The most important element of the uniform turns out to be the headgear, which combines all symbolic and practical functions. Therefore, it was often the only distinguishing element of an outfit. Over the centuries, the practical and symbolic functions of caps and helmets began to intertwine and evolve into the designs we know today.
Until the invention of firearms, when helmets lost their primary function, they were supplanted by comfortable yet practical military hats and caps.
The helmet idea resurfaced with action on the front lines of World War I. Since then, both hard and soft headgear have existed in parallel, serving both protective and representative functions.
Wearing fancy headgear signified high status in society. The same was true of military caps, which, through their often unique character, emphasized both social rank and were intended to have a psychological effect. For centuries, headgear has distinguished those serving in military formations, while the uniform has inspired respect and trust.
The main task is to protect the head from adverse weather conditions: cold, heat, rain, snow, wind, sunlight, etc. A beanie differs from other headwear in that it usually has a visor.
The shape, cut and color of caps are strongly influenced by the prevailing fashion in a given time and space. Caps of military and uniformed services have strictly defined cut and color, and may be worn only by authorized representatives of these services (distinguishing gala caps, worn only on ceremonial occasions and field caps – worn daily and during exercises).
Rogatywka – a type of headgear with a square bottom, found among the peoples of Asia, southeastern Europe and the Sami people, a characteristic Polish national cap. The form of hat with fur brim and cloth top of different shapes, including square one, appeared on Polish, Russian and Scandinavian territories already in the early Middle Ages and at the beginning of the eighteenth century entered the Polish fashion at that time. Early forms of caps with square brim appeared in Polish light cavalry in the 16th century, among others thanks to strong Polish-Hungarian contacts (cap magierka). Soft cornered cap became popular in Poland as a headgear of patriotic movement of Bar Confederates in 1768, hence it was called confederate cap. It was a men’s cap of cloth, without a peak, with a headpiece with a square bottom, usually crimson in color, trimmed with lambskin, black or gray. On the left side was attached a bow, rosette or bachelor’s cross and feathers or a pony. In the 1880s and 1890s it was formed as a high stiffened horned cap with a peak, which was used as a lancer’s headgear. Identified with the Polish headgear and even called the Polish cap, it was more widely used by various formations during the Kosciuszko Uprising, including infantry, militia and kosyniers. In the later Polish Legions in Italy, a high stiffened cornet with a peak was introduced as a standard headgear for all formations.
The tall trench coat with a peak, similar to caps from the end of the 19th century, was later used in part of the cavalry and infantry formations of the Duchy of Warsaw and other Polish armies of the Napoleonic era.
After 1815 cornets were still used only by lancers of the Kingdom of Poland. They were more widely used by different formations during the November Uprising 1830-1831, among others by the National Guard.
Horned caps of various forms, perceived as a national symbol, appeared during subsequent Polish uprisings against the partitioners, including the Cracow Uprising of 1846 and the Spring of Nations of 1848, including the Polish Legion in Hungary 1848-1849 and the Polish Legion in Italy 1848. They were often the only national element of uniforms. Horned caps for infantry and cavalry were prescribed by the guidelines of the National Government during the January Uprising in 1863.
Rogatywka, as a men’s cloth cap, was used by some Polish armed formations during World War I (II Polish Legions Brigade, General Haller’s Army, Wielkopolska Army).
After regaining independence, the Dress Commission of the Ministry of Military Affairs decided on September 21, 1919 to introduce the cap as a standard headgear of Polish type for all types of troops and ranks. During the uniform reform in 1935, the former trench cap was replaced by a garrison cap of a new cut, with a stiff square bottom, leaning to the right side. The stiffened cap was worn with all varieties of the garrison uniform. In 1937 the garrison cap was supplemented by a soft, unstiffened field cap for the army, except for the air force, navy, armored troops and motorized troops. According to the regulations from 1937, it was made of uniform cloth for privates and of camouflage for officers. The peak was stiffened, made of the same material as the cap. The brim was folded and could be lowered to protect ears and neck. The emblem was embroidered with gray thread on oval cloth pad. Field caps were used during World War II in various partisan units.
In the Polish People’s Army, which was being formed in the USSR from 1943, soft field caps were introduced, modeled on the pre-war ones.
Stiffened horned caps were worn only until about 1950, when they were completely replaced by round caps. Cornets were retained in field clothing. It was worn widely after the war ended until 1952, when it was left only in the frame. It was restored in 1961 for all soldiers as a light, cotton horned cap made of special fabric in camouflage patterns. In 1990, the traditional headgear was restored in the Polish Army in the form of a stiffened garrison cap. Applying now in 2015, the idea of a field cap with a visor (just the cornet) returned.
Czako – a type of high military cap used from the late 18th century (although the roots go back further) to the early 20th century in front-line troops, and as a representative headgear in some countries to this day. It is made of leather and cloth. At the beginning of its existence it was about 40 cm. high, and around 1850 it was shortened. From the chaka derives the French kepi. The kepi was often decorated with bunting, bows, pompons (both ball and brush), plumes or so-called “thorns”. They were often decorated with putti, bows, pompoms (balls and brushes), plumes or “thorns” (Hackle).
