Military Wiki

Senior British and American Air Force officers wearing garrison caps

German Air Force Garrison cap (German word "Schiffchen", "small ship") from 1962

A side cap is a foldable military cap with straight sides and a creased or hollow crown sloping to the back where it is parted. It is known as a garrison cap (in the United States), a wedge cap (in Canada), or officially field service cap[1] (in the United Kingdom and Commonwealth countries), but it is more generally known as the side cap. It follows the style which originated with the so-called Austrian Cap in the 1890s. There was also a previous version known as the 'Torin', which had a much more curved top line when viewed from the side. Both Austrian and Torin types were distinguished by the inclusion of a fold down section for warming the ears and back of the head in inclement weather. These two styles are still used by officers of some British units and continue to include this feature. In appearance the cap is similar to the Glengarry, but differs by a lack of the tartan, or check trim, toorie, and ribbons typical of the Scottish cap. It has been associated with various military forces from the time of World War I to the present day, and various youth organizations. A convenient feature of this cap is that when the owner is indoors and no coat-hook is available on which to hang it, then it can be easily stored (by folding it over the belt or, unofficially, by tucking it under an epaulette).

Synonyms and slang terms

Other terms for this cap in semi-official and or slang usage include garrison cover (USMC and USN), flight cap (USAF), side cap, overseas cap, envelope hat, piss-cutter (USMC and USN), chip hat, bider, cunt cap,[2] and vagina cover.


All ranks of the Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) are entitled to wear the garrison cap with appropriate cap badge in Service Dress and Flying Dress uniforms.[3]

The RAAF is the only branch of the Australian Defence Force entitled to wear the garrison cap.



In the Canadian Forces, the field service cap (French language: calot de campagne) is defined by the Canadian Forces Dress Instructions as a "cloth folding or 'wedge cap'...Originally designed for wear during field operations and training, it may now also be worn as an undress cap with full and undress uniforms."[4] The cap is worn as part of the Undress uniform by students of Royal Military College of Canada,[5] and as an optional item by all ranks of Rifle regiments with Ceremonial Dress, Mess Dress, and Service Dress uniforms.[6]

The field service cap was originally adopted Army-wide in 1939, and replaced in 1943 by a khaki beret. The Coloured Field Service Cap was a variant permitted for private purchase and worn only when off duty. These were in the colours of the regiment or corps of the wearer.

Currently it is only worn by Officer Cadets attending RMC in their distinctive student uniforms, and members of the Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF) in dress uniform. Canadian Army and Royal Canadian Navy (RCN) members wear their own distinctive headdresses.

Air Force

In the Royal Canadian Air Force, the blue wedge cap (French: calot) is authorized for wear with all orders of dress, save for the combat uniform.[7] It is properly worn "on the right side of the head, centred front and back, with the front edge of the cap 2.5 cm (1 in.) above the right eyebrow."[8] Cap badges are worn on the left side, with the centre of the badge 6.5 cm (2½ in.) from the front of the cap centred between the flap and the top seam.[9] The cap worn by general officers is embellished with gold piping.[10] RCAF Military police in dress uniform wear a scarlet flash in the front of their wedge caps showing 1 cm (1/4 in.) RCAF personnel who are members of the Canadian Special Operations Forces Command wear a tan flash in the front of their wedge caps.[11]

Prior to Unification in 1968, the Royal Canadian Air Force wore uniforms similar to those worn by the Royal Air Force, including a blue wedge cap. After 1968, the uniforms of the three services were replaced by a universal rifle-green uniform; the air force, however, was permitted to retain the wedge cap, although in rifle green instead of blue. With the advent of the Distinct Environmental Uniform, the blue wedge cap returned.

The wedge cap is also the official headdress of the Air Force Association of Canada and the Royal Canadian Air Cadets.


