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Military headgear through the ages

ancient Greek hoplite helmetEver since the day some caveman threw an animal skin over his head to keep it warm, headgear has been for protection.  And since, as a species, we have been bellicose from the beginning, protective military headgear has been a fact of life ever since cavemen started banging each other over the head with clubs and fighting over territory, food, and females.

The first military helmets were made of skin or leather and were designed to protect the wearer from spears, rocks and cudgels. It wasn’t until the bronze age, when protection from more advanced metal waponry was necessary,  that military headgear really took off.  As warfare became more complicated, headgear became a means of identification as well as protection. As weapons became more sophisticated, so did the protective headgear and armor.  Military headgear has its own story to tell down through the ages.

Back in the day, charioteers wore different helmets from  foot soldiers or archers, and it was important, in the heat of battle, to keep track of who was who. Distinctive headgear was a big help in keeping soldiers from getting tangled up with the wrong unit  or mistaking a friend for a foe or visa versa. It helped too to let everybody know who the guy in charge was and whose orders should be obeyed .Quite early on, chiefs, kings, and  high ranking military  officers got special plumage and dress helmets which were used for parades and triumphal entries into conquered towns rather than battle. The tradition persists to the present day. Rank was, and still is, easily shown by distinctive headgear and  special markings. It’s a useful psychlogical ploy to keep the troops in order and to strike fear into the heart of the enemy.


Military Helmets For Battle and Parade


3rd Century AD Roman Cavalry Parade Helmet— probably not used in battle

source: Romanlegions.info


Roman Infantry Helmet, Late 1st century

source: findtarget.com


Turkish Officer’s Parade Helmet—early 17th century—gilt copper

source: Metropollitan Museum of Art


steel damascene parade helmet for high-ranking Ottoman officer. 16th century

source: Metropolitan Museum of Art


WWI German Offier’s Dress Helmet

Source: Museum of Technology, UK


Dress Visor Cap of Admiral of the Soviet Fleet, 20th century

source: The Marshal’s Baton


U.S. Navy Officer’s Hat (Commander)

source: wikimedia

Military Headgear Today

source: livejournal.com

Today’s modern armies have helmets that are covered in kevlar and come complete with night vision scopes, microphones, camoflage and much more.  Much has changed, but much more has remained the same. Identifying a sioldier’s rank and specialty is as important today to the smooth functioning of a military unit as it has always been and it is still often done via distinctive headgear that the knowledgable can read at a glance.

It clarifies the chain of command and  it has made for some  pretty interesting  headgea through the ages, I must say.