A boonie hat, also known as a bush hat, is a form of wide-brim hat commonly used by military forces. Its design is similar to a bucket hat but with a stiffer brim. Often a fabric tape band of ‘branch loops’ is sewn around the crown of the hat. This ‘foliage ring’ is meant to hold additional vegetation as camouflage. A strap provides stability. The crown may be vented with rivets or mesh panels. Snaps may also be provided with which to fix the brim in the style of an Australian bush hat.
The boonie hat was introduced to the United States armed forces during the Vietnam War, when United States Army Green Berets began wearing them in the field, along with Australian and Army of the Republic of Vietnam units. These leopard spot or tigerstripe boonie hats were locally procured, the camo cloth was usually salvaged from other uniform items or with the former from a parachute or made up by the tailor.
In 1967, the US Army began issuing boonie hats, as the “Hat, Jungle, with Insect Net”, made of cotton and wind-resistant poplin, in olive drab, tigerstripe, and ERDL pattern. It was meant to supplement and replace the patrol and baseball caps that had been in service since World War II. As the U.S. military evolved away from a garrison mentality, the boonie found a permanent place as part of the uniform of all services. The boonie has changed little through the decades since Vietnam and is still in use in Iraq and Afghanistan as an alternative to the patrol cap. The U.S. Military boonie hat has come in a variety of camouflage patterns; the current assortment includes US M81 woodland, three-color desert, UCP, and both desert and woodland versions of MARPAT, as well as the Air Force ABU pattern. The boonie hat is often worn with the wearer’s rank insignia pinned to the front, above the branch loops.