BEARSKIN hats are an integral part of British culture and have been worn by soldiers for over 200 years.
Do they still wear them and why? Here’s everything you need to know…
Do British soldiers still wear bearskin hats?
Although often associated with the British military, bearskin hats are worn by many armies around the world.
A bearskin is a ceremonial military cap that dates back to the 17th century.
They are supposed to make soldiers look taller and more intimidating as they are the ones who fought in close combat.
They were first used by British soldiers after the Battle of Waterloo for the Grenadier Guards, but soon after other foot guards regiments were able to wear them.
Today the hats are worn by the five regiments of the British Army‘s Foot Guards (Grenadier, Scots, Welsh, Irish, Coldstream), officers of rifle regiments, the Scots Dragoon Guards and members of the ‘Honourable Artillery Company.
The Drum Major of the Royal Highland Fusiliers Band also wears one on parade.
Are the hats made of real bear skin?
As the name suggests, the hats are made from the skin of black bears from a large population in Canada.
Every year, the British Army takes about 100 pelts a year, and it takes a black bear to make a bearskin hat.
The plugs cost around £650 to make and can last over 80 years with proper care.
It’s a hugely controversial issue with calls from many environmental activists – including Baywatch star Pamela Anderson – to switch to an alternative to faux fur.
In April 2022, animal rights group PETA created a petition that received more than 100,000 signatures.
However, according to the British Army, synthetic fur caps lose their shape in strong winds and become waterlogged in heavy rain.
In response to the petition, the government said: “The bear pelts that are used are the by-products of a harvest authorized by Canadian authorities to manage the wild bear population.
“Bears are never hunted on command for use by the MOD.
“Our suppliers source pelts made available by Canadian authorities following an authorized kill as part of a wild bear population management program.”
How do bearskin hats stay in place?
Those who wear bearskin hats say they’re relatively comfortable because they don’t weigh your head down and tend to keep you cool.
The standard UK foot guard cap weighs just 1.5 pounds – and they get heavier when wet.
Different regiments have their own unique way of wearing the hat to distinguish them from others.
For example, the Blue Royals will wear it under their chin and the Lifeguards will wear it under their lip.