There’s nothing quite like the Army Stetson hat. They really stand out and captivate people’s attention, especially compared to the unattractive beret. While I never served as an armor officer, or in a cavalry unit, during my 15+ years in the Army, it would have been an honor to do so.
The purpose of this article is to share the information I’ve compiled online about the Army Stetson hat. Keep in mind, there are a lot of things I don’t know about it as well. A lot of the information about it is secretive and varies from unit to unit. At the end of this post, I would appreciate any input you might have about it.
The Army Stetson hat has a long and proud tradition in the Army. Back in the 18th and 19th century cavalrymen wore similar styled hats while fighting in the Indian War and Civil War. John B. Stetson introduced the current version, sometimes referred to as the “Boss of the Plains” hat, back in 1865.
The Army Stetson hat is not an authorized headgear in the Army, as per AR 670-1, but cavalry units are allowed to wear these hats at the discretion of the unit commander (normally squadron level). Basically, the wear of these hats is considered a tradition among cavalry units.
The primary purpose of the hat is to promote esprit de corps among the cavalry troopers, similar to how soldiers serving in airborne units get to wear the maroon beret.
Troopers in Cavalry units wear their Army Stetson hat in place of their patrol cap or beret. It is normally worn during official functions, such as ceremonies, parades, dining ins and dining outs. Traditional, Army authorized headgear is normally worn during day-to-day operations.
The hat must be earned, normally at a Spur Ride. During the spur ride, troopers can earn their Stetson and spurs by completing a series of mental, physical and leadership tests. Each Cavalry Squadron does their own Spur Ride, and has their own customs and procedures for earning the hat.
From the research I found online, anyone can earn a Stetson hat, as long as they are assigned to a Cavalry unit. In other words, you don’t have to be a scout or tanker. The Supply Sergeant, maintenance personnel and administration folks also qualify for it as well, once they complete a spur ride or serve with the unit in combat.
When you search online, these hats cost anywhere from $150 to $300, plus additional money for the accessories that go with it.
Each Stetson hat will have different colors (cords) based upon the Soldier’s MOS or Branch. They are mostly worn by senior NCOs and officers, but junior enlisted can wear them too. Commanders in cavalry units can use their discretion as to when their soldiers can wear their Stetson.
Enlisted soldiers wear a yellow hat cord, Warrant Officers wear a silver or black cord and commissioned officers wear a gold or black cord.
Soldiers wear cross sabers on the front along with their rank insignia (aviators wear their wings) and on the back, soldiers can have their airborne, air assault or other related pins. What accessories go on the Stetson, and how they are worn, varies greatly by unit.
What you read above is what I found out online about the Army Stetson hats. There’s still a lot of information I don’t know about them. Here are some questions I don’t know the answers to:
- Can any trooper participate in the Spur Ride?
- Do troopers have to participate in the Spur Ride, if for some reason they don’t want to?
- Once you’ve earned the Stetson hat, can you still wear it when you are no longer assigned to a Cavalry unit?
- Which types of Cavalry units are eligible for it? For example, could a Reconnaissance Troop in an Infantry Brigade wear a Stetson hat?
- Can Stryker Units wear them?
Any information that you know and could share with our website visitors would be very helpful. Please leave a comment below to share your thoughts. Thank you.