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Pith Helmet are often depicted with a dark leather strap across the front (See picture).

Does this strap serve a functional purpose: For example, is it a chin strap that has been hooked up to keep it out of the wearer's face. Or is it a purely decorative item included for cosmetic purposes?

enter image description here

Are there any historic or contemporary texts that describe it's evolution or use, or what the etiquette was regarding it?

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It's a chinstrap. It was used mainly for decorative purposes, but also to keep the helmet on the head when riding horses or in strong winds.

I never wore a pith helmet, but a peaked cap. The chinstrap served a similar (and almost exclusively decorative) purpose. I served in the army; in the navy, the chinstrap is used. They encounter stronger winds than we do in a field or forest.

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It's a chinstrap. enter image description here meant to hold in combative use. But as pith helmet gave rise to modern helmets, the strap became more decoration than useful. The helmet is a modern variation of the traditional Salakot, a wide brim hat meant to wick away moisture and keep sun out of workers face.

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