Origins of the iconic slouch hat

Apr 10, 2019

Few things symbolise the Australian military and the Digger spirit quite as well as the iconic slouch hat.

The Army refers to the hat as a khaki fur felt, but slouch hat became the popular phrase for the iconic headwear due to the sloped brim of the hat.

Its become synonymous with the infallible pride soldiers abroad have for their home soil, but its history dates back almost 150 years.

The khaki hat first became part of an Australian military uniform in 1885, when it was chosen for the newly-formed Victorian Mounted Rifles by the commanding officer, Colonel Tom Price.

His son later said Colonel Price had been inspired by similar hats worn by Burmese Police in the late 1800s.

The original versions were looped up on the right side of the hat, but most states except Tasmania and Victoria had adopted a loop on the left side by 1890.

It was in South Africa that the slouch hat first became recognised as part of the Australian military garb during the Boer War.

Then, Army historians said in 1903 it was made standard for the Australian army uniform and the loop was largely standardised to the left side.

The iconic perched bream of the hat served a purpose, too, it was designed to provide good protection for the wearer without interfering with orders to show or shoulder their rifles.

The slouch hat is also adorned with a three-plait puggaree an adaptation of Indian headwraps designed to provide insulation for hot climates.

During World War I it was a plain khaki cloth, which was later replaced with coloured woolen bands that denoted the arm or service (after 1930).

World War I was also where the rising sun badge was added to the sides of the hat.

The current hats feature a seven-plait pale-khaki puggaree denoting a plait for each state and territory of Australia.