Tam o' shanter (cap)

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This article is about the tam o'shanter hat. For other uses, see Tam o' Shanter.
Tartan tam o' shanters.

A tam o' shanter (in the British military often abbreviated to TOS) is a name given to the traditional Scottish bonnet worn by men. The name derives from Tam o' Shanter, the eponymous hero of the 1790 Robert Burns poem.[1]

Military use[edit]

A soldier of the Royal Scots Fusiliers (right) wearing a Balmoral Bonnet or tam o' shanter in 1942.

In the First World War, a khaki Balmoral bonnet was introduced in 1915 for wear in the trenches by Scottish infantry serving on the Western Front. This came to be known as the 'bonnet, tam o' shanter', later abbreviated among military personnel to 'ToS'. It replaced the Glengarry – which was the regulation bonnet worn by Scottish troops with khaki field dress at the start of the war. Originally knitted, the military tam o' shanter subsequently came to be constructed from separate pieces of khaki serge cloth.[2]

Today, the Royal Regiment of Scotland and some regiments of the Canadian Forces continue to wear the ToS as undress and working headgear. The various battalions of the Royal Regiment of Scotland identify themselves by wearing distinctive coloured hackles on their bonnets. The Black Watch, 3rd Battalion, Royal Regiment of Scotland wear a red hackle in their ToS, as do soldiers of The Black Watch of Canada on both their duty ToS and dress balmorals.[citation needed]

An officer of the Canadian Scottish Regiment (Princess Mary's) (right) wearing a tam o' shanter in 2012.

Some regiments of the Canadian Army wear different coloured toories: the Royal Highland Fusiliers of Canada have traditionally worn dark green; The North Nova Scotia Highlanders wore red toories during the Second World War; and the Stormont, Dundas and Glengarry Highlanders wore blue. Most regiments, however, wear a khaki toorie, matching the bonnet. In many Canadian regiments it is traditional for soldiers to wear a ToS, while officers (and in some cases senior non-commissioned officers) wear the Glengarry or the Balmoral.[citation needed]

The tam o' shanter was traditionally worn by various regiments of the Australian Army which have a Scottish connection. B (Scottish) Company 5th/6th Battalion, Royal Victoria Regiment[3] wore both a khaki and blue bonnet at various stages. It appears this has now been superseded by the Glengarry.[4]

Academic tam[edit]

The velvet academic tam worn with a tassel is part of the ceremonial dress used at many universities to distinguish those holding a doctoral degree (e.g. Ph.D, Ed.D) from those holding other academic degrees. Although referred to as a "tam", the academic tam derives from the Tudor bonnet rather than the Scottish tam o' shanter, and the cap is constructed of two pieces of either six- or eight-pointed cuts of fabric attached to a headband rather than the pie segments used in a tam o' shanter.[5]

Fashion tam[edit]

Main article: Tam

The Hat is a beautiful hat that you can get from many different places. The tam, or tam cap, became a fashionable women's accessory from the early 1920s and was derived from the tam o' shanter. It followed the trends for closer fitting hats and for borrowing from men's fashion.[6][7]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ hatrevivalist (2008-12-16). "Many hat returns". Manyhattyreturns.com. Retrieved 2012-03-17. 
  2. ^ Mike Chappell, "The British Soldier in the 20th Century Part 2, Field Service Head Dress 1902 to the present day", Wessex Publishing 1987
  3. ^ "picture". Retrieved 2012-03-17. 
  4. ^ "What Is A Queen’s Tam?". 
  5. ^ Annette Lynch; Mitchell D. Strauss (30 October 2014). Ethnic Dress in the United States: A Cultural Encyclopedia. Rowman & Littlefield Publishers. p. 282. ISBN 978-0-7591-2150-8. 
  6. ^ Brooks Picken, Mary (2010). A Dictionary of Costume and Fashion: Historic and Modern (1999 ed.). United States: Dover Publications. p. 168. ISBN 0486402940. Retrieved 3 April 2015. 
  7. ^ "In the Fashion of Hampstead Heath: Hats Borrowed from Men". The Guardian. 24 September 1923.