Ever wonder why the Queen’s Guard in Buckingham Palace is wearing those tall, large, bearskin hats? Clue: they’re not just for decorative purposes.

Giant Black Hats

The infantry and cavalry soldiers tasked to guard the British Residences— Buckingham Palace, St. James Palace, and the Tower of London, to name a few, are called The Queen’s Guard. Trying to make fun of them while they are at the post is almost a guaranteed way to get yelled at by these guards and be the center of unwanted, embarrassing kind of attention from people around. These guards abide by strict rules and take their job seriously. Part of it was making sure they wear their iconic uniforms with fuzzy bearskin hats. These hats were made from Canadian black bears’ fur; 11 inches tall on the front, 16 inches to the back, and weigh 1.5 pounds. While you might think these hats are extra, they actually symbolize one thing: triumph.

 

Bearskin hat, Lt. Col. Charlton Dawson, 18th Royal Irish – Kilkenny Fusiliers bearskin hat; metal chin strap; badge with KILKENNY FUSILIERS around crowned harp with a figure. Auckland Museum / Wikimedia Commons

In the 18th century, British, Spanish, and French grenadiers already selected on the basis of their height wore bearskin caps to appear taller and intimidate the enemies. In the 19th century, wearing these tall hats became limited to guardsmen, bands, and others who had ceremonial roles. This was because the hat was difficult to maintain while in action. Who would want to be running around, throwing grenades, and firing guns while trying to balance and make sure your hat wouldn’t fall?