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Military Hat

Posted on Tuesday, March 8, 2011 in Mens Clothing

Military Hat
Military Hat

Military Hat Question… Similar to one worn by Otto von Bismarck?

I am researching a hat that I have come across and know that it is legitimately old- as in WWI or older. It is very similar to the one worn by Otto von Bismarck in this picture below. It is black though, with gold trim around the entire brim of the hat, leather chinstraps and lining and the medallion and pointy thing are also gold colored. Any ideas what the name for this type of hat is, or where I can do more research about it would be greatly appreciated!!

This is a German – or more precisely, Prussian – military helmet known as a Pickelhaube.

It was designed and introduced for Prussian infantry in 1842 and rapidly spread to other German pricipalities. It also greatly influenced the design of the custodian helmet worn by the British police to this day. The basic Pickelhaube was made of hardened (boiled) leather, given a glossy-black finish, and reinforced with metal trim (usually plated with gold or silver for officers) that included a metal spike at the crown. Early versions had a high crown, but the height gradually was reduced and the helmet became more fitted in form. Some versions of the Pickelhaube worn by German artillery units employed a ball-shaped finial rather than the pointed spike.

All-metal versions of the Pickelhaube were worn mainly by cuirassiers, and often appear in portraits of high-ranking military and political figures, such as Otto von Bismarck wears in the link you’ve provided.
During the early months of World War I, it was soon discovered that the Pickelhaube did not measure up to the demanding conditions of trench warfare. The leather helmets offered virtually no protection against shell fragments and shrapnel and the conspicuous spike made its wearer a target. It was completely replaced for front-line combat in 1916 by the more familiar Stahlhelm which would continue to be worn in WWII. The Pickelhaube was reduced to limited ceremonial wear by senior officers away from the war zones until the collapse of the German Empire in 1918 when it dropped from military use altogether.

Like the Luger pistol in WWII, the Pickelhaube became something of a collectors item or trophy for British soldiers during the fighting, and a number of men were killed or badly wounded attempting to snatch one from “no mans land” or picking one up that had been booby-trapped once the Germans had realised their desirability.

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