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"Kepi backwards?" Topic

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Comments or corrections?

Perris070706 Sep 2021 9:00 a.m. PST

Did Union or Confederate soldiers ever wear their kepis backwards? This is part of an ongoing discussion with one of my students. I can find no evidence that they did although I know it was common to wear them cocked at an angle. Anybody else care to weigh in?

cj177606 Sep 2021 9:43 a.m. PST

I'm sure somebody must have done it at some point,kids being kids.

martin goddard Sponsoring Member of TMP06 Sep 2021 10:02 a.m. PST

Just a guess.
At the time (mid 19th century) conformity/deference was the social norm.
Turning a hat backwards. I would doubt it.

An NCO would give him a good "sorting".
Conversely, the NCO might say "Do whatever makes you feel good private. Rest of us will fit in with your basic human rights".


Jcfrog Supporting Member of TMP06 Sep 2021 10:25 a.m. PST

Zehooker rapper of Gotham, Black Line Militia.

GurKhan06 Sep 2021 10:27 a.m. PST

Have you seen link ?

Personal logo PaulCollins Supporting Member of TMP06 Sep 2021 10:43 a.m. PST

GurKhan, interesting pics.

DyeHard06 Sep 2021 12:05 p.m. PST

I think taking the photo as meaning much would be a mistake.

You could ask: Did Civil War soldiers lean on fake logs while smoking?

A photo shoot was a VERY artificial situation in those days.
The kepis backwards might just be to avoid casting a shadow on their faces.

In the confusion of battle, I am sure gear was put on in almost any convertible wrong way. But to wear a kepi backwards as a fashion statement seems unlikely.

Murvihill06 Sep 2021 12:12 p.m. PST

Why would you turn the device intended to keep the sun off your face backwards?

advocate06 Sep 2021 12:22 p.m. PST

Because the sun is behind you? ;)

Personal logo Extra Crispy Sponsoring Member of TMP06 Sep 2021 12:53 p.m. PST

To get chicks

Baranovich06 Sep 2021 1:49 p.m. PST

In camp while off duty or lounging around I would imagine some soldiers did it, along with having their coats off. But that would only be when genuinely off duty.

In all other circumstances, be it drill, fatigue duty, on the march or in battle I would think it would have been pretty rare.

Not to say it never happened among millions of soldiers, each with their own particular personality quirks or individual level of personal pride or resistance to authority, etc.

But a photo taken in a studio is a unique situation all its own. This is a staged opportunity to do something different or just to "appear cool" or something akin to it. I would imagine they felt, perhaps spontaneously, that turning the caps backwards would make them look more like smoking hats, etc.

rustymusket Supporting Member of TMP06 Sep 2021 2:45 p.m. PST

Was it physically possible to wear it backwards? OK. That should tell you if it was done by someone, though maybe not regularly by a large group.

DyeHard06 Sep 2021 3:45 p.m. PST

Hey Rustymusket:

Considering they had not yet distinguished between Left and Right shoes, front vs. back of the hat seems pretty trivial.

This does bring up, when and why did the start crushing the kepi so that the crown rested on the hair.


went to:

SashandSaber Sponsoring Member of TMP06 Sep 2021 4:36 p.m. PST

I vaguely remember seeing a Winslow Homer drawing that included a soldier wearing a forage cap kepi backwards.

Frederick Supporting Member of TMP06 Sep 2021 5:45 p.m. PST

I suspect that some people might have but it would be uncommon – Martin has it right; wearing a cap at a rakish angle might get you a pass, but backwards would likely be rare

Personal logo Old Contemptible Supporting Member of TMP06 Sep 2021 11:05 p.m. PST


I think that was the other way around. The French were crushing their kepis in the late 1860s and by 1870 the kepi (like the ones in the ACW) became regulation. The big Kepi the one above is the 1886 pattern and this was the one worn by officers during WWI. Pretty much the same kepi they wear today.

Personal logo Old Contemptible Supporting Member of TMP06 Sep 2021 11:09 p.m. PST

Some guy in the ACW may have had his kepi on backwards. It is rare and I have never seen a photograph, drawing or painting that depicts anyone on either side wearing their kepi backwards. It probably wouldn't stay on your head for long. It is not like a modern ball cap. They are made to be worn one way. I think the hat in the bottom picture is actually a forage cap. Different animal.

HMS Exeter07 Sep 2021 1:49 a.m. PST

I'd venture that no one wore a havelock backwards. Not unless he was trying to have a nap.

Jcfrog Supporting Member of TMP07 Sep 2021 2:47 a.m. PST

Dyehard afaik the history is reverse. The acw type kepi whivh is really the French one in many ways, is the undress casquette for service in Africa invented by Bugeaud. The hard one from today came much latter. 1850s if they went for full dress they'd had a a low shako.

DyeHard07 Sep 2021 7:30 a.m. PST

Working on answering my own question:

OK, I lead people astray with my previous image selections.
Starting as the Casquette d'Afrique, a lighter more easy fitting hat to replace the Shako in African use.
An 1830 example:


Reducing in height over time. An 1840s example:

Popularized by its use in the Crimean War.
"In the United States, the kepi is most often associated with the American Civil War era, and continued into the Indian Wars. Union Officers were generally issued kepis for fatigue use. A close copy of the contemporary French kepi, it had a sunken top and squared visor. It was often called a "McClellan cap","

So it appears that the Kepi being crushed was a North American fashion. The way is not too clear other than it was a forage cap (presuming a more formal cap existed) so was allowed to be used more casually.
I should have look no further than TMP as this was addressed in the past:

It appears the most of the world rejected the crushed form moving more and more to the more erect form.
An 1873 example of Casquette d'Afrique:


A Kepi of the Grande National 1870s:


Willy the Rat07 Sep 2021 9:07 a.m. PST

I remember seeing the Battle of Nashville painting by Howard Pyle in the Minnesota State Capitol building and remembered that there were TWO soldiers wearing their forage caps reversed.
In the right foreground.

Maybe it's a Minnesota 'thing'.

Personal logo lewis cannon Supporting Member of TMP07 Sep 2021 11:00 a.m. PST

My $.02 USD: Baseball teams, behind in a game, will wear their caps backward (and inside out, depending) as "rally caps." But does not appear to be the case in the Nashville painting.

I'm not converting any figs yet.

Perris070707 Sep 2021 11:55 a.m. PST

Hey Willy! THAT is the painting that my student based his project on. I did not know that it was in the Minnesota state capitol building as I am in Wisconsin. Thanks for enlightening me.

Jcfrog Supporting Member of TMP08 Sep 2021 1:27 p.m. PST
La casquette😃

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