and colonels) have gold oak leaf motifs on the visor, similar to those worn by navy commanders and captains, while general officers' caps have a different, larger oak leaf motif on the visor. Additionally the blue dress cap of the Commandant of the Marine Corps adds an additional gold oak leaf motif to the front of the band. In the Marine Corps, the combination cap is referred to as the "barracks cover."
In the United States Navy, midshipmen, chief petty officers, and commissioned officers wear combination covers, but there are differences between the three types. Midshipmen at the United States Naval Academy, United States Merchant Marine Academy or in Naval Reserve Officers Training Corps (NROTC) units wear a combination cap with a gold chinstrap attached by gold buttons, with a gold fouled anchor device. A chief petty officer wears a combination cap with a black chinstrap attached with gold buttons, with a device consisting of a gold fouled anchor with silver block letters "USN" superimposed on the shank of the anchor, with the addition of one, two, or three stars at the top of the anchor if the wearer is a Senior Chief Petty Officer, a Master Chief Petty Officer, or the Master Chief Petty Officer of the Navy, respectively; while a commissioned officer wears a combination cap with a gold chinstrap attached by gold buttons, with an officer crest device, a silver federal shield over two crossed gold fouled anchors, surmounted by a silver eagle. Chief petty officer and junior commissioned officer visors are shiny black plastic without ornamentation. Officers O-5 (Commander) and above have gold embroidered oak leaves and acorns on the a black felt-covered visor, with additional embroidery for flag officers (O-7, or rear admiral lower half, and above), referred to as "scrambled eggs." The crowns come in khaki or in white (the white combination cap is worn with both white and blue uniforms). The black band around the cap includes a black circle extending upward on the front of the crown as a backing behind the device. The gold buttons on the sides of the cover are of a design to match the gold buttons on the service dress jacket and the snaps on officer shoulder boards. For the female cap the brim is folded up on both sides whereas the men's cap has no brim but a visor at the front.
United States Army
In the United States Army, the combination cap for the blue service and blue dress uniforms of enlisted soldiers has a golden stripe on top of the cap band, black chinstrap; the device is the United States' coat of arms in front of a gold disk (the exception is the Sergeant Major of the Army whose device is a gold-colored rendering of the U.S coat of arms surrounded by a gold-coloured wreath). The version for warrant officers and company-grade officers (second lieutenants, first lieutenants, & captains) has a cap band with the branch-of-service color between two golden stripes, and a gold-colored chinstrap. Field-grade officers O-4 and Above (major, lieutenant colonel, and colonel) have oak leaves known unofficially as "scrambled eggs" on the visor. General officers' caps are similar to those of field-grade officers, but the cap band is dark blue and embroidered with gold oak leaf motifs. Warrant officers' cap device and all commissioned officers' cap device is a gold-color rendering of the United States' coat of arms, larger than that of soldiers and lacking the golden disk backing.
United States Air Force
In the United States Air Force, all male personnel have the option to wear combination caps, but only field-grade (major through colonel) and general officers are required to own one - the same is true of the corresponding female service hat. The combination cap is issued without charge to enlisted airmen of both genders assigned to certain ceremonial units and details.
With the exception of enlisted airmen assigned to the Air Force Band and the Air Force Base Honor Guard, each of which has its own distinctive cap insignia and other uniform devices, Air Force combination caps bear a relief of the Great Seal of the United States rendered in silver-colored metal. For enlisted members, the arms are surrounded by a silver-colored metal circle. (The Chief Master Sergeant of the Air Force has a wreath instead of the circle). Commissioned officers' insignia is larger and lacks the encompassing circle.
The chinstrap is secured to each side of the cap with a silver-colored, screw-in, metal button bearing an updated and simplified version of the "Hap Arnold emblem" first designed by James T. Rawls for use by the Air Force's predecessor, the Army Air Forces, in 1942. Apart from the screw-back, the buttons are of the same design as those used to secure the uniform coat's epaulets and pockets.
Enlisted airmen's chinstraps and visors are of plain black leather or polymer material. All commissioned officers' chinstraps are also of plain black leather or polymer material. The visors of company-grade officers (second lieutenant through captain) are plain black leather or polymer material. Field-grade officers' visors have two pairs of clouds and lightning bolts, patterned after the oak leaf motifs used by the other services. General officers' caps add an extra pair of clouds and bolts on the visor, while the cap of the Chief of Staff of the United States Air Force adds clouds and bolts around the entire cap band. The clouds and bolts are jokingly referred to in military slang as "farts and darts", much as the other services' oak leaf motifs are known as "scrambled eggs".
United States Army Air Forces
During World War II, the "50 mission crush" cap was popular among aircrews of the United States Army Air Forces. Bomber and fighter aircrews had to wear headsets over their service cap during flight, so they would remove the stiffening wire from the cap ("see Crusher Cap" below). The headset would then crush the cap, which would eventually retain its crushed appearance. Since it took a good many missions to properly achieve the look, a so-called "50-mission crush" cap was considered a sign of a seasoned combat veteran. Current US Air Force regulations prohibit the wearing of such caps.
