The slouch hat

The slouch hat is an object strongly associated with Australian 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. The Army refers to the slouch hat by its official designation - hat khaki fur felt (KFF).

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.

The origins of the slouch hat began with the Victorian Mounted Rifles in 1885. The Victorian hat was an ordinary bush felt hat turned up on the right side 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. The hat 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.

General Bridges, the first commander of the 1st Australian Imperial Force, was found wearing his slouch hat reversed when he was fatally wounded at Gallipoli. As a mark of respect and remembrance for Bridges, when the slouch hat is worn at 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.

Today, Army members wear the slouch hat with the brim down to provide additional protection from the sun when not performing ceremonial duties.

The puggaree

The term ‘puggaree’ originates from the Hindu word ‘pagri’, meaning a turban or thin scarf of muslin. Intended for insulation, the puggaree was a traditional Indian head-wrap, adapted by the British and worn in hot, sunny regions. 

During World War One, a plain khaki cloth band was worn and this practice continued until compulsory training was suspended in 1929. Following the introduction of voluntary training in 1930, new puggarees were issued to the Commonwealth Military Force with different coloured folds denoting Arm or Service. 

During World War Two, a flat band was issued. Troops who were on active service in the Middle East introduced a folded puggaree as a distinguishing mark of active service. 

Later, the Army reverted to various types of plain bands for jungle warfare, however, the official puggaree at the conclusion of World War Two was still the flat band. 

The current puggaree has seven pleats, one for each state and one for the Australian Territories. It is made from light khaki coloured cotton and is worn on the slouch hat with a unit colour patch sewn on the right side. 

Soldiers of the 1st Battalion, the Royal Australian Regiment, wear a jungle green puggaree, introduced during the Battalion’s service in Malaya from 1959-61. Because the dark green puggaree is so distinctive, the battalion does not wear a colour patch. 

Royal Military College staff cadets wear a distinctive puggaree of olive drab colour. The puggaree has eight pleats, with seven representing each state and one for the Australian Territories. The eighth pleat signifies the graduation of the first international cadet through the Royal Military College who hailed from New Zealand.

The emu plume

Slouch hats worn by members of the Armoured Corps are adorned with emu plumes. 

This tradition originated with the Queensland Mounted Infantry during the great shearers’ strike in 1891. During this time, the Queensland Mounted Infantry were called out to aid the civil power. 

As time permitted, the soldiers would ride their horses alongside emus, pluck the breast feathers, and place them on their hats. The Gympie Squadron was the first to wear the feathers and the rest of the regiment soon followed. The Queensland government permitted the Regiment to adopt the plume as part of its uniform in recognition of its service. 

In 1915, the Minister for Defence, Sir G. F. Pearce, granted all units of the Australian Light Horse permission to wear the plume, which they referred to as ‘kangaroo feathers’. 

Emu tufts of approved design and dimensions are now worn by all members of the Royal Australian Armoured Corps.