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UNIFORMS

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Originally appearing in Volume V27, Page 584 of the 1911 Encyclopedia Britannica.
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UNIFORMS. The word " uniform " (Lat. unus, one, and forma, form), meaning adjectively homogeneous, is specifically used as a substantive for the distinctive naval and military dress, which serves, in its various styles, to give homogeneity to the several services, regiments and ranks. Although in ancient history we occasionally meet with uniformed soldiers, such as the white and crimson Spanish regiments of Hannibal, it was not until the beginning of large standing armies that uniforms were introduced in modern times. Before this, armed bodies were of two sorts, retainers and mercenaries, and while the former often wore their master's livery, the latter were dressed each according to his own taste or means. The absence ' Willement, Regal Heraldry, p. 70, says that it was also so used by Anne Boleyn and by the earls of Hertford.of uniforms accounts very largely for the significance attached to the colours and standards, which alone formed rallying points for the soldier and his comrades, and thus acquired the sacred character which they have since possessed. A man who left the colours wandered into the terrifying unknown, for there was nothing to distinguish friend and foe. Even if the generals had ordered the men to wear some improvised badge such as a sprig of leaves, or the shirt outside the coat, such badges as these were easily lost or taken off. The next step in advance was a scarf of uniform colour, such as it is supposed was worn by the " green,"" yellow " and other similarly-named brigades of the Swedish army under Gustavus Adolphus. This too was easily removed, as in the example of the squire who at Edgehill put on the orange scarf of the parliamentarians and with no more elaborate disguise succeeded in recapturing the lost royal standard from the hands of Essex's own secretary. By this time, in France at least, the general character of the clothes and accoutrements to be worn on various occasions was strictly regulated by orders. But uniformity of clothing was not to be expected so long as the " enlistment " system prevailed and soldiers came and went, were taken in and dismissed, at the beginning and end of every campaign. The beginnings of uniform are therefore to be found in truly national armies, in the Indelta of Gustavus, and the English armies of the Great Rebellion. In the earlier years of the latter, though the richer colonels uniformed their men (as, for instance, the marquess of Newcastle's " Whitecoats " and the king's own " Bluecoats "), the rustics and the citizens turned out for war in their ordinary rough clothes, donning armour and sword-belt. But in 1645 the parliament raised an army " all its own " for permanent service, and the colonels became officials rather than proprietors. The " new model " was clothed in the civilian costume of the date—ample coat, waistcoat, breeches, stockings and shoes (in the case of cavalry; boots)—but with the distinctive colour throughout the army of red and with regimental facings of various colours. The breeches were grey. Soon after-wards the helmet disappeared, and its place was taken by a grey broad-brimmed hat. From the coat was evolved the tunic of to-day, and the hat became the cocked hat of a later generation, which has never altogether disappeared, and has indeed reverted to its original form in the now familiar " slouch-hat." For service in Ireland the red coat was exchanged for one of russet colour, just as scarlet gave way to khaki for Indian service in the 19th century. The cavalry, however, wore buff leather coats and armour long after the infantry had abandoned them; the Austrians (see Plate I., line 1, No. 2), on account of their Turkish wars, retained them longer than any. Thus the principle ever since followed—uniform coat and variegated facings—was established. Little or nothing of sentiment led to this. By choice or convenience the majority of the corps out of which the new model was formed had come to be dressed in red, with facings according to the colonel's taste, and it is a curious fact that in Austria sixty years after-wards events took the same course. The colonels there uniforming their men as they saw fit, had by tacit consent, probably to obtain " wholesale " prices, agreed upon a service-able colour (pearl grey), and when in 1707 Prince Eugene procured the issue of uniform regulations, few line regiments had to be reclothed. The preferences of the colonel were exhibited in the colour of the facings (Plate I., line 1, fig. 3). In France, as in England and Austria, the cavalry, as yet rather led by the wealthy classes than officered by the professional, was not uniformed upon an army system until after the infantry. But in 1688 six-sevenths of the French cavalry was uniformed in light grey with red facings; and about half the dragoon regiments had red uniforms and blue facings. Louvois, in creating a standing army, had introduced an infantry uniform as a necessary consequence. The native French regiments had light grey coats, the Swiss red, the German black and the Italian blue, with various facings. The French grey was probably decided upon, like the Austrian grey, as being a good " service " colour, which could be cheaply manufactured (Plate I., line I, fig. I). Both these greys, however, refined themselves in course of time into white. The hat and the long coat and breeches remained the uniform of line infantry almost everywhere up to the advent of the shako and the coatee about 1790-182o. The gradual evolution of these two garments, from the comfortable civilian clothes of 1690 to the stiff, precise military garments of 1790, can be traced in a few words. The brim of the felt hat was first looped up on one side for convenience, then, for appearance' sake, on the other, and so became the three-cornered cocked hat, fringed with feathers, lace or braid, of Marlborough's wars.' Then came the fashion of looping up before and behind, which produced the hat