Army Stetson Hat: Facts, Regulations, Information and History

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:

  1. Can any trooper participate in the Spur Ride?
  2. Do troopers have to participate in the Spur Ride, if for some reason they don’t want to?
  3. Once you’ve earned the Stetson hat, can you still wear it when you are no longer assigned to a Cavalry unit?
  4. Which types of Cavalry units are eligible for it?  For example, could a Reconnaissance Troop in an Infantry Brigade wear a Stetson hat?
  5. 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.

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AuthorChuck Holmes

Chuck Holmes is a former Army Major and combat veteran. Chuck is a successful blogger, author and entrepreneur. You can call Chuck during business hours at (352) 503-4816 EST or you can email him at Learn more about Chuck's favorite home business.

35 thoughts on “Army Stetson Hat: Facts, Regulations, Information and History

  1. I’m a 63H who did a spur ride and deployed with an armor unit to Iraq and Afghanistan. I wear my Stetson and silver spurs with pride. I’ve been in Armor battalions 90% of my Army career and was the FET. I love my 19 series. Last year I was The first female to get the Noble Patron Saint of Armor according to CSM Gainey. Armor and Calvary are the best I’ve worked with and working with them truly is….. “The best job I ever had”

    • You have every right to be proud. Thank you for this uplifting comment.

  2. As a former Cavalry Squadron Commander, Let me correct some things, Cavalry is Branch non-material, it is a mission and way of life. All branches can be CAV, earn their spurs and Wear a Stetson with pride. MOS 19Ds are SCOUTS- yes they wear the Stetson and can earn spurs, but so can IN, MI, EN, FA and all the other branches that serve in Cavalry Regiments. So IN LRSD recon units are not Cavalry unless they are in a Cavalry Unit, but Infantry serving in a Cavalry unit are Stetson and Spur eligible.

    Aviation has a long history as being in the CAV! Aviation Scouts are in about a traditional scout role as they come.

    Come along and earn your Spurs,

    See you in Fiddlers Green

  3. I was attached to 2-6 CAV while deployed to Iraq back in 2008 – 2009. I received my Order of the Spur but not sure about the stetson. Can i get one is my question?

  4. Half of all the units I was in, were Cav, I got my CIB carrying a M60 (in 1970 B 3/5 Cav). I got out & put a few years in Active Reserve. With an eight year break in service (USAR doesn’t count) I had to do Basic all over again, & if you think NOT charging a M240 before you close the cover is easy you’re NUTS! Anyway I know how you guys feel the Spurs & Stetson’s hadn’t started up when I got out. . . Everything I’ve read says I’d be OK, but this is something I would NOT want to mess up, because I don’t know all the little secret crap that would make me look like a total knob.

  5. Hey yall. In 03-04 we were attached as 51Ms (Firefighter) with 1/1 Cav F troop. I learned from the Commander later that we were honorary Cav and earned the chance to wear the stetson. Mine is still in the box and waiting to be worn. I have been retired for 5 years now. I would love to wear it, bit I do not want to step on any toes.

    • I say, slip it on and give us a picture. You deserve it.

    • If you earned the 1st Cav patch for your right sleeve you earned the right to wear the stetson. You should have received the Order of the Spur also.

  6. I was in the 1st 9th recon in vietnam 1965, “Blue” !! Rode in on a huey ,search and destroy ,then picked up by hueys,gun ships was our help ! Could I wear a Stetson?

    • I believe you have every right in the world to wear a Stetson George. Thank you for your service.

    • was it a cav unit if not then no. I served in the 6th squadron 17 cavalry regiment and you can buy a stetson but if must be formally broken in before you can wear it.

  7. Aviation units designated as Cavalry also wear stetsons. I’ll be doning one of these very shortly.

    • I am bummed that the Kiowa is going away…this is a huge mistake on the Army’s part! AIR CAV is awesome! That’s my opinion and I’m sticking to it!

