Origin of the Slouch Hat
The slouch hat is an object strongly associated with Australian military identity.
The word ‘slouch’ refers to the sloping brim. The brim is made from rabbit-fur felt or wool felt and is always worn with a puggaree.
History has it that the origins of this hat were with the Victorian Mounted Rifles; a hat of similar design had been worn in South Africa by the Cape Mounted Rifles for many years before 1885. The design of the Victorian Mounted Rifles’ hat originated from the headgear of the native police in Burma where a Lieutenant-Colonel Tom Price had recognised its value.
The Victorian hat was an ordinary bush felt hat turned up on the right side. The intention of turning up the right side of the hat was to ensure it would not be caught during the drill movement of “shoulder arms” from “order arms”.
By 1890, State military commandants had agreed that all Australian forces, except the artillery corps, should wear a looped-up hat of uniform pattern that was turned up on the right side in Victoria and Tasmania, and on the left side in all other States to allow for different drill movements.
The Slouch Hat became standard issue headdress in 1903 and its brim position was mostly standardised. The slouch hat became a famous symbol of the Australian fighting man during World War One and continued to be worn throughout World War Two. Its use since that time has made it a national symbol although, in more recent years, its use is limited mostly to ceremonial duties.
General Bridges, the inaugural commander of the 1st Australian Imperial Force, was found wearing his slouch hat back to front when he was fatally wounded at Gallipoli. As a mark of respect and remembrance for Bridges, when the slouch hat is worn at the Royal Military College - Duntroon, it has become traditional to wear the chinstrap buckle on the right side of the face and the brim down.
This tradition commenced at the Royal Military College in 1932. However, when the slouch hat is worn ceremonially, for example on ANZAC Day, it is worn in accordance with the wider Army custom - brim up and chinstrap buckle on the left hand side.
Today, Army members wear the slouch hat with the brim down to provide additional protection from the sun when not performing ceremonial duties.