View Full Version : Why dont cops like to wear hats?

November 27, 2007, 08:43 PM
I remember when cops used to wear the old bus-driver caps. It didnt look "tough", but instead, professional. What happened to the bus-driver caps? Is it tactically bad to go bareback instead of looking like a bus-driver?

Most cops I see have shaved heads nowadays or wear a baseball hat like they are going to a game.

November 27, 2007, 08:59 PM
Good question.

The only time I ever see cops wearing the old-style hats nowdays is at parades and funerals.

November 27, 2007, 09:38 PM
For local police, the same is true here (North Carolina). However, I do sometimes see state troopers wearing their "Smokey Bear" hats. Not the old style bus driver hats, though.

I think people in general wear fewer hats (only exception: baseball-style caps). Hats that are the most associated with certain professions (ie. "specialty hats") seem to be the most out of favor. Remember those weird little "wing" hats that nurses used to wear? How long has it been since you've seen one of those?

Capt. Charlie
November 27, 2007, 10:18 PM
What happened to the bus-driver caps?
In most departments, they're class A, full dress uniform only, mainly because they're a pain in the butt during a fight or a foot pursuit.

As for the short hair? Same reason as the military; it doesn't provide a handle during a fight.

As to whether or not this is on topic for T&T? Sorry guys, it ain't.


Capt. Charlie
November 28, 2007, 04:50 PM
All righty, then. I got a PM today convincing me that this subject may indeed have some training value here.

This thread's re-opened. Go to it, guys.

November 28, 2007, 04:57 PM
I thought the military shaved your hair to prevent lice

November 28, 2007, 05:24 PM
My dad was an old school police officer & wore that type of hat in certain roles. They were trained to approach most situations with their hat on. It was part of the uniform & presented a professional image of authority. Times have changed. Not many people wear that type of hat any more. They didn't wear vest back then either.

November 28, 2007, 05:29 PM
If you have never worn one you can't imagine how uncomfortable they are. When you take it off you have a crease in your forehead where the hat was riding. They are normally only used in class A uniforms for ceremonial duties.

November 28, 2007, 05:39 PM
They wear the octagon hat all the time here in NH.

I guess they've gone informal elsewhere?

November 28, 2007, 06:35 PM
What's wrong with an officer with curly hair, smelling good, with a smart UZI on his hip? Willing to serve. Hu?

November 28, 2007, 07:42 PM
Ahhh... the hat.

The one that you wear year round. In summer, you sweat like crazy inside the hat, making your hair wet or at least oily by the end of the shift.

In the fall & spring, you put the rain cover on, stand in traffic while the water sluices down the hat to the rear... right down the back of your neck. :barf:

In the winter, it keeps heat in, but once you get really bad weather, ice forms from the moist heat.

Like Capn Charlie said, they're the first thing to fall off in a fight or foot pursuit. On days with gusty winds, they can be a distraction as they try to fly away. In the squad car, you have to have a place for it lest you end up sitting on it. All too often you spend money on a spare hat, extra money on dry cleaning a suspect's footprints out of it or replacing it if the bill was trashed during a fight.

The "Mountie" hat (or Smokey bear, DI or Campaign hat) was better in rainy weather as it really kept water off your head. They were also different than what most agencies wore too. But these were also fast to fall off despite the head band in the back and in a wind... well you've seen a frisbee in flight.

I personally like the look a hat imparts to an officer's appearance. The round police hat looks better than the 8-point hat, IMO and the "Mountie" hat can be intimidating (or a reminder of how much you hated your D.I. in the service :D).

It used to be that police officers wore ties (clip-on ties for certain) during the cooler months. Nowadays, some agencies permit officers to wear a jumpsuit and baseball cap in the winter which, to me, looks too "Ninja".

Rob Pincus
November 28, 2007, 08:19 PM
I did PM CC to let him know that there is a bit of tactical concern, here is what I sent him for everyone's consideration:

You closed the thread before I got to respond... there actually IS a tactical concern with the police hats things... We've seen videos of cops reaching to secure their hats after being swung at, shoved, etc.....

The hat, as noted, used to be an issue of professionalism and it was so driven into recruits in some agencies that they tried to "protect" their hats during critical incidents!

Just an FYI...... thought you'd find it interesting.

Capt. Charlie
November 28, 2007, 08:33 PM
And, my reply to Rob :D.

Hats. I hate the damned things (at least our 8-point "taxi driver" hats). I'm the only guy in the history of my department to be suspended for not wearing my hat :D . It happened in 1982, back when our chief was an old school, ex-Marine officer. Hard core spit & polish.

Shortly thereafter, we went on a call in which boyfriend decided to slice & dice girlfriend with a butcher knife. We arrived in the middle of his 44th cut (amazingly, she survived), and the place looked like a scene out of the Texas Chainsaw Massacre. Blood everywhere, and we're slipping and sliding in it trying to get this guy in cuffs.

