- What is a boonie hat?
- What is a bucket hat?
- Boonie Hat vs. Bucket Hat
- Why Do Special Forces Wear Boonie Hats?
- Why do snipers wear boonie hats?
- Can a civilian wear a boonie hat?
- How to Wear a Boonie Hat?
- When are you allowed to wear a boonie hat in the military?
- Other types of military hats and headwear
What is a boonie hat?
A boonie hat (also known as a sun hat and short for “boondocks hat”) is a wide-brimmed military hat that became popular headgear during the Vietnam War and is now one of the most recognizable military hats in the world. You can read more about the history of the Boonie Hats here.
What is a bucket hat?
A bucket hat (also known as a fisherman’s hat) is intended for civilian recreational use (e.g. hiking, trekking and mountaineering). It is usually made of cotton, denim or canvas.
Boonie hat and bucket hat compared
A boonie and a bucket hat are similar. Nevertheless, the two hats differ significantly, especially in terms of their construction and functionality.
To clarify the differences, let’s compare the boonie hat to the bucket hat.
First, the brim of a boonie hat is stiff, while the brim of a bucket hat is flexible.
The stiff brim allows the boonie hat to be molded into the shape the wearer needs at the moment (although US Army regulations prohibit such modifications, as you’ll learn in a moment). Notwithstanding the regulations, the brim may be shaped to reduce the wearer’s silhouette and make it difficult to identify the head from a distance.
In contrast, the soft brim of the bucket hat cannot really be shaped. It stays the way it was delivered by the manufacturer.
Another difference is that the crown of the boonie hat is usually finished with a band of loops. Bucket hats usually don’t have these loops.
Another difference is the purpose for which these hats are made. The Boonie Hat is intended for tactical or military use. The bucket hat, on the other hand, is intended for civilian leisure use, as mentioned above.
Why do special forces wear boonie hats?
The military boonie hat is often worn by special forces. That’s because this hat is great for a lot of the special ops.
For example, when it comes to being as quiet as possible when approaching a target, the boonie hat is a far better choice than a helmet. A heavy Kevlar helmet bounces on the wearer’s head, making a small but noticeable noise. A boonie hat is soft and much lighter and therefore makes no noise.
Special forces also wear the boonie hat because it makes camouflage easier. To do this, they can either wear a camouflage hat (which is already printed with the appropriate camouflage pattern) or stuff the band of a plain hat with native leaves and grasses.
As previously mentioned, the boonie hat slims the silhouette of the wearer’s head (which, along with its other features, makes it the top choice among military camouflage hats).
Why do snipers wear boonie hats?
Snipers like to wear a boonie hat because it doesn’t get in the way of aiming the shot.
The fabric that makes up a boonie allows the brim to flex when needed, allowing the sniper to easily get behind the rifle, rest the cheek on the top edge of the stock, and take full advantage of the weapon’s optics.
If the sniper wore a helmet instead, these preparatory measures would be difficult to carry out. The helmet could even affect the sniper’s shooting accuracy.
Snipers wear the headgear for the same reasons Special Forces do: to avoid as much noise as possible and to make stealth easier.
Can a civilian wear a boonie hat?
In the United States and many other countries around the world, there is no law prohibiting civilians from wearing a boonie cap or most other types of military caps. However, there is the question of “stolen valour.” In some circles it is thought that a civilian (particularly one who has never served in the armed forces) donning any type of military garment is an affront to those who did serve.
For fans of military hats with patches, it is even legal to put a unit insignia or a ship’s name on their boonie cap.
However, the question of “stolen bravery” arises. In some circles it is felt that a civilian (especially one who has never served in the armed forces) wearing any type of military attire is an affront to those who have served.
Not long ago, Quora.com asked veterans if they were upset at the sight of a civilian in military gear. Almost 200 veterans responded and almost none had anything negative to say about civilian clothing. The vast majority took it as a compliment, an attempt by ordinary people to identify with a heroic profession.
How to wear a boonie hat?
The US Army mandates that the boonie hat (like any other piece of clothing) must be worn as designed.
Many find that the boonie hat sits most effectively on the head (the hat band should be parallel to the ground). Others feel that the boonie hat should be worn loosely behind the head so it doesn’t blow away when a sudden wind blows from behind.
To keep them from being blown away, almost all boonie hats come with a strap (usually an adjustable cord that hangs at about the height of the wearer’s upper chest). There are several ways the strap can be attached: it can be worn loose or tight, for example, under the chin, at the back of the head, or inside the hat (US Army regulations prohibit wearing the strap over the hat) . Some bands are permanently attached to the hat while others are detachable.
Any strands of hair above the forehead should be tucked under the hat and not sticking out from under the brim.
When are you allowed to wear a boonie hat in the military?
A boonie hat may be worn if the commanding officer gives permission, but it is generally acceptable to wear a boonie hat in hot weather when the helmet must be removed and a patrol cap is inappropriate. Military personnel assigned to work assignments may also wear boonie hats.
Other types of military hats and headgear
The boonie hat is the most popular military hat for field use. However, there are other types of military hats that are worth mentioning. They were all born out of necessity and differ in their functionality. And of course, each has its own pros and cons.
