Comic Colonialism II: of Busbys and Bear Skins.

The map below shows, in white, all the countries that England has not invaded.

The white spots on this map are the countries that England has not invaded.

The white spots on this map are the countries that England has not invaded.

England now controls virtually none of these countries. In most of these, English is the national language, or the language of business, and defeating the British is hailed as the central national experience. Still, many have opted to become part of the British Commonwealth, a loose organization of ex-British states. Generally this requires agreeing to the rule of the Queen, despite having nominally free states. Entering Canada, for example, one finds a picture of Elisabeth II, Queen of Canada, And there are royal colleges where inventions belong to her. The same with Australia and New Zealand. The question to ask, then, the question despots have asked, is how did the English manage it –or perhaps, how can I extend my despotism the same way. Part of the answer, it seems to me, is that England used tall, silly hats: Busbys and Bearskins.

The Queen of Canada reviews her troops. She's wearing a Busby; he's in a bearskin.

The Queen of Canada reviews her troops. She’s wearing a Busby; he’s in a bearskin.

The Bearskin hat is perhaps the silliest hat in worldwide military use, and certainly the largest. The bearskin is made of the complete skin of a black or a brown (grisly) bear dyed black, The skin is shaped over a wicker frame to stand 16″ tall (a black bear skin is used for enlisted men, and a grisly bear for officers). It is heavy, quite fuzzy, and completely non-aerodynamic and protects the head not at all. As best American military experts have found, it only makes the person wearing it a better target for being shot. And yet, Britons have striven to be given the honor of wearing this thing. There is also a slightly shorter, slightly fuzzier version of the Bearskin worn by officers. It’s called a Busby, and it’s made from beaver skin. Even in this day of social correctness, skins are found for this use, and “harvested”, mostly in Canada.

The front-line British soldiers in the American Revolution wore these hats when they marched in ranks to attack the colonials at Lexington and Concord, and again at Bunker Hill, and again, in the war of 1812 at New Orleans. It made them slow, impressive, and dead. Because of their weight, these hats are often worn with a leather collar to help support them. The collar makes it hard for soldiers to look down, a plus for soldiers on parade, but a minus when walking over uneven ground, e.g. when attacking Bunker Hill. You’d think the British would have given up on these weird hats long ago, but the British won in many conflicts and have come to dominate many countries. They seem to credit the hat, I’m beginning to think it deserves more attention than it’s gotten.

The hat they wore through the war of 1812, through the Crimean war and the Boer war; in the heat of the Indian revolts, in Africa, and to this day for show makes British soldiers look taller, and more elegant. It makes them stand straighter than most, and gives guards an other-worldly appearance. American soldiers uniformly reminisced how hard it was to shoot someone who marched so elegantly. The Queen likes them, and she, after all is nothing if not elegant. Perhaps the unworldly elegance of the bearskin give soldiers the courage to invade countries and die in the name of a sovereign who reigns by Devine right as expressed through the sword Excalibur ‘of pure Semite’, whatever that is. It’s a story that not one adult Britain believes, yet they die for (why?) Perhaps it’s the honor of mass craziness. Perhaps, because they see simple folks are impressed by soldiers wearing the tall funny hats (I guess thats why some US marching bands use them). And then again, it might be pure luck, superstition, and stupidity. The method of science would be to ask if other countries or team bands do better while wearing the silly hats. I suspect not, but it deserves statistical analysis.

Robert Buxbaum, March 30, 2016. Comic colonialism 1 dealt with the mistakes leading to the US capture of Guam. Catch also my essays, the greatest blunders of the US revolution, and mustaches and WWII: similar mustaches foreshadow stable alliances.

One thought on “Comic Colonialism II: of Busbys and Bear Skins.

  1. Pingback: A British tradition of inefficiency and silliness | REB Research Blog

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