The Tricorne or “Cocked Hat”

French Tricorne
French Tricorne of 18th Century, Courtesy of Metropolitan Museum of Art

The tricorne hat, which was initially called a “cocked hat,” became popular in the 1700s but was falling out of fashion by the 1800s and eventually evolved into the bicorne. The tricorne was actually an evolution of a broad-brim round hat worn by Spanish soldiers in Flanders in the 1600s. When its brim was pledged (bound), it formed a triangular shape. The triangular shape was the shape favored by Spanish soldiers. Thus, when war broke out in 1667 between France and Spain in the Spanish Netherlands, the triangular hat found its way to France. Continue reading

The Phrygian Cap or the Cap of Liberty

Phrygian Cap or The Famous Cap of Liberty, Author's Collection
The Famous “Cap of Liberty,” Courtesy of Wikipedia

The phrygian cap — a soft, conical, brimless cap from antiquity — came to be associated with freedom and was adopted as the “Cap of Liberty” during the French Revolution. It was first sported as a symbol of liberty on the 8th and 9th of May in 1790 when the red cap adorned a statue that represented the new French nation at a Federation festival in Troyes. Later that month, on the 30th, the cap also appeared in Lyon, where it was carried by the goddess of Liberty on the end of her lance.

The history behind the phrygian cap starts with slaves in ancient times.

“In all countries the slave were obliged to appear bareheaded; and whenever the day came that freedom was the reward … one of the ceremonies used in the manumission of the slave was the placing of a cap on the head by the former master.”

Although the cap placed on the slave’s head was a pileus (a conical cap that looks similar to the phrygian cap) the phrygian cap came to represent the symbol of freedom. Continue reading

Stories of the Trousers Known as Inexpressibles

Inexpressibles: A Young George Bryan "Beau" Brummell, Author's Collection
A Young George Bryan “Beau” Brummell, Author’s Collection

“That part of the dress which it is now unlawful to name, seems of old to have had the singular virtue of discomfiting witches and demons. Every one may have heard how the bare vision of St. Francis’ inexpressibles put the devil to flight.” This was one nineteenth century description of men’s trousers, known as inexpressibles, and they likely acquired the name because they were extremely erotic and fit so tightly they showed every nook and cranny of a man’s sexual organs, posterior, and muscular legs. In fact, they would have accentuated a man’s sexual organs even more if extra room had not been allowed in one thigh, which created a pocket where a man could position them.

Even with the pocket, inexpressibles left nothing to the imagination. Wearers created the image of a naked Greek God, as inexpressibles were usually pale in color. At least one person noted inexpressibles were a natural evolution:

“[They emanated from] small clothes to tights, from tights to inexpressibles, from inexpressibles to unspeakables, and from unspeakables to unmentionables, from unmentionables to shorts, from shorts to etceteras, from etceteras to continuations, and so on through antifeminines, remainders, masculines, and nether integuments down to the Quaker periphrase lower garments!”

But whether or not that was true, one fact was true, eighteenth and nineteenth century inexpressible wearers had a variety of opinions about inexpressibles. Continue reading