Tam o' Shanter (cap)

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Tartan Tam o' Shanters

Tam O'Shanter (often abbreviated TOS or Tam) is a 19th-century nickname for the traditional Scottish bonnet worn by men. It is named after Tam o' Shanter, the eponymous hero of the poem by Robert Burns.[1]


Taking the form of the brimless, bonnet cap that began to be worn throughout northwestern Europe during the 15th century, the 'Tam O'Shanter' is usually made of wool and has a toorie (pom-pom) in the centre. This distinguishes it from other folk bonnets such as the beret, for instance. Although brimless, the TOS has an external hatband which passes around the head's circumference, and this, too, distinguishes it from the beret: berets are either band-less where the beret meets the head, or have an internal hatband.

Formerly, the Scottish bonnet was made only in blue cloth because of a lack of chemical dyes ("blue bonnets"),[1] but now is available in a wide variety of colors, as well as tartan. Women have also adopted a form of this hat known as a “Tammy” or “Tam.” The original form of the Balmoral and the Glengarry in Highland dress, the 'Tam o' Shanter' is now best known as the headgear of a number of Scottish infantry regiments and those with Scottish affiliations.

Military use[edit]

Tam o'Shanter headdress, as worn by the Royal Highland Fusiliers Battalion of the Royal Regiment of Scotland, featuring a unit badge on a tartan backing and surmounted by a hackle feather

A khaki Balmoral bonnet was introduced in 1915 for wear in the trenches by Scottish infantry serving on the Western Front. This came to be known as the 'Bonnet, Tam o' Shanter' later abbreviated to 'ToS.' Today, the Royal Regiment of Scotland and some regiments of the Canadian Forces continue to wear the ToS as undress and working headgear. The various battalions of the Royal Regiment of Scotland identify themselves by wearing distinctive coloured hackles on their bonnets. The Black Watch, 3rd Battalion, Royal Regiment of Scotland wear a red hackle in their ToS as do soldiers of The Black Watch of Canada on both their duty ToS and dress balmorals.

Some regiments of the Canadian Army wear different coloured toories: the Royal Highland Fusiliers of Canada have traditionally worn dark green; The North Nova Scotia Highlanders wore red toories during the Second World War; and the Stormont, Dundas and Glengarry Highlanders wore blue. Most regiments, however, wear a khaki toorie, matching the bonnet. In many Canadian regiments it is traditional for soldiers to wear a ToS, while officers (and in some cases senior non-commissioned officers) wear the Glengarry or the Balmoral.

The Tam o' Shanter was traditionally worn by various regiments of the Australian Army which have a Scottish connection. B (Scottish) Company 5th/6th Battalion, Royal Victoria Regiment[2] wore both a khaki and blue bonnet at various stages. It appears this has now been superseded by the Glengarry.[3]

Football kits[edit]

In their first season as a football club in 1879, Doncaster Rovers wore a blue Tam o'Shanter with a red toorie at the centre as part of their kit.[4]

In the UK during World War I, women's football teams were formed and some wore knitted Tams.[5]

The Tam O Shanter was a main part of the character `Dr Mactavish` in the play `The King Of Spains Treasure`. This was quite a funny part of the dress.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b hatrevivalist (2008-12-16). "Many hat returns". Manyhattyreturns.com. Retrieved 2012-03-17. 
  2. ^ "picture". Retrieved 2012-03-17. 
  3. ^ "What Is A Queen’s Tam?". 
  4. ^ "Doncaster Rover - Historical Football Kits". Historicalkits.co.uk. Retrieved 2012-03-17. 
  5. ^ "Tam O' Shanter". Photodetective.co.uk. Retrieved 2012-03-17.