It is a quintessentially London sight, framed by tourists snapping away on cameras and blocking the pavement, rivalling only the Beefeater in grandeur and comforting, outdated archaism. The eighteen-inch bearskin hats worn by the guards at Buckingham Palace, although pretty groovy, are unfortunately lacking in the ethical stakes, and could be set for replacement with a design more fitting for the 21st century.
The MoD are responsible for the final say on the design, and so far have knocked back a fake fur version because it is not durable enough. They say they are open to the possibility of alternatives to bearskin, but are keen to retain the traditional look and shape of the design. People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (Peta) have pointed out that it takes one bear to make a hat, and argue that this is one sacrifice too far for the sake of tradition. They have approached top fashion designers Vivienne Westwood and Stella McCartney to design a new shape, arguing that a new design could become 'iconic', and Ricky Gervais has written a letter to the PM in protest of the use of animal fur for the uniform.
You'd imagine, wouldn't you, that what with having put people on the moon and all, it would be at least within the realms of possibility to design a hat that looks similar to the old design but introduces elements of waterproofing and durability. It would save money, too - each hat costs £650 to make, which could get you quite far in London, or at least buy you a couple of spring rolls. We're all up for healthy change though - just think what Jeff Banks did with the Brownie uniform.
Image courtesy of here's a llama's photostream via the Londonist stockpool