A CRS in normal gear, standing by a Bastille Day parade

In France, the bonnet de police (or "calot") replaced the kepi because of its greater convenience, when the "Adrian" steel helmet was issued in 1915. The French bonnet de police had a different origin than that of the glengarry. The French headdress originated as a long, pointed bonnet with a pompon at the end of the trailing crown (resembling the English nightcap). The rim of the cap was folded upward. Originally the pompon hung down at the back between the soldier's shoulder blades; subsequently the cap became shorter and the tail hung near the soldier's ear. By the mid-nineteenth century the bonnet de police had become a true flat cap with no trailing crown. Instead the pompon dangled from a short cord sewn onto the rim in front of the bonnet de police, hanging above the soldier's right eye. This style of headdress with a trailing tassel was widely worn by both the Belgian Army and the Spanish Army during the first half of the 20th Century. It is still used by the Spanish Foreign Legion.

When reintroduced for undress or fatigue wear in the 1890s, the French army's bonnet de police had become a plain item of dress without decoration. The colour of this working cap matched that of the tunic with which it was worn (either dark blue, light blue or black prior to World War I; horizon blue from 1915 to 1930; and thereafter khaki). Between 1944 and 1962 however this headdress was worn by most branches of the French Army in a wide variety of colours, which normally matched those of the kepis historically worn by the particular branch or regiment. Line infantry caps for example had a dark blue base with a red top. At the end of the Algerian War in 1962 the bonnet de police, was replaced by the beret for most units.

In the modern French Army the bonnet de police is still worn by the 1st Regiment of Spahis in the historic bright red of this branch. The bonnet de police is also worn by anti-riot law enforcement units, such as the Gendarmerie Mobile of the French Gendarmerie (at least when in riot control gear) and the CRS of the French National Police. Members of these units may have to change quickly from an ordinary headdress to a helmet, and an easily foldable cap is therefore practical.


In Norway, this is known as båtlue, literally boat cap and is used by the Royal Norwegian Air Force. The Royal Guards use a distinct variety commonly known as gardelue which is worn in garrison and while on leave.

Soviet Union

Pilotka of the Red Army

In the Soviet Union, the garrison cap was known as pilotka (пилотка, from "pilot" — the original cap was a part of the air force pilots' uniform in World War I). It was the most common type of cap used by the Red Army during WWII and after until the 1980s. The pilotka was worn during the summer season instead of the winter ushankas.


The gorro de cuartel – referred to variously as gorrillo, gorra, chapiri or platano – was modelled on the later versions of the French bonnet de police and has the same vestigial tassel hanging from the front of the crown. The gorro de cuartel was originally known as the Isabellina; a large beret-like headdress which also included a tassel and was worn by the supporters of Queen Isabella II during the Carlist Wars of the mid-19th century.

It was in common use by both sides during the Spanish Civil War and continued in use by the Francoist forces after the war ended. It is now the distinguishing headgear of the Spanish Legion who wear it in barracks and on parade.


In Sweden this style of headdress is known as a "båtmössa" (lit. "boat cap"). It is mainly used by the Swedish Police Service where it has been the standard headwear since the 1980s.

United Kingdom

King George VI and Air Chief Marshal Hugh Dowding wearing the RAF Field Service Cap in 1940

In the British Army, the first cap to be adopted of this style was the "Glengarry", which was authorised for all British infantry regiments in 1868 (although Scottish regiments had been wearing it since 1848). The Glengarry was replaced for officers of most non-Scottish units by a cap called the "Torin" (similar in shape to the USSR's pilotka), which was worn from circa 1884 until 1896, when it too was replaced by a style for all ranks known as the "Austrian Cap", which had a fold down arrangement, giving the appearance when unfolded of a balaclava, thus warming the ears and back of the neck. The Austrian Cap (officially known as the field cap) was then replaced by an entirely different style of head dress in 1902 and so went into abeyance from general usage, although officers continued to wear them as a private purchase item of undress uniform. An all-khaki version was also selected in 1912 as a practical head dress by the fledgling Royal Flying Corps that went on to become the Royal Air Force (who continue to use the same type of cap to this day). Additionally, in 1937, a khaki field service cap, described in an amendment to the Dress Regulations for the Army that year as "similar in shape to the Glengarry" was introduced as the Universal Pattern Field Service Cap, and saw extensive service during World War II as a head dress to be worn with Battle Dress when steel helmets were not required. At around the same time coloured versions were introduced for officers of both regular and territorial regiments, although these were an optional item and in the midst of war not every officer chose to purchase one. Nevertheless, some did and they were produced in a wide range of colours for the different infantry, cavalry and yeomanry regiments.

