Scottish Bonnets

Summary of Scottish Bonnets
  • Glengarry
  • Balmoral
  • Tam O’Shanter
  • Custom Toorie
  • Irish Caubeen
  • Dicing
  • Cockades
  • Hackles

First, let’s clarify that a Scottish bonnet is primarily the styles of men’s hats worn in the Highlands of Scotland…not a sunbonnet or the bonnets seen on ladies during our Civil War and in the Wild West.

Throughout history women have adapted men’s headgear to their own fashions, as in this 1795 illustration, with the ladies emulating the bearskin, diced bonnets of the Highlander Regiments.

Image Courtesy Book of Costume

The three types of Scottish bonnets ~ Glengarry, Balmoral, and Tam O’Shanter ~ are no exceptions.

Glengarry Bonnets

Today most pipers wear the Glengarry style among the Scottish bonnets.

The Glengarry has been worn from 1812, as seen in portraits of Scotsmen. It was probably worn earlier, just not painted.

Remember, the Highlanders flocked to the British army after the Battle of Culloden in 1747. Most had no where else to go, they had become landless, with no means to help support their destitute families. The Black Watch Regiment had already been established in 1739, mostly of Lowlanders, to secretly police or watch the Scottish border. See Scottish Wedding Dreams Scottish History for more historical information.

By joining the British Army, they had income to send back home, plus they got to wear kilts, tartans, and Scottish bonnets. The Highlanders surpassed all expectations and gained the respect of the British Army, though they were still sent in to the worst battle situations.

After the Battle of Waterloo, the Scottish Regiments became the darlings of France. The French ladies quickly adopted their bonnets and tartans into their fashions.

Image Courtesy Wikipedia

From 1868 to 1902 the Glengarry was the British soldier’s “undress” cap for ordinary duty, also worn for walking out “dress” cap.

By 1914, all the Scottish regiments, except the Cameron Scottish Rifles and the Scots Guards, were wearing the dark blue Glengarry. The bands were diced red and white and the toories were red, royal blue or black per regimental traditions.

A diced band and toorie can be seen on this drummer ~

Scottish Wedding Dreams Image

~ with the ribbons left hanging freely in the center back.

The cockade is placed over left temple, with a clan badge pinned over it and a sprig of clan plant tucked behind.

Scottish Wedding Dreams Image

In 1937 the Glengarry became the universal field service cap of the British Army.

To properly set the Glengarry on your head, use American military uniform regulation ~ two fingers above the right eyebrow, two fingers above the right ear.

Since World War II this has changed and the Glengarry is often worn level on the head.

For today’s Scottish regiments, their badge is their regimental insignia.

The main advantage to the Glengarry is that is can be folded flat, and it can also be easily tucked into the back of your kilt waistband.

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Balmoral Bonnets

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Though the first recorded Balmoral style of Scottish bonnets appears in a 16th century portrait, the name ‘Balmoral’ dates from the late 19th century. The name derives from Balmoral Castle, a favorite of Queen Victoria. Even today, Prince Charles voices a favoritism toward Balmoral Castle.

Originally a soft, knitted blue cap with a flat voluminous crown, it gave the Highlanders their nickname ‘Bluebonnets’.

Image Courtesy Clipart

The band was sometimes diced, as on the Glengarry, and sometimes plain. A diced band, with a turkey feather lying over the crown, can be seen in this illustration.

Image Courtesy Clipart

As with the Glengarry, a cockade sits on the left side. In the military this is the regimental insignia. For an individual or a member of a pipe band it’s usually their clan badge.

The tapes flowing from the band are sometimes worn hanging free as on the Glengarry. Though most men tie the ribbons in a small, neat bow. Traditionally, free flowing ribbons signified a fancy-free lad, while a knotted Balmoral signified the wearer’s affections were engaged elsewhere.

Today the crown is smaller, made of finer cloth and these Scottish bonnets are predominantly blue or Lovat Green.

It’s worn straight on the head, well forward on the forehead, with the crown pulled well over to the right side. This nicely displays the hackle or cockade and badge being worn. In some regiments an ostrich plume swept over the crown from left to right. Others adopted bearskin or painted turkey hackles. This Black Watch Regiment in Iraq displays their red hackles.

Image Courtesy Wikipedia

To make a new Balmoral lie to the right, it’s usually tacked down half way up the ribbon band, between the right ear and eyebrow, with an excess of the crown below the stitching.

While available in a wider variety of colors than the Glengarry, dark colors are usually worn for evening wear.

Tam O’Shanter Bonnets

Tam O’Shanters are the third type of Scottish bonnets.

If nothing else endears the tam for you, try this illustration from Beatrix Potter’s The Tale of Benjamin Bunny

Project Gutenberg Image

Though not as cute and cuddly, the origins of the Tam O’Shanter are a unique tale within themselves. Robert Burns requested that Francis Grose include Alloway Kirk in his tour book of Scotland. Grose agreed, only if Burns gave him something to print alongside the Alloway Kirk entry…thus the poem Tam O’Shanter was written. It is now considered one of the finest examples of Burns' works and as a narrative poem in modern English literature.