United States Coast Guard
The United States Coast Guard wears the combination cap, known as the combo cover, with the Service Dress Blue uniform (SDBs), the Tropical Blue Long uniform (Trops), and with all other formal dress uniforms. The cover is identical to that of the navy with respect to the chinstrap and peak ornamentation. Its crown is white. The buttons securing the chin strap to the sides of the band are smaller versions of the buttons worn on the Coast Guard's uniform coats. The blue band around the cap includes blue fabric extending upward on the front of the crown to serve as a backing behind the device. In the case of enlisted personnel, this extension is a blue circle identical to that on the caps of Naval officers and chief petty officers. In the case of commissioned officers, however, the extension is a more elaborate polygon to accommodate the officers' cap device.
Unlike their naval counterparts, coast guardsmen below the rank of chief petty officer wear combination covers; their cap device is a golden representation of the coast guard emblem. Coast guard chief petty officers' cap devices match those of the navy, albeit with a shield on the front of the fouled anchor; like navy chiefs, their cap devices are enlarged renderings of the rank insignia worn on their collars. Coast guard officers' cap device is an eagle with wings outstretched, above an anchor grasped horizontally in its talons.
Public Health Service Commissioned Corps and NOAA Commissioned Corps
The Public Health Service Commissioned Corps and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Commissioned Corps - the two small services, consisting only of officers, which are the two uniformed services that are not armed forces - wear uniforms and rank insignia adopted from the Navy. The combination covers of the two services are identical to those of the Navy with respect to colors, and peak ornamentation. The chinstrap of the PHS is gold with a burgundy stripe. The buttons securing the chin strap to the sides of the band are smaller versions of the buttons worn on the services' uniform coats. The cap device of NOAACC officers is similar to that of Navy officers with a globe in place of the shield; the cap device of PHSCC officers is similar to that of Navy officers but has a caduceus in place of one of the anchors.
United States Maritime Service
While the majority of American merchant mariners are employed by shipping businesses and accordingly wear either uniforms prescribed by their employers or civilian attire, some officers receive commissions in the United States Maritime Service for federal government duty, such as the faculty of the United States Merchant Marine Academy and the Military Sealift Command's civilian officers manning non-commissioned United States Naval Ships. These officers wear uniforms and rank insignia adopted from the U.S. Navy, albeit with United States Merchant Marine's own button design, cap device, awards, and decorations. The combination covers these officers are identical to those of naval officer with respect to colors, chinstrap and peak ornamentation. The buttons securing the chin strap to the sides of the band are smaller versions of the buttons worn on their coats. The USMS cap device is a rendering of the Merchant Marine device in gold- and silver-colored metal. Like the device worn by naval officers, it features a silver eagle, with wings outstretched, above a gold shield; the shield, however, is defaced with an anchor and surrounded by a wreath.
Public safety officers, such as those from the police, fire department, ambulance service, and customs, often wear peaked caps, especially on formal occasions. In the US, police forces use caps that have softer tops and are not round and rigid in form (notable are those worn in New York and San Francisco). British and Australian policemen have a checkerboard pattern on the cap band, and traffic wardens often have a reflective yellow strip.
A number of civilian professions – the most notable modern examples being merchant marine and civil aviation – also wear peaked caps. In such civilian old traditional usage, only captains aboard ships and pilots in command (airlines captains) in service aboard aircraft, have the golden oak leaf motifs ("scrambled eggs") on the visor; this is in contrast to the naval tradition, where it is also worn by commanders (one rank below captain) as well as by commodores and flag officers.
The original civilian variant of the peaked cap was widely worn by sailors and workers from the mid 19th century onwards. These were made of wool or canvas, and sometimes waterproofed with tar. During the 1960s, blue denim Greek fisherman's caps became an essential accessory for the counterculture due to their use by John Lennon of the Beatles. A black leather version, sometimes embellished with chains or metal studs, was worn by bikers, greasers imitating Marlon Brando in the Wild One, and members of the 1970s Black Power movement.
Peaked caps are also commonly worn around the world by some railway, or airport staff (baggage porters, but often wearing kepi type cap), bus drivers, security guards and by author George R.R. Martin.
A typical peaked cap has a spring stiffening, often in the form of a wire grommet frame, to ensure insignia properly display.
A crusher cap removes the stiffener to allow headphones to be worn over the hat or use in confined spaces such as tanks and submarines, giving it a slouched and worn "crushed" appearance. Such modified caps were especially popular among US Army Air Forces combat pilots and German tank commanders and submariners in the Second World War.
- Canadian Forces Dress Instructions A-DH-265-000/AG-001. Chief of the Defence Staff. 1 June 2011. p. 5-1-3.
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- Wartime memories
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- "Proper Uniform Wear" (PDF). Junior Officer Advisory Group PROPER UNIFORM WEAR Communications and Publications Committee Uniform Sub-Committee. US Public Health Service Commissioned Corps. Retrieved 7 July 2013.
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