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In many photographs of flying aces of the two World Wars, they wear their hats in a lopsided manner instead of straight. Here's photos of Albert Ball, a British WWI era pilot, and Erich Hartmann, the German fighter ace from WWII.

Albert Ball Erich Hartmann

When did this tradition of slanted hats originate, and is there a known reason for its prominence during the World War era?

  • 2
    This is really a long standing military tradition from XIX century or even earlier. – Matt Sep 7 '15 at 15:35
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    I'd imagine at its root its roughly the same reason rappers don't usually wear their ballcaps straight. – T.E.D. Sep 7 '15 at 21:12
  • Its worth noting the the RAF call the hat the "Field Service Cap", and its still part of the dress regulations today - albeit as a personal purchase item. The dress regulations specify the direction and angle of the tilt, and have done, I suspect, from the formal adoption of the hat in or around 1938. – Kobunite Sep 8 '15 at 10:26
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In the case of Albert Ball, he was simply wearing his side or field cap in the manner that was usual in many armies of the time. See also the Glengarry.

In the British Army, the first cap to be adopted of this style was the "Glengarry", which was authorised for all British infantry regiments in 1868...An all-khaki version [of the cap] was also selected in 1912 as a practical head dress by the fledgling Royal Flying Corps that went on to become the Royal Air Force (who continue to use the same type of cap to this day).

In terms of wear...

Prior to 1945, glengarries were generally worn steeply angled, with the right side of the cap worn low, often touching the ear, and the side with the capbadge higher on the head. The trend since the end of the war has been to wear the glengarry level on the head.

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    Note that in the case of an airman's wedge cap the unit badge on one side is made more prominent, and visible to observers on the wearer's front-right in addition to those on the wearer's left, by wearing it tilted. – Pieter Geerkens Jul 1 '16 at 14:34
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The RAF had the reputation of being the glamour service in WW2.

Fighter pilots, especially, had the kudos, in some cases, of pop singers - popular with the women and a jaunty self-confident air about them. Their breezy air said a lot about how they wore their caps.

RAF personnel generally were nicknamed The Brylcreem Boys - *Brylcreem being a popular brand of hair cream for men.

The model in the advertisement is of course Denis Compton, the England and Middlesex cricketer - who had something of the breezy, sports-car driver air about him too. Wonderfully elegant stroke-playing batsman that he was, he must have made vastly more from Brylcreem than ever he did from cricket. (he also won a football FA Cup Winner's medal, playing for Arsenal.)

The WAAF (Women's Auxiliary Air Force) also had a bit of the glamour attached to them too. they were known as Waffs. The word is usually spoken by old airmen with a twinkle in their eye.

  • This. It was simply the fashion at the time and civilians both male and female wore their hats like this too. A lot of British soldiers wore their helmets like this too. – Daniel Apr 25 at 2:48

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