The ski cap is a type of field cap used by several German-speaking or German-influenced armed forces from 19th century till present. The design originates from imperial Austria-Hungary, but is best known for its widespread use as M43 field cap (Einheitsmütze) used by the German Wehrmacht and SS, during World War II. A similar design of the field cap was previously used in Germany as the distinguishing headgear of the German Gebirgsjäger's ski cap, the only differences being the bill was slightly extended and the top panel of the hat had a smaller circumference, giving it slightly sloped-in sides. The design and its successors that are still in use today are the German counterparts to the American patrol cap or utility cover.
There are several variants of the ski cap, starting with the Gebirgsjäger's ski cap. This was the first in the family of caps, and was recognized by a high peak, a teardrop shaped top, a short bill, and a small skirt that folds down to protect the ears in cold. All Bergmützen had a small edelweiss or a grouping of Jäger leaves, depending on the unit. During the Second World War, the ski cap was generally made of field grey or field blue wool, depending on whether it was used by the Heer, SS, or the Luftwaffe.
The precursor to the German Bergmütze was a service cap first issued to Austrian Imperial-Royal Mountain Troops in 1906. During World War I, this cap was made of Hechtgrau (pike grey) wool and had a turn-down brim to cover the wearer's ears in cold weather. German mountain troops, who initially wore a grey peakless forage cap resembling a sailor cap, adopted the Bergmütze in 1915 as a gesture of solidarity with their Austrian allies. Both the German and Austrian Bergmützen bore edelweiss insignia, the mark of an experienced mountain climber, but, unlike the leather peaks of the Austrian caps, the peak of the German cap was covered with slate grey wool.
The sides of the Bergmütze stand almost straight up, due to the wide top sewn onto the cap. The skirt that surrounds the cap is made in the same wool as the cap, and is double layered in the rear three quarters of the skirt, enabling it to be folded down over the ears. The skirt has a small dip in the front quarter with a divide secured by two small buttons in order to get the skirt around the bill. The small section in the front quarter was built shorter to show the insignia, and cover the wearer's chin or mouth, without disturbing breathing by covering the nose.
Use of similar headwear in Finland
The cap was used by all ranks during the Second World War and long afterwards. As with all caps of the Finnish Defence Forces, rank-and-file and junior NCOs wore the cap with a roundel-type cockade of white-blue-white, while officers and senior officers wore a red cockade featuring a golden lion of Finland. The cap was finally phased out in 2014.
Mountain units (Gebirgsjäger) of the Bundeswehr still wear M43-style field caps, and are still referred to as Bergmütze. The caps have the "fake fold" mentioned above, and are issued in medium grey for enlisted personnel and a lighter grey with silver piping around the brim for officers. The Edelweiss is still on the left side of the cap above the ear, and the cockade and crossed-swords insignia are present on the front above the bill. Most modern M43 field caps are of a slightly different cut than the original M43, with a wider top, but still very similar to the Gebirgsjäger Bergmütze of World War II. Many modern German police units also use a variant of the M43. Additionally, all other army units wear a simplified version of the M43 cap, without the fold-down ear flaps, in standard Flecktarn camouflage with a BeVo cockade on the front. This is generally worn in the field instead of the Beret. There is also a version of lighter cloth in the desert variant of Flecktarn for use in tropical climates.
- Gebirgsjäger unter edelweiss
- Gebirgsjäger in Ukraine
- Talvisodan kenttälakki jää historiaan. Helsingin sanomat 2013- 04-16. Retrieved 2016-02-21. (in Finnish)
- Maaluoto, M. Kaartin Jääkärirykmentti testaa kunniakomppanian uutta edustusasua. Huoltoupseeri 3/2014. Retrieved 2016-02-21. (in Finnish)