called the " Khevenhiiller," or the broadside-on cocked hat. Lastly, came the purely decorative, lace-looped " fore-and-aft " pattern, as worn in many states to-day. But before this came into vogue the cocked hat had practically disappeared from the ordinary ranks of all armies. It may be said that so long as the cocked hat survived in its simple, rank-and-file form, uniforms retained much of their looseness. Though the long skirts that rendered great coats unnecessary were looped back, and the ample cuffs of Marlborough's time were becoming narrower until they were at last sewn down to the sleeve, yet the military costume was in all essentials the civil costume of the time—long coat, hat, sleeved waistcoat, breeches and gaiters. But other influences were at work. The principal was the introduction into armies of Slavonic irregulars, which tended to restrict line infantry and cavalry to parade drill and to pitched battles in parade order. This, and their complete separation from the civil population, stiffened their costume until it became " soldierly." Frederick the Great, indeed, could not have developed the infantry fire power that he needed if his soldiers had had tight sleeves, but in his old age the evil of sacrificing comfort to smartness attained a height which, except in the 1820-1840 period, was never surpassed. The figure of a Prussian fusilier, Plate I. line 1, No. 7 (in which by mistake a slung sword is shown) shows this process beginning. The stock has made its appearance, soon to stiffen into a cloth collar, under which, as if it were not already tight enough, another stock in due course came to be worn. The flapped cuffs, shown in the British figure No. 5, have become plain round cuffs, above which are embroidery stripes and buttons which at one time laced the flaps of the cuff together and now survive as the " guard-stripe." This may be called the first instance of the dummy adornments, which are so marked in modern full-dress uniforms. Similarly the former cloth turnback on the front of the coat has even in 1756 been cut off, the buttons and embroidered loops that retained it being kept as decorations. Many of these specially military adornments were borrowed from the national costumes of the irregulars themselves. Their head-gear in particular drove out the cocked hat. The grenadier cap, now a towering bearskin, was its first successful rival, the shako the next. The grenadier cap was, in the first in-stance, a limp conical cap (identical with the hussar cap), edged with fur and having a tassel at the end. Soon the fur became more prominent in the front, and the tail disappeared. Then the cloth mitre-cap (Plate I., line 1, fig. 6) appeared. This was originally a field-service cap, with ear-flaps and sunshade. But it stiffened about 1775 into a fur cap of the same shape (with which sometimes the old cloth tail is found), and this in turn evolved, through the fuller but still narrow and forward-pointing bearskin of Peninsular days, into the great fur cap of grenadiers and fusiliers of the present time. The mitre-shaped cloth cap survives in a few Russian and Prussian regiments. As early as 1755, as the Prussian figure shows, a conical leather cap with a large brass plate in front had come into existence. This held its ground for some time, and the grenadier cap of to-day in Russia and Prussia is a metal copy of the mitre field-service cap itself. A curious derivative of the low fur cap with a peak in front and a bag-tail behind worn by some 17th- and 18th-century grenadiers is the head-dress of the Russian horse-grenadiers. ' In the cavalry an iron-framed skull-cap was often worn under the cocked hat. The peak has become the helmet, the fur a " sausage across the cap from ear to ear, and the back part of the helmet is covered by the bag-tail. The Hungarian hussars introduced the jacket and the busby. The latter was originally a conical cap with fur edge, but the fur became higher until there was nothing left of the cap but the ornamental " busby-bag " of to-day. It would appear also as if the hussars brought the shako to western Europe. This is a conical, bell-topped, or cylindrical head-dress of stiff material, commonly leather. Its prototype, the tall cylindrical cap of the 18th-century hussars, was tilted on one side and wound round with a very narrow bag-tail, the last few inches of which, adorned with a tassel, hung down. But the shako itself succeeded, as nothing else succeeded, in being accepted by line infantry and cavalry, and after passing through numerous forms it remains in every army to-day, either as a low rigid cap (Germany, England and Austria), a stiffened or limp kepi (France and Italy), or the flat-topped peaked cap which is the most common military head-dress of modern Europe. All these adjuncts came in the first place from the national costume of imported auxiliaries. So also did the lancer cap, which, originally the Polish czapka, was a cylindrical cap, the upper part of which could be pushed up or down after the fashion of a bellows or accordion, with a square top. The original form is seen in Plate I., line 2, fig. 4, and the stiffened development'of it in Plate I., line 3, fig. 1. The British lancer cap (Plate II., line 1, No. 2) has still a full middle portion, but in Austria and Germany this has dwindled to a very narrow neck (Plate IL, line 3, No. 6; Plate IV., line 1, No. 7). The line infantry and cavalry coat, full-skirted in the first instance, retained its original length until about 178o, but from that time onwards (probably in most cases in the interests of the colonel's pocket) it becomes, little by little, shorter and scantier (Plate I., line 2, Nos. 2, 3, and 5), until at last it is a " coatee," not as long as the present-day tunic (Plate I., line 2, Nos. 6 and 8), or a swallow-tailed coat (Plate I., line 3, figs. 1-3). This, of course, did away with the protection afforded by the full skirt, and necessitated the introduction of the great coat, which even to-day in some cases is worn, without the tunic, over the " vest " that represents the sleeved waist-coat (Plate II., line 2, No. 3), formerly worn under the long skirted coat. The