A Blog dedicated to primary research on uniforms, equipment & practices of the Armies of the American War for Independence: ca. 1768-1788

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Monday, May 16, 2011

Cocked Hats, Part 5- Hat sizes.

Sizing of military uniforms before the later parts of the 19th Century was a relatively simple one. In part it either fit you "off the rack" in generally three sizes, or addition to that was custom tailored by in-house by members of the individual units. This practice has been well documented in American, French and British Armies of the period, and beyond.

Cocked hats appear to be no different. Though the evidence is somewhat circumstancial, an order concerning the hats of the Britsh Army in the late 1780's stipulated that "hatts [sic] are to be in the future, no smaller than 7 inches round and four inches deep in the crown".

Further evidence for sizing comes from the civilian world of this era. A 1789 book, entitled Instructions For Cutting Out Apparel For the Poor (availible for free from google books) wrote that clothing for men was generally ready made in "slop shops" in a few sizes. Further the annoynmous author states that Hats were availble for men in three sizes, ranging from no. 1 (the largest @ 1s. 10p) to no. 3 (smallest @ 1s. 1p.)

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Cocked Hats, Part 4

John Singleton Copley, Death of Major Pierson (Detail), ca. 1782
Detail of portrait below...
Above: Johann Zoffany, King George III, ca. 1770

Cocked Hats, part 3

Johann Zoffany, Death of Captain Cook (detail), ca. 1780
watercolur of British Marine by Lt. Bray,RN, Ca. 1775

The two marines depicted above show the cocked hat as worn by enlisted personnel in get detail. Of note with Zoffany's marine is the addition of white tapes to hold up the sides, or what contemporary sources refer to as "leaves". White looping seem to have emerged in the early 1780s, becoming fashionable in the 1790's (when the white binding fell out of style)

Important also to note is the forms of the hat. The marine is wearing it very far forward on his head, to the point where it would seem necessary for it to be tied on. The side corners create a graceful curve, never sharpening out as if they have been pressed flat. The front cock of the hat is nearly vertical, predicting the bicorn style that would become fashion later in the century.

Lt. Bray's Marine is important for the details depicted, not necessarily the realism shown in his draughtsmanship. His marine wears a cockade that appears to be made from small ribbons, or at the very least is quite voluptuous for what we might expect for an "enlisted" cockade. Also, peeking from behind the Marine's firelock is his tassel, hanging from the right corner of his hat.
Important also is the plume, which emerged at this period as an indicator of specialist troops. The Royal Artillery is known to have worn them, as are members of the combined Light Infantry and Grenadier Battalions that were formed for service in America:

Jamaica, Long Island, 12 Decr 1778

"The British Grenadiers & Light Infantry being cantooned here & always

the fashion in action I applied to be attached to them which was


"The Light Infantry wear a green feather in their Caps & we the

Grenadiers a White one in our Hatts."

[Francis Laye letters (Royal Artillery). National Army Museum mansuscripts 6807-154]

Special thanks to Don Hagist for the above documentation & his on-going important contributions to this field of study.