Bikorn, dwuróg – a type of headgear, a hat, common in use in the 18th and 19th centuries, especially in Europe and North America in both the army and navy, often associated with Napoleon Bonaparte. Bicorns were worn by both officers and generals of the Napoleonic era, and survived as a component of the gala uniform in many armies until the 1920s. The bicorn is derived from the tricorn, and originally black bicorns had a rather wide brim, with the front and back folded up and bunched together to form a lens-shaped headdress. Additionally, they had a bow in the national colors on the front. Some bikorins were made so that they could be folded flat and tucked under the shoulder – this variety is known internationally as chapeau-bras or chapeau-de-bras. This headgear became particularly popular among naval officers all over the world and was very popular until the First World War. In Poland bikornyas became popular along with the fashion for them in the world – they were used during the Kosciuszko Insurrection, as well as later in the army of the Duchy of Warsaw or the Kingdom of Poland, mainly by officers. Bikorny were also an element of the gala uniform of officers of the Polish Navy in the interwar period.
Kepi – a cap with a rigid brim on which is a flat bottom. Originally the kepi had a visor. The kepi is a headgear typically worn by students or military personnel. The most famous are the kepi used by the French army (including the Foreign Legion) and the gendarmerie. A politician commemorated by promoting this model of headgear was General Charles de Gaulle.
Furażerka – a type of soft, cloth cap without a peak, of an oblong shape, used most often in the army. In the army it was used when it was not obligatory to wear a hat, chako, cap or helmet. Used in Poland since the 18th century. Initially popular with supply soldiers (hence its name – a furzeżowy was once a soldier supplying horses). In the period of the Duchy of Warsaw, in the Polish army furzeżerka of the French type was used, with a long pointed top, falling to the left side and ending in a hook. During the Congress Kingdom of Poland, a round Russian type of overcoat was introduced in the Polish army.
In the years 1918-1939 the American type of fur coats were in use in the Polish Army. The sashes were worn by Polish soldiers fighting on the fronts of World War II. This type of trench coat is currently used in the Polish Armed Forces and is widely used (mainly by women and airborne troops).
Czapka garnizonowa – In the Polish Armed Forces garrison caps are worn to ceremonial, outgoing and service dress. Garrison caps are worn by soldiers (men only) of the Air Force and Navy. In the Land Forces the characteristic garrison cap – cornet – is worn.
The Air Force garrison cap is steel in color with a black brim. It has a black visor. On the garrison caps of the Air Force is placed the eagle of the Air Force embroidered with silver bywork on a black pad. The crown, beak, and talons are embroidered in gold byline. The garrison cap in the Navy is white with a black brim. There are two caps: regular and summer.
As in the Air Force there are differences in caps for particular corps of personnel. Garrison cap for the sailors does not have a visor. On the brim there is a golden inscription MARYNARKA WOJENNA.
Uszanka – warm winter headgear, usually made of fur, with characteristic flaps to protect the ears from the cold. In the nineteenth century, trousers were added to the flaps, which could be tied either under the chin (to improve ear warmth) or on top (to uncover the ears). The Ushanka originated in Russia, but the Russians probably borrowed its cut from the Mongols during the medieval Mongol invasion of Kievan Rus.
Although the “Ushanka” is considered to be a typically Russian hat, fur hats of a similar cut are also common in China, North Korea, Eastern Europe, including Poland, and the former Soviet Union. The earflap is a common part of the winter uniform of police and military services in countries with cold climates, such as Russia and Poland. These hats are still worn by the Polish Army today. It can also be seen in American cities such as Chicago (Illinois) during the cold winter months, especially in areas with a large number of Eastern European immigrants. They are also known in Finland and used as part of the military winter uniform from 1939 to the present.
Earmuffs are often made from rabbit or muskrat fur, although grey wolf or dog fur hats are not uncommon either. Better quality hats can also be made from fox, marten or good quality sheepskin. Hats made of artificial materials are also produced, often for sale to tourists. Hats sewn from artificial fur are sometimes jokingly referred to as being made from fish fur. Some Russians believe that wearing a hat with the ears down is not manly enough, which is why the stereotypical portrait of a garbage collector or housekeeper cleaning the yard usually depicts him wearing an earflap with the flaps untied, one pointing up and the other hanging down.
Budionówka – headgear used in the Red Army. On May 7, 1918, by order of the People’s Commissar of War of the RFSSR, a competition for new uniforms for Red Army soldiers was announced. On December 18, 1918, the competition was settled, selecting a design that was de facto a combination of two (possibly more) cuts and motifs. Thus, the Budionovka is reminiscent of medieval Russkie warriors’ helmets (pointed form). As it is a typical winter headgear, it also has earflaps, known from other Russian hats.
In the initial period it was called “bogatyrka”, but eventually it was named after the commanders of the armies, on the equipment of which the caps were introduced first, i.e. Mikhail Frunze and Semyon Budyonny. Thus, they were called “frunzetka” or “budionovka”. The latter name was the best accepted and survived until modern times. It was intended to be used only during military parades, where the pointed form was to symbolize the continuity of armies descended from Russian warriors of the XII and XIII centuries.