Chilean Visor Hats
Visor Hats, Service Caps, & Peaked Caps
Visors began to appear in the early 1800s as alternatives to heavier and cumbersome helmets and shakos. During the 19th century, visors were worn mainly by officers, with enlisted ranks adopting them as part of dress or walking-out uniforms later in the century. By the beginning of the 20th century, the visor, or peaked cap as it is sometimes called, was worn by many of the world's militaries. Various non-military organizations, such as police forces, also adopted the visor as standard headgear. Visors are currently one of the most common forms of military headgear, worn as part of most nations' dress uniforms.
The visor is characterized by a number of features. A cap band provides the base for the hat and gives it its size. Above the band, the top is larger, flaring out in a circular or oval shape. The top many times comes to a tall peak in the front, giving the visor its other name, the peaked cap. Attached to the front bottom of the cap band is the visor, or brim, which shades the wearer's eyes. A chin strap, or braided cords, is attached to the cap band with a button on each side and rests atop the visor.
Visors' shapes have varied dramatically over time. Earlier styles were comparitively small, with the top of the hat the same size as, or only slightly larger than, the cap band.1 Over time, the tops took on larger proportions, with some worn today having tops almost double the size of the cap band. The top's shape also changed, sometimes having a flat top that angled up from back to the front peak, and sometimes having a saddle shape that curved up to the front. While most visors had a rigid shape, with metal or other supporting rings inside, some were produced or altered to have a "crusher" shape. Crusher hats have no structural support for the top, so they tend to hang loosely around the sides. These were especially popular among early flight crews, who wore them under radio headsets.2
Visors have been made in an array of colors. Usually sharing the primary color of the uniform they are part of, visor colors can denote military branch, specialty, or rank. Tops are generally uniform color, often green for armies, blue for air force or navy, and white for navy or ceremonial dress uniforms. The cap band can be the same color, or a secondary uniform color, often a darker shade or black. They can also be used to signify the type of unit, such as the red cap bands of British "Royal" units. Visors also often have piping, sewn along the top and bottom of the cap band and around the cap's top. Piping can be the same color as the cap band or top, or can be sometimes much brighter. Perhaps the most well-known use of piping was on German visors during the Nazi regime in the Second World War. Nazi military visors used piping to signify branch of service, such as the Infantry or Armored units, while civil and political groups used piping to show rank.3
Visors typically carry some type of badge or insignia on either the cap band or top, sometimes both. These badges can be a national symbol, such as a cockade, a branch insignia, or a unit badge. The style of these badges can also be used to denote the wearer's rank, with slightly different style worn by officers and enlisted men. Rank is also displayed by the type of chin strap used. Lower ranks usually wear plain, often black leather, chin straps while officers wear decorative braided metal cords, often gold or silver. The cap band may also be decorated with elaborate embroidery, sometimes wrapping completely around the band. Embroidery is also sometimes used on the cap's visor, or brim.4