The peaked cap originated in early 19th-century Northern Europe, usually worn by working-class men. In the later years of the Napoleonic Wars, it began to appear in the senior ranks of the Russian and Prussian armies, being popular because of its comfort and light weight, as opposed to the cumbersome bicorns and shakos that were standard duty issue. During the Biedermeier period (1815–48), they became universal dress for German and Austrian civilian males of all classes, and for the entire 19th century, they were popular with the working classes all over Northern Europe, although in Britain the flat-top cap was preferred by civilians towards the end of the century.
In 1846, the United States Army adopted the peaked cap during the Mexican-American war due to the unsuitability of the shako in the hot Mexican climate. In 1856, a form of peaked cap was adopted by petty officers of Britain's Royal Navy, in imitation of an undress headdress worn by officers from as early as 1827. The British Army adopted peaked caps in 1902 for both the new khaki field dress and (in coloured form) as part of the "walking out" or off-duty wear for other ranks. A dark blue version was worn with dress blues by all ranks of the U.S. Army between 1902 and 1917.
During the 20th century, the combination or peaked cap became common in the armies, navies, air forces and police forces of the world, forgone in combat by common soldiers in favour of more practical headdress.
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