Slouch hat as a symbol of commemoration in Australia
Troops from Australia have been wearing felt slouch hats since the late 1800s. The hat was officially adopted by the Australian Army in 1903, not long after Federation. Soldiers wear the left side of the hat turned up to avoid catching their rifles on the hat's brim during military parades. During World War I, many troops in Australian Light Horse units wore a plume of emu feathers on their slouch hats.
History of its symbolism
Tasmanian-born soldier, Colonel Tom Price, introduced a felt slouch hat as part of the uniform for the Victorian Mounted Rifles in 1885. His inspiration for the hat came from similar hats worn by the Burmese police.
Many troops from Australia wore felt slouch hats while serving in the Second South African (Boer) War between 1899 and 1902.
In 1903, the slouch hat became a permanent part of the Australian Army uniform. Our soldiers still wear the hat today. The Army refers to the hat as a Khaki fur felt, but the term 'slouch hat' is commonly used.
During World War I, many troops in the Australian Light Horse decorated their hats with a plume of emu feathers.
Soldiers usually wear their hats with a khaki hatband, known as a 'puggaree', and a Rising Sun badge on the left-hand side.
Similar styles of hat are used by defence forces in other countries, including India, Germany, New Zealand and the United States of America.
What it means to us today
The slouch hat has become a well-known symbol of the Australian Army and the courage of the Australian digger.
After World War II, the hat's suitability was questioned, particularly in tropical climates. However, it had become too iconic to be replaced.
Today, similar felt hats are worn by all Australian defence services, but only the Australian Army continues to wear the felt slouch hat, with its distinctively turned-up side.
Engage more with this topic
Poems and songs are a great way to engage children in learning about our wartime history. They can be read aloud at Anzac Day and Remembrance Day services at schools or in the local community. This song was written by Australian comedian and World War II veteran, George Wallace, and published by J Albert & Son, Sydney in 1942. British singer and comedian, Jenny Howard, had proposed to her fellow cast members at the Melbourne Tivoli theatre that the Australian defence forces needed a song of their own. Wallace agreed with her and had the sheets of music and lyrics completed by the following day.
A Brown Slouch Hat
There is a symbol, we love and adore it,
You see it daily wherever you go.
Long years have passed since our fathers once wore it,
What is the symbol that we should all know?
It’s a brown slouch hat with the side turned up,
And it means the world to me.
It’s the symbol of our Nation — the land of liberty.
And as soldiers they wear it, how proudly they bear it,
for all the world to see.
Just a brown slouch hat with the side turned up,
heading straight for victory.
Don’t you thrill as young Bill passes by?
Don’t you beam at the gleam in his eye?
Head erect, shoulders square, tunic spic and span,
Ev’ry inch a soldier and ev’ry inc a man.
As they swing down the street, aren’t they grand?
Three abreast to the beat of the band,
But what do we remember when the boys have passed along?
Marching by, so brave and strong.
Just a brown slouch hat…
- Eddie Trigg 2011. 'A Brown Slouch Hat' — 70 years on [article], On Stage, Spring 2011. https://theatreheritage.org.au/images/OnStage/backissues/2011-4.pdf