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What is a Garrison Cap?

This is a close look at the garrison cap showcasing its rich and noble origins, where it is used nowadays, how and when it was invented and instructions on how to wear them.

These are a man and a woman wearing military uniforms with garrison caps.

The military has always been a place of honor, prestige, and patriotism. There is nothing more red, blue, and white than an American who is willing to put their lives on the line to serve their country.

Etiquette is equally essential, and with it comes smart, well-presented attire to showcase military pride and power. Coming from a military family myself, allow me to show the intriguing history of Garrison caps specifically worn by every military branch!

The garrison hat, formerly known as an overseas cap, was introduced to American ground soldiers by the French during World War I. Garrison caps are a staple for the Army, Navy, Air Force, and Marine Corps. It replaced other service hats because they could be easily folded and put away.

Military organizations are the backbone of a country, and understanding some of their inner-cultural intricacies can give you some great insights! Let’s look at how their lifestyles differ from the average citizen and what we can take away from them!

What is a Garrison Cap?

These are military women wearing garrison caps to match their uniform.

The garrison hat was introduced to American ground soldiers by the French during World War I. Although the military already had their caps style, the Army and the Marine Corps opted to use the Garrison cap.

Out of a necessity for easier management, the need for Garrison caps emerged. Service and campaign caps took up a lot of storage space and were effortlessly crushed or deformed. On the other hand, Garrison hats could be folded and slipped into pockets or beneath belts with ease when they need to wear their helmets.

Nowadays, Garrison caps are the norm for the U.S. Army, Marine Corps, Navy, Coast Guard, and Air Force.  Except when the service hat is permitted or required for certain circumstances, male and female Marines may wear garrison caps only with their service uniforms.

Officers wear their rank insignia on their right shoulder, with the insignia bisecting the arch of the crease and the crease bisecting the insignia. The garrison cap is generally worn on base or aboard a ship. Unless directed otherwise by a superior ranking officer or NCO, wear the cap exclusively outside and at all times.

According to navel standards, the Garrison cap has to be firmly on the head at all times. When they enter a building, their cap must be removed and placed beneath the belt. It is placed either on the right or left side of the uniform.

Cotton twill, lightweight tropical wool, broadcloth, kersey, elastique, serge, or whipcord are materials for making Garrison caps. Their colors will naturally differ depending on the division of the military to whom they belong. The look and construction materials of officer’s and enlisted men’s hats are identical, too.

Can Any Soldier Rank Wear A Garrison Cap?

A military man and woman salute the US flag.

Garrison caps have to be worn by all U.S. Army, Marine Corps, Navy, Coast Guard, and Air Force ranks with the proper Class A or B uniform. A Garrison cap is a necessity in many cases, and being caught without it can land you in hot water. For higher-ranking members such as officers, it is an absolute requirement.

U.S. Army Garrison caps were created with a branch of service color piping, similar to the campaign hat cord when the service cap and campaign hat were replaced (light blue for infantry, red for artillery, yellow for cavalry, etc.).

The piping on officers’ hats was carried over from campaign hat cords and is still in use: warrant officers’ caps are silver and black, commissioned officers’ caps are gold and black, and general officers’ caps are gold.

Are All Garrison Caps Equal?

This is a female Soviet soldier wearing a garrison hat.

Caps made from cotton are unlined, and their sweatbands have the same material patterns. A leather sweatband is worked into the inside of wool hats, which are generally lined with rayon. Compared to garrison hats used by the Army and Marine Corps, the Navy cap had a unique look.

The hat was to be rounded and without points at both ends when manufactured to the proper specifications, and the rear was to be one 1 inch taller than the front. The cap was supposed to be three 3 inches tall in the front and four 4 inches tall in the back.

Furthermore, the apron’s upturn was 3-1/4 inches in the front and 2-1/2 inches in the back, generating a unique rolling wave pattern that gave the cap its distinguishing look.

How Do You Wear A Garrison Cap?

This is a close look at a woman wearing a vintage WW2 uniform with a garrison hat.

The vertical front crease of the garrison hat should be located on the forehead, in a direct line with the nose. The hat will be slightly inclined to the right, but the side of the cap will never rest on the top of the ear.

Ensure that the cap is 1 inch over the brows, then place the cap in the middle (approximately the width of the first two fingers). The hat will be opened at the top to cover the crown of the head. Below the front bottom border of the cap, no hair should be seen on the forehead.

When Was The Garrison Cap Invented?

In 1917, the “Montana” campaign hat was replaced with a wool O.D. “overseas” cap, which was used in the back regions of France. On the left side, the new corps insignia disc was worn. The Garrison cap was modeled after a French hat, the 1918 overseas cap was later to become the field or Garrison cap, and in 1940 it was allowed for wear in the U.S.

After then, a cord in the color of the wearer’s branch of service was added to the cap. Officers wore yellow cards until 1940, when a gold and black braid replaced them. In 1918, American Doughboys serving in France required headgear that was pleasant to wear and could be kept in the pocket when not in use.

The marketing hat for “Montana Peak” proved to be a storage issue. The AEF imitated the French Bonnet de Police, an envelope-style fatigue headgear, and produced the overseas cap, the forerunner to the garrison cap approved for usage in the U.S. in 1940. The abroad cap was finalized and released in three distinct variants in 1918.


The Garrison cap is a beautiful piece of history that will symbolize military prestige and how much effort is put forth by the thousands of men and women who sacrifice everything for their country.


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