We're covered in blood, trying to get him out to a cruiser with him fighting every inch of the way, and girlfriend's kin shows up. All 10 of 'em. A real three-ring nightmare circus.

Now, while all this is going on, said chief drives up on scene. Ya think he'd jump out & give us a hand? Nope. Maybe say something like "good job, guys"? Nope again. What he said was "Where's your &#%$ hats? You're all on report!" :rolleyes:

Now before I joined the PD, I spent some years as a back country ranger at Grand Canyon NP. We wore those WWI Smokey the Bear campaign hats. They make great kites :D . Mine happened to blow off while I was riding mounted patrol on the park's greenest horse. It landed right on his face. I landed right on the ground.

See why I don't like hats? ;) :D

Steve in PA
November 28, 2007, 08:34 PM
Wearing no hat, or something as simple as a ball cap is alot more functional than puting on a regular hat.

November 29, 2007, 07:01 AM
Military short hair is also in case of a head wound there is less liklihood of wound contamination and infection.

November 29, 2007, 08:38 AM
As one of my partners showed me on one occasion, they can be used in what he called "the hat trick".

We were dispatched to a domestic call, with the dad possibly armed. We went inside and found the guy in bed, and could see the end of the barrel of a rifle.

Unnoticed by me, my partner had taken out his revolver and conceled it with, of all things, his hat!

As soon as we got in the bedroom and saw the rifle barrel, partner simply raises his revo and has Mr. Suspect already covered.

In the worst event he could have simply shot thru the hat, which he held about waist level with the revolver pointed at our suspect.

Had my partner's .38 not been needed, he simply re-holsters, and no one (usually) is the wiser.

Hate them hats, though. Hate 'em!

Spade Cooley
November 29, 2007, 09:51 AM
I never cared much for the hat and we had a devil of a time getting officers to wear them on the street. They don't provide any protection from the sun on the face and as we age skin cancer is the result. The Smokey the Bear hats at least provide protection when you are outside in the hot sun directing traffic.

The one thing the police hat does provide is recognition. What are the most recognizable parts of a police uniform? The hat with cap piece and the badge. I believe the recognition of the police officer by these symbols has saved many an officer. Wearing the hat leaves no doubt that a suspect is looknig at a police officer. On the other end, it gives the bad guy a nice target.

November 29, 2007, 12:20 PM
I wear glasses and I wear ball caps when it rains to keep the glasses dry. The Taxi Driver hats don't have enough of a bill to keep my glasses dry. Bit of a pain if you ask me.

November 29, 2007, 12:48 PM
How about the cost issue? The ball caps looks considerably cheaper than either Taxi Driver or Smokey the Bear style.

November 29, 2007, 01:07 PM
Funny thing, here in the States you guys fought to get rid of the hats, while where I'm from, the Sikhs in the RCMP fought to wear a turban instead of a hat... :D

November 29, 2007, 02:44 PM
Back in the day, everyone wore hats. These days, almost nobody does. The exception is baseball and cowboy hats which corresponds, one may argue, as to why these are found in greater rates than the more traditional offerings on the heads of officers.

November 29, 2007, 03:08 PM
The "garrison" caps idea it to be a recognizeable piece of headgear.

December 1, 2007, 07:04 PM
A retired police officer says (hearsay, no attribution) that the older hats - aside from looking more professional - allowed an officer to distinguish between officers and others in the dark, when turning on a flashlight may not be the best idea. Don't respond to me; I didn't make the assertion, and don't particularly care. This is just what someone told me.

December 1, 2007, 09:46 PM
It could be worse... :D


December 1, 2007, 11:02 PM
The British Bobby hat is actually a "light" helmet. And it offers a degree of impact protection for the head.

December 2, 2007, 06:30 AM
The old-fashioned police hat was designed so that the officer could be easily recognized in tough situations. Imagine a group of officers clearing out an area with weapons drawn and there is lots of adrenaline pumping. Its easier to recognize the bad guys from the good guys as the bad guys wont be wearing hats.

Also, in a crowd, the hatted officer is more easily recognized by citizens from a distance. From a distance, its difficult to figure out if thats an officer or just another guy in a black shirt. The hatted officer removes all doubt.

Line Rider
December 2, 2007, 10:06 PM
"I remember when cops used to wear the old bus-driver caps. It didnt look "tough", but instead, professional. What happened to the bus-driver caps? Is it tactically bad to go bareback instead of looking like a bus-driver?

Most cops I see have shaved heads nowadays or wear a baseball hat like they are going to a game."

I'm in LE. 1)Those "bus driver" hats cost about $150.00. The hat is about $75.00 and the hat badge about $75.00. And the first time you get into a fight your hat is TRASHED. After about the third hat the chief has to pays that the end of that policy. 2) They look good but, they're useless and uncomfortable.

December 2, 2007, 10:50 PM
I've never been a LEO, but I have been a uniformed security guard. We wore the "bus driver hat" and I hated it. Hot, uncomfortable, kept neither rain nor sun out of my face and downright silly looking IMHO. At least I didn't have to worry too much about having one on during any kind of altercation though.