  8. Justin,
    I have to respectfully disagree with a couple things =) all in good fun, of course. But I do sense a little bit of that cav/infantry rivalry coming out in your post!
    Looking at the RSTA squadron that I support here in Oregon, C Trp is all infantry on the MTOE. TAG has designated that they are THE elite unit in the state, as the only dismounted reconnaissance troop in the brigade. They may all be blue corders, and some have more than earned their CIBs, and they are all very proud of who they are – but they have adopted their mission with passion and dedication (they used to be an infantry unit until recent years when things got reorganized). They get all the cool training – zodiac boats, helocasting at AT, etc. I think the recent addition of an AR officer as their commander who earned both spurs during his time on active duty helps instill the pride in their mission even more. These guys are not only grunts, they really are training the dismounted recon mission and setting a new standard. It was a hard transition for them at first, from what I was told, but they can’t really call themselves grunts so much anymore. I also think that the CO holds them to a higher standard for their performance since they all ‘grew up’ in the infantry and are more than comfortable in crappy conditions out in the field.

    I understand and respect that you are a purist and think that the Stetson should only be for those CAV specific MOS holders, but our SCO directed people like me to wear them too. I think to wear it with anything other than pride is doing it a disservice. Their reasoning has been that the FSC does everything with the rest of the squadron (especially my platoon with C Trp) and we are more a part of the Cav than we are the BSB (and I agree with that assessment). I am proud to support the Cav, and I want to represent it the best I can.

  9. Chuck,

    You have a great post here, but I must correct a few items:

    -Troopers wear the Stetson in place of a patrol cap/beret IN CERTAIN SITUATIONS, depending on the unit. usually Fridays…
    -Technically, yes, but let’s be real…only tankers and Cav scouts deserve to wear them. nothing I hate more than some 11B wearing a stetson with a blue cord trying to be like us. You don’t see me rocking a yellow cord… It disgusts me to see other MOSs wearing our Stetson…
    -Soldiers will wear crossed Sabers if they are strictly CAV (19D, etc.) but my stetson rocks an Armor branch insignia…

    -No test is necessary for the Stetson per say…the testing and Spur Ride is for…well, your spurs. If you’re a 19K or 19D and you’re in a CAV unit, you will wear a Stetson…that’s it.
    -You can wear a Stetson after leaving a CAV unit, but most don’t. See posts with a CAV unit know that their Soldiers will be wearing them. Others don’t. For example, I am proudly one of the very first Armor Officers to complete ABOLC at Ft. Benning after the move from Ft. Knox. We weren’t allowed to wear our Stetsons outside of the Harmony Church area because…well, Infantry Commanders got all butt-hurt. Not to say that I didn’t do it anyways…
    -If you ain’t CAV, You AINT SHIT! We mean that. An 11B who THINKS he is RECON is living in a fantasy. Keep your blue cord, you are a grunt. The Stetson is for those who are TRUE CAVALRY SCOUTS!!!
    -Again, most Stryker SBCT Companies are Infantry. However, we have CAV units within the Brigade. Those guys wear the Stetson. For me, an MGS Armor guy, I have one but get a goofy look when I wear it around the Infantry… Jealousy I suppose.

    • Thanks for the all the comments and input about the Army Stetson. I will update my post with what I had that was wrong.


      • Ha, it wasn’t that it was “wrong” Chuck, more as it was “wrong” in my eyes. Obviously, you can see that Candice disagrees with my perspective. To that, I must come back and say while I respect all that her Infantry buddies and herself does for the RECON mission, the Stetson is an iconic symbol that dates back to the old Cavalry Scouts who rode in on horseback. As that horse transformed into the tanks and Bradleys we use today, the tradition still holds. To me, the Stetson is not a RECON thing, it is a MOUNTED, ARMORED CAVALRY THING.