The accompanying woodcut introduced what became the Tam O’Shanter bonnet.

Image courtesy Wikipedia

Originally called Bluebonnets, these woolen Scottish bonnets were dyed blue. The crown is almost double the band diameter and lies far to one side, as seen in the Benjamin Bunny illustration. The toorie, pompom, is still as predominant as on Benjamin Bunny.

Tam became a popular folk hero, as seen in this tobacco ad.

Image courtesy Wikipedia

Eventually the style was adopted by the British military and was known as the ‘general service cap’ for British and Canadian troops during World War II.

Image courtesy Wikipedia

Some regiments continue to wear the tam as battle headdress. The crown is narrower. Highland battalions slope theirs down from back to front. Lowland battalions slope theirs left to right, similar to a beret.

Traditionally, soldiers wore a tam, while officer and senior NCI’s wear a Balmoral or Glengarry.

Today, the tam abounds at Highland Games and can be purchased in almost any tartan, plus solid colors. They’re probably the most popular of the Scottish bonnets, excepting Highland bands and pipers.

Image courtesy Wikipedia

This young lad, marching in a ‘Parade of the Tartans’ almost competes with Benjamin Bunny…

Image courtesy Wikipedia

I envied him his green rubber boots that particular day.

Simplicity even offers a pattern, as part of a Scottish lassie set, to sew your own bridal selection of Tam O’Shanter Scottish bonnets.

Simplicity Pattern #8855

The Kilt Sources page, Scottish Wedding Dreams, lists most of the sources where all types of Scottish bonnets, including tams, can also be located for purchasing.

A Custom Toorie

The toorie is a simple, small pom-pom. You can easily make a custom toorie for your Scottish Bonnet.

Materials needed:
One or two colors of yarn
Heavy cord - dental floss or carpet thread
Needle with a large eye
Sharp scissors
Two-hole button
Cardboard template cut to 3 inches long and a small lengthwise slit, like a button hole in the center. I’ve found a 3x5 index card, folded in thirds, works well and is easy to cut the slit. This photo from Nancy’s Pom Pom Palace is the closest drawing I found.

PomPom Template courtesy Nancy‘s Pom Pom Palace

Wrap one or two colors of yarn around the template, until about ½ inch deep and ¾ inch wide.

Bring the ends of a heavy cord up through the center of the temple, one on each side of the yarn. Tie together with a half knot, which is right over left, and tighten.

Cut the two ends of the toorie, slip it off the template. Now you can tighten down the half knot and complete a square knot with left over right. This will secure the yarn. Trim the yarn ends into a neat, round toorie.

Thread and knot a large needle with one end of the cord that’s around the toorie. Sew the thread through the bonnet and through one hole of the two-hole button.

Repeat with the other cord, through the bonnet, through the other hole in the button. Knot these cords together securely and cut off the loose ends. You can add a dab of super glue to the knot for more security.

Irish Caubeen

Similar to the Scottish Balmoral, this variation comes from traditional Irish headdress. It’s rimless and worn tilted.

Image Courtesy Wikipedia

The military issue is green, worn with a hackle or military insignia. The caubeen is worn by some members of the Irish Army, the Royal Irish Regiment, pipers of the Irish Guards and the Queen’s University Office Training Corp of the British Army.

Bonnet Cockades

In the 18th century, on both sides of the Atlantic, a cockade was pinned on the side of a man’s tricorne, or cocked, hat. Sometimes on his coat lapel. Women also wore cockades on their hats on in their hair. Distinctive colors were worn to show allegiance to some political faction, their rank, or as a part of a servant’s livery.

This Scottish bonnet, from the 1700’s, displays a white cockade, clan badge, and feathers.

Image courtesy R. Turner Wilcox,
The Mode in Hats and Headdress

There are four types of cockades worn by non-military on their Scottish bonnets. Though seen frequently, a feather tucked behind erroneously indicates you are a chief.

  • A Rosette

  • St. Andrew’s Cross, for Jacobite sympathizers, of white grosgrain ribbon, formed into an X, with a sprig of clan badge plant is usually tucked behind.

  • Livery Colors, using the two predominant colors from your coat of arms blazon, as was worn by servant’s in the 18th century.

    A good source for clan blazons is

  • Cockade with Two Colors ~ using three ribbon pieces, placed dark, light, dark, all finished with a swallowtail cut. The ribbons are sewn on the bonnet at angles of
    dark at 4:30 to 10:30 on the clock face, with 10:30 toward the bonnet front
    light at 6 to 12 on the clock (vertical)
    dark at 1:30 and 7:30 on the clock face, with 7:30 toward the bonnet front

Traditional cockades of various nations, with the colors listed from the inside out

Great Britain

Royal House of Stuart ~ orange
Royal House of Hanover ~ black
Royal Air Force roundels ~ red, white, blue or red, blue
Restoration Jacobite supporters ~ white


Pre-Revolutionary, Bourbon Dynasty ~ white

United States of America Continental Army
Colors used for rank insignia, as described by George Washington,

“As the Continental Army has unfortunately no uniforms, and consequently many inconveniences must arise from not being able to distinguish the commissioned officers from the privates, it is desired that some badge of distinction be immediately provided; for instance that the field officers may have red or pink colored cockades in their hats, the captains yellow or buff, and the subalterns green."