December 2, 2007, 11:21 PM
My view is that the hat, any hat, becomes like the empty shell cases that the officer killed in the 'Newhall' incident in California lost his life over .... he carefully collected his empties to place in his pocket. It was a habit, and a distraction that cost him his life. The hat can certainly do the same, if it blows off, slips to one side, causes rain, or wind to divert down the neck. Out of habit, concern for the hat might take precidence over personal well being ... paying attention to the possible lethal threat pending. I figure the fewer distractions, the better.

chris in va
December 3, 2007, 12:04 AM
The British Bobby hat is actually a "light" helmet. And it offers a degree of impact protection for the head

That's right, remember...handguns are outlawed in Britain so they're more likely to get hit with a bat or blunt object and need the helmet.:rolleyes:

December 3, 2007, 01:16 AM
That's right, remember...handguns are outlawed in Britain so they're more likely to get hit with a bat or blunt object and need the helmet.

The bobby helmet predates the gun ban so how does that equate? :)
It has more to do with the stuffy habbit of class and social position that is still rampant in England.

December 3, 2007, 07:40 AM
So whats the story with the Mass state police and their Gestapo hats (or whole uniform for that matter)?

December 3, 2007, 07:41 AM
Traditional police hats, regardless of what specific style, have been pretty much deemed tactically unsound. They are cumbersome and reduce your visibility, especially at night. They do look nice for ceremonies, parades, etc but have not much use day to day IMO. Unfortunately too many police chiefs are products of the 60's and 70's and like to hold onto traditions. Things are changing though.

December 3, 2007, 08:19 AM
At our department....

We are ordered to wear our garrison hats only when the sun is up. Night shift does not have to wear it.

We are ordered to have short hair and barely any facial hair (trimmed stash only) if assigned to uniform duty.

We're ordered to wear ties with our long sleeve, and short sleeves.......year round.

Uniforms are still predominatly made of wool blend.

Still in high gloss duty gear.

Boots are polished to a high shine, again per general order.

Very old school, but it does make a difference in public perception. Other agencies nearby are not so strict, but there is a difference in the publics response to them.

Long Path
December 4, 2007, 01:03 PM
Honestly, I have trouble keeping them up, and keeping up with them.

In our rural department, we can get away with cowboy hats, and I keep one in the car for working traffic. I even blogged on it once, HERE (http://maypeacebewithyou.blogspot.com/2007/06/hats.html), and posted a picture.

I've a friend that's a cop, who swears he used to keep a derringer in his hat, but that sounds unstable; no way to secure it well.

For traffic and animal control, a hat is good to wave while hazing cattle and confused drivers (really, I hate to say it, but there's not that much difference, sometimes) to where you want 'em to go.

In heavy sun, they're mandatory with hot dark uniforms and vests.

Hats interfere with getting into and out of a car frequently, and project your movement around corners, over sills, etc. Big brims keep your face from walls.

Caps are easier to keep tucked in a patrol bag or on the back package tray. The brim is invaluable, sometimes, when you're watching an area that lies between you and the setting sun.

December 10, 2007, 11:22 PM
I wore an eight point hat, major pain but I liked the look. Also carried an applewood baton with a spinning strap in left hand and took copious notes. I was broken in by old school Baltimore cops who had retired and gone to work for Amtrak.

Those guys and senior MPDC officers were my role models. Since I mostly worked nights sunshade was not an issue. It was an old school look entirely for appearance. In "action" it was the first thing to go.

I did keep flexi-cuffs in mine though. Came in handy once.

I can see where they should become relics. Uncomfortable and tactically unsound - but uniformed presence is the first step and a hat enhances that.

The hat is a relic of the peace officer. Now we have Law Enforcement.

The times are a' changing. Proud to be one of the last old school beat walkers.

December 10, 2007, 11:44 PM
The thing is, if you show even a little kid now a picture of a man in the octagon cap and old-style double-buttonrow coat with a Sam Browne belt, the little kid will say "police man."

That image is what's included on the big-button picture phones meant to let a kid call in an emergency.

It's persisted as a cultural icon, even as the real thing has faded into a more paramilitary look.

Conn. Trooper
December 12, 2007, 05:23 PM
I dont wear my hat unless I will be out of the car for an extended period of time. Its tactically unsound to be trying to put your hat on while standing on the shoulder of I-95, or while a car full of potential bad guys is 20 feet in front of you. That being said, if you will be standing outside in public view for a long time, then wear your hat.

December 13, 2007, 06:29 PM
Hat hair.

Coop de Ville
December 15, 2007, 09:41 PM
It squeezes my head and gives me a headache!


Capt. Charlie
December 16, 2007, 01:11 AM
Ooohkee dokey then. I think this one would do for Jay Leno's countdown of the "ten most popular reasons that cops hate hats". :D (He might even use it, given the writer's strike ;) )

That said, I'm pretty sure this one's run its course.