Could Guards wear Stella McCartney synthetic bearskin?
For almost two centuries the Army’s Guards regiments have been decked out on ceremonial occasions in real bearskin hats.
By Sean O’Hare and Stephen Adams
Published: 9:00PM BST 21 Jul 2010
PETA’s faux-fur version of the bearskin. Photo: Paul Grover
Tourists come to marvel at them at Buckingham Palace.
But the Guards could soon be wearing a faux-fur version, designed by the vegetarian Stella McCartney.
On Thursday a delegation from People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (Peta) is meeting Peter Luff, minister for defence equipment, support and technology, to propose their animal-friendly alternative.
Peta claims the plastic-fibre hat now meets rigorous Ministry of Defence water repellency tests, after years working on a technology called Bear28.
The hats are also fitted with air vents to keep wearers cool on parade.
McCartney said: “Historically, England has a very high regard for animals, so it makes perfect sense that the MoD should continue shedding ceremonial furs from uniforms.
“Initially the big bear fur hats were intended to make soldiers look taller as they marched over hills in battle, but they haven’t been worn in action for over a hundred years.
“I’ve been working on this with Peta for a few years now and am really happy with the final product, as I hope the MoD will be when they see it.”
Dan Matthews, senior vice-president at the animal rights group, added: “In 2005 the MoD carried out specific weather tests on their own prototype which failed on water absorption levels.
“After four years working on this hat, we carried out the same tests at the same test centre and it passed.”
He claimed it was a “win-win situation” as the synthetic hats were cheaper than real bearskins, 230 grams lighter “and the bears will certainly be happier”.
However, while the MoD said it “remains open” to new ideas, a spokesman stressed it would not be chucking out the original bearskins anytime soon.
They are worn infrequently, need little maintenance and last many years, she explained.
She said: “The MoD remains open to testing material that industry might offer us to asses whether a faux fur meets the requirements for a replacement bearskin hat material. So far industry has not been able to produce a suitable material to meet the Guards’ requirements.”
She also stressed: “All bearskins used in the UK are sourced from Canada where bears are culled under the direction of the Canadian government to keep the bear population under control.”
Bearskin hats have been worn since the Battle of Waterloo in 1815 where they were taken as a badge of honour by the Grenadier Guards when they defeated Napoleon’s bearskin-wearing Imperial Guard.
As an Englishman, the attitude and negativity of the MoD for many years just because of what they attribute to ‘historic importance’ disgusts me.
We are in the 21st Century and if the MoD is still not capable of using fake fur for soldiers to wear on the hats every now and again then the MoD is still living in the past. Their attitude for many years to this has been disgusting and not what the vast majority of British people want – they want fake fur on hats !
The talk by the MoD of ‘bears being culled under direction’ is complete and utter rubbish. You do not have to kill bears and their cubs so that every now and again, a soldier can walk around thinking he looks impressive.
Get real MoD, get modern, and get fake fur !