British Bearskin, WWII era


Out of stock


Best known as the headgear of the Royal Guard at Buckingham Palace, the bearskin dates
back at least to the mid-18th C and was adopted by a number of European countries,
primarily for grenadiers. The tall fur hats added height and made the soldiers appear more
intimidating in battle and on the parade ground. Bearskins have not been worn into battle
since the mid-19th C and are now used entirely in a ceremonial role. The standard
bearskin for the British foot guards is 11 inches tall at the front, 16 inches to the rear,
weighs 1.5 pounds and is made from the fur of the Canadian black bear. An entire skin is
used for each head-dress. The British Army purchases the head-dresses, which are known
as caps, from British hatmakers who source the pelts from an international auction. The
hatmakers purchase between 50 and 100 black bear skins each year at a cost of about
£650 each. This example features genuine bearskin exterior sewn together and fitted over
a wicker frame. Leather-backed brass chin scales with nine-finger leather liner and
sweatband. Inside of cap features label with size (7 1/4) and maker “J. COMPTON SONS
& WEBB. LTD. LONDON” (in business from 1930 to 1978). While the use of genuine
bearskin has been opposed for many years by animal rights activists, the British
government still orders approximately 100 caps each year while it looks for a synthetic
substitute. However, the genuine bearskin is warm, sheds water, and retains its shape in
all weather and so far no suitable substitute has been developed. Skin in very good
condition; sweatband showing some wear and leather on chin scales with some flaking and
loss of stitching. Former collection of film producer John D. Schofield ( “As Good as it
Gets”, “Jerry Maguire”, “Enemy at the Gates”, “The Brothers Grimm”, etc.). Priced below
the original cost of the skin alone!