Since the universal introduction of the beret in 1947, the field service cap continued as an optional officer's accessory to be worn in barrack dress (as an alternative to the peaked, khaki Service Dress cap). They are still tailored in regimental colours and have become less common with the introduction of Combat Soldier '95 camouflaged uniform (which for the first time serves as both barrack and combat dress), although they are still worn by the Rifles, Royal Artillery and some cavalry and other infantry regiments. A more obscure type known as the "Tent Cap" is worn by officers of the Queen's Royal Hussars only and is unique in that it is not fitted with a badge, but identified instead by its regimental colouring. Its origins lie with one of their forebears, the 8th Kings Royal Irish Hussars, who adopted the cap in WW2 to reflect their long association with the Danish Royal family, whose Life Guards wear a similar design of cap with their undress uniform. This cap is in turn based on the French, 'bonnet-de-police', that was worn by Hussars in the Napoleonic wars and after. The Torin style of cap is still worn by the Duke of Lancaster's Regiment and the Royal Dragoon Guards.

Colloquially the Field Service cap is occasionally mistakenly called a forage cap but this is incorrect and it has never appeared in War Office or Ministry of Defence official publications under that name. It is, however, often referred to as the 'side hat/cap'.

In the Royal Air Force, a blue-grey field service cap (sometimes called the 'chip bag hat') of an identical style remains widely worn with both working dress and flying suits, where it can be easily fitted into a leg pocket of the latter.

United States

General Omar N. Bradley of the United States Army wearing a garrison cap.

In the U.S. armed forces it is known as a garrison cap, campaign cap (not to be confused with campaign hat, a distinct form of headgear), flight cap, piss-cutter, garrison hat, fore-and-aft cap, envelope cap, overseas cap, or cunt cap.

U.S. Army

When first issued to U.S. "doughboys" in World War I, the hat was called the overseas cap as it was only worn by troops in France who were given the French type forage cap, as they did not have their wide-brimmed campaign hats with them. The overseas cap could be stored easily when the helmet was being worn. A blue overseas cap was adopted post-war by the American Legion, but the hat largely disappeared from the Army between the wars, with the exception of the Army Air Corps and armoured units. However it returned in 1939 with a finalized specification as of February 1941. The hat was widely issued from then on as "the garrison cap." With the replacement of the service cap and campaign hat, the garrison cap was given branch of service color piping, as had earlier been the case with the cord of the campaign hat (light blue for infantry, red for artillery, yellow for cavalry, etc.). This practice was discontinued when individuals had to purchase a new hat if they were transferred to a different branch of the service (i.e., infantry, armor, quartermaster, et al.) Officers' piping was similarly carried over from campaign hat cords and continues: warrant officers' caps are piped in silver and black, commissioned officers' caps are piped in gold and black, and general officers' caps are piped in gold.

Recently, it has largely been replaced in the U.S. Army by the beret. Until May 2004, it was also part of the initial uniform issue for soldiers who received their Army Green Service Uniform before becoming MOS-qualified, and thus being allowed to wear the standard black Army beret. The green service uniform is scheduled to become obsolete in 2014. The garrison cap remains the default headgear for U.S. Army ROTC cadets while wearing the Army Green Service Uniform.

U.S. Marine Corps

The overseas cap ("cover") was first issued to Marines in France in early 1918. Originally Marine officers wore red piping and Marine generals wore gold piping with all ranks wearing the Eagle, Globe and Anchor on the left hand side.[12] The cover was made in both forest green wool and khaki cotton.

Usage is common in the U.S. Marine Corps as the headgear when wearing service uniforms (the other option being the bulkier frame-type "barracks cover"). In addition, it is the standard headgear for Marine Naval Aviators, Naval Flight Officers and enlisted Aircrewmen wearing flight suits. The Marine officer's garrison cap, unlike those of the Army or Air Force, does not have metallic piping; the only marking that distinguishes it from the enlisted cap is the placement of small officer's rank insignia on the right side of the cap. Enlisted garrison caps carry no rank insignia, however all Marine garrison caps carry the Eagle, Globe, and Anchor insignia on the left side.

