The hats come from over forty countries. Some countries are very well represented, while others have only one or two examples. Most of my hats are visor hats, sometimes referred to as “peaked hats”. They are generally made up of a cloth top called a crown attached to a narrow cardboard cylinder which slides down over a wearers head. The cylinder is in turn covered with cloth which is called the band. Many hats have a thin coloured tubing called piping around the crown and/or the top and bottom edges of the band. A stiff leather or plastic visor is stitched to the front of the band as a form of sun shade. Silver and gold embellishments are stitched to the top of the visor to either denote a level of importance or a particular rank. These are sometimes referred to as “scrambled egg”. Decorations are also on rare occasions attached to the band. The hat is usually finished off with a single or double strand of cord, or gilt or leather strap. This is called a chinstrap, and is generally held in place by a metal button on each side of the hat just above the wearers temple. Chinstraps are mostly decorative in nature, although on very rare occasions they have been known to be brought down around the chin, in order to prevent the hat being blown off the wearer’s head. To finish off a typical visor hat, either a metal or cloth badge decorated with embroidered threads or metal threads called bullion, is attached to the front of the hat to denote a level of rank, a particular rank, or an arm of service, and sometimes even a particular unit. In most countries’ armed services decoration on the visor indicates a higher rank level. The decoration is most often represented by rows of leaves – acorns and laurel being the two most commonly used. A single row is usually indicative of a senior officer, while a double row of leaves denotes general or admiral ranks. In the 3rd Reich armed forces, visors were kept free of adornments of any kind, except in the Kriegsmarine (navy) where the standard one and two rows of leaves was traditional.
Most of the other caps or hats in the collection are known as field caps. The most common type is known as a garrison cap, a side cap, an overseas cap, a fore-and-aft cap. The M43 type field cap was issued to all military units in the 3rd Reich. It was the most common form of headwear worn by German soldiers towards the end of WWII. The collection is rounded out with some specialties such as partisan hats, slouch hats and a fair number of hats worn by female members of police and armed forces.