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Posted on Thu, Oct 20, 2011 : 5:55 a.m.

Keeping cops from freezing their ears off

By Rich Kinsey

The beginning of October ushers in the time when many police departments switch from short sleeves to long sleeve uniforms in anticipation for cold weather. Headgear for officers becomes more important as the Gales of November, Alberta Clippers and cold Nor’easters bear down on the two pleasant peninsulas.

Most patrol officers today wear black wool (fleece or acrylic) stocking caps or watch caps with white POLICE embroidered on them. They do not blow off, they are warm and they fit in a jacket pocket when not in use. They are completely utilitarian, and officers seem to like them. I have similar fleece hats (without the POLICE) in the pockets of most of my jackets and coats — just in case.


Stormy Kromer caps are made in Michigan.

From the Stormy Kromer website

Unfortunately, most stocking caps make a full grown, fully armed, well trained officer and impressive defender of our community look like a grade-schooler on his way to a snowball fight. The stocking caps with the wind stopping nylon make the officer wearing it look a little like Dumb Donald from the cartoon Cosby Kids when the nylon lining droops below the knit cap. Is there not a uniform hat that is warm and looks good?

When I was a patrolman, the only options for headwear in the winter was the uniform cap with the shiny black visor or the navy blue faux fur troopers hat. Back then, we wore "Class A" uniforms with wool pants and a tie in the winter. Today officers wear "Class B" uniforms which used to be called fatigues or BDU's (battle dress uniform), and they do not have to wear a hat if they don't want to.

The Class A visored uniform hats were cold and liked to blow off in high wintery winds, inevitably finding their way into the only unfrozen slush puddle on the block.

The faux fur trooper hat looked like an anemic version of a “Mad Bomber’s Hat.” Oh jeez, it is the style of hat that Frances McDormand wore in the movie Fargo, eh?

Trooper hats were goofy looking but were warm and sometimes made the male wearer want to yell, “On you huskies!” like Sgt. Preston of the Yukon. I wore one when I walked a beat, but my vanity would never allow me to lower the earflaps or, heaven forbid, snap the chinstrap to keep the earflaps down.

I preferred the blue faux fur collar of our old jacket to keep my ears warm. Unfortunately we learned those fur collars were like sponges for the irritants in tear gas one year when March Madness turned into Student Insanity on South University Street. Uniform coats do not have the faux fur collars anymore.

If one decided to use the earflaps on a trooper hat, you had two equally dopey options for wear. If you lowered the earflap,s they would sometimes flop out at 90 degree angles from the hat and wearer. In fact, on midnights, officers would wear them in this fashion not for warmth, but to produce laughter from other officers when the shadows they cast looked like a bull moose.

The equally uncool way to wear the earflaps over your ears was with the chinstrap — or the topstrap when the flaps were contained — which was vinyl and very cold in addition to being very dorky. I think it would only be in Fargo or in a survival situation that I would ever use the chinstrap.

I have one final suggestion for police administrators to consider. This option is warm, currently in vogue and made right here in Michigan — instead of a foreign country where most stocking caps are made. These hats stay on your head even in high winds and are equipped with earflaps that stay tight on the cap when not in use or tight to the ears when pulled down.

I am speaking of course of the Stormy Kromer hat. I am the proud owner of several Stormy Kromers, and they are great hats. They make a black hat which would look better then the stocking caps and less goofy than a trooper hat flying its earflaps.

I must confess I am not a real fan of the string ties in the front, but those are there to adjust the hat and, more importantly, the earflaps. I suggest the Stormy Kromer manufacturers could design a small POLICE emblem to conceal the adjusting laces or thread the POLICE emblem on a piece of elastic. At any rate with some slight modifications these hats could become the next big thing in cold weather headwear for officers. What do you think?

Lock it up, don’t leave it unattended, be aware and watch out for your neighbors.

Rich Kinsey is a retired Ann Arbor police detective sergeant who now blogs about crime and safety for He also serves as the Crime Stoppers coordinator for Washtenaw County.


Roger Hart

Wed, Nov 23, 2011 : 6:41 a.m.

Laugh all you want,I've worn trooper hats for nearly 50 years,I always get the last laugh because I am warm! If you are working out side all day doing different activities you can easily control your body temperature simply by putting the flaps up or down. I have had both leather and vinyl..the leather lasts longer but the vinyl is more waterproof keeping your head dry in cold rain or wet snow. These hats do not blow off easy in high winds and do not squeeze your head like sock hats and don't give you frizzy hat hair . Once in a while on sunny days I have wished I had one with a short bill...I don't like wearing sun glasses. I have worn sock hats that let the air blow right through...went right back to the trooper hat. I have one with big rabbit fur ear flaps...but they are too hot except in extreme cold and the big flaps impair vision and get in the way when doing certain types of work. The bigger eared trooper hat may be in style now but not practical for the working man in 30-40 degree weather. My original hat was was the "arctic trooper" It is hard to find this smaller eared version in local stores so I was on line searching for them when I came across this article...I am still chuckling at you for letting pride keep you from having warm ears. Yes they may look funny with the ear flaps bouncing around but is is amazing in really cold weather how many people have asked me where I bought my hat at!


Fri, Oct 21, 2011 : 8:01 p.m.

I saw an article on this hat in 10-21-11 Free Press. Here's a link if you want to check it out! <a href="" rel='nofollow'></a>|topnews|text|FRONTPAGE


Fri, Oct 21, 2011 : 2:05 a.m.

Sorry - ALL winter hats for men look dorky. Seeing the Stormy Kromer hats, the first thing that comes into your mind is the name, SVEN, or possibly DIEDER. If an officer wearing that kind of hat stopped me, I'm really afraid I'd blurt out, &quot;WARUM HABEN SIE MICH GESTOPPT, OFFIZIER ?&quot; Sure as sunset, I'd end up in the slammer.


Fri, Oct 21, 2011 : 2:27 a.m.

sehr lustig, Tru2Blu76!

Mark Hodesh

Thu, Oct 20, 2011 : 8:40 p.m.

If you're interested in picking up a Stormy Kromer hat in Ann Arbor, we've got a great selection here at Downtown Home &amp; Garden, along with lots of other Stormy Kromer wool apparel.

Ypsi Skunk

Thu, Oct 20, 2011 : 6:29 p.m.

It would be great for Michigan police departments to support a Michigan business, the hats are warm, and nothing could look worse then the trooper hats!

Craig Lounsbury

Thu, Oct 20, 2011 : 4:42 p.m.

I worked outside year around for the better part of 25 years. The only thing goofy to me was somebody without a hat.

Smart Logic

Thu, Oct 20, 2011 : 1:36 p.m.

Why not adopt the hats like worn by Marge Gunderson in Fargo?

Smart Logic

Thu, Oct 20, 2011 : 8:34 p.m.

It would be epic, functional, and definitely not look like a kid on the way to a snowball fight.


Thu, Oct 20, 2011 : 2:14 p.m.

OOps... should have been &quot; too &quot; not &quot; to &quot; I need a edit button


Thu, Oct 20, 2011 : 2:12 p.m.

Actually they used to.The flaps were smaller though.I still use my dad's on occasion

Ron Granger

Thu, Oct 20, 2011 : 1:18 p.m.

What kind of hat did the Cossacks wear?