Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Ringo Starr's Very Cool Hat in "Help!" (Actually, a Scottish Military Issue Tam O'Shanter)

Since my band is preparing for a Beatles tribute in September, I have been looking for hats that say "Beatles!"  Don't take that literally, since there are baseball caps that have "Beatles" emblazoned on the crown.  What I want are hats like those the Beatles wore in their heyday in the 1960's.

John Lennon liked hats that are eight-panel newsboy caps, with the brim unbuttoned from the crown.  George sometimes wore a top hat, as he did in "Help!".  However, the coolest hat in that 1965 film was worn by Ringo.  It was a khaki colored, military issue tam o'shanter.  It is described in a bagpipe forum this way:
If you watch the Beatles 1965 film "Help!", there is a musical sequence on Salisbury Plain near Stonehenge with the Beatles being guarded by British soldiers -- I think one of the Scottish regiments, based on what I've seen from stills shot at the time. In the movie, Ringo wears a khaki tam o'shanter obviously borrowed from a soldier and I've tried to ID the regiment from what you can see of the tartan backing and cap badge -- can anyone else hazard a guess? I think possibly the KOSB or RS (is that Hunting Stewart or Leslie?). The cap badge is *I think* the unpopular and short-lived "Lowland Brigade" badge issued for a time to all the units grouped in the brigade (there was at the same time a common "Highland Brigade" badge).
52nd Lowland Cap Badge Design
52 Lowland Cap Badge
Tartran Backing
I've done some research, and the tam o'shanter (a Scottish cap) was of the 52nd Lowland Brigade (as proved by the cap badge of same).  The big X is actually the St. Andrews Cross, a Scottish symbol.  It is also a part of the flag of Scotland, a white cross on a blue field.

At first I thought the cap badge backing (the square piece of cloth beneath the cap badge) was solid black, or what they call Government Tartran.  I have changed my mind.  The badge backing, after blowing up a picture of Ringo (see above), appears to be the Tayforth Universities Officers Training Corps Hunting Stewart Tartran.

52 Lowland Cap Badge & Backing
(Photoshop Simulation)
So where could a Beatles fan/musician get a hat like Ringo's?  You can order military issue tam o'shanters here (for $35) or here.  Some of these hats are more of a green tint, but Ringo's was obviously of a tan or light brown color.  Therefore, I would opt for the second link above.

You can buy a 52nd Lowland badge off of Ebay, when they are available.

 You can order the cap badge backing here -- see item E1J995.

You will have to have the badge backing sewed onto the tam o'shanter, then affix the 52nd Lowland badge over that.  Finally, you will have a hat identical to that Ringo wore in "Help!"  Final cost will be in the neighborhood of $100.

Finally, here's a video showing the Beatles (and Ringo in his hat) playing "I Need You" in the movie "Help!".  You also get a good view of John's unbuttoned, green corduroy newsboy hat.

UPDATE:  I ordered all the components as described above, and put them together.  I sewed on the tartran backing myself, then carefully punched small holes through the tartran and the hat in order to afix the cap badge.  Fortunately, I did not ruin the hat in the process.  The badge is held on by a cotter pin inside the cap.  Here is the result:  a Scottish military tam o'shanter that is very close to the one worn by Ringo in the film "Help!":
My recreation of Ringo's hat
Note that I am wearing the tam with the cap badge between my left eye and my left ear, which is the proper way to wear it.  Ringo wore his borrowed tam with the cap badge in the middle of his forehead.  It looks nice, but is not the proper military way to wear the cap.


  1. That is a great replica of the hat...I am considering making one myself...very unique!

  2. The hat worn by Ringo in the making of the film help belonged to Corporal Greenhill of B Company the 1st Battalion the Royal Scots (The Royal Regiment). The hat is a Tam O Shanter (TOS) of the 1960-70 pattern. The badge is that of the Lowland Brigade as worn by Lowland Scottish Regiments of that time. The tartan patch is Hunting Stewart as worn by the Royal Scots. It is worn with the badge over the left ear.

    The Filming of this part of the film took place on Salisbury Plain Training area and was supported by Regiments that were stationed nearby.

    The hat was signed by the Beatles before handing back to Cpl Greenhill who continued to wear it as normal; subsequent washing got rid of the signatures.

    1. Thanks for these fascinating facts, Anon. I knew the TOS pattern was different from the one I was able to procure, but now I know the details of the pattern worn by Ringo.