By indexer
162 days ago

The kepi: military headwear

A kepi is a round cap with a leather or cloth peak and a cord or leather chinstrap, worn by soldiers and other public officials. Although it offers absolutely no protection against bullets or other weapons, it has been a popular item of headgear with armies since the mid-19th century, although its origins go back several centuries further.

A peaked bonnet worn in France in the 15th century was developed into the “montera” or “boukinkan” that appeared during the reign of King Louis XIII (1601-43). “Montera” was a Spanish word, but the French came to prefer “boukinkan” which derived from the name of the Duke of Buckingham, who served as Secretary of State to King Charles I. These caps had peaks at both front and back, plus a feathery plume either hanging down behind or pointing skywards.

Peaked caps became familiar in the 19th century and have continued down to the present day in various forms, mainly of them connected with particular occupations or types of people, such as the jockey’s cap, school cap or caps worn on the golf course or bowling green.

As an item of military wear, the kepi as such can first be traced to Algeria, where it was known as the “casquette” or “bonnet de police à visière” (police cap with peak). It was prescribed as part of the military uniform of French troops in Algeria (the French Foreign Legion) in 1833, although various designs were proposed, mostly by a Captain Hecquet who was looking for something that that was suitable for soldiers fighting in desert conditions.

Captain Hecquet finally settled on what became known as “model 1833”. This was a conical cap, 200mm high, with a flat top. It was made of cardboard, for lightness, but covered by red waxed cloth. A band of lace, 50mm wide, was fixed above the peak, and the pleated cloth on top was fixed by a button at the centre. Two metal buttons on either side of the peak kept the chinstrap in place.

In 1840 a new model was introduced, in which leather replaced cardboard and the pleated top gave way to a white cloth that was better at protecting the wearer from the African sun. Variations in the piping on the side indicated the rank of the wearer.

Other French regiments admired the kepi (the word being used from the 1880s) and so its use spread through the French army. It proved to be more practical and cheaper to make than the “shako” which had been part of the regular military uniform at the time. The shako was a tall cylindrical hat with brass fittings and a heavy metal chinstrap. It could now be relegated to ceremonial use as the kepi took its place.

After 1850 the design of the kepi (as worn in mainland France) evolved to become lower and softer and the peak broader and more angular. The top was decorated with a “Hungarian knot” in braid.

Its use spread beyond the fighting troops of the army to include such personnel as health service officers and administrative staff. It would also become popular with officials in non-army occupations, such as prison officers, the police, customs officers and railway staff.

So popular did the kepi become with the French army that its inability to protect the head was forgotten when any proposals were made to upgrade uniform design. French troops therefore began World War I still wearing kepis.

Other armies also adopted the kepi, notably those of Belgium and Sardinia. When Tsar Alexander II of Russia visited Paris after the Crimean War ended in 1856, he took back with him the idea of including the kepi in his plan for a more relaxed dress code for the Russian army.

After 1851 the United States army also adopted a French style, as a deliberate move away from British traditions. Their version of the kepi, or forage cap, included a coloured pompom and eagle insignia. However, this did not last long because the colours were found to degrade and the kepi was abandoned in favour of the felt hat.

However, versions of the kepi are still to be found in armies around the world, albeit not as part of their fighting uniform. The basic design has proved to be practical, popular and economic.
amberbruck Awesome!!
fortune Interesting kepi story
soncee So nice artikle
RasmaSandra Thank you for sharing. Never heard of this headware before.