They are famous British guards and make for an impressive and imposing sight outside Buckingham Palace in London. With their red uniforms and black bearskin hats, they have been a part of British history for more than 360 years.
The former Queen’s Foot Guards, now known as The King’s Foot Guards, come from several regiments in the British Army. The guards’ hats stand about 18 inches tall and weigh around 1.5 pounds and are are made from Canadian black bears fur, WalesOnline reports.
Each regiment puts a slightly different spin on the famous ceremonial hat. One of the regiments, the Grenadier Guards, fought at the Battle of Waterloo in 1815, and their trademark hats date back to this era – they were designed to intimidate their enemies by making them appear bigger.
The Grenadier Guards that are seen in official ceremonies have a unique way of wearing their impressive headwear. The strap for the hat is placed under the bottom lip instead of under the chin.
It’s reported that the decision to wear the chained strap for these headpieces under the lip comes from when soldiers actually fought while wearing them. If a soldier was shot, the heavy hat could fall backward and cause the soldier’s neck to break if they were wearing a chin strap. Therefore, wearing their helmet straps under their lips would be less dangerous.
Another theory for why the guards put their straps under their lip is for one regiment to distinguish themselves from others serving the Foot Guards. The hats are made from Canadian black bear fur, and it is said that it takes one bear pelt to make one hat, which can last for 80 years if cared for properly.