        The Stetson is not linked to RECON it is linked to MOUNTED CAV. That is why it upsets me. Light recon, all high-speed secret squirrel as they might be, they are NOT CAV! I repeat…they are NOT CAV! They are Infantry Soldiers performing a unique mission. I urge you to consult with any TRUE RED-BLOODED SCOUT or TANKER and I am sure that they will agree. That Stetson was NEVER meant to don a blue-cord. If we are going to say that it is acceptable for Infantrymen to wear a Stetson because they are doing a CAV mission, then I guess I deserve to wear a CIB rather than a CAB while I was doing an Infantry mission…agree or disagree? Ask a grunt, I am sure he will disagree. All is fair, but not when it comes to the Stetson and the Blue Chords.

        • Very neat perspective about the Stetson, Justin.

          I’ve learned a lot from your comments.

        • =) I don’t get into pissing matches between cav and infantry because I am NEITHER! I claim aviation day in and out, that’s where I grew up and earned my stripes. Anyway, the only question I have for you Justin, just so I can clarify what you are saying, is that mounted recon counts as true red-blood Cav because they have 19D in their unit, but the 11B don’t count even though they are a Cav troop too?

          Just curious! Never heard anything from anyone before, even all my Armor friends. The C Trp commander I mentioned in my last post seems to think they are all Cav and treats them as such. And he is a true tanker (I know you two would get along).

          • Ha, and rightfully so (you shouldn’t get in pissing matches..) What I think is going on with your unit, and correct me if I am wrong is that it is MTOEd to be a traditional CAV unit. To fill those slots, they used 11Bs rather than 19D or paying to reclass everyone to 19D? Is that accurate? I think if your unit Commander wants to treat them as CAV and all that hoopla then that is on him, I am sure he outranks me anyway… But, talk to some guys at Ft. Hood. HBCT, tankers and CAV scouts and they will tell you they HATE when the Infantry clowns have a Stetson on…and the only reason they have one on is because they are 11Bs in a CAV Unit. I still think that my argument about the CIB and CAB trumps everything in this debate…wouldn’t you agree? If I am a tanker and am dismounted on patrol and get shot at, I deserve a CIB because I was doing an Infantry mission…vs. a CAB just because of my MOS…

            • I like you point about the CAB v. CIB. If you aren’t infantry, you will never get a CIB, even if you are on an infantry mission.

            • Justin, I think what happened is my husband’s unit was an infantry company assigned to another Bn until several years ago when they reorganized and got assigned to the Cav. Instead of reclassing everyone…
              well actually, in a RSTA squadron, isn’t the dismounted recon unit traditionally made up of 11B anyway? They have the sniper section and a mortars section that goes with HHT during combined training events. The logistics make sense to me on why they wouldn’t make them 19D only. 11B are well-suited to that mission, from what I’ve observed.

              Funny story, when this reorg first happened, my husband hated being associated with the Cav and having to wear a stetson. He said he wasn’t Cav, he was a blue cord through and through. He had to get used to it, though, and so did everyone else in his unit. They are directed to wear the stetson by higher, but I’m sure most of them wouldn’t even care if they were told not to anymore.

              As far as the CIB thing, the whole issue to me is maybe that the Stetson isn’t an official award and is a tradition, whereas the CIB is something more official. Maybe if they made the Stetson and the spurs something that you had to be MOS specific to get, and not just associated with the mission like I am, then it would be better. I’m not sure. I do think it’s weird that the blue cord is something my husband earned by virtue of his MOS but if he goes to flight school he has to take it off because he will be an officer. I got to keep my enlisted aviation badge, but he can’t keep his blue cord? They essentially amount to the same thing (that we had a certain MOS as an enlisted Soldier), whereas he earned his CIB in a different way. He also earned gold spurs just like a bunch of people I know (what’s your opinion on that?)

              • I should clarify that he earned his CIB in 2004 while belonging to an infantry unit doing an infantry mission, not on his 3rd deployment where he was in a Cav troop.

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