|17th & 18th century progression of pirate (gentleman of fortune) headwear|
Prologue: Pieces of History »
St. Leger, Barry (bust). (National
Archives Identifier 530964)
The tri-corner, however, had three sides of the brim turned up, either pinned or buttoned in place to form a triangle around the wearer's head—"like a mince pie," to quote the vernacular of the time. This style then allowed the wearer to show off his latest wig fashion underneath, and thus his social status.
Also, the tricorn was smaller in size due to the folded brim and was more easily tucked under the arm when entering a building, a gesture that displayed the proper social etiquette of the time.
|Jones, John Paul (bust), 1781. |
(National Archives Identifier
At the height of its popularity, the tricorn hat was worn by not only the aristocracy but also by common civilians and members of the military. It was typically made of animal fiber and fashioned with the point facing forward.
For soldiers who often rested a musket or rifle on their left shoulder, however, the tricorn was usually worn with the front corner directly above their left eyebrow for better clearance. The most common military version had a brim of five inches in the back and four inches in the front.
|Washington, George, the |
Virginia Colonel (3/4 length),
1772. (National Archives
At the time, the Continental Army did not have a uniform, and these cockades served as identification among military personnel. Field officers were to don pink ones, captains to wear white ones, and subalterns were to attach green ones to their headwear. It was not until 1783 that an official "Union Cockade" was issued to be worn on the left breast.
[I believe the cockade was not considered "union" made until the 2nd American Secession of 1860, and then only by the northern Union Army. Certainly not reverently called "union" by southerners. Echoing their use when Americans rebelled against Britain, cockades – usually made with blue ribbons and worn on clothing or hats – were widespread tokens of southern support for secession preceding the American Civil War of 1861–1865.  ....Editor, CV]
The tricorn hat is more than just a historical fashion statement—it is a historic element of the character and pride of our Revolutionary Army. It only seems fitting that we take our "hats off" to one of our favorite headpieces in our nation's history. Huzzah!
Examine more "signature styles" and history-making signatures in our current exhibition, "Making Their Mark: Stories Through Signatures," in the Lawrence F. O'Brien Gallery at the National Archives Building in Washington, DC.
Post updated 8-18-2014 Posted by Jessie Kratz on August 18, 2014, under - Revolutionary War, News and Events.