A slouch hat is a wide-brimmed felt hat with a chinstrap most commonly worn as part of a military uniform. It is a survivor of the felt hats worn by eighteenth century armies. The distinctive Australian slouch hat, sometimes called an Australian bush hat, has one side of the brim turned up or pinned to the side of the hat in order to allow a rifle to be slung over the shoulder. In the United States it was also called the Kossuth hat, after Lajos Kossuth
The slouch hat with the brim pinned up on the right side was worn by the Schutztruppe (protection force) that was the colonial armed force of Imperial Germany from the late 1800s to 1918 when Germany lost its colonies. Different coloured puggarees were worn by the Germans in South West Africa, German East Africa, German West Africa (Togo and Cameroon) and China.
It became associated with the Australian military; from World War I it was manufactured in Australia by the Akubra company for the army. This slouch hat is still worn by the Australian military today.
The slouch hat or Terai hat is also associated with the Gurkha regiments of the British Army and Indian Army (formerly the British Indian Army) and is still worn by the Gurkhas; the hat is no longer worn on active service. The 2nd Gurkha Rifles became the first Gurkha regiment to adopt the slouch hat when they were issued with the Australian variant in 1901. The Gurkha terai hat is created by fusing two hats into one to make the hat more rigid and is worn at an angle, tilted to the right.
The Chindits and other units of Field Marshal William Slim's British Fourteenth Army, who fought against the Japanese in the Far East during World War II, also became associated with the slouch hat (also known as the bush hat in the British Army). The slouch hat was also used by colonial units of the British Empire, including the Royal West African Frontier Force, the Canadian Yukon Field Force, Canadian Pacific Railway Militia, the Kenya Regiment and troops from Rhodesia.
A Unit Colour Patch is also worn by members of the Australian Army on their Slouch Hat to indicate which unit they are from.
The slouch hat was first worn by military forces in Australia in 1885 when the newly created Victorian Mounted Rifles wore the hat as part of their khaki uniform. On 22 December 1890 the Military Commanders of the then separate Australian Colonies prior to the Federation of Australia met to discuss the introduction of the khaki uniform throughout Australia. They agreed that all Australian Forces with the exception of the Artillery would wear the slouch hat. It was to be looped up on one side - Victoria and Tasmania on the right and the other colonies-later states-on the left.
Australian Defence Force (ADF) personnel regard the slouch hat as a parade item of dress, and although army standing orders for dress allow it to be worn in the field, most soldiers do not, as it is almost a disgrace to allow it to get unnecessarily dirty. The Australian slouch hat (also know as a Hat KFF, or Hat Khaki Fur Felt) is worn with a seven band puggaree, said to represent the six states and the territories of Australia. For the Army, the hat includes the soldiers' Unit Colour Patch (right of puggaree), Corp or Regiment Hat badge (front of puggaree) and the General Service Badge (The Rising Sun, affixed on the left brim) on both the Grade 1 and Grade 2 Slouch Hats. When on ceremonial parades, e.g. ANZAC Day, the Slouch Hat is worn with the brim up (Grade 1), showing the General Service Badge on the left side. However when the soldier's dress of the day is either DPCU's or Polys, then they wear the hat with the brim flat (Grade 2).
The Slouch Hat worn by the Army is one of the ADF's trademarks, but it is not theirs alone: the Royal Australian Air Force wears the HKFF with a dark blue or "Air Force Blue" Puggaree, as a Non Ceremonial head dress for the RAAF; the Royal Australian Navy is also known to wear the hat when wearing camouflage and other uniforms, and has the same features as the RAAF's HKFF. The RAAF & RAN Slouch Hats do not have unit colour patches, nor do they wear it brim up; instead the only badge worn is the RAAF or RAN cap badge, of a design appropriate to the wearer's rank, at the front of puggaree.
The 1st Battalion, Royal Australian Regiment (1RAR) for their slouch hats wear a jungle green coloured puggaree with no colour patch, this dates back to traditions when serving in Malaya. Prior to the RAAF varying some of its Service Dress Uniform the RAAF also used to wear a Blue Slouch hat, with a black or blue puggaree and the Khaki for the HKFF puggaree had a blue band
In the early 1960s when American soldiers went to the Vietnam War, the standard headgear was a fatigue baseball or field cap that offered limited protection from the sun. Local tailors made a slouch hat in a style between a French type bush hat of the First Indochina War and an Australian type bush hat with a snap on the brim to pin one side up that was widely bought and unofficially worn by American troops in Vietnam. The local tailors usually used green fatigue cloth or leopard skin pattern military camouflage from old parachutes. The hat often had a cloth arc emblazoned with the word VIET-NAM on the brim. The U.S. 1st Air Commando Group members adopted the green slouch hat as their distinctive and practical headgear with an AIR COMMANDO arc.
In 1972 the U.S. Army authorized female Drill Sergeants to wear a similar type cloth bush hat with the brim pinned up on the side as their distinctive headgear. The U.S. Air Force female Military Training Instructors were given an Air Force blue slouch hat.