November 28, 2022

The Real Reason British Guards Wear Bearskin Hat Straps Below Their Lips

Known as the queen’s foot guards, these special soldiers come from several regiments in the British Army, per City Wonders. They carry out a variety of missions, but they are most commonly recognized for their commanding presence at royal palaces, such as Buckingham Palace. They are easily identifiable because of their red uniforms and towering black bearskin hats, but each regiment puts a slightly different spin on the famous ceremonial garb. 

The guards have been a part of British history for more than 360 years, and their distinct ceremonial uniforms are also steeped in history. One of the regiments, the Grenadier Guards, fought at the Battle of Waterloo in 1815, and their trademark hats date back to this era. They were designed to intimidate their enemies by making them appear bigger (via i News). Oddly, the opposing army wore tall hats as well, so it’s unclear how well this hat trick worked. Intimidating or not, these bearskin hats have remained part of the guard uniform ever since.

The strap style is meant for protection

The Grenadier Guards that are seen at royal residences and participating in official ceremonies have a unique way of wearing their impressive and statuesque headwear — the strap for the hat is placed under the bottom lip instead of under the chin (via City Wonders). Apparently, this style may date back to the battlefield and has been influenced by the design of the hat itself.

The guards’ hats stand approximately 18 inches tall and weigh around 1.5 pounds, per British Heritage Travel. They are made from the fur of Canadian black bears, and it takes one bear pelt to make one hat. Each pelt has an impressive price tag of roughly $751 (£650), but each hat can last for 80 years if cared for properly. The decision to wear the chained strap for these headpieces under the lip reportedly comes from when soldiers actually fought while wearing them. If a soldier was shot, the heavy hat could fall backward and cause the soldier’s neck to break if they were wearing a chin strap, per City Wonders.

See also  The Cache Of Perfectly Preserved Artifacts Discovered In Italy's Tuscan Hills Is Thousands Of Years Old

Another theory for putting the strap under the lip is that it’s a way for one regiment to distinguish themselves from others serving the foot guards (via Leading Britain’s Conversation). Whether it’s a fashion choice or a form of self-protection, placing the strap under the lip looks pretty uncomfortable.