What is a Caubeen?

Niki Foster
Niki Foster

A caubeen is a type of hat worn by Irish soldiers, the Officer Training Corps (OTC) of the British Army, and the Irish Regiments of Canada and South Africa. It is similar to other Irish and Scottish traditional hats, such as the Tam O' Shanter, the Glengarry, and the Balmoral. The caubeen developed from traditional Irish headgear, and its name comes from an Irish word meaning "little hat." The caubeen is very high in the front and tilted, usually to the left. It usually features the company insignia, sometimes with a colored feather. The Irish military version is a dark green.

Woman with hand on her hip
Woman with hand on her hip

The Northern Irish regimental bands of the British Army began wearing the caubeen, along with yellow kilts, in 1922. Each regiment is identified with a differently colored plume, or hackle, worn pinned to the front of the hat. The entire London Irish Rifles regiment began wearing the headdress in 1937, and other Irish regiments began wearing the hat in 1944, during the Second World War. During this period, soldiers' hats were fashioned from the greatcoats of the Italian soldiers. In 1947, all regiments of the North Irish Brigade incorporated the caubeen into their uniform.

The regimental band of the Royal Iniskilling Fusiliers are distinguished by gray hackles, while the Royal Irish Fusiliers wear green hackles. The bands of the London Irish Rifles and the Irish Guards wear blue hackles in their caubeens, and the hackles worn by the Liverpool Irish are red and blue. The Royal Ulster Rifles did not have a regimental band prior to 1948, but they adopted black hackles in 1947, when all regiments began wearing the caubeen. Sergeants, officers, and warrant officers of the 40 (Ulster) Signal Regiment wear blue caubeens instead of the green ones worn by soldiers.

The Irish Regiment of Canada daily uniform includes a caubeen with a green hackle and a yellow kilt. The green hackle was provided as a gift to the regiment by a commanding officer of the London Irish during the battle of Coriano, Italy. Members of the South African Irish regiment, part of the South African National Defense Force, also wear the headgear.

Niki Foster
Niki Foster

In addition to her role as a wiseGEEK editor, Niki enjoys educating herself about interesting and unusual topics in order to get ideas for her own articles. She is a graduate of UCLA, where she majored in Linguistics and Anthropology.

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