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What is an Overseas Cap?

R. Anacan
R. Anacan

An overseas cap is a style of headwear that was used and popularized by the hats worn by military servicemen, especially American soldiers, in World War I and World War II. Often referred to as a garrison cap, wedge cap, or garrison cover, the overseas cap was used to provide headwear appropriate for military use while also being easy to carry and store. The overseas cap is a brimless and visorless cap that is shaped much like an upside-down envelope. The open portion of the hat sits on top of the wearer’s head. When not in use the hat is able to lie flat.

This style of hat was referred to as the overseas cap in the United States because only military personnel serving outside of the United States, or “overseas,” during the World War I period, were issued the hat as part of their uniform. During the World War I era, American soldiers were originally issued a style of headwear known as a campaign hat. Campaign hats were generally made of wool or some type of fur felt and consisted of a tall crown and a wide brim. The campaign hats of that era are similar in style to the hats commonly associated with the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, military drill instructors, and park rangers.

Woman holding a book
Woman holding a book

The advent of modern era weapons and techniques in World War I necessitated the use of metal helmets by soldiers for increased protection. Soldiers would often wear their campaign hats for non-combat situations and put their helmets on when needed. It soon became apparent that an alternative to the campaign hat was necessary, as the large size of the campaign hat meant that is was not easily stored and took up valuable space when a steel helmet needed to be worn.

The overseas cap worn by American soldiers in World War I was an adaptation of a cloth hat worn by French soldiers. The flat shape of the cap enabled it to be easily stored when necessary, a valuable advantage during combat operations. While the specific term "overseas cap" was originally used to refer to the headwear worn by U.S. service members, the actual style of hat is still used throughout the world. In addition to United States and France, whose design inspired the American overseas cap, nations such as Germany, the United Kingdom, Canada, and Russia have all issued their own variation of the cap for use by their military personnel. The overseas cap has also been used in applications other than military uniforms and it is not uncommon to see police, airline personnel, and members of Scouting programs around the world wearing their own versions of the hat.

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