white breeches and gaiters, retained to the last, gradually gave way to trousers and ankle boots in 1800-1820. Meanwhile another form of head-dress, which was purely military and owed nothing to Poland or Hungary, came into vogue. This was the helmet, which had disappeared from the infantry about 1650-1670, and the cavalry thirty years after-wards. It took two forms, both of which possessed some of the characteristics of ancient Greek and Roman helmets. These were a small helmet with sausage-shaped ornament from front to back, worn chiefly by British light dragoons and artillery (Plate I., line 2, fig. 7), and the towering crested helmet worn by the French, British and Austrians. The French cuirassiers and dragoons (Plate I., line 2, No. 3) had, and still have, long horse-hair tails dependent from the crest. The Austrian infantry helmet, worn with the white coat, similar to, but smaller than, that shown in Plate II., line 2, No. 5, had no ornament, but the British heavy cavalry helmet (Plate I., line 2, No. 8) resembled that of the French. To-day, besides the French, the Austrian dragoons and Italian heavy cavalry have this form of helmet (Plate II., line 3, No. I, and Plate IV., line 2, No. 8). It has been said above that the coatee and the shako are the principal novelties in European military costumes of Napoleon's time. To these should be added the replacement of the gaitered breeches by trousers, and the adoption of hussar and lancer uniforms of ever-growing sumptuousness, in which the comfort that had originally belonged to these national irregular costumes was entirely sacrificed. After Waterloo, indeed, all traces of the old-fashioned coat disappeared, and, except for the doubtful gain of tight-fitting " overalls," the soldier was more showy and worse off in comfort and convenience than ever before or since. One or two examples may be quoted. In George IV.'s time the coatees of the lifeguards were so tight that the men were unable to perform their sword exercise, and their crested helmet, surmounted by a " sausage " ornament, was so high that the sword could not be raised for a downward blow. The total height of the lancer cap with its plume (Plate I., line 3, No. I) was about an arm's length, and prints exist showing British lancers in a cap of which the square top is very nearly as broad as the wearer's shoulders. The hussar furred pelisse, originally worn over a jacket (Plate I., line 1, fig. 4), and so worn by the Austrians to-day, had become a magnificently embroidered and laced garment, always slung and never worn, and the old plain under-jacket had been loaded with buttons and lace, and differed from the pelisse only in the absence of fur. It was the Restoration era, too, that delighted to decorate uniforms with sewn-down imitations of the skirt pockets, turn-back cuffs, &c., of the old coat. This was, in short, the epoch of pure dandyism, and although some of its wilder extravagances were abolished between 1830 and 1850, enough still remained when the British army took the field in the Crimea to bring about a sudden and violent reaction, in which the slovenliest dress was accounted the best. The dress regulations of 1855 introduced the low " Albert " shako and the tunic, abolished the epaulette—an ornament which had grown in the 18th century out of a shoulder cord that kept the belts in place and was decorated at the outer end with a few loose strands or tassels of embroidery—and made other changes which, without bringing back uniform to its original roominess and comfort, destroyed not only the dandyism of George IV.'s time, but also the chastened finery of the Early Victorian uniforms (Plate I., line 3, No. 7). The tunic, accompanied by a spiked helmet of burgonet shape, had been introduced in Prussia and Russia about 1835. Russia was too poor to allow extravagance in dress, and Russians, clothed as they generally were in their great coats, had little incentive to aim at futile splendour. Both countries, however, and France and Austria likewise, passed through a period of tight, if unadorned, uniforms, before Algeria, Italy, and similar experiences brought about the abandonment of the swallow-tailed coatee. The French adopted the tunic in 1853, the Austrians in 1856, and in both countries the shako became smaller and lighter. From about 1880, when the spiked helmet replaced the low shako in England, no radical changes were madein full dress uniforms, except that the Russian army, abandoning the German pattern uniforms formerly in vogue, adopted a national uniform which is simple, roomy, and exceedingly plain, even in full dress. In 1906-1909, however, this attempt to combine handsomeness and comfort was given up, full dresses being made more decorative, and light green-grey service dresses being introduced. Lastly, since the South African War and the development of infantry fire, the attempt to wear full dress uniform on active service has been practically given up. Great Britain first of all adopted the Indian khaki, and then a drab mixture for " service dress " and returned, after 150 years, to the civilian style of field dress, adopting the " Norfolk jacket " or shooting coat with spinal pleat and roomy pockets. Germany, Italy, the United States and other countries have followed suit, though each has chosen its own shade, and the shades vary from light grey blue in Italy to deep olive drab in the United States. The details of the present-day uniforms in the principal states are given below. It might be stated, as a summary of modern uniforms, that Great Britain has most completely divorced service and full dress, and that in consequence her full dress is handsomer and her service dress plainer than those of any other country. Whether, for European war at any rate, the obliteration of regimental distinctions has not been carried too far, is open to question. The method adopted for the Italian infantry would seem to give enough means of identification, without in-creasing visibility, and as this method was used by the British in the South African War, it will probably be revived in future wars.
End of Article: UNIFORMS
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