Does a Bear Chapeau in the Woods?
British military still using real Canadian bear fur in funny hats
Over the past 30 years, Britain’s Ministry of Defense has gradually replaced animal furs in ceremonial uniforms — e.g., leopard-skin hats for military drummers — with synthetics. But so far nothing has beaten real Canadian bear pelts for those goofy tall hats worn by Britain’s red-coated Royal Foot Guards. “Bear fur is technologically very challenging,” says Col. Silas Suchanek, who procures clothing at the ministry, because it’s actually three kinds of hair, each contributing to the hat’s spiffy appearance and durable performance. PETA has been hounding the military to go cold turkey on bearskin — even supplying it with two faux-fur samples. The ministry fashioned them into hats and goose-stepped them out for trial runs, but says they’ve proved unacceptable. Suchanek counsels patience, saying, “You can’t just go equip 4,000 soldiers with plastic bear fur.” But PETA remains irate. “The Ministry of Defense has nuclear submarines and satellite-guided missiles,” says a member. “It’s within their capabilities to find a synthetic bear fur.”