Recently I have been thinking about headgear. If you are in the military your primary headgear should be your helmet. The Roman Vegetius reports that Roman soldiers always wore hats so they were accustomed to carrying a weight here. These hats were leather and known as “Pannonian” or “Tetrachic” caps. Your helmet should be competently camouflaged, which involves more than just putting the latest cloth cover on it. I will give some additional ideas for helmets in a later blog. In the meantime, think “puggaree”.
My headgear of choice is usually either a watch cap or a boonie hat. With the watch cap we can include headovers, ski-masks and other items that can be worn in the same way.
A good watch cap is not too thick. In cold weather you do not want to overhead, and one of the merits of a watch cap is you can screw it up and carry it virtually anywhere. If it is really cold you can use it in combination with other headgear or another watch cap. A watch cap doubles as a night cap so can keep you a little warmer sleeping at night. One size fits nearly all, and the cap stays on in all but the very strongest winds. Your outdoor kit should include at least one watch cap or equivalent. Most of my coats and jackets have a cap or similar tucked into a pocket for when the weather turns for the worse.
Sadly, the watch cap cannot be used for everything, and this is where the boonie hat steps in. It has a brim, which as well as keeping the sun off, keeps the rain off my glasses. In a previous blog I described how to camouflage a boonie, although it should be understood that these techniques can also be applied to helmets and other headgear too.
Unlike the watch cap, the boonie and many other types of headgear need to be sized to fit the wearer. Chances are most readers do not know their hat size. Even if you do, there is still the chance a size may come up large or small. Most forms of headgear have very little provision for size adjustment.
As an individual this can be irritating. For someone like a quartermaster, who must equip hundreds of personnel, it means multiple alternatives of the same item must be stocked.
While I was thinking about this another train of thought intersected with it. In the classic movie “Seven Samurai” it is notable that the farmers who are defending their village have scarves bound around their forehead. We see this in other movies, with some samurai wearing headscarves beneath their helmets. It is a common practice in kendo too. This has practical applications. Fighting is a physical activity and a scarf keeps the sweat from running into your eyes. Also keeps your hair out of your eyes.
Logical enough, so it is perhaps surprising how rarely we seem to see fighting men using headcloths. There is Rambo, of course, and a few individuals in pictures from Vietnam.
If you are a regular reader, you will have a bandanna in your EDC, and such is handy should you find yourself sweating more than you expected. If you know you are likely to be sweating, you should have made some preparations.
In the vast, echoing expanse of my mind, two ideas collide!
Take an elasticated headband, as made famous by Bjorn Borg, and sew it into your boonie hat, patrol cap or whatever else you favour:
- Your hat is now more size-tolerant. Don’t worry about ordering a new hat that is too big. Order it a size bigger and fit a sweatband.
- Your hat now stays on better. It hugs your head like a watch cap.
- You will be bothered less by perspiration running down into your eyes.
Only problem with this idea is most elasticated sweatbands are in very un-tactical colours. You may be able to find grey, but these are still a bit light. It may be possible to dye grey and white with tea or diluted acrylic paint.
What is really needed is for some smart company to manufacture sweatbands in a useful colour such as “light coyote tan”. I’m sure someone will demand them in “tactical” black! Very dark grey may have applications for police headgear. A friend of my suggests sage or olive might suit some police uniforms.
Such headbands would have dual use. Firstly, they can be sewn into headgear as described above. Secondly they can be worn as a stand-alone item, either on their own or under helmets.
And here is a third use. Take a sweatband and use it for the foundation of a hat. Sewn a bag of light, neutral-coloured cloth to it. It doesn’t have to be that neat or regular, quite the opposite. Then sew a net or similar to the bag and camouflage it as described in the articles above. You can wear this as a hat on its own, or over something such as a watch cap if it is cold. If you made it big enough you can use it to camouflage a boonie or even a helmet. In the latter application it works rather like the Israeli “mitznefet/clown-hat”, but with the added improvement of some textilage and the provision to add natural foliage.