U.S. Air Force

A blue flight cap is the most common headgear worn with the U.S. Air Force's service dress or "blues" uniform. The color of the piping varies: solid blue for enlisted, blue and silver braid for company-grade officers and field grade officers, and solid silver for general officers. Officers wear large metal rank insignia affixed to the left front of the cap in a manner similar to the Army. No other accoutrements are worn.[13]

U.S. Navy

In the U.S. Navy the garrison cap was first authorized during World War II, originally for aviators and later for all officers and CPO's. Blue and white versions were discontinued after the war, but garrison caps in khaki are still sometimes worn with service khakis and flight suits. Officers wear a miniature version of the officer crest on the left and small rank insignia on the right side of the cap. Like the Marine Corps, and in contrast to their Army and Air Force counterparts, the Navy caps for officers also avoid the use of metallic piping. Enlisted personnel since 2008 have been issued a black garrison cap for wear with the new Navy Service Uniform. It has since been authorized for the officers' and CPO's Service Dress Blue uniform. The garrison cap is also worn by midshipmen.

U.S. Coast Guard

The U.S. Coast Guard issues the garrison cap to all service members. The cap is serge and is authorized with Tropical Blue Long and the Winter Dress Blue. It is no longer authorized for wear with the Service Dress Blue uniform. Regulations for the placement of insignia follow those of the U.S. Navy and Marine Corps.


In Yugoslavia, the garrison cap was known as a "Titovka" and was first used by the Yugoslav Partisans during WWII and later by the Yugoslav People's Army. The Titovka earned its name after Josip Broz Tito, leader of the partisans, who popularized its use during the war.

Civilian Use

A constable of the Uttar Pradesh Police in forage cap

Staff members of the Australian Air Force Cadets are also entitled to wear a garrison cap with Service Dress uniform.[14]

Royal Canadian Air Cadets wear wedge caps in Air Force blue as part of their uniform.

United States Civil Air Patrol personnel wear the US Air Force Flight Cap with distinctive CAP hat insignia. Senior Members (ages 18 and above) will wear the company grade/field grade officer or general officer style flight cap, dependent on CAP rank, but will wear a small version of the service hat device in lieu of rank insignia in order to distinguish themselves from actual Air Force officers (including those in the Air Force Reserve and Air National Guard). CAP Cadet officers will wear the Air Force enlisted flight cap with cadet rank insignia instead of the CAP insignia, while cadets who are not cadet officers will wear a generic insignia. This hat is the standard cover with most of the Air Force style uniforms.[15]

Many uniformed civilian organizations such as the Boy Scouts of America have used garrison caps.

Waiters at many old fashioned style diners also wear garrison caps.

The American Legion and many other Veterans Service Organizations wear distinctive garrison caps.

Some commercial air-line employees, particularly flight attendants, wear garrison caps.

Participants of U.S. Military ROTC and JROTC programs are issued garrison caps for the duration of their studies.

The Massachusetts Maritime Academy also requires its students to wear garrison covers.


  1. Dress Regulations for the Officers of the Army 1900. The War Office. 1900. ISBN 0-85368-044-2. 
  2. Partridge, Eric; Dalzell, Tom; Victor, Terry (2005). The New Partridge Dictionary of Slang and Unconventional English. Taylor & Francis. p. 529. ISBN 0-415-25938-X. Retrieved 2009-06-29. 
  3. DI(AF) AAP 5135.003 (AM1) – Manual of Dress. Royal Australian Air Force. 15 September 2008. 
  4. Canadian Forces Dress Instructions, Chap 1, para 22
  5. Ibid., Chap 5, Annex B, para 2
  6. Ibid., Chap 6, Sect 1, para 4c
  7. Ibid., Chap 6, Sect 1, para 5
  8. Ibid., Chap 2, Sect 2, para 15d
  9. Ibid., Annex D, Appendix 1
  10. Ibid., Chap 3, Sect 2, para 9
  11. Ibid., Chap 6, Sect 1, para 5c
  12. p.13 Henry, Mark US Marine Corps in World War I 1917-18 Osprey Publishing, 23/10/2012
  13. [1], Air Force Instruction 36-2903.
  14. Australian Air Force Cadets Uniform Instructions (3.31 ed.). Australian Air Force Cadets. 1 July 2011. 
  15. CAPM 39-1, downloaded 10 Sept 2010 from

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