The army soon reverted to the black cockade they had inherited from the British.

When France allied itself with the Amercian Revolution, the continental Army added the white cockade of the French Ancien Regime over their black cockade, while the French pinned the black cockade over their white cockade. These two marked the French-American alliance, and came to be called the Union cockade.

Bonnet Dicing

No, not a game of chance played with Scottish bonnets, but the band at the base of a Scottish bonnet, originally used to show allegiance. A diced band indicated loyalty to the House of Hanover, or England. A solid, dark blue band indicated loyalty to Scotland.

After the Battle of Culloden all Highlanders who joined Scottish Regiments within the British Army were required to wear diced hatbands as part of their uniform.

Today either diced or not is ok, as seen in this photograph taken on Formation Day of the Royal Regiment of Scotland

Image Courtesy Wikipedia

Hackle Color Designations

This photograph displays the hackle as worn by the Royal Highland Fusiliers.

Image Courtesy Wikipedia

The list of colors displayed on hackles is almost endless.

In the modern British Army

Regiment of Fusiliers ~ red over white
Royal Highland Fusiliers ~ white

In the historical British regiments

Lancashire Fusiliers ~ primrose yellow
Royal Fusiliers City of London Regiment ~ white
Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers ~ grey
Royal Irish Fusiliers ~ green
Royal Northumberland Fusiliers ~ red over white
Royal Scots Fusiliers ~ white
Royal Warwickshire Fusiliers ~ blue over red
Royal Welsh Fusiliers ~ white

In fictional British Regiments

King’s Own Fusiliers ~ blue over white

In Non-Fusilier Regiments

Irish Guards ~ St. Patrick’s blue
Liverpool Scottish, King’s and Cheshire Regiment ~ royal blue
London Irish Rifles Company, London Regiment ~ St. Patrick’s blue
Royal Irish Regiment ~ green
Royal Welsh ~ white
Scots Guards ~ blue over red

The Scottish division formed into the Royal Regiment of Scotland in 2006. The regimental battalions wear

Royal Scots Borderers ~ black
Royal Highland Fusiliers ~ white
Black Watch ~ red
The Highlanders ~ blue
Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders ~ green

In Non-Fusilier amalgamated regiments

Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders ~ white on feather bonnets only
The Cameronians (Scottish Rifles) ~ black
Gordon Highlanders ~ white on feather bonnet only
The Highlanders (Seaforth, Gordons, and Camerons) ~ royal blue
Queen’s Own Cameron Highlanders ~ royal blue
Queen’s Own Highlanders ~ royal blue
Queen’s Royal Irish Hussars ~ white over red on caubeen for pipers only
Royal Irish Rangers ~ green
Royal Corps of Transport ~ red over white over blue on feather bonnet for pipers only
Royal Ulster Rifles ~ black
Seaforth Highlanders ~ white on feather bonnet only

Canadian Army
In the Fusilier Regiments, excluding the French-speaking regiments

Princess Louise Fusiliers ~ French grey
Royal Highland Fusiliers of Canada ~ white

Scottish influenced Non-Fusilier Regiments

Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders of Canada ~ white on feather bonnet only for drummers
Black Watch of Canada ~ red
Calgary Highlanders ~ white on feather bonnet only for drummers
Cameron Highlanders of Ottawa ~ royal blue
Canadian Scottish Regiment ~ white on feather bonnet only for drummers
Essex and Kent Scottish Regiment ~ white on feather bonnet only
Lome Scots ~ primrose yellow
Queen’s Own Cameron Highlanders of Canada ~ royal blue except pipers in full dress who wear an eagle feather not a hackle
Seaforth Highlanders of Canada ~ white on feather bonnet only for drummers

Irish-influenced Non-Fusilier Regiments (on the caubeen)

2nd Battalion, Irish Regiment of Canada ~ green, light blue for senior NCO’s and officers

Indian Army Infantry Regiments that wear hackles

Brigade of the Guards ~ red over yellow
The Grenadiers ~ white
Kumaon Regiment ~ green
Mahar Regiment ~ dull cherry
Naga Regiment ~ orange
Rajput Regiment ~ maroon over red

Malaysian Army

Royal Ranger Regiment ~ black
Royal Military College ~ red for Annual Passing Out Parade only

Pakistan Army

The Punjab Regiment ~ green
9th Battalion, Azad Kashmir Regiment ~ red to commemorate the action in the Leepa Valley, Kashmir in 1972

South African Army

South African Irish Regiment ~ green
Transvaal Scottish Regiment ~ red
Witwatersrand Rifles ~ black

This listing from British and what were once British Protectorate nations gives an idea of the variety of colors that could be used to adorn Scottish Bonnets for a Scottish theme wedding.

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