What is a Kepi Hat?

The Kepi Hat is a cap that has an open, circular top and a peak, also known as a the visor. In English the word “kepi” is a loanword borrowed from French. Kepi, itself is a variant spelling of Alemannic German: Kappi, which is a diminutive variant of Kappe meaning “cap”. In Europe the headgear is usually associated with French uniforms worn by police and military. However, variants of it were worn by various other armies in the late in the 19th century and into the early 20th century. For North America, it is typically linked to it being associated with the American Civil War. As it was worn by soldiers from both sides in the war.

History of Kepi Hat:

The kepi hat was once the most popular headgear worn by the French Army. Its predecessor first appeared in the 1830s in the beginning phases during the period of occupation Algeria in the form of a set of cane-framed, lightweight undress caps referred to as casquettes d’Afrique. They were designed as an alternative to the heavy, leather-covered cloth French Army shako. It was a comfortable and light headdress. It was accepted by the Metropolitan (French) Infantry Regiments for service as well as everyday use. Sent to parade with less practical shock. It was in 1852 that a cap made of soft cloth was introduced to combat and off-duty. The name was bonnet de police visiere, it was the first model that was a proper representation of the Kepi.

The visor was usually large and squarish, and was known in the form of”bec de Canard” (duck bill). This particular kepi did not have a button or chinstrap (jugulaire). The subsequent designs reduced the cap’s size and introduced buttons and chinstraps. The kepi gained a lot of attention outside of France in the Crimean War. And was subsequently used in different forms by a variety different armies in the 1860s and the 1870s.

In 1870, when armies were mobilized to fight the Franco-Persian War. A large number of French soldiers refused to wear or throw the issued shuko. Emperor Napoleon III abolished infantry for active service and replaced it with a cape. Which was introduced on July 30, 1870.

A brand new model was released with a more round visor. This was because the square visor fell in the event of wetness and curled up when drying. The one used during World War I was the 1886 model, which had an elongated shape with air vents. It was described by the military as “a ideal headdress – which was cheap, distinctive and easy to produce”. The M1886 kepi’s biggest disadvantage was that its sunken crown absorbed rain.

In 1900, the kepi was become the standard headdress for the majority of French military units. And ( along with red pants worn during the 1829-1914 period) an emblem for an French soldier. It was worn in full-dress (with an inner stiffening, and ornamental plumes or ball ornaments) and in service versions. The ranks of officers were displayed through silver or gold braiding around the center and as a trefoil around the crown. The various branches could be distinguished by colors of the cap. The cavalry usually wore shawls or plummeted helmets. There were red caps with light or dark blue bands to wear in the barracks. General officers were also wearing (and still wear for formal occasions) the kepis decorated with gold oak leaves that were embroidered on the band.

In 1914, the majority of French soldiers wore kepis when they went to war. The prominent colors were concealed with a medium blue-grey or light blue cover similar to the style of those of the Foreign Legion and other North African units that had been wearing kepis with white (or later Khaki) covers when in the field. The introduction of “horizon blue” (light blue-grey) uniforms and steel Adrian helmets in 1915, to replace the obvious uniforms worn in the war’s early days The kepi hat was usually replaced with forage caps, which folded. However, officers still were wearing kepis in the line of duty.

After the war, Cape was gradually introduced to the French army in peacetime. But was not adopted as a uniform for military units such as the Navy and Air Force. In the meantime, members of the Foreign Legion resumed wearing it in 1926. Initially, it was blue and red, later in 1939, it was reintroduced with white covers at all times. The majority of the French army adopted the kepi in a variety of traditional colors of branches for off-duty in the 1930s. It was now an unidirectional and more substantial headdress than the cap that was soft. This meant it was not suitable for use during wartime and, after 1940, the kepi was rarely used except by officers. A notable alternative was the Foreign Legion, one of the first units to wear the cap. And used it in white to symbolize the war.

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