History of the Slouch Hat
It’s summertime, and that means plenty of Civil War Reenactments, remembering the horrific battles that were fought, eventually resulting in liberating slaves and keeping our great Nation whole. The Civil War kepi, worn by soldiers, is the most recognizable Civil War hat to the common modern person (think Kevin Cosner’s character in Dances With Wolves when he was a soldier). But anyone who knows much about the Civil War knows that officers wore the larger brimmed felt Slouch hat (think Kevin Cosner’s character when he was an officer). But what exactly is a Slouch hat and how did it get it’s name? Well, I’m glad you asked.
The Slouch hat dates back as far as the 1600′s, when it was the common headwear for soldiers in the English Civil War. And while the style was eventually replaced in Europe by the tricorn hat, the slouch hat became a regularly issued piece of military headwear across the globe in the US, Australia, Germany, and even India and Africa. The Slouch hat is still very common in Australia, where sun and heat issues are a constant concern.
The name “Slouch Hat” refers to the fact that hat slouches to one side, and typically has one side pinned up. It is still worn in the US military by female Drill Sergeants and USAF instructors. US Soldiers wore it in Vietnam because it offered more sun protection than a cap could offer, with it’s large brim. However, the more common field hat during the Vietnam conflict was it’s smaller brimmed cousin, the Boonie Hat. In the American Civil War, however, it was the common officer’s hat, shaped like a large brimmed cowboy hat, but with a more rounded crown (and not necessarily pinned up). The hat offered great protection from the sun and rain, and being made of felt, it is a natural insulator from both heat and cold.
Although the slouch hat will never be remembered from the American Civil War as the kepi, it also has never been completely done away with. I don’t imagine US military will ever start wearing Kepis or Bummers. But as long as various Military forces are working in high sun areas, I imagine some form of slouch hats will live on.