Any military cap that is flat on top and has a horizontal visor that sticks out in front is called a kepi. This is basically a patrol cap too. A patrol cap is made of soft material; the only rigid element is the screen. It looks a lot like a baseball cap.
Patrol caps are a popular replacement for combat helmets, but typically only in situations where the risk of exposure to flying shrapnel or other airborne objects that can seriously injure the head is minimal.
US Army Rangers serving in Korea in the early 1950s wore a precursor to today’s patrol cap, known as the M1951. As temperatures could drop to freezing and below on the Korean peninsula, the olive drab M1951 featured a wool flannel tab on the back and sides to protect against the winter chill. When not in use, this flap could be folded up and the hat provided protection from the hot sun in the summer months. Typically, soldiers wore the M1951 under their helmet, which was made possible by the cap’s soft cotton construction.
Later, in the 1950s, the M1951 was superseded by the similar but stiffer Ridgeway Cap. Possibly because Cuban dictator Fidel Castro made the Ridgeway hat his trademark, the US abandoned the style in 1962 (the same year that the Cuban Missile Crisis brought the US and then-Soviet Union to the brink of nuclear war).
The patrol cap fell out of US Army use by 1981. That year, the Americans issued the M81 combat dress uniform. In 2004 the M81 was mothballed and replaced by the ACU (Army Combat Uniform), but the 1980s patrol cap lived on. In its current form, the US Army patrol cap is made from a nylon/cotton blend that is particularly durable and comfortable.
One of the most common types of military caps is the watch cap (so called because it is worn while on watch). It is mostly knitted from wool and is tight-fitting so that it keeps the head comfortably warm.
Typically, the hats are constructed in such a way that the wearer can roll up the excess material to form a cuff. They are not intended as a fashion statement. For this you should get a beanie hat or a toque, both of which are similar to the watch cap (also called a roll cap).
Historians believe that the watch cap’s direct tactical ancestors appeared in the 18th century. Among the first to wear them were insurgents in what is now the province of Quebec. In 1837, these insurgents attempted to overthrow British rule in a cold-weather conflict that became known as the Lower Canada Rebellion.
During World War II, most American sailors wore a watch cap aboard ships operating in the frigid waters of the North Atlantic and Bering Seas, whether above or below decks.
The military beret is a soft, slanting cap with fabric gathered on one side. It can be made of felt, wool, cotton or acrylic. It serves to keep the head warm, but also to give the wearer an elegant, distinctive look.
Unlike other types of army hats, the beret was and is primarily known as civilian headgear. In the Middle Ages, peasants wore so-called berets as a symbol of their place at the bottom of the social hierarchy. In the mid-18th century, left bank painters and sculptors in Paris made the beret synonymous with the fine arts.
In the early 20th century, Hollywood film directors were stereotypically depicted wearing a beret (while holding a megaphone in one hand). Today, the beret is still popular among men and women across Europe (especially France and Spain) and beyond, albeit primarily as a fashion statement rather than a functional piece of clothing.
Armed forces and law enforcement see the beret as both a fashion statement and a functional accessory. The beret is also an important element for promoting esprit de corps in the ranks.
France was one of the first countries to make the beret standard equipment for its military, particularly as part of the uniform worn by mountaineers in the 1880s. From then on, the beret became associated almost exclusively with elite special forces such as armored units, commando units, paratroopers and security commandos.
One of the advantages of the beret is that it is easy to store. Due to the materials used and the way it is made, a folded or rolled beret can be conveniently tucked under an epaulette without spoiling the look of the uniform (and without ruining the cap itself). The beret can also be easily stowed in a shirt, jacket or trouser pocket.
Another advantage of the beret is that you can wear headphones over it. Other types of hats don’t allow simultaneous use of headphones, but not so with the beret.
The ultimate military cover is a helmet. Its job is to protect the wearer’s head from bullets, shrapnel, and other physical impact. No helmet is bulletproof, but helmets made of Kevlar and similar modern materials are at least bulletproof.
A good helmet is comfortable and stays in place as the wearer marches, runs, takes cover, jumps over obstacles, or engages in other strenuous physical activities. In addition, a good helmet does not impede the wearer’s vision or hearing.
The helmet has a long and storied past. Records show that it was used in battle long ago. However, towards the end of the 16th century, the helmet fell into oblivion for the next three centuries (during this period, the armies wore felt tricorne hats and later kepis and western hats in the style of the American Western Army).
The helmet did not make a big comeback until the First World War. In battlefield conditions, commanders of opposing forces quickly realized that their troops needed head protection far superior to that provided by cloth caps and hats. In a short time, steel helmets became standard equipment.
The current helmet in the US is the Enhanced Combat Helmet (ECH), which first entered service in 2012. Its British counterpart is the MK 7 helmet, which has been used by the British Armed Forces since 2009.
The boonie hat is popular with military personnel far and wide for its comfort and functionality. It can’t block bullets and shrapnel, but it can block the sun.
Although the boonie was designed as an army hat, it is also worn by civilians who appreciate its simple and versatile qualities.
The boonie hat is not the only headgear that offers comfortable protection for the head. There are also patrol caps, watch caps and many others. They all play their part in ensuring that the work or operation can be completed successfully, safely and in style.